Care of the Sexual Self: Áskēsis as a Route to Sex Education

ABSTRACT: In adolescent sex education, the contemporary debate has developed into two camps: the paternalistic view and the liberal view.  While the debate has been entrenched in morality, religion, and politics, I argue that both sides of the camp have been too focused on actions and behavior and are assuming a heteronormative and heteropatriarchal background. This dissertation argues that the way to take care of the self is through exercises, techniques, self-discipline, and self-cultivation—what the ancient Greeks called áskēsis.

Chapter one offers a scope and character of paternalistic sex education. I also look at various popular arguments for paternalistic sex education and find those arguments unsound.

Chapter two applies various ethical theories within paternalistic sex education, and any presumptions the supporters have.  I conclude that the paternalistic model of sex education is inadequate: proponents either presume too much, too little, take a heteronormative stance, or inadequately address why adolescent sexuality is a problem.

Chapter three investigates and analyzes the arguments and presuppositions of what I call the liberal-consequentialist model. I argue that adolescents, in general, can have competence to consent in sexual relations by offering support from legal, socioeconomical, psychological and biological sources.  After which, I apply J.S. Mill’s On Liberty to formulate a liberal-consequentialist sex education.  This view fails, however, because liberal-consequentialism sex education focuses too much on behavioral outcomes and presupposes traditional gender norms.

Chapter four focuses on a model that hones in on the autonomy of the individual. This model focuses on self-determination and consent, which is thereby applied to sex education. This view fails, however, because autonomy in regards to sex means that consent is minimal: one must obtain a “yes” and once the “yes” is obtained, sexual activity is presumed to be moral.  Moreover, the liberal-deontological view presupposes gender stereotypes.

Chapter five offers my formulation of what sex education ought to be, which I refer to as the care of the sexual self, which means to formulate a sexual subject. I use the notion of áskēsis to explain three sexual components: emotions, mind, and body.

Chapter six applies áskēsis by relying on three contemporary philosophers who draw upon the ancient Greeks to focus on áskēsis, to train oneself to become a human being. I conclude that by forming a subject, one focuses on the effort to become a certain kind of individual, a kind of person, a person who can cultivate the self: creating an art of making yourself, which thereby forms a sexual subject, one who activates his or her sexual identity.  I champion this view and apply áskēsis to sex education.



“BDSM,” in Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings, 7th edition. Edited by Raja Halwani, Nicholas Powers, Sarah Hoffman, (421-436). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2017. Article.

“Quagmire: Virtue and Perversity.” In Family Guy and Philosophy.  Edited by J. Jeremy Wisnewski, 27-35.  Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.

“A New Look of Wittgenstein’s Family-Resemblance Model: Struggle of Powers.”  The Journal of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.   Vol. 81 (2004): 189-196.

Media Appearances:

  • “Ideas that Matter: A Conversation with Dr. Gregory B. Sadler and Shaun Miller.” Ideas that Matter. Conversation with Dr. Gregory B. Sadler. March 28, 2018.
  • “Creating Sexual Resiliency in Children.” Birds and Bees Podcast. Interviewed by Braxton Dutson. Feb. 21, 2018.
  • “Stoicism and the Workplace.” Stoicism and the Workplace. Discussion Stoic Week 2017, the MKE Stoic Fellowship hosted this panel discussion with three of its members – Gregory Sadler, Shaun Miller, and Andi Sciacca – opening the event up to the general public. Jan. 8, 2018.
  • “People are Terrified of Sex.” The Atlantic. Interviewed by Brian D. Earp.  Nov. 12, 2015. Article.

Book Reviews:

Philosophy of Love, Sex, and Marriage: An Introduction Second Edition by Raja Halwani. Metapsychology Online Reviews, Vol. 22, Issue 48, 2018.Article

Being Ethical: Classic and New Voices on Contemporary Issues. Edited by Shari Collins, Bertha Alvarez Manninen, Jacqueline M. Gately, and Eric Comerford. Teaching Ethics. Vol 17, Issue 1 (2017): 127-128. Article.

Existentialism and Romantic Love by Skye Cleary. The Philosophers’ Magazine. Issue 78, 3rd Quarter (2017): 106-107. Article.

