Volume 27, 2011
Poverty, Justice, and Markets
Sexual Abuse, Modern Freedom, and Heidegger’s Philosophy
The sexual abuse of women and girls, such as sexual harassment, battery, varieties of rape, prostitution, and pornography, is statistically pervasive in late modern society. Yet this fact does not register adequate ethical concern. I explore this gap in moral perception. I argue that sexual abuse is conceptually supported by an ontology of women that considers a lack of bodily integrity as natural and by a sex-specific idea of freedom that considers sexual violations as liberating. This conceptual framework is pernicious because it supports abuse and interferes with our moral perception of harm, encouraging us to see harms as normal and as positive. I argue that Heidegger’s idea of philosophy and the resources of his epistemological and ontological project in Being and Time can help show the pernicious function of this conceptual framework and thus help us better understand this abuse.