Jasmine Gunkel

I'm a philosophy PhD candidate at the University of Southern California (USC). I work primarily in normative and applied ethics, social and political philosophy, and feminist philosophy.


Why are some violations of bodily autonomy, such as forcing someone to continue a pregnancy, so much more severe than others, such as requiring someone to wear a mask? Why is it so much more uncomfortable when a stranger grabs our thigh than it is when they grab our arm? Why is it worse to release notes from someone’s therapy session than it is to release notes from a birdwatching trip? On the surface, these questions don’t seem to share much in common. My dissertation, On Intimacy, argues that intimacy helps us answer all of them.

I'm developing what I call the 'Intimate Zones Account' of intimacy. When most people think about intimacy, they initially think about intimate relationships. I argue that this is a mistake. To understand the full scope and importance of intimacy, we must first look to our selves. Once we understand what makes a feature of a person intimate, we can then understand what makes an act intimate, and what makes a relationship intimate. Because our intimate features are those we are disposed to hide, and which we think reveal something important about who we are, revealing these features makes us vulnerable to shame. This threatens to 'turn our self against our self' and change us in ways we don't rationally endorse. This is why intimacy makes us very vulnerable, explains why intimate violations are so serious, and grounds many of our most stringent duties.

I use my account to generate concrete policy proposals regarding how to best regulate intimate labor. It reveals that intimate labor does not consist only of practices like sex work and surrogacy, which are more commonly acknowledged to be intimate, but also disciplines such as therapy, nursing, teaching, and art.

Other Work

I also work in animal ethics, bioethics, social philosophy of language, and at the intersection of ethics and aesthetics. My other projects address questions such as:

  • In what ways does 'anti-animal language' differ from language that targets vulnerable groups of humans? And how should this inform our accounts of the badness of slurs?

  • What background presuppositions are communicated through pornography and can they be altered through the dissemination of 'alternative porn'?

  • How does eating animal products compare with uses of animal bodies that are widely condemned?

  • Is viability morally significant, or is its prominence in abortion debates a metaphysical and moral mistake?

  • Is it always wrong for advertisements to aim to cause insecurity in consumers?

  • How does asking moral questions about art change our aesthetic experiences?

You can reach me at jgunkel@usc.edu.