Sex and Perversion Philosophy of Love and Sex
Harms and benefits of pornography? • (But, first, can we recognize porn?)
Apotemnophilia • A desire to have one’s limb removed, because: • one has a sexual attraction to amputees, or • one has a sexual attraction to being an amputee, or • one believes the body part isn’t really a part of oneself. • Relatively uncontroversial claim: If psychotherapy is just as effect in terms of all outcomes as surgery, psychotherapy should be preferred. • This claim seems to carry the assumption that there is a right way and a wrong way for body and mind to function. • The question about perversion is what, if any, are the wrong ways for the body and mind to function sexually.
Goldman • Sexual activity = activity that tends to fulfill sexual desire • Sexual desire = a desire for physical contact and its pleasures • Perverted sexual act = a sexual act not typically engaged in
What is sex? • When Bill Clinton was asked in court if he had sex with Monica Lewinsky, the lawyers who asked him gave this definition: For the purposes of this deposition, a person engages in sexual relations when the person knowingly engages in or causes: 1. Contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person; 2. Contact between any part of the person's body or an object and the genitals or anus of another person; or 3. Contact between the genitals or anus of the person and any part of another person's body. Contact means intentional touching, either directly or through clothing. • By 2 or 3, a gynecologist or a proctologist typically has sexual relations with a patient in the normal course of medical practice. • Might try to remove 2 and 3. But then a couple who have sex for purely reproductive purposes doesn’t count as engaging in sexual relations. • Suggestion: Aristotle’s notion of focal meaning. Health focally is the good functioning of the body. But analogically we can talk of healthy food (food that promotes good functioning of the body) and healthy urine (urine that is a sign of the good functioning of the body). • Likewise, we might define sex in the focal sense as mating or intercourse, and then say that other things are “sex” in an analogical sense, e.g., by producing a similar pleasure.
Nagel • In normal sexual desire, x is aroused by y’s being aroused by x’s being aroused by y, and y is aroused by x’s being aroused by y’s being aroused by x. • Perverted sexual desire is sexual desire that falls short of this.
Singer • Traditionally, Christian culture forbade homosexual activity, oral sex, masturbation, contraception and bestiality. • Currently, the culture accepts all of these except bestiality. • This is inconsistent: One should either reject them all or accept them all. (Singer accepts them all.)
Freud • Perverted sex is sex that is not of a kind capable of reproduction. • Scruton’s criticism: too physical. • [But: human reproduction has an interpersonal significance. –ARP]
Scruton on sexual desire • Sexual desire is essentially desire for a person: “the marshalling and directing of animal urges towards an interpersonal aim”. • Sex is bound up with our embodiment. • You can recognize people by their sexual parts, but not in their sexual parts, at least not the way one recognizes them in their face: the face exhibits the person, while the sexual parts do not. “In true erotic art it is usually the face and not the sexual organ that provides the focus of attention.” • You can recognize people by their sexual parts, but not in their sexual parts. But you can recognize people in their faces. “In true erotic art it is usually the face and not the sexual organ that provides the focus of attention.” • Modesty is a necessary condition for sexual desire. Immodest desire “rides roughshod over the reticence of others, and treats every new object as an equivalent of the last”—this is lust.
Scruton on perversion • Bestiality and necrophilia: a safe realm, one far from interpersonal things. The body is treated as just flesh, the way a piglet might scratch at a stone, rather than as something personal, something significant, something with a certain sacredness. • Homosexuality somewhat loses sight of the mystery of the other person, since that mystery comes in part from the difference between the sexes. (Compare incest.) • Masturbation: • With representation: obscene way of satisfying one’s desire without another. [Also: It typically sexually uses another without consent. -ARP] • Without representation: escape from the interersonal.
A distinction about desire • A desire can be fulfilled: that which is desired can be obtained. One may or may not know that this happened. • A desire can be quelled: the desire can be made to go away. • Usually, fulfilling a desire quells it. • When a desire is quelled without being fulfilled, it often comes back strengthened. (Eating sand to fill one’s stomach; masturbation.)
Mary Geach • A sexual act that is not a marital act is a severed limb. Sexual acts receive their meaning from the good of marriage. • Sex is not like eating, because a single sexual act is of deep significance (need only one act to reproduce). • A respect for marriage is built into the virtuous person’s life. • It is important to have the possibility for friendships where sex is out of the question. And that’s same-sex friendship. • The institution of paternity requires female chastity. • If consent is the rule, there must be a precise answers to the questions of what is consented to and what expectations there are with respect to the consequences. • Lust makes it seem like our whole future depends on this relationship. – And that’s because lust is a distortion of something directed at marriage. • The bad stuff in society around us is evidence for the importance of a virtue directed at marital friendship. • Sexual acts aimed at reproduction but unsuccessful—just like gravity.