The Problem of Female Moral Agency

Janet M. Theiss

in Disgraceful Matters

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2005 | ISBN: 9780520240339
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930667 | DOI:
The Problem of Female Moral Agency

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This chapter argues that even the most well-educated and well-intentioned women still had to cope with fundamentally contradictory expectations about their chastity and serious doubts about their ability to meet the moral challenges posed by the norms of the chastity cult. They were supposed to conform to rigid standards of chaste behavior, yet they could not avoid the suspicion that their weak moral fiber made chastity difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. They were expected to express moral outrage at violations of their chastity and indeed were often chastised for not expressing their outrage in appropriate ways, yet they were seen to be irrationally sensitive to insults. They were required to defend their chastity vigorously whenever it was threatened or challenged, but they were assumed to be incapable of moral reasoning and independent moral agency.

Keywords: chastity; chastity cult; chaste behavior; moral agency; moral reasoning

Chapter.  6496 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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