INSEP2011 – Whither Sexual Ethics and Politics?

5-7 September, 2011, Ghent University, Belgium
Hosted by the Center for Ethics & Value Inquiry (CEVI)

Download the INSEP2011Conference Programme & Abstracts

Sexual ethics and politics lie at the core of how we understand and practice our sexual lives. They form the basis from which we understand and engage with diverse and different sexualities. Our explicit as well as implicit ethical thinking and feeling about sexuality is a significant way of understanding, analysing, evaluating and judging sexuality as a personal, public and social construct, exploring ascriptions of both positive and negative values to sexual practices that have impacts on those who do them and on societies in which they are done. Sexual ethics provides a means of reasoning about what is pathologised, prejudiced against and discriminated against and what is held up as healthy, virtuous and legitimate. Sexual ethics seeks to cut through discursive silences, aesthetic impressions, poorly reasoned judgements and illegitimate and oppressive state and public responses to erotic pleasures and desires. It forms the basis not simply for analyses of the vagaries and ills of contemporary moral values, legal rules and political and cultural discourse on sexuality; it allows us to explore and creatively imagine better values, discourse and rules in more enlightened societies. And this is, by its very nature, a political process. The sexual is political and just as sexual politics could be enriched by emancipatory ethical thinking, sexual ethics should connect with contemporary sexual activism, politics and practices aiming at the realisation of sexual equality and justice.

Conceived in this way, sexual ethics and politics are a way of grappling with and critically thinking through the problems and possibilities of our sexual  lives – with the many and diverse ways we think and respond to our and other people’s sexualities and the context of sexual rights and justice, and key developments such as sexual commerce and work, sexual health and illness, sexual liberty and repression.

We see sexual ethics as a critical and discursive enterprise, informed by transdisciplinary approaches but characterised by the application of reasoned deliberation and judgement and ethical thinking in sexual scholarship. Ethical discourse on sexuality is enriched by the insights brought by both empirical and theoretical work, and by concrete legal, cultural, social, social psychological and political analyses as well as philosophical engagement.

This conference seeks papers, presentations and panels focusing on conceptual and theoretical debates, cultural and political analysis and empirical studies from which conceptual, ethical and political conclusions are drawn. Whilst we welcome a wide and diverse range of papers, we are particularly keen to encourage submissions on the following three themes:

  • Sexual politics, sexual citizenship, sexual rights and sexual (in)justice
  • The scope and limits of legal regulations and socio-cultural change and activism as emancipatory tools
  • New philosophical and ethical thinking on questions of sexual morality

INSEP sees the value in the fullest range of approaches to the study of sexual ethics and politics, including: gendered and feminist perspectives; distinctive lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual perspectives; queer perspectives; and approaches from more general positions such as liberalism, Marxism and democratic theory. The 2011 conference seeks to be an inclusive space of debate, welcoming dialogue and vigorous debate, but not sectarianism.

Please submit 300 word paper abstracts and 500 words panel proposals by 10 June 2011. Presenters will expect to present their papers within 20 minutes in order to maximise time for discussion. Abstracts may be sent to Submitters will be notified by 17 June 2011 if their proposals have been accepted.

The conference fee will be 150 Euros, payable between June 17th and for more information on the conference and on INSEP, please visit

For informal discussion of proposals, please contact the conference organisers.

Paul Reynolds
Reader in Sociology and Social Philosophy
Edge Hill University, UK

Tom Claes
Associate Professor of Ethics
Ghent University, Belgium

Ps. Prospective participants may wish to stay in Belgium for the European Geographies of Sexualities Conference, 8th – 10th September 2011, Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel (see: for more info & CFP)