Suzanne Valadon. Nude Sitting on a Sofa (detail), 1916. The Weisman & Michel Collection. © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Sex and the law

A series of projects concerning the relationship between sex, sexuality, and the law. See below for papers as they emerge.

The only thing I want is for people to stop seeing me naked: consent, contracts, and sexual media

The boundary between what we reveal and what we do not, and some control over that boundary, is among the most important attributes of our humanity.

Thomas Nagel


In pornography, standard modelling contracts often require a performer to surrender rights over their public image and sexual media in perpetuity and across mediums. Under these contracts, performers are unable to determine who accesses, for what duration, and under what conditions, their sexual media. As a result, pornography has been described by some performers as a “life sentence” – a phrase which, if true, violates some strong intuitions we share about the importance of autonomy in sexual activity. Using the framework of “affirmative consent,” I argue that these contracts violate performer’s rights to sexual autonomy, and ought therefore to be considered objectionable. Overall, I argue that the legal regimes we create have a strong impact on people’s lives, and more important than legislating individual outcomes, the type of infrastructure we build around people’s decisions has the potential to radically empower – or disempower – those engaged in sex work.