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.
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- Best Paper Award at the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters for “Critique of Wittgenstein,” 2004.