Sexual Violence and Disability: A Comment on “Sexual Harassment in Philosophy” (posted at PEA Soup)

The post below was originally articulated as a comment on the PEA Soup blog in response to the first part of its two-part series entitled “Sexual Harassment in Philosophy,” written by Janice Dowell and David Sobel. You can find the first post in the series and my comment on it here.


I have written posts on Discrimination and Disadvantage and on BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY about the fact that I was sexually assaulted by a classmate in graduate school and terminated from a full-time position after reporting sexual and ableist harassment. That I am disabled was integral to how and why the assault and the harassment took place. I have also been candid about the fact that I have received relatively little support of any kind from philosophers in the aftermath of public reports about these infractions.

Why not? One reason might be that philosophers continue to cover over the fact that, as a social group, disabled people are victims of sexual violence much more frequently than most social groups of nondisabled people. Melinda Hall and I wrote a post at Discrimination and Disadvantage about the ways in which sexual violence against disabled women (among others) has been ignored in, for instance, discussions that circulated in the profession with respect to the #metoo movement.

Perhaps philosophers do not include consideration of ableism and the apparatus of disability in their discussions of sexual harassment and other sexual violence in the profession because disabled philosophers are extremely underrepresented in philosophy. Perhaps the sexual violence perpetrated against us is in fact one (but only one) of the reasons why we are so underrepresented. Perhaps most philosophers tend not to acknowledge the rampant sexual abuse and other forms of sexual violence inflicted upon disabled people because these philosophers tend to unwittingly reproduce pervasive uninformed views about disabled people and sex and about sexual violence and sexual impulses and motivations. Perhaps philosophers simply do not take the time to learn about the perspectives, experiences, arguments, professional contributions, and so on of disabled philosophers.

I hope that in the second part of this series Janice Dowell and David Sobel will consider mechanisms and strategies that can be employed to prevent the sexual harassment and other forms of violence inflicted upon disabled women philosophers and other disabled philosophers. Explicit attention to us seems to have been neglected in this post, though it is identified in at least one of the articles to which they have linked in the post.

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