Toward a Common Sexual Ethic

Probably half the threads on this board have dealt with the old standby subjects: sex, politics, and religion, and their interrelationship. It occurred to me while running through the latest threads that we have dealt with homosexuality vs. Christianity at length without asking some basic questions about what people’s personal ethics on the subject are.

So I am starting this thread with some basic propositions for critiquing. Knowing the breadth of viewpoints represented by posters to this board, I have a strong hunch that there are going to be some substantial errors which people identify in them. But they’re a first cut on a statement of what is held in common.

  1. You should do nothing contrary to the tenets of your faith, whatever that may be.

  2. You should not expose your sex partner to communicable diseases, insofar as you are able to prevent it.

  3. If you are involved in a committed relationship, you should have no sex outside it, unless there is some common agreement for an “open” relationship where such is permitted.

  4. You should not have sex by force or coercion. A seduction may be permissible if the seductee is an adult able to consent but “playing hard to get.”

  5. You should not have sex with a prepubescent child.

  6. You should not have sex with an animal or with a corpse.

  7. In general, you should not have sex with an adolescent if you are not also one. The qualifier in such a case would be the maturity of the sex partner – can he or she make an adult decision, recognizing the possible consequences, including emotional ones?

  8. Beyond these rules, you should not attempt to enforce your own ethics on another person. You may counsel, if the other person is open to it, but you may not judge.

I’ve written these more broadly than most people would actually pursue in an effort to cover everyone’s loopholes and exceptions. As I noted above, they are a first cut for critiquing, not anybody’s hard and fast rules. What do you think?

Seems pretty good to me. My only problem is with #1. If that is talking about betraying your religous faith, I see a problem with that. Too Moralistic. It prevents gay catholics from having fulfiling relationships, among other things. If it simply means don’t do anything against your internal belief system it seems rather axiomatic.

I can’t argue with your list, Polycarp. (I’m defining #1 as per oldscratch’s last sentence.) I think if everybody followed it–especially #8–we’d all be better off.

I suppose I might take some issue with the injunction in #6 to not have sex with a corpse. Not that I have ever felt the urge to do such a thing (he adds hurriedly), but I don’t really see it as a moral issue as such. Revolting, yes. Inherently bad, no. And unlike an animal, a corpse cannot be hurt by it. (Note that this does not take into account how the loved ones of the dear departed might feel about it if they found out–that’s a related, but separate, issue.)

Exactly. HAven’t you guys seen NekRomantik and NekRomantik 2: The exquisite art of Corpse Fucking

True love never dies, it only decomposes slightly.

#6 is iffy, unless it also fits into #1. (IMHO the issue of animals giving consent is nonsense).

The last part of #8 “but you may not judge” is ambigous. What do you mean by “judge”? If you mean harrass, absolutely. If you mean have your own negative opinion about, why not?

Do you mean they are incapable of giving (or withholding) consent? Or that you should be able to do it whether they do or not?

Only on the SDMB does something like this come up twice in one month. We actually went over this a little in another thread, but danged if I remember which one. My question would be, what if the critter intiates the act? If the human is the recipient of such…ahem…attention, wouldn’t that be consent on the animal’s part?

For the most part, I don’t have a problem with the list. However, #1 might cause a problem with #8. Most of the people I have encountered who get kinda snippy about homosexuality will use their faith as the reason that they shout at, and carry signs proclaiming the wrongness of gays. I realize that this would be considered judging, but they (well, far too many of them, alas) feel that their faith requires them to do what they do.

Aside from that, though, I have no problem.

Flick Lives!

I actually commented on it there as well. But why not bring it up for a second round?

Works for me personally, though as currently worded, we then get into people who have faiths which might effect others negatively - such as those folks who eschew medical attention for their children (we have a thread about it here, in fact). Ultimately, the “tenets of (someone’s) faith” is only what they make of it, and this means we have abortion doctors and planes being skyjacked in the name of divinity.

Add the provision along the lines of “And your faith cannot infringe on others,” and I’d sign it into law.

We get into gray areas here, I think. Ultimately a good idea, but some clever date-rapist would find their way around this as worded.

What about the corpse of an animal? :smiley:

I find nothing wrong with a 17 year old person having a 23 year old significant other with whom that person swaps spit with (among other body fluids). While I certainly think that too many older people are praying on younger people who don’t know better (I add that last caveat so that, if I get picked on, you can explain to the 9-years-my-junior Drain Bead that she doesn’t know better!). as worded, we get into problems with perfectly natural relationships, IMHO.

Well, we get this mixed up with #1 at times, as I explained above. Does one take presidence over another? At times I think #8 should take presidence over #1, but others (Medena’s Child in that other thread for example) would disagree…

I agree with everything else that I didn’t comment on. I know, how kind of me, eh? :wink:

Yer pal,

Four months, one week, one day, 19 hours, 52 minutes and 13 seconds.
5233 cigarettes not smoked, saving $654.14.
Life saved: 2 weeks, 4 days, 4 hours, 5 minutes.[/sub]

"Satan is not an unattractive person."-Drain Bead
[sub]Thanks for the ringing endorsement, honey![/sub]

I do have a problem with the second statement of #4. Its placement suggests that coercion cannot be used, except for those situations where it’s part of the seduction game. I think coercion is fundamentally unacceptable. (What seductive purpose could it possibly serve, anyways?)

