• petrichor
    186


    As regards eusociality and what you said about fertility, consider the problem of homosexual behavior in both humans and bonobos. How to explain it? It is non-reproductive. Some have argued for eusocial explanations. In humans, such things as celibacy for certain members of the group also might have a eusocial explanation.

    But how do you figure that our human touchiness in relation to sexual intimacy relates to our closest living evolutionary kin? Well at least one of the two: bonobos.javra

    I'd have to give it some further thought, but at the moment, it occurs to me that sexual engagement can serve multiple purposes. And since bonding hormones are involved, social bonds might be solidified.

    I don't know much about bonobos, but I'd suspect that with such prolific sexual behavior, there must be other reasons to expect that offspring will be well cared for and will have a good chance of reaching sexual maturity. Most likely, this reason is that the whole group is tightly bound together, and adults not ancestral to a young bonobo might well participate in caring for it. So maybe it isn't such a huge deal if the male who fathered the child isn't devoted to the mother.

    In the instance of sexual jealousy, if it is absent in bonobos, it might be because a female doesn't need the unfakable indication of devotion from the male as Rosenberg describes in the quote I gave earlier. Perhaps the tight social bonds of the group serve the purpose just as well, as perhaps the members of the group share child-raising duties. And probably, bonobo babies don't need extended raising to anywhere near the degree that human babies do. Human babies are unusually helpless and needy, and for a long time!
  • javra
    837
    As regards eusociality and what you said about fertility, consider the problem of homosexual behavior in both humans and bonobos. How to explain it? It is non-reproductive. Some have argued for eusocial explanations. In humans, such things as celibacy for certain members of the group also might have a eusocial explanation.petrichor

    I can see that argument. I don't know of recorded homosexuals among bonobos, though. They are, however, well documented to be bisexual.

    I'd have to give it some further thought, but at the moment, it occurs to me that sexual engagement can serve multiple purposes. And since bonding hormones are involved, social bonds might be solidified.petrichor

    :up: I very much agree. Have gotten into one or two arguments where I asked, paraphrasing, "But if sex is only about reproduction, then what the heck do you make out of oral and anal sex??? To not even address french kisses and the like." Yes, I'm one to strongly believe that social bonding is a very big aspect of sex (a roundabout path to the content of my first post on this thread).

    As to the rest, I'm very much inclined to agree.
  • fresco
    444
    There seems to be something ethically special about sex.

    This is a tautology. By use of the word 'ethically' you have already singled out the word 'sex' as 'a special relationship between people'. The origins of its status can clearly be traced to basic primate social behavior in which other (human) ethical considerations (honesty, theft) are inapplicable. Other human factors like language and the seeking of prediction and control, merely serve to embellish its 'natural' status.
  • Wallows
    8.7k
    The Cynics whom we should all admire wished every desire could be fulfilled akin to the sexual one a la masturbation.
  • Bartricks
    626
    Hume was quite wrong. Morality is not made of feelings. If it were then we could change the morality of a deed by changing our feelings. For instance, we could eradicate world injustice by just learning to lighten-up about it. That's absurd though and someone who thinks that is a way of eradicating world injustice is about as confused as someone who thinks morality is a type of cheese.

    Moral truths are truths of reason. For instance, virtually all of us recognise that if we feel approval of an act that does not necessarily entail that it is morally right for us to perform it.

    And we recognise, most of us, that it is by reason that we are primarily aware of morality, and that it is by consulting our reason and engaging in reasoned debate that we resolve moral problems.

    And we recognise, most of us, that if an act is morally required, then we necessarily have some reason to do it. Yet clearly if I approve of something it does not follow of necessity that I have some reason to do it.

    So Hume's individual subjectivism about morality is just plain wrong and confused.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    I've been reading a book about "how gentility became a thing in colonial America and during the 19th century". Interesting book. But anyway, the author asks the question, "Why were royal courts so extremely regulated and formal in their behavior?

    The author points out that extremely ambitious and highly acquisitive people flocked to court and surrounded the king--they were the courtiers. Without extremely severe regulation, life at court would have quickly turned into a vicious and deadly brawl. All those ambitious and acquisitive people had to be kept under control. Hence all the rules of proper behavior.

    Sex is quite powerful. People get quite charged up over sexual offense, sexual desire, sexual performance, sexual deprivation, sexual competition, sex this, sex that, and sex and so on. The lid has to be kept on, or we would be doing a lot more squabbling and taking pot shots at each other.

    Sex is fenced off with all sorts of barbed wire boundaries to keep everyone behaving tolerably in group settings.

    What happens when the lid comes off? In some situations, heaven sets in. A gay bath house operates (or operated when there were lots of bath houses around) on rather loose terms--something not too far from anything goes as long as there was no serious objection from those involved. Sex in the bushes also operates with a minimum number of rules.

