How free is Beauvoir’s freedom? Unchaining Beauvoir through the erotic body

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One of the most important concepts in Simone de Beauvoir’s existentialist and phenomenological ethics is the concept of freedom. In this article, I would like to argue that Beauvoir’s concept of freedom is problematic in being strongly constrained by its essentially active character. This constraint contradicts some of Beauvoir’s major ideas, such as the one that considers the body as a situation, as a source of activity and of freedom in itself, as well as the idea of eroticism as one of the most important expressions of authenticity. I will show that Beauvoir’s concept of freedom can appear to be less constrained by the necessity to be inherently active if we look at it through the ‘crack’ provided by her conception of the erotic body as already embodying freedom. Using this ‘crack’, I will attempt to shed new light on the aspects of Beauvoir’s idea of the erotic that are productive for her conceptions of ethics and of freedom.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)269-284
Number of pages16
JournalFeminist Theory
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Beauvoir
  • body
  • erotic
  • existentialism
  • feminist philosophy
  • freedom
  • phenomenology
  • transgression

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies


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