Think! Talk: Sexual Consent and Non-Physical Coercion

Thursday, February 22, 2018
5:30pm – 7:00pm
Hellems 199, CU Boulder

Join the CU Boulder Philosophy Department's Center for Values and Social Policy for a Think! Talk by philosophy professor David Boonin.

Suppose Pat threatens to inflict significant physical harm on Kris unless Kris agrees to have sex with Pat. Kris says yes to having sex with Pat because of this threat, and Pat then has sex with Kris.  In this case, it seems clear that Pat is guilty of having sex with Kris without Kris’s valid consent.  But suppose Pat instead threatens to inflict significant emotional harm on Kris unless Kris agrees to have sex with Pat.  Suppose, for example, Pat says, “If you don’t have sex with me, I will break up with you,” or “I will kill myself,” or “I will relentlessly continue pestering you for sex,” or “I will reveal an extremely embarrassing secret of yours,” or “I will post nude photos of you on the internet.”  Cases of this sort are sometimes referred to as examples of non-physical coercion.  If Kris really doesn’t want to have sex with Pat but gives in and says yes to having sex with Pat in response to threats of this sort, has Kris given valid consent to having sex?  The answer in such cases seems less clear.  In this talk, Professor Boonin will present and defend a general account of coercion and use that account to help answer the questions raised by cases of non-physical coercion.