IV. Sexual Morality

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I. What constitutes a sexual act?

A. Need to know what we're talking about before we can decide moral questions.

B. Practical consequences...Clinton.

II. Basic positions...

A. Conservative: consensual sex is a great thing ...within heterosexual marriage

B. Liberal: consensual sex is a great thing.

The Vatican (1975)

I. Background: Aristotle and the Natural Law

A. The goal is happiness...your own happiness...teleological

B. Achieve happiness by fulfilling your nature...flourishing as human being...leading the good and happy life.

1.--Are basic rules of morality going to change over time?  "The new morality" No.  So long as we're human the basic rules will stay the same.

2. Empirical, for good or ill.  Does acting this way really produce healthy happy human beings.

C. Within this overall goal of a good life there are various basic human activities which have purposes of their own, which in turn contribute to the overall good of the human being. E.g. eating.

1. There is a primary goal (nourishing the body...health..the good life)

2. Other legitimate goals (sensual pleasure, social activity)

3. There's a problem if you cut off the activity from its primary goal, even if you achieve the other goods.) (BlueBo... You get pleasure and engage in a social activity but you are not nourished.)  You have engaged in the activity in the wrong way. Unnatural.

---for Vatican "sexual act" means "genital act"---(Were Clinton and Lewinsky engaged in sexual acts?)

II. The primary purpose of sexual activity is children.  (and expressing mutual love, but within the context of raising a family).


1. For adults to flourish need children.  Without them you lead an impoverished life.

2. RC members of religious orders celibate....giving up a great good for an even greater good.  But giving up children for anything less than God would be silly.  Advancement in your career, more money, stretch marks.

B.   So...wrong...

1. Homosexual behavior (not desires, but actions)

2. Masturbation (But people do it all the time.  So what)

3. Married couple that always practice birth control (even so called "natural" birth control) so that they never have children.

C. What about couple who are infertile?  Very sad situation. They haven't done anything wrong because they haven't done anything to keep from having children.  (The difference between eating BlueBo and eating properly, but you're sick and so you can't digest properly.  In both cases you are harmed, but in the former you harmed yourself.)

III. But what does all this have to do with MARRIAGE?  (i.e. permanent commitment of mutual love and help between man and woman) You can certainly have kids without being married.

A. Better for the kids.

1. Best with a mother and a father...role model business.

2. Two people to love and take care of them.

B. Better for the parents:

1. caring for kids very hard work.

---even if there are no kids, marriage better for people---

2. the love part...among other things love=deep desire for the good of the other.  Extremely valuable to have someone in the world who's promised a life-long committment to your good.

3. better health (serious danger w/sex w/someone who doesn't particularly care about you, right?...and someone who's had lots of partners is very likely to be diseased)

4. better sex

a.  Steady supply (Don't have to worry about where it's coming from) RC marital obligation.

b.  Partner really cares about you, committed to you so problems have to be worked out, you can trust them,

c. Good sex like good doubles ice skating...practice.

C. Better for society: Healthier, happier kids and parents make for a better society overall.

IV. Suppose you're sympathetic with the above.  The main purposes of sex are children and expressing love, marriage is a really good idea....but not yet.  Problem is that engaging in the activity, but not for its main purposes, can make it more difficult to do the thing properly when you're ready.  BlueBo.

A. Couple who wait to have kids.

B. folks who go from partner to partner...(social disease, Aristotelian idea of  "habit": used to thinking of partner as someone to use for pleasure without committment...may be hard to change way of thinking.)

Kant: Sex outside of marriage is wrong because it uses the other as an object

I. Background

A. 1st and 2nd forms of categorical imperative.

B. You should not treat yourself as a means to an end.  You have duties to yourself.  (One of the big divides among philosophers who do ethics.  Can you be immoral towards yourself?)

B. Nature of person: both body and consciousness (soul) (Iceberg problem: One popular  alternative position: the real you is your consciousness (soul).  Your body is just this thing you use, so it could be your property like your car.)

II. Among human inclinations, sexual desire is unique in that the object of desire is another human being.  Not their services or their work, but the actual human being himself.

III.  Crucial to distinguish between true human love and mere sexual appetite.

A. The former involves promoting the good of the beloved and rejoicing in their happiness...really wanting them to be happy (ultimate form of thinking of the other as an end in themselves).

B. Sexual appetite involves none of this but merely makes of the other an object.

C. ...and not even a human object but a sexual object.  I.e. one is not interested in the other person's humanness (rational agency)  but just in their maleness or femaleness.  And so it is an appetite which involves degrading human nature.

IV. Prostitution: Simply selling your services?  No. Selling your self , which is wrong.  Even you can't use you as an object.

V. Concubinage: Mutual sexual relation with no money involved.  Still no because you're treating yourself and the other as objects since you're using a part of yourself and the other person.

VI. Marriage: Different.  You are interested in all of the other person.  You obtain rights over them, including sexual rights, by giving them the same rights over you. (Reciprocity ...1st form)

VII. Polygamy? (No...each spouse would only get 1/2)

VIII. Sexual crimes

A. Adultery

B. Crimes against nature. i.e. human nature. "Ends of humanity" : purpose of sexual activity is to preserve the species.  (1st form: could I universalize a maxim involving sexual activity that didn't allow for procreation? No. This would constitute a desire for the destruction of the species.)

