Heather Corinna

Michael Bruce and Robert M. Stewart

Michael Bruce and Robert M. Stewart

Sisi Chen and George T. Hole

Bassam Romaya

Michael Bruce

Brett Lunceford

Bill Puka

William O. Stephens

Timothy R. Levine and Paul A. Mongeau

Kelli Jean K. Smith and Kelly Morrison

Andrew Kania

Danielle A. Layne

Ashley McDowell

Guy Pinku

Matthew Brophy

Robert M. Stewart

John Draeger

Yolanda Estes

Antti Kuusela


MICHAEL BRUCE currently works in the non-profit sector with
at-risk youth. Previously, he was a teaching assistant at California
State University, Chico, and received his Master’s degree from
San Diego State University, specializing in continental philosophy.
He has published articles in the pop culture and philosophy genre
and is currently editing Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important
Arguments in Western Philosophy for Wiley-Blackwell.

ROBERT M. STEWART is Professor of Philosophy at
California State University, Chico. He is the author
of Moral Philosophy: A Comprehensive Introduction (1994),
and editor of Philosophical Perspectives on Sex and Love (1995).
He has published numerous journal articles.


FRITZ ALLHOFF is an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy
Department at Western Michigan University, as well as a Senior
Research Fellow at the Australian National University’s Centre
for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. In addition to editing the
Philosophy for Everyone series, Allhoff is the volume editor or co-editor
for several titles, including Wine & Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007),
Whiskey & Philosophy (with Marcus P. Adams, Wiley, 2009), and
Food & Philosophy (with Dave Monroe, Wiley-Blackwell, 2007).


Series editor: Fritz Allhoff

Not so much a subject matter, philosophy is a way of thinking. Thinking not just about the Big Questions, but about little ones too. This series invites everyone to ponder things they care about, big or small, significant, serious … or just curious.

Running & Philosophy:
A Marathon for the Mind

Edited by Michael W. Austin

Wine & Philosophy:
A Symposium on Thinking and Drinking

Edited by Fritz Allhoff

Food & Philosophy:
Eat, Think and Be Merry

Edited by Fritz Allhoff and Dave Monroe

Beer & Philosophy:
The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking

Edited by Steven D. Hales

Whiskey & Philosophy:
A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas

Edited by Fritz Allhoff and Marcus P. Adams

College Sex – Philosophy for Everyone:
Philosophers With Benefits

Edited by Michael Bruce and Robert M. Stewart

Cycling – Philosophy for Everyone:
A Philosophical Tour de Force

Edited by Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza and Michael W. Austin

Climbing – Philosophy for Everyone:
Because It’s There

Edited by Stephen E. Schmid

Hunting – Philosophy for Everyone:
In Search of the Wild Life

Edited by Nathan Kowalsky

Christmas – Philosophy for Everyone:
Better Than a Lump of Coal

Edited by Scott C. Lowe

Cannabis – Philosophy for Everyone:
What Were We Just Talking About?

Edited by Dale Jacquette

Porn – Philosophy for Everyone:
How to Think With Kink

Edited by Dave Monroe

Serial Killers – Philosophy for Everyone:
Being and Killing

Edited by S. Waller

Dating – Philosophy for Everyone:
Flirting With Big Ideas

Edited by Kristie Miller and Marlene Clark

Gardening – Philosophy for Everyone:
Cultivating Wisdom

Edited by Dan O’Brien

Motherhood – Philosophy for Everyone:
The Birth of Wisdom

Edited by Sheila Lintott

Fatherhood – Philosophy for Everyone:
The Dao of Daddy

Edited by Lon S. Nease and Michael W. Austin

Forthcoming books in the series:

Fashion – Philosophy for Everyone
Edited by Jessica Wolfendale and Jeanette Kennett

Coffee – Philosophy for Everyone
Edited by Scott Parker and Michael W. Austin

Blues – Philosophy for Everyone
Edited by Abrol Fairweather and Jesse Steinberg




In the late 1980s I attended a college whose core curriculum was rooted in the classics of Western philosophy. I also had sex in college and studied sexuality in college, between the pages, not just the sheets. For me, college sex and philosophy were largely inseparable, and I had both in equal measure.

Here’s the crux of what I learned about Western philosophy in college: it is highly critical, systematic and relies upon – or states it does – logic and reason. It involves asking and exploring very big questions, sometimes about very large things, sometimes about very small things. It tended to mostly come from old, white men and be about men, even when those men are discussing women or others whose experiences they had not lived or had not lived lately.

