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Pramana

Analytic Philosophy Article Providing Technical Definitions of Sexual Attraction and Sexual Orientation

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Pramana

Analytic philosophers are finally turning their attention to the topics of sexual orientation and sexual attraction. This definition of sexual desires which form sexual attractions that constitute sexual orientations is from a forthcoming article by Esa Díaz-León:


"once someone possesses these concepts of sex/gender, and has sexual desires that are appropriately connected to those concepts, this is sufficient for the content of those desires to amount to sexual attraction for men and/or women, qua men and/or women. It is true that one can have these desires only when one possesses those concepts, but this does not entail that one can have those desires only when one interprets those very desires as being a desire- for-men or desire-for-women. That is to say, according to the account of sexual orientation that we are assuming here, what determines someone’s sexual orientation is a matter of her sexual desires for men and/or women, where the subject needs to conceptualize humans in terms of their sex and/or gender. But this does not require the subject to interpret her sexual desires themselves as sexual desire for men and/or women."

Díaz-León, Esa (forthcoming): “Sexual Orientations: The Desire View”. In: Maitra, Keya, and McWeeny, Jennifer (Eds.): Feminist Philosophy of Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press. The reference for the quote is from this article by Saray Ayala: https://philarchive.org/archive/AYASOA


Esa Díaz-León also summarizes her theory of sexual attraction and sexual orientation in this blog post: https://politicalphilosopher.net/2017/01/27/featured-philosopher-esa-diaz-leon/
 
"Hybrid view: A sexual desire (for men and/or women) involves the combination of a propositional attitude (of the form “S bears the relation of desiring towards proposition p”) plus a disposition to be sexually aroused by, or sexually attracted to, men or women."

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FictoVore.

Do you desire to engage in sexual intimacy with other people for pleasure? Yes? Sexual, No? Asexual.

 

If you answered yes, which gender/s are you drawn to seek partnered sexual activity with? Depending on your own gender, this is how you know what sexual orientation you are. Example: If you are a man who has an innate desire to connect sexually with other men for pleasure, you're homosexual. If you're a woman who desires sex with other people but doesn't care which gender, you could be bi or pan. Etc etc.

 

That's a much less complicated way to explain what really is a very basic concept. 

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Pramana
29 minutes ago, FictoVore. said:

Do you desire to engage in sexual intimacy with other people for pleasure? Yes? Sexual, No? Asexual.

 

If you answered yes, which gender/s are you drawn to seek partnered sexual activity with? Depending on your own gender, this is how you know what sexual orientation you are. Example: If you are a man who has an innate desire to connect sexually with other men for pleasure, you're homosexual. If you're a woman who desires sex with other people but doesn't care which gender, you could be bi or pan. Etc etc.

 

That's a much less complicated way to explain what really is a very basic concept. 

Actually, the pleasure based theory of sexual desire is rejected in another recent analytic philosophy article, which articulates a bidimensional dispositional (BD) view of sexual orientations (and forms one of the sources for the author referenced above). This article also rejects that the notion that your own sex and gender are relevant for determining your sexual orientation:

"If instead one prefers, for example, a pleasure-based theory of desire, then the formulation will be too narrow to capture the concept of sexual orientation. Not everyone receives pleasure from sexual behavior. Still other theories of desire (e. g., attention-based or holistic) are too broad to capture the concept. And so on, I would argue, for the other main candidate theories of desire. Of course, one could simply appeal to a “common understanding” of desire, but I am skeptical that there is any such thing."

"BD goes a step further by saying that the sex- and gender-attrac
tions — again, understanding these attractions in terms of behavioral dispositions under ordinary conditions — are all that matter for sexual orientation. My own sex and gender, for example, do not matter for my sexual orientation."


Dembroff, Robin A. 2016. “What Is Sexual Orientation?” Philosophers’ Imprint 16.3 (Jan.): 1–27.

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timewarp
40 minutes ago, FictoVore. said:

Do you desire to engage in sexual intimacy with other people for pleasure? Yes? Sexual, No? Asexual.

 

If you answered yes, which gender/s are you drawn to seek partnered sexual activity with? Depending on your own gender, this is how you know what sexual orientation you are. Example: If you are a man who has an innate desire to connect sexually with other men for pleasure, you're homosexual. If you're a woman who desires sex with other people but doesn't care which gender, you could be bi or pan. Etc etc.

 

That's a much less complicated way to explain what really is a very basic concept. 