1. Masturbation

2. Homosexuality

3. Bestiality

Goldman: Any consensual sex is fine

I. The definition of a sexual act: An act which tends to fulfill the desire for contact with another person's body.  Not a means to some other good.

A. Monica and Bill?

B. Dog? Corpse?  He does say "person", but later he gives the example of raping a sheep as a sexual act, and it seems unreasonable not to hold that it would be.  He probably just wasn't being careful.

C. Kissing? Holding hands?

D. Cuddling a baby because it just feels so good?

II. What's wrong with the natural law (Vatican) view

A. While reproduction may be nature's purpose, it certainly need not be ours.

Response: Whether it is or not, it should be (BlueBo again.)

B. It ought to condemn kissing and carressing which are sex acts which (alone) will not lead to reproduction.

Response: Definition of sexual activity.

III. Other means-end analyses

A. Expression of love

1. Well, no it isn't...they're just two separate phenomena, and

2. society would be better off if they weren't confused.

a. people wouldn't make the mistake of getting married just because they want to have sex with somebody and

b. married people wouldn't get so jealous when partners want sex with others.

IV. Why have people adopted these means-ends analyses?

A. The Platonic-Christian idea that "the animal or purely physical element of humans is the source of immorality,..."

B. This is not the Christian view!

1. Immorality comes from choice, free will which is part of your mind.

2. Body is good.

VI. Moral implications of this view of sex, "plain sex".  There are no rules that apply to sex per se.  Sex is subject to the same moral rules to which any activity is subject, but not to any special rules. So it's sort of like playing tennis.

VII. Perversion...just a statistical abnormality.

A. a "perverse" desire is one which is not shared by most people

B. acting upon it is only wrong if it is wrong by any moral standards.

C. homosexual activity is perverse, but not wrong.  (No problem playing tennis with someone of the same gender, right?)

VII. examples

A. rape

B. prostitution

C. dogs...corpses...

D. asking for sexual bribes

E. suggesting that class engage in sexual activity.

F. with children...Goldman says it's wrong because of detrimental effects it can have on future emotional and sexual life of "victims" but if having sex is just like playing tennis why should it have these future effects?

G. sexual harrassment?

---the relationship question---


What is it?

(Gender neutral)

---threats (to oneself or against friends and family)
---victim is unconscious
---victim is incapable of consent/resistance (mental or physical incapacity, incapacity due to  alcohol or drugs.
---certain kinds of deceit (medical personel, pseudo-spouse)

---lack of consent? (Some states at least...consent positively expressed in words or actions.)

(Important when we're gathering statistics, the "one if four" claim.)

Pineau: Need new criteria for consent in order to get more date rape convictions. (She is only interested in rape by men of women.)

"Date Rape" Non-consensual sex (not meeting the standards of the upper group of criteria).

I. Hard to get convictions because not only does it have to be the case that the woman didn't consent, the man has to understand that she didn't consent, or at least it has to be the case that it would have been unreasonable to believe that the woman consented.

II. Her example: woman doesn't want to have sex. She says she doesn't want to.  Guy gets overbearing.  Woman has had some drinks so is feeling queasy.  She's afraid he could become violent.  She decides to go along.

III. Was this rape?  Would guy be reasonable in thinking she consented? (n.b. difference between being a jerk and being a convictable criminal.)

A. "She asked for it."  (Two senses)

1. Stupid or ignorant behavior which is likely to lead one to becoming a victim.  Would not exhonerate the perpetrator. (Port Authority w/$1,000 which gets stolen).

2. Literal consent, contractual view

B. But didn't she decide to go along? (Port Authority where you let somebody take your money to keep from being pestered.) Yes, but Pineau doesn't want to call that consent.

IV. The communicative model

A. Aim of sex is mutual enjoyment, which will only be achieved when each party is interested in and sensitive to the desires of the other.  Sex should be looked at as more like a conversation than like a contract or a conquest.

B. But it's unreasonable to agree to something you won't enjoy.

C. So "going along" mere acquiescence should not count as consent.

V. Problems: But then many acts of agreeing to sex would not count as consent.

A. Threat of breaking up.

B. Trade model (the dishes, movie role)

C. Charity

Paglia: If you want to be sexually liberated, the risk of rape is the price you pay.  Stop whining.

I. The Real World

A.  Men are aggressive.

B. Most sex is not going to be like a conversation between two sensitive friends.

C. No amount of talking, wishing, trying to reeducate or legislating will change this.  (This is actually an important philosophical assumption. There are objective facts which we and society do not invent, but which are simply given.)

D. So you've just got to deal with it.

II. Fundamental contradiction in much feminist thinking

A. Demand for freedom, including sexual liberation.

1. Reject traditional sexual morality.  (Right to have sex whenever with whomever.)

2. Don't need special protection.

B. Demand that rape be treated as somehow worse than other assault

1. Special rules in court

2. Special attitude towards victim (expectation that it will be a totally devastating experience that will scar you psychologically for life.)

3. Encouraging all women to identify themselves as potential victims...i.e. someone who's very nature is to be weak and in need of protection.

III. Her advice

A. Decide whether you want to live the life of sexual liberation or not. (She'd say "go for it.")

B. If you do, expect to have to deal with aggressive men who want sex from you.  That means running the risk of rape. (She claims that the risk of danger is part of the fun.)

1. Rape is a crime and should be prosecuted (just as we'd prosecute assault)

2. But it's nothing "special" and shouldn't come as a surprise.