620008086LecturerSimeon Mohansingh.CoursePhilosophy of sex and Love.|
What makes an act sexually perverse?|
In a recent discussion, the subject of perversion was raised; the question was asked what makes an individual a pervert, or what kinds of acts could be considered perverted? The answers received were numerous to say the least. My first response was paedophilia which I still hold firm to; what follows are a few of the other answers; Bestiality; Homosexuality; Necrophilia; Oral sex (which was hotly debated); and Sexual sado-masochism. The list could continue but let us use this list and ask the question in another way; what makes these acts sexually perverse? What do we mean when we say something is sexually perverse? Is it divergence from what is sexually natural or a departing from what is considered standard morality? If so, what is natural? Who defines morality? The question of sexual perversion is of no little importance, for a start the question raises a number of interesting philosophical issues. Moreover, the issue is not solely of academic interest. Many have been, and many still are, stigmatised by the label 'sexual pervert'. For them the issue of whether their actions justify this epithet may have a profound effect on their lives. Our purposes here are to simply attempt an answer to the question. We should note, at the start, that the notion of sexual perversion is not a simple descriptive concept. To call someone a pervert is not like calling them a Doctor or a Teacher. It is to denigrate their moral status in some way. Sexual perversion, therefore, is a concept, part of whose content is to carry a negative moral evaluation. The Oxford Dictionaries defines the verb pervert as to alter (something) from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended; or to lead (someone) away from what is considered right, natural, or acceptable; and it defines the noun pervert as a person whose sexual behaviour is regarded as abnormal and unacceptable. ("pervert". Oxford Dictionaries. 2010) Since sexual perversion is a morally negative concept, it might be thought that one could define it simply as a 'morally wrong sexual act'. In a similar way, one might attempt a definition of ‘murder’ as a morally wrong human killing. This, however, will not do. The simple reason is that there are many morally wrong sexual acts of a very ‘straight’ kind which, all can agree, are not perversions. For example, an ordinary sexual act may be done by one of the partners in a way that is unkind, deceitful, inconsiderate or cruel, and so morally wrong. Rape and adultery may be examples of this. One would not, on this account, want to call such acts perversions. (Though there are some persons who do view rape as a perversion.) One of the things that makes it hard to get a grip on the concept of perversion (its intension) is that there is strong disagreement even over its extension. People disagree, for example, over whether homosexuality and masturbation are perversions. Still, let us start with a look at the extension of the concept. Genital sexual activity is of many kinds. The following is a list of categories; these are not necessarily exclusive; no doubt they are not exhaustive either. I give the acts in what seems (to me) to be roughly decreasing in order of ‘naturalness’ (in traditional terms). Heterosexual intercourse in the missionary position (straight sex). Heterosexual intercourse in other positions.
Oral sex (cunnilingus, fellatio).
Anal sex (buggery, sodomy), heterosexual or homosexual.
Sexual sadism and/or masochism.
We can be safe in saying that it is highly unlikely...