Love and sexuality

Love and sexuality have always occupied an important space within phenomenological discussions of embodiment, intersubjectivity, intentionality, and affect. Unlike psychoanalysis and poststructuralism, phenomenology has always treated sexuality as having existential meaning, treating it as one among multiple fundamental modes of lived experience. In classical phenomenology we find descriptions of sexuality as an "original intentionality" (Merleau-Ponty 2012), an "original mode of realising Being-for-Others" (Sartre 1978), and a "concrete expression of existence" (Beauvoir 1972). And, in the phenomenological tradition, love is considered an important ground for ethics and the apprehension of persons. Beginning with Husserl’s analyses and deepened in the work of Stein, Scheler, Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir, and more, love apprehends the value of other persons. It provides insight into the nature of selfhood. Further, love has traditionally been taken to exemplify intimate forms of we-relations and has been claimed to be required for certain forms of emotional sharing (Scheler 2008).

More recently, scholars have drawn on resources within classical phenomenology to provide comprehensive accounts of sexual differences which further illuminate experiences of trans embodiment and nonnormative sexualities (Rodemeyer 2017, 2018; Salamon 2010; Bettcher 2014; Ahmed 2006). These inroads have been further consolidated by the current ferment of discussions which fall under the heading of 'critical phenomenology'. Critical phenomenological approaches emphasise the importance of bringing phenomenological descriptions into dialogue with perspectives from feminist philosophy, decolonial, Latinx, and critical race theory, gender and disability studies, queer theory, and many more. Meanwhile, contemporary phenomenologists of love contend with the nature of romantic love, monogamy and non-monogamy, and heteronormativity.

Within this one-day workshop, we aim to explore, develop, and critically engage with phenomenological descriptions of love and sexuality. We aim to foster dialogue between scholars working on any aspect of love and/or sexuality from a phenomenological perspective. This includes (but is not limited to): desire, sexed embodiment, sexual style(s) and identities, affective intentionality and affective atmospheres, modes of willing and striving, sexual orientation, intimacy, trans* experiences, sexual practices, relationship structures, the roles of empathy and imagination, temporalities, and sexed and gendered differences. 

Keynote speakers

  • Ellie Anderson
  • Sara Heinämaa



From 08:45 Coffee, tea and croissants

09:15 Opening remarks
09:30 (Keynote) Ellie Anderson - In Defense of Sartre’s ‘Woman on a Date’: Erotic Ambivalence and Bad Faith


11:00 Luke Brunning – Sexual Attraction

Nikolaas Cassidy-Deketelaere - Love and Nature: Questioning the Paradigm of Heterosexuality in Contemporary French Phenomenology

Michael Nelson & Robin Jeshion - Loving: The Telos of Sexual Desire

12:45 Lunch in the canteen (at own expense)
13:45 Gary Foster - Desire and Identity in Sartre

Yixuan Wu - "Yellow Fever" and Vicarious Desire

Clara Moreton - Simulacra of Women: Trans Fetishism as ‘Thin Recognition’

15:30 Break – coffee, tea and cake
15:45 – 17:30 Matthew Robson - The experience and value of being infatuated

Heidi Knechtel - Obstruction of the ‘Romantic Situation’: A Phenomenological and Existential Analysis of the Neuroscience of Romantic Love

Mark Burgess - How transformative experiences of sexual pleasure alter self-understanding: from concealed and deficient to revealed and proficient.



09:00 Coffee, tea and croissants
09:15 (Keynote) Sara Heinämaa - Desire and drive: Two modes of pre-intentional consciousness
10:30 Break
10:45 James Martell - Gender and Pleasure Surfaces in Malabou’s Phenomenology

Shimeng Wang - Face and Hands: A Phenomenological Reading of Representation in Amateur Lesbian Porn

Brad Harmon - “No pic, no chat”: On the Phenomenology of Cruising and the Ethical Negotiations of Grindr

12:30 – 12:45 Closing remarks



* Registered online participants will receive a link to view a stream of the event. Unfortunately, we will not be able to take questions from the online audience.