Center for Ethics


Sex Ethics and Pleasure Politics

Sex, Ethics, and Pleasure Politics

Muhlenberg College Center for Ethics 2013-2014

Although sexual activity is a central part of socialization and identity formation, sexual behavior is generally considered a private matter, and is seldom examined critically in the public sphere. Universities are no exception; college students - regardless of whether they choose to have sex - are immersed in a campus culture in which ‘private’ sexual beliefs and behaviors shape the ‘public’ undergraduate social experience, and yet the uncritical attitudes that shape these beliefs and behaviors are rarely interrogated or considered within an ethical frame. The 2013-2014 Center for Ethics theme, “Sex, Ethics, and Pleasure Politics” aims to develop a comprehensive sexual ethics for the campus community: How do differing moral, political, and sociological attitudes toward sexuality shape our ethics? How do these attitudes enrich or inhibit the possibility of sexual pleasure? How do attitudes about pleasure, the body, identity, and individuality define what sorts of sexual activity will be considered permissible or impermissible? Is pleasure something that we ought to pursue and promote? What is our ethical responsibility to the pleasure of others? How might a comprehensive sexual ethics cause us to rethink our understanding of justice and interpersonal responsibility?

Through public talks and discussions, this theme will build an ethical conversation centered on interpersonal sexual behavior as well as the political, scientific, religious, aesthetic, and legal forces that shape the permissibility and impermissibility of sexual acts. Our understanding of sexuality reflects how our society at any given period is organized, how it represents and ‘naturalizes’ sex, and how it comes to define the boundary of public and private space, the moral underpinnings of intimate and/or reproductive behavior, and the essential categories of sexual identity. Therefore, the ways in which we practice sex raise deep ethical questions about how we will regulate the economic reach of sexual industries, define normative sexual ethics, respond to sexual violence, and identify and pathologize sexual deviance. This programming theme will explore how culture, race, gender, class, technology, and language can simultaneously both constrain and create greater opportunities for sexual acts, interpersonal intimacy, and pleasure-seeking.

The 2013-2014 Center for Ethics program is co-directed by Jeremy Alden Teissere, Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, and Cathy Marie Ouellette, Assistant Professor of History. The Center for Ethics is directed by Bruce Wightman, Professor of Biology.




        Fall Program

        Tuesday September 10, 2013
        7:30 PM Miller Forum, Moyer Hall
        How should we talk about sex at Muhlenberg?Muhlenberg College

      2. Campus panel moderated by Lanethea Matthews, (Associate Professor of Political Science), and featuring Mel Ferrara '15, Corey Goff (Director of Athletics), Randy Helm (President of the College), Robin Riley-Casey (Director of Multicultural Life), and Alan Tjeltveit (Professor of Psychology).

      3. Wednesday October 16, 2013
        7:00 PM Seegers Event Space
        Students Talk Sex

      4. A Muhlenberg student-produced panel discussion about sex on campus organized by Adam Karp, Zach Zimmerman, Rianna Sommers, and featuring Josh Weiss, Gabrielle Field, Ron Christian, Nathan Frick, and Katie Skwirut.


      6. Wednesday October 23, 2013
        7:00 PM Miller Forum, Moyer Hall
      7. "Of Sex, Sin and Other Taboos: A Short Course in Censorship from Ancient Times to the Foreseeable Future" E. Bertin Since 1997, Joan E. Bertin has been Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, a group of more than 50 national non-profit organizations dedicated to promoting freedom of speech and expression. She addresses the history of the First Amendment, censorship, restrictions on sexually explicit speech, child pornography, political speech, government secrecy, broadcast decency, and censorship of science and sex education.
        The Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow

      8. Tuesday October 29, 2013
        7:00 PM Seeger's Union Event Space

      9. "Race, Gender, and Reproductive Technologies: The New Biopolitics"
        Dorothy RobertsDorothy Roberts
        ,George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology; Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, University of Pennsylvania
        Most recent publicationsFatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Recreate Race in the Twenty-first Century; Sex, Power, and Taboo: Gender and HIV in the Caribbean and Beyond
        Scholarly foci: biopower, race, and gender; health disparities among racial minorities; sexuality and law; socioeconomic regulation of sexual health
        Library Resources for Dorothy Roberts

      10. Tuesday November 5, 2013
        7:30 PM Miller Forum, Moyer Hall

      11. "From Babies to Gender Identity: New ways to think about an Old Problem"
      12. The nature v. nurture paradigm is an outmoded way of thinking about human development. But what can replace it? In this talk Dr. Fausto-Sterling will introduce the basic concepts of dynamic systems and apply them to the early differentiation of gender identity.

