The liberal view that valid consent is sufficient for a sex act to be morally legitimate is challenged by three major philosophies of sex: the Catholic view of sex as ordained for procreation and properly confined to marriage, the romantic view of sex as bound up with love, and the radical feminist analysis of sex in our society as part and parcel of the domination of women by men. I take a critical look at all three, focusing on Mary Geach's recent statement of the procreation view, Roger Scruton's theory of sexual desire as naturally evolving into intimacy and love, and several radical feminist discussions of sex in sexist society which argue that the notion of consent is unhelpful and, indeed, irrelevant. I argue that none of these lines of argument is convincing, and that consent remains the touchstone of morally permissible sex — although, dmittedly, it may not be very helpful in discussing ideals of human sexuality. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Rent this article via DeepDyve.
Sex, Morality and Law
Philosophy of Sexuality | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Among the many topics explored by the philosophy of sexuality are procreation, contraception, celibacy, marriage, adultery, casual sex, flirting, prostitution, homosexuality, masturbation, seduction, rape, sexual harassment, sadomasochism, pornography, bestiality, and pedophilia. What do all these things have in common? All are related in various ways to the vast domain of human sexuality. That is, they are related, on the one hand, to the human desires and activities that involve the search for and attainment of sexual pleasure or satisfaction and, on the other hand, to the human desires and activities that involve the creation of new human beings.
Sex and Sexuality
Sex has received little attention in the history of western philosophy, and what it did receive was not good: Plato denigrated it, arguing that it should lead to something higher or better Phaedrus , Symposium , Aristotle barely mentioned it, and Christian philosophers condemned it: Augustine argued that its pleasures are dangerous in mastering us, and allowed sex only for procreation City of God , bk 14; On Marriage and Concupiscence , while Aquinas confined its permissibility to conjugal, procreative acts Summa contra gentiles III. III, ch. The Marquis de Sade a philosopher of sorts went to the opposite extreme, celebrating all types of sexual acts, including rape ; ; Only during contemporary times do philosophers, beginning with Bertrand Russell and including Sigmund Freud , think of sex as generally good see Soble b and ch.
Nonmarital Sex: Premarital Sex and Adultery. Given the importance of sex in our lives, it is understandable that sexual morality is a topic of universal concern. Since sex is connected with the bringing of children into the world, it is inevitable that sexual behavior, however private and intimate in itself must be a concern of our social morality as well as of our own private moralities. There are many people, however, who believe that, as long as children are not involved, private consenting adult sexual behavior should be beyond the scope of legal prohibition or moral criticism.