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The Problem with Looking for Sex, Subject of Philosophy Club Meeting Thursday

Posted 12/05/2017
Submitted by Brian Skelly
Category: Campus Announcements, Student Announcements

Join us at this week’s Philosophy Club meeting Thursday, December 7, from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m. in 421 Auerbach Hall at the University of Hartford, as Brian Skelly presents on The Problem with Looking for Sex. 

The recent spate of famous men in high places getting in trouble for years of sexual misbehavior ranging probably from the level of civil tort to the felonious gives us cause to reflect on the roots of all this malfeasance. Since the common genus of the offenses is sexual harassment, let our analysis depart from there. 

Our first major national reflection on sexual harassment was taking place about a quarter of a century ago when most of the now existing sexual harassment laws, code, and policies in the public and private sectors first went into effect. As we recognized then, sexual harassment is not purely a sexual phenomenon, but has a key sociological component: a leveraged power advantage on the part of the offender. In some cases, the power advantage can be one of brute force, but usually, and as we are seeing mostly now, it is organizational. Since organizational power can accrue to an individual in so many ways: suddenly or gradually, steadily or intermittently, perhaps augmenting and diminishing erratically over time, the alarming thought arises that the behaviors of the same individual acting out the same sexual policies over time may, due to the ups and downs of organizational power experienced throughout his career, fluctuate accordingly in and out of the range of what constitutes sexual harassment. Far from excusing such behavior as just a matter of bad luck, I see it as a call, especially but not exclusively to men, to become more vigilant over the other variables of potential sexual harassment that are within our individual control: namely, our sexual policies. Whereas organizational power can come and go accidentally, we are the ones who establish and maintain our own attitudes and directives regarding sex, and should take care to keep them well out of the range of what could ever turn into harmful or even criminal behavior. (See attached for complete text.)

Brian Skelly has been teaching philosophy locally for 28 years. Starting with a bachelor's degree in anthropology at Michigan State University, he moved on to study philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, and later returned to earn his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His interests vary from religion, science, and music to world languages and culture. He teaches a wide range of courses, including Biomedical Ethics, Ethics in the Professions, Ethical Problems, History of Philosophy, Logic, Philosophy of Art, and Anthropology.

The University of Hartford Philosophy Club meets every Thursday during Fall and Spring Semesters-with the exception of the first Thursday of each semester-from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m. in 421 Auerbach Hall on the campus of the University of Hartford. The Club has an informal, jovial atmosphere. It is a place where students, professors, and people from the community at large meet as peers Sometimes presentations are given, followed by discussion. Other times, topics are hashed out by the whole group.

Presenters may be students, professors, or people from the community. Anyone can offer to present a topic. The mode of presentation may be as formal or informal as the presenter chooses. Bring friends. Suggest topics and activities. Take over the club! It belongs to you! Food and drink are served. Come and go as you wish.

For more information, contact Brian Skelly at or 413-642-0334


The Problem with Looking for Sex
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