Chiara Zucchelli (KCL) - 2020-21 Students

Autonomy, Adaptive Preferences & Pornography

While there seems to be a consensus among feminist theorists that oppression hinders an agent’s psychological and social conditions for autonomy, there remains a divide over why, under which conditions and to what extent. A feminist hard-case bringing this problem to light is that of adaptive preferences: that is, preferences that are subconsciously formed to reduce feelings of cognitive dissonance that come from unsatisfied desires.

The aim of my research is to assess under what conditions adaptive preferences are in fact compatible with autonomy, and why. In particular, a case that has inspired my thesis is that of whether women who chose to star in pornography do so autonomously, even if it arguably contributes to their own subjugation. This question highlights key areas of philosophical debate over pornography, but has been left relatively untouched.

My aim is to defend the claim that adaptive preferences can be compatible with autonomy under procedural accounts. Ultimately, shedding light on the question of whether women are able to autonomously choose to star in pornography even if it contributes to their own subjugation. As well as contributing to the wider debates of whether pornography can be feminist, and what constitutes an autonomous choice.

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