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As an argument against bestiality, it is often said that animals are not able to consent to sex. If this is the case, though, wouldn't that mean that every instance of two animals mating is an instance of rape, since presumably neither of them are able to consent?

Well, if someone is struck by lightning is it murder? A necessary condition for the commission of a crime is that the candidate criminal be an agent. Arguably, non-human animals are not. So, just as they can't consent to sex, they are incapable of rape or murder. Concepts of moral or criminal propriety just don't apply to non-human sex. One reason one is tempted to think otherwise is that non-human animals have moral standing. That is, they are the proper objects of moral consideration, and one can act morally or immorally towards them. But not everything with moral standing is a moral agent. Now, having said that, I do think there are other reasons for your justly wondering about this question. The sexual congress of plants and microbes doesn't raise this question. You aren't likely to wonder whether bees rape flowers. But the sexual activity of animals more closely related to humans seems strikingly similar to our own conduct, as do many non-human ways of eating. Moreover, non-humans close to us can...

Why is the notion of a child having sex with an adult considered so profoundly offensive? It is widely believed that sex with a child is psychologically harmful to the child. However, why should that be? Is it the act itself that is psychologically harmful to the child or the belief that they (the child) have participated in something psychologically harmful which psychologically harmful to the child? Some people have claimed that when a child participates in a sexual act that they lose their "innocence." Yet I do not perceive any direct connection between innocence and sexuality. It is possible to express ones sexuality in ways that are disrespectful and even sadistic, for instance a person might feel deeply insulted if they allowed a person to have access to intimate parts of their body only to discover that that person had no respect for them as a person. The complexities and dangers of sexuality are one reason that it seems to be no less prudent to restrict the sexual activity of children than it...

Not only is it possible that pedophilia is in general not judged philosophically; as it is with virtually everything it is a near certainty. That, however, doesn't make the judgment incorrect. I can't speak to the reasons that pedophilia is thought to be harmful psychologically, but philosophically the issue is one of consent . That children should be initiated into and involved in a set of practices (i.e. sex) with such profound emotional, social, political, and moral implications without their consent is what offends philosophically. What determines when someone is able to give consent to sexual interaction, what criteria ought to be employed to determine when consent is properly given, etc., are interesting and difficult philosophical issues. I don't however think the aesthetic line of thought you pursue will prove terribly useful in this regard or in underwriting moral judgments about pedophilia, as what is thought to be disgusting pedophilia today was not so in the past--for example, in ancient...

Are there any moral arguments against non-coercive incest between adults?

There is, of course, the genetic issue. So, sexual relations between close relatives that lead to procreation are unwise. Incestuous relations with one's underaged children are, of course, by definition non-consensual. One also finds the same argument that is deployed against homosexual marriage used to justify incest prohibitions, namely that incest would undermine the institution of marriage, and that the institutions of heterosexual, non-incestuous family and marriage possess value that trumps the value of legitimating incestuous as well as homosexual unions. Many have come to think that it is false that homosexual marriages would undermine the institutions of marriage and family. That's an empirical question rather than a philosophical question, and I tend to think the reformers are correct an that family and marriage will in fact flourish when homosexuals are included. Some think undermining the institution of marriage may be a good thing. For myself, I think marriage has value, but I also think...

I am impressed by the attempt of some pro-sex thinkers to bring together anarchism and feminism, particularly with regard to the controversial issue of pornography. Since I agree with them that freedom is the guiding principle, I also agree that pornography, like any other form of sexual expression, should be considered morally and legally permissible as long as it is consensual. However, given that anarchism is libertarian socialism, it seems that this principle of liberty should be extended to embrace the ideal of a society (or a network of communities) acceptable to all, including those who wish to be free from pornography, or certain types of it. When, for example, women are involuntarily exposed to men's pornography in the workplace, or on a mass scale in popular culture, can the argument not be made that pornography is then transformed from a private consensual activity into sexual harassment or forced sexist propaganda which violates women's own freedom and sexual autonomy? Could we not, then,...

Yes, in short, I think you're right about restricting the display of pornography while preserving the liberty of those who wish access to it. And isn't that just the kind of balance that is often sought. Pornographic materials are sold from separate rooms of shops, encased in opaque wrappings, excluded from billboards--but access to them for those who wish to acquire them is often in many parts of the U.S., anyway, nevertheless not unreasonably difficult to obtain. It's a tricky thing to figure, however, this balance. On the one hand, there is the liberty interest of those who choose to acquire pornography; and clearly many people find it enjoyable. Arguably, there is also a general political value to pornographic materials insofar as they are part of the conversation about what proper sexual morality and proper sexual expression should be. On the other hand those who find pornography obnoxious have an interest in not being harmed in the sense of embarrassed or annoyed or grossed out by...

Is homosexuality ethical? If so, what differentiates it from incest? More specifically an infertile incestual relationship that has two consenting adults.

An interesting question. To answer in order: Homosexual relationships, like heterosexual relationships, can be conducted in both moral and immoral, virtuous and vicious, ways. I find no reason to regard homosexuality to be itself immoral. Of course, many others, especially those with religious commitments, think otherwise. For myself, I find that the many pleasures and virtues achieved through homosexual relationships (pleasures and virtues that would be lost to us were homosexuality prohibited) militate against judging homosexuality to be per se immoral. Besides religious objections, there are also, of course, various civic and health-related arguments against homosexuality (e.g. that it undermines the family, that it exhibits and produces illness, that it makes for incompetent parenting). So far as I can tell, these are, similarly, either unsound or outweighed by the goods produced by homosexuality. How is homosexuality different from incest? Well of course the two are different simply by...

Was I morally correct in asking my (now) ex-wife to delay the divorce which she had initiated, in order to retain her much needed health insurance under my employer, until she had obtained such on her own? Or was she correct in her assertion that it would have been morally incorrect for her remain married to me, regardless of her health needs, due to the example shown to our children when she was meeting and dating others?

I agree with Jyl Gentzler that marriage might for some people take the form of an open relationship, where extra-marital relationships were permissible; and if you find this form of relationship satisfactory, then keeping your then-wife covered by your insurance even while she engaged in extra-marital relationships would be permissible. But I hold a slightly different view of the issue of decption in this case, a view that leads to a different judgment about keeping your then-wife insured even if the relationship was for all intents and purposes over. I think the analogy with "Green Card" marriages in this case a weak one. Green Card marriages are different from cases like the one you describe because Green Card marriages are frauds from the very beginning. They never achieved the status of real marriage in the sense they don't involve relationships of love, commitment, sexual congress, or reproduction. Your relationship, I take it, was at the start a real relationship. Given that your...

Is extreme (very violent) consensual sadomasochism morally wrong? If so, should it be against the law to cause injury by this practice? Or would it be a 'private' matter?

The old principle of liberty that one can do what one likes so long as it doesn't harm others (famously formulated by John Stuart Mill) is challeneged by this sort of issue. What if someone consents to being harmed or even asks to be harmed? Can one consent to be another's slave? My view is that liberty has been found to be such a good thing that it should be maximized. But it does have limits. Sometimes those limits have to do with advancing collective, social, or political goods, like education and equality. Sometimes they involve protecting people from themselves. Why should people be protected from themselves? Because our actions towards ourselves as well as towards others are not matters of simple will disconnected from the structures of character, coercive power relationships, psychological manipulation and pathology, deceit, and plain old stupidity. On this score, I vote for maximal sexual liberty. And so I support undermining compulsory heterosexuality, compulsory binary relationships,...