Sexual Ethics

  • Created by: Chantal
  • Created on: 27-03-14 15:27

What is it?

  • Range of issues from homosexuality to marriage from *********** to prostitution
  • Part of being a human 
  •  How men and women should treat each other
  • Sex is natural to us we hedge it with rules
  • Richard Holloway: ‘human sexuality is like a runaway car.’ It can be destructive or creative, but we are never quite in control of it
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Historical Views

  • Greek philosophers= Sex something weakening to the mind
  • Pythagoreans= refrain from physical activities and live a more ascetic life
  • Dualism= between the physical and the spiritual eg Plato’s charioteer (soul) with two horses white horse (model of self-control and respond to spoken word) ugly black horse (needs controlling with whip) both allowed to exist as charioteer needs both horses
  • Cynics= no point in controlling sexual desire and no shame  even perform sexual acts in public
  • Stoics= advocated overcoming any emotions that threaten self-contro, sex became linked to reproduction
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Modern Influences

  • Developments in psychology and sociology began to question traditional views by asking questions such as ‘why cannot sexual relationships be morally right if theres is love, loyalty and intimacy?’
  • Sigmund Freud:
    • Each person’s approach to sex and relationships is based on their upbringing and relationship with parents
    • Sexual personality may be found at the core of moral personality: how we behave towards sexual partners both influences and mirrors how we perceive and interact with people in general eg failure to control sexual desired undermines achievements of virtuous person
    • We each have a super-ego which is like an inner voice reminding us of social norms inculcated in us by parents and authority figures in society- needed to live happily in law abiding society
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Christian Approach: Augustine

  • Sex is a necessary evil for procreation and is to be restricted to marriage and is still ‘dangerous’
  • Devil uses women to lead men away from from reason and pleasure in sex leads men from reason
  • Problem and solution= the fall:
    • Adam and Eve created for procreation
    • Experienced no desire or pleasure prior to the fall
    • Sexual desire is a constant reminder of man’s rebellion against God- original sin
  • Chastity is the ideal but sex allowed for procreation as long it’s not enjoyed within marriage
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Christian Approach: Aquinas

  • Based his thinking about sex and relationships on understanding of natural law
  • Purpose of the sexual organs and sexual activity was procreation  and any other reason is intrinsically wrong
  • Sex was to take place within the bounds of marriage and must be open to the possibility of procreation
  • Sexual acts can be wrong in 2 ways:
    • When ‘the act of its nature is incompatible with the purpose of the sex act:
      • ‘Self-abuse’ (masturbation), ‘Intercourse with a thing of another species’ (**********), Homosexuality and ‘The natural style of intercourse is not observed’ (foreplay)
    • When they are morally wrong although natural:
      • ‘Conflict with right reason may arise from the nature of the act with respect to the other party’
      • Eg ****, incest or adultery
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Christian Approach: Jesus and Paul

  •  Jesus:
    • Said very little about sex giving very few rules and instructions leaving the issue ope
    • Talks of equality in relationship ‘Let he who is free from sin cast the first stone
  • Paul:
    • Influenced by his expectation of the imminent return of Christ/ end of the world so did not see focus on sex essential due to this and advocated celibacy
    • His teachings are inconsistent and often contradictory
    • Influenced by Greek attempt to move people away from body towards soul:
      • Corinthians- Should not let bodily emotions control them and sexual activity should be kept within marriage and body is a temple of the holy spirit be respected
      • Marriage not forbidden but for those who could not control sexual desire and could not find pleasure in spiritual realm
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Christian Approach: Old Testament

  • Reflection of its time and does not have one particular view
  • Sex is celebrated in the song of songs
  • Occasional love stories
  • Genesis 1 and 2:
    • Sex is given by god for reproduction
    • Be fruitful and multiply
  • Sex is not wrong but good however should not be practiced in sinful ways eg sex with non-Israelites was forbidden- punishable by stoning
  • Women remained virgins until birth so men could be assured the child conceived was his next of kin
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Christian Approach: Jack Dominian