    Why don't straight men engage in that sort of sex play? Because straight women won't let them. Wives and partners expect their men to be responsible and not engage in extra-marital sex, let alone engage in flagrantly promiscuous anonymous sex with god knows whom. Women tend to be guardians of the hearth. Vesta was the goddess of the Roman hearth. The Vestal Virgins kept the sacred fires of Rome. Your suburban housewife is a small-time goddess of her own hearth. Her job is to keep the home fires burning, and to keep the guy near the fire.

    Men tend not to look at home quite the same way. There aren't any male god hearth watchers that I know of. Men, far from being vestal virgins, are more like festive fuckers -- happy to have as much sex as possible.
  • Possibility
    498
    Allow me to approach this from a slightly different angle.

    Sexual relations occur in living things as a method of preserving the information integrated in the organism as a result of its many interactions with the world over time. The proven systems of sexual reproduction prioritise not so much the faithful reproduction of the organism in its entirety, but the reliable extension of information contained in the organism beyond its own lifespan, and the capacity to then build on that information through integration.

    Human sexual relations, evolving in this manner, produces progeny that relies heavily on long term interaction from other humans as well as the environment in order to acquire sufficient information just to survive - although this is not the prime objective. This structure initially makes for an extremely fragile offspring, but allows humans to be more adaptable to change in the environment, and develops their information processing, integration and collaboration systems to maximise effectiveness in the situation at hand.

    Morality has developed from our capacity to acquire additional information about the environment in relation to hierarchies of value for the system: rating stimuli according its meaningfulness. The information structure that results suggests a distinction between the environment as a system and the organism itself in terms of what is deemed more valuable. Further information shows that within the environment we also distinguish other organisms whose values align with our own.

    As family, tribe and community grows, further information demonstrates that what we assumed was the same value structure or perspective of the world actually develops a number of variations, particularly over time. Morality becomes a way of minimising these variations within the social group, as well as reconciling the values of the human organism with the values of the environment/world/universe as a whole. Many social groups anthropomorphise this universal value system as a way of interacting with it on a more personal level - similar to how they learn to interact with each other.

    A prominent issue in terms of recognising a difference in what is valuable would be sexual relations. What I value or want as an organism is different to what you want - this is rarely so obvious as in a sexual encounter. It is here that an overarching perspective of what is valuable can be most useful...
  • Terrapin Station
    12.5k


    I don't agree with a lot of your premises, and I'm one of many people who wouldn't. So, things like "Sexual betrayal seems ethically worse than financial betrayal," "Sellling sex seems wrong," or "Treating sex as just a fun pasttime seems wrong" shouldn't be presented as near-universal notions.
  • 3017amen
    166
    [reply="Bartricks;d6624"

    Bartricks just a quick question.

    Were you able to dip your toes into any Freudian Psychosexual waters? Any theories there worth exploring in your view?

    I haven't studied much from him lately but my sense is that he covered certain ethics and pathology...
  • Bartricks
    626
    I think most of you are approaching this the wrong way. You are attempting to explain why it might have come about that sex appears to us to be morally special. But you (most of you) are saying nothing about whether it actually is or not.

    Perhaps you think that if you can explain why something appears to us to be the case, that constitutes evidence that it is not in fact the case - but without further explanation you'd be committing the genetic fallacy in drawing that conclusion.

    So I think most of you are missing the point, which is that sex appears to be morally special in and of itself. So sex is a bit like pain in this respect. Many acts that are wrong are wrong precisely because they cause someone some pain. (Not all, obviously, and not all acts that cause someone pain are wrong, but many are wrong and wrong precisely because they cause a person pain). Many acts are wrong precisely because they involve sex.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    So I think most of you are missing the point, which is that sex appears to be morally special in and of itself. So sex is a bit like pain in this respect. Many acts that are wrong are wrong precisely because they cause someone some pain. (Not all, obviously, and not all acts that cause someone pain are wrong, but many are wrong and wrong precisely because they cause a person pain). Many acts are wrong precisely because they involve sex.Bartricks

    Sex is not special. It's one of several essential biological functions: eating, breathing, drinking, voiding urine and feces, clearing one's nose, coughing, farting, sneezing, salivating, tearing, sleeping, moving about, and so on. Over time our biological functions have been hedged about with social restrictions, mostly top-down.

