Martha C. Nussbaum Interviewed on #MeToo, the Connections Between Philosophy and Literature, and How She Plans to Spend Her Berggruen Prize

Martha Nussbaum: “There’s no tension in supporting #MeToo and defending legal sex work”

Sex and Social Justice (1999), you show how a woman’s sex and a gay man’s sexual orientation are often used to deny them specific rights and social privileges and then argue that these injustices should be fought against on traditional liberal grounds of freedom and autonomy. Do you see the #MeToo movement as an example of the call to arms you were arguing for? And is the #MeToo movement consistent with your liberal defence of prostitution?

Sex and Social Justice defended a work situation in which women have control over the conditions of their employment and are not pressured to accept clients they don’t want or to do anything they don’t want. This is true of unionised sex workers in some countries and of high-end call girls in the US. It is not the situation of most sex workers, who are controlled by pimps, denied choice, etc. Since the #MeToo movement is all about consent and affirmative choice, there is absolutely no tension between my support for that and my defense of legalised sex work under conditions of control and autonomy.

As for the pushback against sexual harassment, it is actually much older than the famous actresses who recently came forward. Women have been able to sue for sexual harassment since the 1980s, and the changes in rape law that have taken place since the 1970s have been very beneficial to women’s autonomy. There is still a lot of work to do, but courageous women, most of them ordinary working women, not celebrities, have taken things forward.

Read more at New Statesman

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