Also, I would drop “force” from the rule. Otherwise, the rule might discriminate against the S&M fans out there…

#1) works, as long as it’s overruled by the later numbers when appropriate, just to be on the safe side. Perticularly #8.

#2) includes making sure that your partners are aware of any relivant information, (I’d like to add potentially violent ex-partners to the list of diseases)

#3) Is a pretty safe assumptions.

#4) has a lot of grey area, as Satan pointed out. I don’t think anyone’s going to disagree with it, but human communication is usually vauge, esp. when emotions are involved. And obviously, coersion is to a certain extent relative, as power relationships are compicated. Is a “I better do this, or he/she might leave me” situation coercive? What if the partner in that type of encounter dosn’t realize the other party is afraid of them leaving? And it just goes on like that.

I always (always, in my case, being a fraction with a very, very small denominator) use the “next week” rule. In other words, even if she’s interested now, will she be happy she did this next week?

This works becase I’m 1) so arrogant I think I can actually not only understand what other people are thinking, but what they will think in the future, and 2) not perticulaly agressive, so I won’t use this to justify actions of the “she’s saying no now, but she’ll be happy about it later.”

This also leads us to the rather vauge (in this case) border between unethical and just unadvisable. Back in my freshman year, I had the (presumably traditional) evening study session cum late night discussion cum very late night backrub with a rather nice political science major. Now, loosing my virginity would have made a very very nice cap on the evening, I assure you. Now, I didn’t go with it because I knew she was feeling depressed, and might be a bit vulnerable. And, being similarly a bit new to the whole close physical contact game, might not be quite able to distinguish between “this feels really nice” and “I really want to do this now.” *

Turns out that I was proably right about this, as she didn’t really seem interested in later evening study session. On the other hand, it’s possible that she assumed that I was gay.

In either case, was that actually an ethical decision, or was it a utilitarian one that involved her (and by association, my) feelings?

Though situations requiring me to utilise said rule come up rather less than I would like . . . sigh.

*Note that I never questioned weither I might have difficulty distinguishing between the two. As mentioned, I am arrogant.

#5) This is a pretty safe assumption, I think. Even the North American Marlon Brando Look-alikes Asosociation agrees. (“Kick thier asses for stealing our domain name!”

You beat me to this one. Damn.

What if I take the corpse of an animal, dry it out, scrape off, the gooey parts, and wrap it around somebody? Is that OK? Or are we going to have to stick to worm by-products? :slight_smile:

Now, my dog attempted sex with my leg on a couple of occasions. I’m not sure it would have been “unethical” to let him finish, just very, very icky. And I suppose I could come up with some circumstances where sex with a corpse would be ethical, but I don’t care to try. I wish to stop talking about this now.

#7) This is another grey area. Though it throws up huge warning signs, I suppose there’s nothing unethical in itself with a relationship with a (late) adolecent, provided you deal with the appropriate consent and full understanding issues. And not just because I spent most of my adolecence hoping one of my teachers or neighbors would choose to act in this fasion.

#8) If I or anyone elses think someone is doing something very self destructive, wrong or foolish, I don’t see anything wrong with telling them so, provided it’s done in a reasonably polite and appropriate manner. I’m not sure the “polite and appropriate” part is an ethical decision, it’s just manners. In fact, under some circumstances, I think ethics require pointing this type of thing out.

By appropriate, I mean, say, pointing out to a friend (well, not really a friend, but anyway) that he might be taking advantage of a teenager’s bridal fantasies is one thing. After insisting he wasn’t, had I called him up and repeatedly brought it up would have been something else.

However, that doesn’t justify harrassment, which can be either a manners or an ethical call depending on the circumstances. Telling a teenager that he’s a monster who’ll burn forever for liking guys is downright abusive. Telling him that you think it’s wrong is not, though it might be rude. (I don’t feel that way, it’s just an example)

“Tell her you’d marry her right out of high school, all over again.”


They are complicated, but I think there’s something inherently wrong when power is used to influence somebody’s decision to have sex.

In my mind, if someone has sex out of fear of abandonment – indeed, any kind of fear – that person is in a coercive situation. If that fear is imagined, and the second partner doesn’t know what the first feels, then there may be a communication breakdown, but that’s another story.

Also, I would add a rule stating that just as using power to get laid is wrong, using sex to get power is wrong, too. (Except, of course, for those cases where it’s used to make husbands do the dishes :))

Oh, I’m not trying to excuse coercion, I’m just saying that it’s hard to tell, sometimes, what’s coercive and what isn’t, even, sometimes, if you’re the one doing the coercing.

Or, to put it simply, people are f#@ked up.

