CFP: Progressive Narratives of Sexual Pessimism (Malta) (4/15/06; 7/24/06-7/29/06)

full name / name of organization: 
Tom Claes
contact email: 

Call for Papers:

'Progressive Narratives of Sexual Pessimism'

Workshop, part of the ISSEI 10th Conference
"The European Mind: Narrative and Identity"
University of Malta
24–29 July 2006

= Workshop description =
(See also:

Commenting on the Zippergate scandal that rocked the USA by the end of the
90-ties, the well-known British conservative culture-critic Roger Scruton
made the following observation:

"[W]e can see in this humiliating episode the cost that America has paid for
the sexual revolution. We in Europe did not escape this revolution; but we
did not make it the basis of our lives. Nor did most of us adopt, as so many
Americans have adopted, the Kinsey view of sex, as a tingling of the
genitals, with orgasm as the goal and the partner as the means to it. Nor
did we draw (…) the inevitable conclusions of Kinseyism: for example, that
there is no difference in principle between heterosexual and homosexual
intercourse, that there is no distinction between pure and perverted desire,
that chastity is an available choice but not a virtue, and that the only
moral questions that surround the sexual act are questions of consent and
safety." ("The Sex Files," National Review, oct. 12, 1998)

Roger Scruton is a well-know conservative publicist. However, it is a
striking fact that many so-called 'liberals' or 'progressive intellectuals'
share a lot of Scruton's views on these alleged 'cost of the sexual

We could label their position as 'progressive sexual pessimism'—'progressive
' since they defend an emancipatory and positive view on sexuality; and
'pessimism' because one of the central themes in their evaluation of 'modern
' sexuality is the idea that under the conditions of (post)modernity it
becomes increasingly difficult to develop a 'healthy' and 'humane'

One of their critiques is that a 'morality of negotiations,' based on the
notions of consent and safety, is in itself unable to provide any directions
for a meaningful sexuality. In line with Scruton's remarks they defend the
view that such a morality of negotiation empties the sexual domain of any
(inherent) values, thereby rendering it vulnerable to commercialisation,
commodification, pornofication, etc, or that such a 'morality of consent' is
blind to actual power-relations within society.

In this workshop, I would like to invite participants to reflect on these
developments. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

* contemporary 'sexual politics:' affinities and differences between
contemporary progressive and conservative evaluations of sexuality;
* the characterisation, periodisation of 'the sexual revolution(s)' (e.g.,
Sigush's concept of 'neosexual revolution');
* 'sexual liberalization' and 'eroticization' (Seidman);
* 'costs and benefits' of the sexual revolution(s);
* contemporary and future sex: a 'the democratization of desire' (McNair) or
a vulgarisation of Eros?;
* sex and (post)modern identity/identities;
* 'sexual backlash' or 'criticism of sexual licentiousness?';
* the advantages and/or limits of the notion of 'consent' in sexual ethics;
* differences between American & European attitudes to contemporary
* differences between 'sex' and 'eroticism' (cf. 'Kinseyism');
* the emergence of 'progressive sexual pessimism;'
* etc…

= Abstracts & Deadline =

Papers on related themes will be considered. Please submit a 150-200 word
abstract by April 15, 2006. Papers are to be presented rather than read.
Length of time for presentation of the paper: some 30 minutes.

Submit abstract by email to the chair of the workshop:

(Please include 'ISSEI conference' in the subject line)

Prof. Dr. Tom Claes
Department of Philosophy
Ghent University

More information the workshop and the 10th 2006 ISSEI conference:

International Society for the Study of European Ideas
ISSEI 10th Conference

Workshop 'Progressive Sexual Pessimism'
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Received on Sat Jan 21 2006 - 13:49:45 EST