Some of this stuff was seriously ancient, even when presented as shiny and new. Any given philosopher seemed to think that his – and with a hat-tip to Hannah Arendt, her – philosophical approach and ideas would make all others obsolete. Any given philosopher often used language (like the words “god,” “he,” or “moral”) or approaches that made it sound like their language and approaches were the only right or reasonable ones.

Very few people seemed interested in it, but people still liked to argue about it a lot. Just when I thought I had a handle on philosophy, some approach to or experience of it spun my head around and made me feel like a newbie.

Philosophy often seemed to be coming from a bunch of dead people who were coming from a world that largely was not mine. But even when those folks were talking about something that either wasn’t about them, or didn’t speak to my experience, even in question or profound disagreement, I could learn a whole lot about myself and my world from it.

It sometimes also really made my head hurt.

Here’s the crux of what I learned about sex in college, especially sex we have during the time of life when we’re in college: it is largely uncritical (when it is, is more so after the fact than during the act), only systematic when it sucks, and most often relies upon a partial suspension of reason. It often involves asking for and exploring very big things, sometimes via very large things, sometimes via very small things. It tended to come from pretty much everybody of every age, though some men did like to think that it was mostly about them, even when they had it with women or others whose experiences they had not lived or had not lived lately. The older and whiter those men got, the more they seemed inclined to think that, something I hardly need to tell a generation that has come of age under the Bush administration. If you’ve already started college courses, you also know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, you will.

Some of this stuff was seriously ancient, even when presented as shiny and new. Any given sexual partner didn’t seem think that his – or her – approach to and ideas about sex would make all others obsolete, but plenty seemed to hope for as much. Any given person often used language (like the words “oh-god,” “sex,” or “moral”) about or approaches to sexuality that made it sound like their language and approaches were the only right, or reasonable ones.

Pretty much everybody was interested in it, but people still liked to argue about it a lot. Just when I thought I had a handle on sex, some approach to or experience of it spun my head around and made me feel like a newbie.

While the sex I personally had in college never involved dead people, it did sometimes involve those coming from a world that was not mine. But for the most part, sex in college was centrally about me and my peers and about our world, not the worlds or experiences of those outside it, even if to our great annoyance those outsiders invaded or policed that world. Yet, even when other folks were having sex or had a sexuality in college that either wasn’t about me, or didn’t speak to my experience of sex, even in question or disagreement, I could learn a whole lot about myself and my world from it.

It sometimes also really made my head hurt.

In some ways, college sex and philosophy are excellent bedfellows. In others, they’re like those couples you see together and cannot figure out what the hell it is they see in one another. While adding sex to philosophy makes the latter far more compelling, the opposite is rarely true. Under the microscopic lens of philosophy, sex can sometimes appear nearly incomprehensible, painfully pat, or downright unappealing. Of course, some schools of philosophy are a better fit than others. Rationalism, analytic philosophy, or logical positivism? Highly incompatible. Skepticism or pragmatism? Not if you want to have a good time. Aesthetics, metaphysics, and existentialism? Sure. Poststructuralism? Depends on the sex you’re having. Idealism? And how. Absurdism? Perfect.

Most of the Western philosophers who have explored sexuality often seem either like the folks who have enjoyed or experienced sex the least or who wanted to hide their enjoyment of it the most. When reading philosophers addressing sexuality, you may hear a voice in your head saying, with great exasperation, “Just get laid already!” or “For the love of gawd, come out of that closet.” Many have seemed most focused on questions of what is and is not moral in human sexuality – and with infrequent self-analysis, mind – than the whole of the sexual experience or the more holistic sphere of what human sexuality entails. Much philosophy addressing sexuality can seem a determined attempt to take all the fun right out of it. For example, it’s a testament to the fortitude of queer and women’s sexuality and the drive we all have for pleasure that we of the female and/or not-hetero variety can still enjoy sex at all after reading and having culture influenced by most philosophical approaches to queer and women’s sexuality. We also owe philosophy no gratitude for its endless fixation on what is normal and what is abnormal in sexuality, an enterprise so vastly diverse that the only thing we know about sexual normality is that either all of us are normal or none of us are.

