Sexual Desire (book)

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Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation
Sexual Desire (book).jpg
Author Roger Scruton
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Philosophy
Published 1986 (Weidenfeld and Nicolson)
Media type Print
Pages 428
ISBN 1-85799-100-1

Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation is a 1986 book about the philosophy of sex by Roger Scruton.


Scruton bases a conservative sexual ethic on the Hegelian proposition that "the final end of every rational being is the building of the self - of a recognisable personal entity, which flourishes according to its own autonomnous nature." This process involves recognizing the other as an end in itself. Scruton argues that the major feature of perversion is "sexual release that avoids or abolishes the other," which he sees as narcissistic and often solipsistic. His list of perversions includes masturbation, bestiality, necrophilia, pedophilia, sado-masochism, homosexuality, incest, and fetishism. Scruton considers homosexuality a perversion because it does not involve sexual difference: desire directed towards the other gender elicits its complement, but desire directed toward the same gender elicits its simulacrum. In his view, normal sexuality involves not only giving recognition to the other's person in and through desire for him or her, but also according them accountability and care in the process. Scruton criticizes psychoanalytic perspectives on sexuality.[1]

Scholarly reception[edit]

Sexual Desire is described by Alan Soble as "certainly by a long way the most interesting and insightful philosophical account of sexual desire produced by analytic philosophy",[2] while Christopher Janaway notes that Scruton's work challenges the conventional boundaries of that branch of philosophy.[3] Jonathan Dollimore sees Scruton's philosophy of sex as open to many possible objections. He finds Scruton's writing to be jargon-ridden, believing that its Hegelian language and talk of otherness bestows "a spurious profundity on a normative sexual politics which is at heart timid, conservative, and deeply ignorant." He also believes that, notwithstanding Scruton's attack on psychoanalysis, his defense of sexual difference is to some degree indebted to psychoanalytic theory.[4]

Philosopher A. J. Ayer dismissed Sexual Desire as "silly", leading Scruton to reply that he honestly believes his work cogent.[5]

Mark Dooley praises Sexual Desire as "magisterial", and writes that Scruton's objective is to show that sexual desire trades in "the currency of the sacred."[6]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Dollimore 1991. pp. 260-262.
  2. ^ Soble 2008. p. 101.
  3. ^ Janaway 1995. p. 816.
  4. ^ Dollimore 1991. pp. 262.
  5. ^ Scruton 2005. p. 55.
  6. ^ Dooley 2009. p. 53.


  • Dollimore, Jonathan (1991). Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-811269-6. 
  • Dooley, Mark (2009). Roger Scruton: The Philosopher on Dover Beach. Continuum. ISBN 978-1847060136. 
  • Janaway, Christopher (1995). Honderich, Ted, ed. The Oxford Companion to Philosopher. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866132-0. 
  • Scruton, Roger (2005). Gentle Regrets: Thoughts from a Life. New York: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-8033-0. 
  • Soble, Alan (2008). Soble, Alan; Power, Nicholas P., eds. The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0742547981.