cover of book

Sex and Reason
by Richard A. Posner
Harvard University Press, 1992
Cloth: 978-0-674-80279-7 | eISBN: 978-0-674-04225-4 | Paper: 978-0-674-80280-3
Library of Congress Classification HQ16.P67 1992
Dewey Decimal Classification 306.7


Sexual drives are rooted in biology, but we don't act on them blindly. Indeed, as the eminently readable judge and legal scholar Richard Posner shows, we make quite rational choices about sex, based on the costs and benefits perceived.

Drawing on the fields of biology, law, history, religion, and economics, this sweeping study examines societies from ancient Greece to today's Sweden and issues from masturbation, incest taboos, date rape, and gay marriage to Baby M. The first comprehensive approach to sexuality and its social controls, Posner's rational choice theory surprises, explains, predicts, and totally absorbs.

Table of Contents:


Part One: The History of Sexuality

1. Theoretical Sexology
The Development of the Field
Social Constructionism (with a Glance at Gender Disorders)
Other Threads in the Multidisciplinary Tapestry
2. Autres Temps, Autres Moeurs
The History of Western Sexual Mores
The Sexual Mores of Non-Western Cultures
3. Sexuality and Law

Part Two: A Theory of Sexuality

4. The Biology of Sex
The Biological Basis and Character of "Normal" Sex
The Biology of "Deviant" Sex
Conclusion and Critique
5. Sex and Rationality
The Benefits of Sex
The Costs of Sex
Complementarity of Sexual Practices
6. The History of Sexuality from the Perspective of Economics
Greek Love and the Institutionalization of Pederasty
Monasticism, Puritanism, and Christian Sex Ethics
Swedish Permissiveness
Three Stages in the Evolution of Sexual Morality
7. Optimal Regulation of Sexuality
The Model of Morally Indifferent Sex Elaborated
The Externalities of Sex
Incest and Revulsion
The Efficacy of Sexual Regulations
Designing an Optimal Punishment Scheme for Sex Crimes
The Political Economy of Sexual Regulation
8. Moral Theories of Sexuality
Are Moral Theories Falsifiable?
Christian and Liberal Theories of Sex
Sexual Radicals

Part Three: The Regulation of Sexuality

9. Marriage and the Channeling of Sex
Restrictions on Marrying
Regulating Nonmarital Sex
10. The Control of Pregnancy
11. Homosexuality: The Policy Questions
The Phenomenon Reconsidered
Relations between Consenting Adults: Sodomy Laws and Homosexual Marriage
Discrimination against Homosexuals, with Particular Reference to Military Service
12. The Sexual Revolution in the Courts
From Griswold v. Connecticut to Roe v. Wade
Bowers v. Hardwick and Beyond
13. Erotic Art, Pornography, and Nudity
The Economy of Erotic Representation
The Social Consequences of Pornography
Deciding What-If Anything-to Punish
14. Coercive Sex
Sexual Abuse of Adults
Sexual Abuse of Children
15. Separating Reproduction from Sex
Artificial Insemination and the Issue of Surrogate Motherhood
Eugenics and Population


Reviews of this book:
[Posner] is one of the most distinguished and prolific legal thinkers of his generation [and this is an] extraordinary book...Like [George Bernard] Shaw, he combines a passion for exposing humbug and pseudo-profundity with an odd but genuine sort of social compassion, a delight in shocking the self-righteous with a love of human diversity and freedom...We will remember, and profit by, the wit and the courage of his attacks on bigotry, folly, and cruelty.
--Martha C. Nussbaum, New Republic

Reviews of this book:
An incisive tour through theories of sexuality and legal regulation of such matters as marriage, pregnancy, homosexuality, sexual revolution in the courts, erotic art, pornography and nudity, sexual abuse, and the separation of reproduction from sex...At a time when intellectual shoddiness permeates our highest court, [Posner] is a true philosopher of law.
--Carlin Romano, Washington Post Book World

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