Neither philosophy nor sex in college is new. In fact, much of what any given generation posits as sexually new in the next one is not, it just may be occurring in new contexts and frameworks or look different once one is beyond a given age. In the 1980s and 1990s, the 1960s and 1970s, in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, people were doing the horizontal mambo in college, “hooking up,” having or considering trysts with professors, sneaking or slinking home after staying out all night, communicating with long-distance partners, doing or utilizing sex work, sleeping with folks who weren’t a spouse, fiancée, or “steady,” having sex with and without romantic love. In short, they were exploring their own sexuality and sexual identity to try and find the right fit for who they were then and for who they wanted to become. Since most of the people applying philosophy to college sex are not college students having said sex (nor often sexologists), in some ways, I think the greatest information gleaned from philosophical analysis of young adult sex is what adultist attitudes and ideas about college sex and sexuality are.

Which is useful knowledge, really. After all, those not in college having sex have long been the greatest buzzkill of those who are, especially those who didn’t have the sex in college they wanted and knew – or imagined – everyone else to be having. Let’s be kind: adults who philosophically consider the sexuality of younger people probably had sex in college, too, and plenty of it was likely sex they enjoyed. (Or, being not so kind, did not have sex in college and are still royally pissed off about it.) Some of what you read in this book will be about your experiences with sex in college. Some won’t: it may be about experiences others have, instead, or may be about someone else’s perceptions of, ideas about, or even sexual fantasies of what you and your fellow students are doing. But whether it expands your mind or solidifies your own dissenting ideas, it’s all good.

Outside philosophical perspectives on your sex life will tend to include one’s own sexual history added to what they observe about yours now within the kind of rigorous structure philosophical approaches demand and require, and that’s useful, both when on-target and when off-base. You can use them to see them coming and cover your tracks a bit better. Alternately, you can use them to apply a different perspective than your own to your own sexual life: seeing our experiences through different eyes and ways of thinking can provide potentially important tools with which to evaluate our choices.

As a sexuality author and educator, I find it frustrating when sex and sexuality are presented solely as pursuits of the body, when in fact they are also – sometimes great, sometimes not-so-great – pursuits of heart and mind. Furthermore, sex is not just what we do when we’re engaging in it, it is what we think of it all, before, during, and after, in scarcity and in excess, about our own sexuality and sex lives and those of others, how we and everyone else contextualize, conceptualize, evaluate, enact, and represent it; how and if we say yes, maybe, or no, to whom and what we say it, what both our ideals and realities of sex – which often are not one and the same, nor universal for everyone – are. And having solid frameworks for thinking about something that can make us so dizzy in the head is mighty helpful. That is the aim of the authors of College Sex & Philosophy, and it’s most certainly a fine one. As they were for me in college, sex and philosophy remain a heady mix, one that poses unusual and unexpected challenges for writer and reader alike.

So, I invite you to go ahead, open the pages of this book, put sex and philosophy in bed together and see what happens. And don’t just lie there: let yourself really get into it and see where it takes you. Just like any other kind of “sexual experimenting,” you may find it expansive or a yawner, you might get off on it or you might not. But you’ll never know unless you give it a try.

Heather Corinna
Founder and Director,


First, we would like to thank all of the contributors. They have been very patient and enthusiastic. We are impressed with the quality and creativity of their essays. The editorial process can feel grueling and tedious, amplified by the challenges of communicating electronically. We thank them for their persistence. Many of the contributors were writing during their summer break, and we thank them for using that precious time. We have an international group of authors, also authors specializing in different areas of philosophy, and interdisciplinary scholars from fields outside of philosophy as well. We are pleased with the collection of perspectives represented in this text.

Second, we would like to thank our publisher. Wiley-Blackwell has supported this project from the moment it was conceived. In particular, we acknowledge Fritz Allhoff and Marcus P. Adams. Fritz has been especially helpful, and we thank him for his patience and for believing in the project. Marcus was our invaluable resource behind the scenes, helping with careful manuscript preparation. We could not have realized this volume without help from both of you.

Third, Michael would like to thank Robert. Taking Robert’s “Philosophy of Sex and Love” class as an undergraduate made a lasting impression. Philosophy, as a discipline, increasingly has to defend its relevancy and practicality, and Robert’s class showed how philosophy can directly inform decisions and behaviors. Robert would like to thank Brenda Lowen for her technical help.

Finally, we thank you, the reader: enjoy the volume! The sexual dimension of human existence is a wonderful thing. We applaud your interest in exploring a topic that is unfortunately still taboo for many people.

Michael Bruce, Belmont, California
Robert M. Stewart, Chico, California