  • Sex is so powerful and meaningful that justice can only be done to it in a con tenuous and enduring relationship
  • Does not see pre-marital sex, cohabitation or even one off adultery and destroying ideal
  • Considers homosexual sex as fine within permanent loving relationship
  • He sees society as moving forward and the Church needs to rethink not reject its fundamental truths
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Christian Approach: Contraception

  • Augustine= intercourse morally justified as procreation was right and necessary
  • Story of Onan (Genesis)=teaching any form of contraception is wrong
  • Catholics-
    • Natural law= natural end to intercourse in conception
    • Recently (1997) contraception has been labelled an intrinsic evil- not only stopping procreation but harming true love and taking away God’s role in the transmission of human life
    • In practice many Catholics ignore the official church teaching
  • Protestants-
    • Originally similar view
    • 1930 issued first statement in favour of contraception
    • Contraception no longer labelled a sin
    • Use or not use is based upon the individual
    • Many oppose  contraception (the pill)
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Christian Approach: Homosexuality

  • Divided Christianity
  • Bible-
    • Unclear- Translation debatabl
    • Leviticus: if a man lies with a man as he does a woman he should be killed
  • Catholics-
    • No sin in having homosexual inclination only in putting them in practice
    • Natural law= unnatural (no procreation)
  • Agape- Loving Relationship
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Utilitarian Approach

  • Wants happy society and sexual pleasure is important aspect of human happiness
  • Jeremy Bentham:
    • Providing greatest happiness for greatest number
    • Hedonist=if mutual consent for pleasure then it cannot be wrong (eg pedestry)
    • Those who oppose ‘unnatural’ sexual acts do so on irrational prejudice or superstition or religion and not on rational utilitarian
  • John Stuart Mill:
    • We should seek ‘higher pleasures’
  • Against cases that do harm to society eg child molesters, **** and adultery
  • Queer theory= there can be no fixed rules about what is or is not a legitimate sexual relationship. Being queer is the freedom to define oneself
  • Harm principle= belief that an act or consequence is morally permissive if no harm is done. Eg extra marital affairs often cause short term pleasure but are immoral because the pleasure caused is not worth the ultimate pain and misery
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Kantian Approach

  • Universalisation:
    • Homosexuality: human race cease
    • Adultery: everyone would commit the sinful act
  • Treat people as ends in themselves:
    • ‘As an object of appetite for another, a person becomes a thing and can be treated and used as such by everyone
    • Sexual acts are intrinsically wrong as they involve using another person for one’s own pleasure (applies more to prostitution than marriage)
  • Marriage is a contract in which two people grant each other reciprocal rights, so it is not about using and abusing a person
  • ‘Taken by itself sexual love is a degradation (shameful) of human nature’- must be for purpose (eg pursuit of marriage)
  • Opposed to *********** because one is taking pleasure in looking at a person in such a way that they are thought of as mere things
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Natural Law Approach

  • Purpose of sexual organs is procreation
  • Sex within marriage is open to possibility of procreation
  • Summa Theologica – 1. sex is wrong when not open to procreation e.g. masturbation, **********, homosexuality, proper style of intercourse not observed (foreplay?) 2. Sex wrong even if natural but conflicts with right reason e.g. incest, **** or adultery
  • However, one could argue for the primary precept of expressing love which would allow for homosexual sex
  • Dean Haemer argues for the existence of genes which influence sexuality and may provide a natural explanation for homosexuality
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Virtue Ethics Approach

  • Virtue theory focuses on our telos, purpose and how we should act to be useful and potent in society
  • Instead of viewing that it is unnatural or against God’s will and our purpose, we view masturbation in terms of its virtue
  • What kind of sexual practices would make a person more virtuous? E.g. taking pleasure in giving oneself to another, developing intimacy and commitment
  • Using others might be considered wrong
  • Points to enduring values of love and commitment, honesty and loyalty, friendship and pleasure. Away from vices such as exploitation and selfishness
  • Rosalind Hursthouse – action = right if what a virtuous person would do
  • Michael Slote emphasises the importance of care - caring committed relationships appear best manifested in marriage Slote says we should care for ourselves, for those near us and for people in general
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