    As Richard Lyman Bushman observed in his book (I mentioned it above) The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities, 18th century "taste makers" (various people who helped people achieve the level of gentility they desired) considered the body an embarrassing "shell" that one should not expose or infringe upon. They disapproved of open mouths. Quality people were not to laugh out loud, yawn, walk around with their mouth open (no mouth-breathers allowed), and so on, because the open mouth was considered 'disgusting' and low class. Sharing a spoon was strongly disapproved of, NOT BECCAUSE OF ANY FEARS OF DISEASE, but because if one person's mouth had touched a spoon, it was "ritually contaminated", so somebody else would not want to touch it.

    All this is perfectly irrational, and our attitudes about sex and sexuality are of like kind. We are not supposed to behave like animals (so they say). So over time, (centuries, not years) sexuality has been overlaid with multiple layers of ethical and behavioral restrictions.
  • tim wood
    3k
    Sex is not special.Bitter Crank
    Well, it is in a way - though not to gainsay any other word of your post. Take it back far enough and life, to be life, does not fewer than two things: convert fuel to energy, and reproduce. That is, sex is not just one of several, it is primordial, and in its imperatives unreachable through reason, in as much as it's built in and chemically driven.

    Sex, then, is not in-itself an appropriate subject for ethics. Behavior, on the other hand, and relevant choices, are. In as much as behavior in this sense is usually socially structured/dictated, the better approach might be to ask why sexual behavior comes to the attention of society/culture ad made subject to rules and laws. Similar but different question.
  • Bartricks
    626
    Question begging. I have just explained why it appears that sex most certainly is an appropriate subject for ethics as it would seem to be a feature, like pain, whose presence can make an otherwise ethical act unethical.
  • Bartricks
    626
    Question begging. By insisting that it is irrational to view sex as ethically special you are assuming that reason does not represent it to be. Yet as my examples show, reason clearly does represent it to be ethically special.
    And once more you are committing the genetic fallacy by providing a possible history of the intuitions.
  • Bartricks
    626
    No, I try to read as little as possible and, as I understand it, Freud was a psychologist not a philosopher, so I think that the odds are he will have nothing much to say that I will find relevant as fundamentally his concern was with making his patients feel better about themselves not with what's true.
  • Bartricks
    626
    That's what I assume, anyway - happy to be wrong.
  • tim wood
    3k
    Apparently it's invective for you; that's your trick. I'm not a habitue of bars, but I imagine that trick doesn't work for very long in them. And since you're non-responsive, that puts you into the troll or possible troll category. Doesn't matter too much. I'll watch the thread, but it appears so far you're not worth the effort. If you feel up to it, why don't you show me I'm mistaken.
  • Bartricks
    626
    What - they thought it would be good if we could solve every problem by masturbating? That's insane. Plus surely that would make many trivial problems harder, not easier, to solve?
  • Bartricks
    626
    No, you were just begging the question.
  • Bartricks
    626
    But they are near universal.
  • Bartricks
    626
    But they ARE near universal. Most people really do consider sexual betrayal worse than financial betrayal. You may not, but most people do - and most people consider it such a grave wrong they end their relationships because of it. Perhaps there is no moral aspect to it, but I think that's seriously mistaken as, again, most would agree.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    And once more you are committing the genetic fallacy by providing a possible history of the intuitions.Bartricks

    Not quite sure what this means. But history has a great deal to do with the reasoning behind sex being viewed as a special ethical case. What was going on in the 16th, 17th, or 18th century doesn't govern our thinking directly, but indirectly it has some influence.

    That people today are supposed to cover their mouths when they yawn is a 17th/18th century behavior based on what the folks on the hill in those days thought proper. I'm not, and maybe you are not either, a descendant of the folks on the hill--the cultural elite of past centuries. But from generation to generation people are taught what their parents knew. It's not genetic, it's pedagogical.

    By insisting that it is irrational to view sex as ethically special you are assuming that reason does not represent it to be. Yet as my examples show, reason clearly does represent it to be ethically special.Bartricks

    Au contraire. By reason people represent sex to be special--or not. How else would we have an opinion on the ethical specialness of sex? But reason doesn't exist in a vacuum. We reason in the context of our culture, of course, and our culture contains elements of various age. Like the business about yawning.

    You asked what was so special about sexual relations. I said I didn't think it was special, except by convention. Where ethics comes into play is when it concerns progeny. Most people feel obligated to support their children, but certainly not everyone. I consider abandoning progeny to be quite unethical. Convenient, yes -- ethical, no.

    Unwilled sexual relations is also an ethical issue, not so much because it is sex, but because people generally don't like being forced to do things. You would like to eat your favorite meal. You wouldn't enjoy being force-fed the same food.

