The Issue of Premarital Sex
Premarital sex seems to be a black and white issue. Someone either participates or they don’t, but when looking deeper into the ethical issues of premarital sex the issue becomes very gray. Some would say premarital sex is someone’s right to their personal sexual happiness, but others would say it is a byproduct of other factors in one life. Relationships and marriage should be based on a mutual love, but when premarital sex is involved there is the issue of lust. Does this person someone is about to marry love them for who they are or love them for what they are? Some argue people who engage in premarital sexual activities turn their partner into a sex object meaning they treat their partner like an object (Long et al 302). There is also the issue that there is pressure to have premarital sex. Young people when surveyed all reported they have been pressured to participate in sexual behavior before marriage (Christopher 255). This behavior and pressure comes from the media, peers and through a sexual revolution our society has gone through (Larson and Holman 228). The two main issues I am going to focus on pertaining to premarital sex are true love and people believing they have a right to sexual happiness because sex is natural.
Ethical Theories of Premarital Sex
Immanuel Kant said, “Human love is good-will, affection, promoting the happiness of others and finding joy in their happiness. But it is clear, that when a person loves another purely for sexual desires, none of these factors enter into the love” (716). Some think, including Kant, that love becomes a different love when sexual desires is involved. Kant compares sex to a person appetite for food. He says when someone is trying to feed their sexual desires they put aside the feelings of the person they are devouring. When someone’s sexual appetite is satisfied the person they used for personal sexual satisfaction is discarded. Sexual appetites are on-going meaning people will constantly be discarding people after sex. “Sexual love can, of course, be combined with concern for the other’s well-being and so carry with it the characteristics of this love, but taken by itself and for itself, it is nothing more than appetite” (Kant 716).
Kant finds sexual desires outside of marriage immorally wrong mainly because it degrades human nature. If then a man wishes to satisfy his desires. And a woman hers, they stimulate each other’s desires; their inclinations meet, but their object is not human natures, but sex, and each of them dishonors the human nature of the other. They make of humanity an instrument for the satisfaction of their lusts and inclinations and dishonor it by placing it on a level with animal nature (Kant 717). When two people have sex and the point of having sex is for one person to satisfy their sexual appetite according to Kant this makes the other participant in sex an object. This is the only case in which a human being is designed by nature as the object of another’s enjoyment. Sexual desire is at the root of it; and that is why we are ashamed of it, and why all strict moralists, and those who had pretentions to be regarded as saints, sought to suppress and extirpate it… (717).
Kant went on to explain that in premarital sexual relationships men desire women not because they are a woman, but because they can be used to satisfy the man’s sexual desires. Sex when meant to satisfy sexual desires Kant believes degrades the person who becomes the object the desire.
Kant makes it very clear he believe sex is only ethical when in the walls of marriage. “Matrimony is the only condition in which use can be made of one’s sexuality” (718). He goes on to explain when two people marry there is union made that cannot be broken. Within this union sex does take place, but it is on a different level in comparison to premarital indulgences. The happiness experienced in marriage through companionship...
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