Sabrina Aggleton intertwines her philosophical research with practical applications at the Rock Ethics Institute. A doctoral student in Penn State’s Department of Philosophy and Research Assistant in the Initiative in Ethics and Sexual Violence at the Rock Ethics Institute, Aggleton studies twentieth century continental philosophy and feminist philosophy with a particular focus on the intersection of embodiment, intersubjectivity, and ethics in the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Simone de Beauvoir.
“When we talk about embodiment and intersubjectivity, we can see the connections to sexual violence and the ethical analyses it demands,” said Aggleton. She is particularly interested in how people respond to those who come forward as victims of rape and sexual assault. As a part of the Initiative in Ethics and Sexual Violence, Aggleton helped create immediate crisis resources for students who have been victims of sexual violence. These medical, legal and social resources are available on the Rock website. In addition to this project, Aggleton consulted with Penn Staters Researching Interventions for Social Misconduct (PRISM) and Dr. Andrew Peck from the Department of Psychology to create an anti-sexual misconduct toolkit to be used in the classroom here at Penn State. The toolkit offers teachers resources for how to address the problem of sexual violence with their students.
In addition to her research, Aggleton enjoys teaching, and taught the Introduction to Philosophy and Feminism course in the spring of 2013. “On the first day of class, I said to my students, ‘name some philosophers!’ They started rattling off names like Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, and Nietzsche. I then asked them to think about what all of these people have in common, and a student piped up, ‘There are no females up there.” This was exactly my point, and I was excited to use the class as an opportunity to address the issue of the silencing of the female voice throughout the history of philosophy.
“We also discussed issues of the intersectionality of classist, racist and sexist oppression, sexual violence, rape culture and problems of traditional masculinity,” said Aggleton of the course.
Aggleton’s work has important social and cultural relevance. “Because of the sobering statistics, chances are that somebody you know has been impacted by sexual violence in their lifetime,” says Aggleton. Statistics say that one in four women will be a victim of sexual assault during her college career, and the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that somebody is sexually assaulted in the US every two minutes. As Aggleton points out, however, sexual violence is not limited to women. Approximately 1 in 8 lesbians and 1 in 2 bisexual women have been raped in their lifetime, while 1 in 2 bisexual men and 4 in 10 gay men have experienced sexual violence. Additionally, 50% of transgender people have experienced sexual violence in their life.
“Sexual violence is not limited to women and it is not rare. We need to realize that this isn’t just a victim’s problem or a woman’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem, and therefore something we need to address in meaningful ways.”
In her free time, Aggleton enjoys spending time with her husband and their 19-year-old rescue cat, Jonas.