In his extensive manuscripts on sexual nonconformity, Jeremy Bentham argues that full custodianship of one's own bodily pleasure should be the foundation of human liberty. Analyzing sexual feeling as a sixth sense, Bentham considers sexual preference to be an aesthetic reaction, and therefore immediate and immutable—neither a product of moral reflection, nor a proper object of moral judgment by others. Bentham suspects that the increasing legal and extralegal violence against sexual nonconformists during the eighteenth century was a product of philosophical, literary, and political discourse that centralized sexual asceticism as the most urgent priority of social discipline, for the ultimate purpose of justifying the exclusivity of political enfranchisement. Considering Bentham's manuscripts on sexual nonconformity in the context of recent studies of eighteenth-century heteronormative discourse by Declan Kavanagh and Paul Kelleher, this essay posits that these papers constitute a powerful argument for destigmatizing sexual variety, and that Bentham's published work in law, theology, and philosophy should be reconsidered in relation to his private concerns that sexual discipline had become a method to perpetuate disenfranchisement.


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pp. 335-352
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