Chapter

Modesty as a Feminist Sexual Virtue

Anne Barnhill

in Out from the Shadows

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199855469
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932788 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199855469.003.0006

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

Modesty as a Feminist Sexual Virtue

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Sexual modesty is a feminist sexual virtue—in one sense, but not another. There are at least two distinct kinds of feminist sexual virtues: first, character traits that allow individual sexual flourishing given the realities of sexism within a specific social context; second, character traits related to sex that encourage feminist change. Modesty is a feminist sexual virtue in the second sense—it encourages feminist change, however minimally. More precisely, modesty is a feminist sexual virtue for those women whose sexuality is overvalued, though not for those women whose sexuality is undervalued. Regrettably, I doubt that sexual modesty is a feminist sexual virtue in the first sense; given the realities of sexism, being modest doesn’t necessarily allow individual women to flourish sexually, but might in fact put a damper on their sex lives. In identifying sexual modesty as a feminist sexual virtue for women, I find a surprising point of agreement with conservative and feminist critic Roger Scruton, though we disagree about why sexual modesty is a virtue for women. However, I put myself at odds with those feminist writers who consider women’s sexually provocative display of their bodies and their sexuality to be a feminist act.

Keywords: sexual objectification; virtue ethics; virtue theory; gender equity; sexual virtue; sexual ethics; modesty

Chapter.  9629 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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