    If you don't like my reply, please be more specific about what you think is wrong with it.
  • Coben
    832
    I think you are right, in general. I think it has to do with physicality and intimacy. Touching another person, especially with any force, ups the ante radically over, for example, speaking to them. The sense of touch is prioritized ethically over other senses. We can make pucker faces at other people, but kissing them raised the stakes immensely. Pucker faces at a funeral might be consider unethical but kissing other mourners without consent and the ante is raised radically. Placing your penis in their lap and you have a crime. Sex is extremely intimate touch. Violence is touch with a great deal of force. Screaming can be considered unethical in many situations. Bright lights shined into someone's house. But the sense of touch is a whole nother ball game. There are many reasons for this, I would guess: touch involved potential life threat, pregnancy, harm. Another key thing is the word I used above: intimacy. Pucker faces, however annoying, do not approach the feeling of intimacy that a kiss does. Even getting up real close and makign the biggest lips possible.

    Of course some of the charge around sex goes back in time to tribal times without birth control, where women were seen as property of men, where fatherhood had to be monitored carefully in ways it need not be now, where religions had sway everywhere, and religions were pulling morality out of tribal needs and biases.

    But even black boxing all that, touch without consent is much more intimate and potentially dangerous and/or more painful than intrusions via other senses.

    And there is emotional pain in unwanted intimacy. Or unpleasance at least.

    But then it is very hard to cross measure a financial crime and a sexual crime. What are the units of measurement whereby we can say sex is more than money?
  • Terrapin Station
    12.5k
    But they ARE near universal.Bartricks

    Citation? (with info about how many people were surveyed and how they were chosen)
  • Bartricks
    626
    What is wrong with your argument is that you are dogmatically assuming that there is nothing special about sex and then rejecting all the evidence to the contrary on the grounds that it conflicts with your dogmatic assumption. So you are starting out with a theory rather than starting out by following evidence (our theories should follow the evidence, not the other way around).

    You say, for instance, that what is responsible for the widespread intuitions that sex is ethically special is 'convention'. But it could be the other way around - it could be that we have the conventions we do because sex seems special. Now that's a more reasonable working hypothesis. Why? Because sex appears to be ethically special and it is arbitrary to just reject some appearances. We should respect the appearances - sex appears to be ethically special in the way that, say, pain is, and so we should assume that it is, not that it isn't.
  • Bartricks
    626
    Here's a refutation of your case:

    1. If Bitter Crank is right and there is nothing ethically special about sex, then other things being equal (so equalize psychological fallout and so on), forcing someone to have sex with you is no worse, ethically speaking, than forcing someone to play tennis with you.
    2. Forcing someone to have sex with you is much worse, ethically speaking, than forcing someone to play tennis with you
    3. Therefore Bitter crank is wrong.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    Have you considered just how much coercion would be required to FORCE someone to play tennis with them--especially if they didn't know how?

    You say, for instance, that what is responsible for the widespread intuitions that sex is ethically special is 'convention'. But it could be the other way around - it could be that we have the conventions we do because sex seems special.Bartricks

    Is your statement not an example of what you said in your previous sentence... "you are dogmatically assuming"?

    As for convention on the one hand and the alleged natural specialness of sex on the other, how would we at this late date in our development, parse one from the other? I am not a sexologist, so I do not gather evidence about sexual behavior from large numbers of subjects, and then examine the results. What I have to go on is what I have learned from others (reading, conversation, lectures...) and what I have experienced. The same is probably true for you. But even If we were both sexologists with the Kinsey Institute and the University of Indiana at our disposal, we still would never have a sexually naive de novo population to examine. All we would have is millions of people who have a variety of views about sex to which they are probably dogmatically committed.

    Look, I'm not in favor of forced sex, forced tennis, forced labor, or forced anything else. I do, as it happens, have strong preferences for HOW we deal with sexuality. Good sex is a piece of personal fulfillment and I think that people have a right to both fulfillment and good sex (voluntary, mutual, unforced, uncoerced, and safe to the extent that it is possible in this unsatisfactory world.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    You inserted a condition into your syllogism which I had explicitly rejected.

    1. Sex and tennis should be mutually consensual.

    2. Bitter Crank is opposed to forcing people to play tennis or to have sex.

    3. Therefore, Bitter Crank is right.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    Placing your penis in their lap and you have a crime.Coben

    A guy's penis may not be quite long enough to place in somebody else's lap. If they cut it off first and then put it in this person's lap, is it still a crime?

    Most people really do consider sexual betrayal worseBartricks

    I bet there are a few people who would rather have had Bernie Madoff et al betray them sexually than lose their entire wealth and security.
  • Coben
    832
    A guy's penis may not be quite long enough to place in somebody else's lap. If they cut it off first and then put it in this person's lap, is it still a crime?Bitter Crank
    Might be two crimes. At the very least cutting your penis off in public would get you taken into custody. Putting in someone's lap would be a crime. Of course you'd be heading for psychiatric wards not prison most likely once all the legal smoke cleared.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment