Gendered Conceptions of Autonomous Consent

Gendered Conceptions of Autonomous Consent: A Philosophical, Psychological and Linguistic Investigation Across Cultures

abstract image profile of a woman thinking

Grant details

01 April 2024 to 31 March 2025

Funded by The British Academy (Knowledge Frontiers: International Interdisciplinary Research Projects 2024).

Funder reference: KF8\230096 

Principal Investigator

Dr Joanna Demaree-Cotton, University of Oxford

Project Team

Collaborating partners include Dr April Bailey (social psychologist at the University of New Hampshire specialising in gender bias), Dr Brian Earp (bioethicist and moral psychologist at the University of Oxford), Dr Carme Isern-Mas (moral philosopher at the University of the Balearic Islands), and Dr Jonathan Pugh (philosopher and ethicist at the University of Oxford).

The advisory board includes Professor Clare Chambers (philosopher at the University of Cambridge specialising in feminist and political theory); Hermine Hayes-Klein (founder and executive director of Human Rights in Childbirth and advocate for legal protection of women’s autonomous decision-making rights); Dr Jonas Kunst (Professor of Cultural and Community Psychology, University of Oslo); Professor Jennifer Saul (philosopher at the University of Waterloo specialising in feminist philosophy and philosophy of language, especially prejudiced language and implicit bias); and Birthrights (UK-based charity and advocacy group dedicated to protecting women’s decision-making rights in pregnancy and childbirth).

Project Description

This project investigates how philosophical concepts of autonomy and valid consent are gendered across different cultural and language contexts

According to the principle of informed consent, autonomous persons have the right to make their own decisions regarding their bodies, lives and medical treatment. If a person is deemed not to be autonomous, others may make paternalistic decisions on that person’s behalf based on what is thought to be in that person’s best interests. However, research on gender stereotypes suggest that women are stereotyped as less agentic, less rational, and more emotional - traits that are associated with lower degrees of autonomy.

Meanwhile, threats to women’s autonomy in medical domains (e.g. high rates of reported unconsented to interventions during childbirth) and sexual domains (e.g. unconsented sexual touching documented by the #metoo, #SeAcabó movements) are widely reported. Our project bridges philosophy, social psychology and linguistics to investigate how gender stereotypes in different cultures affect the extent to which women are perceived to be autonomous and capable of making their own decisions.


We gratefully acknowledge funding by The British Academy (Knowledge Frontiers: International Interdisciplinary Research Projects 2024).