Sexuality in Adolescence: The Digital Generation by Meredith Temple-Smith, Susan Moore, and Doreen Rosenthal.  Metapsychology Online Reviews, Vol. 20. Issue 13, 2016. Article.

Philosophizing about Sex by Laurie J. Shrage and Robert Scott Stewart.  Metapsychology Online Reviews, Vol. 19.  Issue 35, 2015. Article.

The Science of Intimate Relationships by Garth Feltcher, Jeffry A. Simpson, Lorne Campbell, and Nickola C. Overall.  Metapsychology, Vol. 18. Issue 31, 2014. Article.

Not the Marrying Kind: A Feminist Critique Against Same-Sex Marriage by Nicola Barker.  Metapsychology, Vol. 17. Issue 46, 2013.  Article.


  • Presenter. “Moral Foundations in Sex Education Curricula in the United States,” presentation Great Lakes Conference, Siena Heights University, Adrian, Michigan, Apr. 7, 2019.
  • Presenter. “Sex Education and the Virtue of Chastity,” presentation Is There Still A Secular Virtue of Chastity? Ethics Conference, Christopher Newport University, Newport News, VA, Mar. 30, 2019.
  • Presenter. “A Three-Tiered View of Sexual Consent,” presentation Eastern American Philosophical Association, New York, NY, Jan. 9, 2019.
  • Presenter. “Three Pictures of Sexual Consent,” poster presentation Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, University of Boulder, CO, Boulder, CO, Aug. 10, 2018.
  • Invited Speaker. “Sexual Consent and Sexual Autonomy,” speaker University of Milwaukee–Parkside, Kenosha, WI, Oct. 27, 2017.
  • Presenter. “Evaluating Dan Savage’s ‘Monogamish’ Claim,” presentation Pacific American Philosophical Association, Seattle, WA, April 12, 2017.
  • Presenter. “BDSM, Consent, and Human Flourishing: A Sketch for the Possibility of Ethical Degradation,” presentation Pacific American Philosophical Association, San Francisco, CA, April 1, 2016.
  • Presenter. “Analyzing Dan Savage’s ‘Monogamish’ Claim,” presentation Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association, Seattle, WA, March 22, 2016.
  • Presenter. “Bodily Consciousness: A Sartrean Response to Irigrary,” presentation North American Sartre Society at Lehigh Valley Center, Bethlehem, PA, Nov. 14, 2015.
  • Commentator. “Language and Feminist Resistance in Kristeva, Irigaray, and Cixous” by Emily Douglas, The Society for Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture at University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, June 4, 2013.
  • Presenter. “Luce Irigaray: Love Through Sexual Difference,” presentation The Society for Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture at University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, June 4, 2013
  • Presenter. “Caring for the Sexual Self: Applying Foucault’s Hermeneutics of the Subject in Sex Education,” presentation Queertopia 6.0 at Northwestern University, Illinois, April 14, 2013.
  • Presenter. “Caring for the Sexual Self: Applying Foucault’s Hermeneutics of the Subject in Sex Education,” presentation North Carolina Philosophical Society at East Carolina University, North Carolina, February 16, 2013.
  • Presenter. “Why Does God Care if I Believe in His Existence?” presentation Philosophy Club at Weber State University, Utah, November 16, 2007.
  • Presenter. “Luce Irigaray: Love through Sexual Difference,” presentation Intermountain Philosophy Conference at Brigham Young University, Utah, November 10, 2006.
  • Presenter. “Luce Irigaray: Love of Community through Sexual Difference,” presentation Love in the Public Square Conference at Molloy College, New York, March 31, 2006.
  • Presenter. “A Critique of Wittgenstein,” presentation Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters at Southern Utah University, Utah, April 16, 2004.


  • Travel Award, Graduate Student Research Travel Award, Marquette University, 2015
  • Travel Award, Center for Ethics Studies, Marquette University, 2013.
  • Teaching Assistantship to Professor Charles Harris, Texas A&M, 2005-2006
  • Best Paper Award at the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters for “Critique of Wittgenstein,” 2004.


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