Strengths and Weaknesses of ethical approaches to sex

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  • Balances social justices and benefits with individual freedom and the pursuit of happiness
  • Looks backwards at the consequences of sexual acts and makes decisions based on the outcomes
  • Fair and totally unbalanced, mathematical approach to ethics, which can legislate about sexual activity


  • Cannot look forward to consequences of sexual activities. Perhaps a relatively new accepted sexual norm will have unintended consequences
  • Can ignore the emotional and spiritual aspects of sex
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Virtue ethics


  • Develops other noteworthy characteristics not necessarily linked with sex - looks at sex holistically (friendship, love)
  • More tolerant to non-traditional sexual orientation and choices, as it focuses on the virtues rather than the details of the choices
  • Less legalistic


  • Too much focus on the individual, rather than the social consequences of sex
  • Not very helpful for legislating or making decisions
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Religious Ethics/Natural Law


  • Absolutes - does not rely on consequences and can therefore give reliable and secure guidance
  • Protects individuals from being pressured into things they do not want to do


  • Difficult to differentiate between what is cultural and what is distinct to religion
  • Can have unintended consequences (e.g. contraception leading to the increase of AIDS) or ignored consequences
  • Sometimes biblical and church teachings can have too much to say - conscience is more highly regarded in some schools of thought
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Kantian Ethics


  • Protect people from being used for sex
  • Can allow for a long term, committed relationship - doesn't necessarily have to be married
  • Strong focus on consent


  • Many acts are considered wrong if you try to universalise them (e.g. contraception, extramarital affairs) but we accept that everyone is different
  • A bit unfeeling - no consideration for emotions etc
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