Sapientia Lecture Series

Dartmouth Events

Sapientia Lecture Series

"Sexual Refusal and the Fragility of Women’s Authority." Lecture by Elinor Mason (Edinburgh). Free & open to all. Reception follows.

Monday, August 19, 2019
Visual Arts Center 301
Intended Audience(s): Public
Categories: Lectures & Seminars


Most recent work on silencing has focussed on silencing as a ‘scrambling’ of women’s words, so that women cannot be understood when they try to refuse sex. In this paper I argue for a different account of silencing in the context of sexual refusal, which places more emphasis on the way that women’s refusals are disregarded. One way that refusal is disregarded is in a case where the rapist knows full well he is acting impermissibly. But there are other more complex cases, where women are understood as trying to refuse, but their refusal is not taken as important. I argue that this is because women’s authority to refuse is very fragile. Women can lose authority to refuse sexual advances through the way they dress, how much they have had to drink, where they are, or their profession. This account makes sense of the way that perpetrators both do and do not understand sexual refusal. It also makes sense of the way that context makes a huge difference to whether women’s refusals are effective.

Elinor Mason is a Senior Lecturer (equivalent to Associate Professor) in philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. She works on and teaches a broad range of topics, including feminism, moral responsibility, and ethics. Her book, Ways to be Blameworthy: Rightness, Wrongness, and Responsibility is in press with Oxford University Press. She is also currently Deputy Head of Department and Postgraduate Director for Philosophy. She is the Equalities officer for the British Society for Ethical Theory, the Ethics area editor for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and serves on the editorial board of Philosophical Quarterly and The Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, and on the Executive Committee of The Aristotelian Society. At Dartmouth for the 2019 Summer Term, she is teaching PHIL 45.03, Consent in Law & Philosophy.

The Sapientia Lecture Series is underwritten by the Mark J. Byrne 1985 Fund in Philosophy.

For more information, contact:
Marcia Welsh
(603) 646-3738

Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.