Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Philosophy

Committee Chair

Christopher Preston

Commitee Members

Casey Charles, Sean O'Brien, Stephen Grimm


advertising, guilt, self-respect, sexual self-respect, shame, society's conception of sex


University of Montana


There is a dominant conception of sex in American society that has profound effects on our sexual lives. Often this can be a negative influence because our society’s conception is distorted. My thesis considers how this skewed view on sex and sexuality results in the presence of shame and guilt in our sexual lives. I first define society’s conception of sex and present it visually through fashion advertising. Each of the pornographic elements (objectification, submission, hierarchy and violence) utilized in advertising are explained. The advertisements are meant to provide a visual portrayal of society’s conception of sex, which is relevant to the concept of the gaze; an important aspect of shame. Second, I provide a philosophical account of shame and guilt. I illustrate how our society’s conception of sex can instigate these emotions into our sexual lives even though they are often unfounded. Finally, I attempt to resolve the “invalid shame” and “baseless guilt” we experience in our sexual lives through the notion of “sexual self-respect,” which is a variant of the philosophical concept of self-respect. As individuals we have some influence in diminishing the “invalid shame” and “baseless guilt” we experience in our sexual lives. However, society has a responsibility to formulate a conception of sex that is more conducive to our actual lived sexual experiences. Therefore, the solution resides in the give and take relationships between the individual and society, between self-respect and respect and between society and the media. I present these changes in society’s conception of sex as the possibility of seeing advertising that utilizes erotic elements rather than pornographic elements, and the use of models that more accurately portray us as sexual beings.



© Copyright 2008 Hailey M. Magsig