        Anne Fausto-SterlingAnne Fausto-Sterling
        , Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Biology and Women’s Studies, Brown University
        Most recent publication: Sex/Gender:  Biology in a Social World, a comprehensive examination of the scientific efforts to study sexual behavior, an argument for the scientific construction of sexuality, and a critical re-appraisal of dualisms that drive scientific investigation (sex/gender, nature/nurture, real/constructed)
        Scholarly foci:  dynamic systems theory; biology of sexuality and gender; developmental biology; sex-related differences in infants and toddlers

      13. Tuesday November 12, 2013
        7:30 PM Empie Theatre, Center for the Arts

      14. E Patrick Johnson"Pouring Tea: Black Gay Men of the South Tell Their Tales"
        E. Patrick Johnson
        , Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies and African-American Studies, Northwestern University

        Johnson's dramatic reading is based on the oral histories collected in Johnson's book, Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South--An Oral History, published by the University of North Carolina Press. The oral histories are from black gay men who were born, raised, and continue to live in the South and range in age from 19 to 93. This performance covers the following topics: coming of age in the South, religion, sex, transgenderism, love stories, and coming out.  Johnson embodies these and others' stories in the show. 
        Scholarly foci:  first-person ethnographic performance; documentary theatre; race, gender, and sexuality in performance
        Co-sponsored by Africana Studies, Art, and Theatre and Dance.
        Library Resources for E. Patrick Johnson

      15. Sunday November 24, 2013
        11 AM - 6:30 PM New York City

      16. Trip to the MUSEUM OF SEX in New York City

      17. Students, faculty and staff are invited on a trip to visit the Museum of Sex at 233 Fifth Ave. in New York City. Bus leaves from the Center for the Arts on Chew Street at 11 AM and will leave New York City at 6:30 PM to return to Muhlenberg College. The bus is free for Muhlenberg students, faculty and staff. You are responsible for your own admission ticket to the museum, although a group rate ticket of $12 plus tax may be arranged in advance. The trip is offered in conjunction with Dr. Kim Gallon's History 146 class. Bus seats are limited! In order to reserve a seat on the bus you must EMAIL Dr. Kim Gallon.

        Spring Program

        Wednesday January 22, 2014
        7:00 p.m. Seegers Great Room

        “The Role of International Organizations Against Human Trafficking in Helping the Survivors of Human Trafficking”

        1. Gerhard Rattai is the founder of Two and a Half Miles, an organization that funds and strengthens the leaders and organizations that rescue women and girls from sex-trafficking and rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society through meaningful and sustainable employment.
        2. Sponsored by International Studies.

      18. Monday January 27, 2014
        7:30 PM Miller Forum Moyer Hall

        "Sex is Too Important To Be Left to the Pornographers

        Linda WilliamsLinda Williams
        , Professor of Film, University of California - Berkeley
        Most recent publicationScreening Sex, a history of the representation and concealment of sex in the movies
        Scholarly foci:  history and critical analysis of melodrama, horror, and pornography in film; psychoanalysis and Surrealist cinema; race and film
        Co-sponsored by Film Studies.

      19. VIDEO
        1. Tuesday February 11, 2014

          "Sex, Stigmatization & Violence"
          7:30 PM
          Seegers Event Space

          Kate RanieriThree panelists will address the sociopolitical factors that contribute to the stigmatization of women’s sexuality and reproductive rights: Kate Ranieri, Asst. Professor of Media and Communication at Muhlenberg College, and director of Crossing the Line, a documentary about the battles waged at a local abortion clinic, Jennifer Boulanger, Director of Communications at The Women's Centers, and DuVergne Gaines, Legal coordinator for the Feminist Majority Foundation & National Clinic Access Project.
          Library Resources on Abortion Politics

          Tuesday March 18, 2014

          7:30 PM Miller Forum Moyer Hall

        2. "Gender, Bug Sex, and the Scala Naturae"
          Marlene Zuk
          Marlene Zuk
          , Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, at University of Minnesota.
          Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live
          ; Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love, and Language from the Insect World.
          Library Resources on Marlene Zuk

        1. Thursday March 20, 2014
        2. 7:00 PM Miller Forum Moyer Hall

        3. "Asian Americans and Sex"

        4. Calvin Sun
          How does our generation of Asian Americans view sex and sexuality? Where do our attitudes to sex really come from? How are changing gender roles in today's generation affecting the way we approach dating, relationships and the power dynamics related to sex?"
        5. Co-sponsored by Asian Students Association, Multicultural Life and Sociology/Anthropology.

      20. Tuesday April 29, 2014
        7:30 PM
        Miller Forum Moyer Hall

        "Beyond Urban Myths and Sex Panics: Research with Survivors of Trafficking into Forced Labor"
        Denise Brennan
        Denise Brennan
        , Associate Professor of Anthropology, Georgetown University

      21. Most recent publicationWhat s Love Got to Do with It?: Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic
        Scholarly foci: sex industry in the Dominican Republic; connection between large structural forces in the globalized economy and their effects on individuals in a sex-tourist destination
        Library Resources on Denise Brennan