What do we owe each other in the sexual sphere? This is a domain that long has suffered from political problems and mainstream philosophical neglect. Feminists and liberals rightly caution against moralising about and state intervention in the bedroom.
In this paper, I argue that these are not the only options. We need a theory that acknowledges both the importance of sex for the good life, and the importance of privacy and sexual autonomy. Drawing on sociology of emotion and social psychology, I provide a social norms sensitive contractualism for the sexual sphere, on which we owe each other to provide what I call the socio-sexual bases of self-respect: opportunities to develop meaningful intimate relationships. I diagnose our societies as lacking in the socio-sexual bases of self-respect, as the sexual sphere is pestered by three forms of problem: sex is given an inappropriate significance, there is a lack of clear social norms, and the sexual norms that do exist are unjust. What we owe to each other, then, is to act according to principles, and to implement policies, that counter these tendencies.