 

Yes, but you will not get research funding if you put it like that. :ph34r:

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Pramana

Robin Dembroff's article is the other recent major contribution from analytic philosophy that I wanted to introduce, because it represents a new theory of sexual orientations designed to account for differences between biological sex and gender identity, and because it discusses asexuality in a number of places. This theory is notable for grounding sexual orientations in dispositions rather than sexual attraction/desire, and thus argues that one can have a sexual orientation even in the absence of both sexual attraction and desire:

"My respondent might be fine with accounting for sexual orientation in terms of dispositions to desire rather than dispositions to behavior, strange as it may seem. But framing sexual orientation in this way would not avoid yet another problem for any desire-based account: dispositions to desire would underdetermine sexual orientation because desire underdetermines sexual orientation. Consider someone who is behaviorally disposed to sexually engage with certain persons, but does not possess the emotional or cognitive features of sexual desire. (Again, we could imagine that they are motivated to sexually engage with persons on the basis of curiosity, free of desire.) That is, they don’t (e.g.) feel sexual yearnings, spend time thinking about sexual behavior or receive particular pleasure from sexual behavior. Does this person have a sexual orientation? It seems to me that they do, suggesting that desires are not necessary for sexual orientation.
 

But are they sufficient? Consider too the unlikely but imaginable case of someone who feels desire for, say, cisgender men, but is disposed only to sexually engage with women. In this case, and particularly for the socio-politically motivations discussed above, I would argue that this person’s sexual orientation is one of orientation toward women and not cisgender men. But I admit that intuitions about our concept’s extension may get fuzzy with regard to both of these hypotheticals — I can only report my own. I suspect that one’s response may come down to whether one tends to think about sexual orientation as something predominately action-oriented or predominately internal. But more importantly (given that this is an engineering project), I support the former view as better equipped to achieve the social and political purposes behind the concept of sexual orientation, and as not clearly in conflict with the general extension of our everyday concept."

The dispositional account leads Dembroff to account for asexuality in the following way:

"Acknowledging that some people wholly lack dispositions to sexually engage with other persons on the basis of sex- or gender-attractions will include asexuality with regard to sex and gender among the class of sexual orientations."


Dembroff, Robin A. 2016. “What Is Sexual Orientation?” Philosophers’ Imprint 16.3 (Jan.): 1–27.

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FictoVore.
29 minutes ago, Pramana said:

Actually, the pleasure based theory of sexual desire is rejected in another recent analytic philosophy article, which articulates a bidimensional dispositional (BD) view of sexual orientations (and forms one of the sources for the author referenced above). This article also rejects that the notion that your own sex and gender are relevant for determining your sexual orientation:

"If instead one prefers, for example, a pleasure-based theory of desire, then the formulation will be too narrow to capture the concept of sexual orientation. Not everyone receives pleasure from sexual behavior. Still other theories of desire (e. g., attention-based or holistic) are too broad to capture the concept. And so on, I would argue, for the other main candidate theories of desire. Of course, one could simply appeal to a “common understanding” of desire, but I am skeptical that there is any such thing."

"BD goes a step further by saying that the sex- and gender-attrac
tions — again, understanding these attractions in terms of behavioral dispositions under ordinary conditions — are all that matter for sexual orientation. My own sex and gender, for example, do not matter for my sexual orientation."


Dembroff, Robin A. 2016. “What Is Sexual Orientation?” Philosophers’ Imprint 16.3 (Jan.): 1–27.

hahaha, classic. *shakes head*

 

And yes I totally agree, because it doesn't matter if someone has a dick or not, they're automatically gay if they prefer to have sex with men. Obviously.

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Pramana
5 minutes ago, FictoVore. said:

hahaha, classic. *shakes head*

 

And yes I totally agree, because it doesn't matter if someone has a dick or not, they're automatically gay if they prefer to have sex with men. Obviously.

The methodology for the paper is to rectify our ordinary concepts regarding sexual orientations (so in analytic philosophy parlance, it's a work of conceptual engineering rather than a work of conceptual analysis) in order to actualize certain political objectives (mainly surrounding gender identities). Of course, this can be debated, but it's worth keeping in mind that Robin Dembroff has been employed by both Princeton and Yale for doing this kind of work.

Regarding the sexual orientation question, though, regardless of whether one agrees with this dispositional view or a more traditional sexual attraction/desire view, either way the idea with sexual orientations centres on motivations for engaging in sex based on concepts about other people (such as certain people fitting a particular sex or gender category). So "desiring partnered sex for pleasure" would be a reason for having sex, but wouldn't be relevant to orientation because it doesn't say anything about how one perceives of other people, and thus it can't orient one towards other people.

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HonoraryJedi

Damn these articles can be such a pain to read. I have to admit I don't understand what they are trying to say here, aside from the bit about defining sexual orientation around actions rather than desire. Still, it is interesting to see these things talked about on an academic level.

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Pramana
13 hours ago, HonoraryJedi said:

Damn these articles can be such a pain to read. I have to admit I don't understand what they are trying to say here, aside from the bit about defining sexual orientation around actions rather than desire. Still, it is interesting to see these things talked about on an academic level.

I found this blog post that provides a much more readable summary of Robin Dembroff's argument, and what I also think is a good critique.

http://laser.fontmonkey.com/foe/comments.php?y=16&m=02&entry=entry160224-145944

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HonoraryJedi

Thank you

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scarletlatitude

As neither the research article or the blog post discuss asexuality directly, I will have to move this out of World Watch. But thanks for the share! @Pramana

 

Moving to the Gray Area

 

scarletlatitude

World Watch mod

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