Wait, so I can’t oraly pleasure the electric company girl in exchange for having my payment date pushed back? Damn it. Does this count for other utilites as well? How about pizza delivery?

“Only the gods could produce something as beautiful as THAT.”

Wow…did I accidentally post this to alt.necrophilia.bestiality? :smiley:

Regarding #1, my intent was one’s personal moral code. To take Oldscratch’s gay Catholic example, the teachings of the Church should influence his decisions as a good Catholic, but it’s what he feels to be moral himself that should be his deciding factor. We have had on this board a regular poster who faced a similar decision and has discussed it at length in older threads.

Regarding semi-compelled behavior, my intention was solely to group all the without-consent and pressure-to-consent issues together; I was not equating any of them. People do change their minds; people can be unduly influenced to change their minds; and the line between them is pretty nebulous.

I did not add in anything regarding prostitutive behavior, intentionally. Who knows what issues affect one’s decision? If someone marries for money, is he/she any different morally from the streetwalker who sells his/her favors for cash? There was a novel out a while ago about an artist who is supported by a wealthy patron, with whom the artist sleeps. What’s the moral judgment here? Who’s paying what for what? Does their emotional attitude matter? Tough call…

The person making the decision knows. I don’t mean to say that anybody else can (should) judge.

I cannot say if the artist (or the patron) did right or wrong. I can only say that if I were in such a situation, I would ask myself why am I really doing it. As for the emotional attitude, I think it’s essential. If there is no emotional involvement, and I do it just to gain personal advantage, that would be wrong for me. But it could be that somebody else might have other valid reasons, like survival, altruism, etc. I wouldn’t dream of judging somebody else. I am just referring to “one’s personal moral code,” as you put it.

Can you catch a disease from a corpse? I guess that would be one reason to refrain from having sex with dead bodies.

I believe also that one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales relates the story of a young woman who was thought to be dead, and a male member of some religious order had sex with her. She arose from her comatose state and eventually discoverd that she was pregnant, and was chastised and cast out for her impurity, until the offender came forward and confessed. I think they eventually married. This is just a tale, and I cannot find it in my copy of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, so I could be wrong about this, although I know I read about something like this somewhere (and it is pretty difficult for me to scan that book with all the prologues and epilogues and circumlocutions). Has anyone else read this somewhere? (Not like this would be likely to happen in this day and age, anyway, just thought I’d throw it in as a point of possible interest.)

Also, it is probably pretty difficult to get consent from an adult who is dead.

I think Poly’s list pretty well covers it, with the amendment to #1 suggested by oldscratch.

lambda said:

Hmm. I am reading this as saying that in this situation having sex is wrong/immoral/unethical (whichever word you prefer). Let me pose a hypothetical.


M is a male and F is a female–both are legal adults. They begin dating, and over a period of several weeks F falls in love with M; M is fond of F, but not yet to the point of love.

At this point they run into a problem–M thinks that sex is a healthy part of a romantic relationship, and wants to practice it here. F, however, for religious or moral reasons, does not believe in sex before marriage. They discuss the matter, and it becomes obvious that their attitudes on this are not going to agree. M hems and haws for a week or so and then tells F that they should just be friends, and that he is going to date other women.

Thus the classic “if he loved her he’d wait/if she loved him she wouldn’t wait” scenario.


In reality, in this situation M is right–he and F shouldjust be friends. Their sexual attitudes are not compatible, and they would be far better off finding romantic interests who were more like them.

But when one is in love reality is frequently ignored, so let’s assume that F, though she doesn’t approve of it and would prefer to save herself for marriage, decides to consent to sex with M in the hopes that he’ll stay with her and eventually marry her.

Now M has three choices. He can decline to have sex with F and break up, thus doing exactly what F wants least. He can decide to be noble, decline to have sex but notbreak up, and therefore be unhappy with the relationship–thus certainly dooming it. Or he can accept F’s offer, and see where it leads them.

Now, as I read lambda’s statement, the third choice would be unethical. But it seems to me that position is awfully paternalistic–it suggests F is not capable of deciding which of two outcomes she prefers. I suppose in this case there would be what could be defined as “coersion,” in the sense that if she doesn’t have sex she will lose M, but it seems to me that she has the right to make the offer, and that he has the right to accept it.

(Granted, what’s probably going to happen is that M will get his sex and eventually dump her anyway–reality is often not nice. But if she wants to try the maneuver, that’s up to her.)

Spider Woman said:

You’ll understand that this is not something I know much about–you’d be surprised how rarely my real life conversations evolve into discussions on whether you can catch something by Doing The Dirty Deed On A Deader–so I don’t know if you can get an STD from a DOA. I’ll issue a WAG that it probably depends a lot on whether the object of your affection has been embalmed yet.

(I have a bizarre urge to send this thread to my mother, but I think I’ll resist it.)

Anyway, disease would be a practical consideration rather than an ethical one.

Actually, it does happen–the analogous situation, at least, which is someone having sex with a comatose woman. There was a trial around here not all that long ago over that–and, as I recall, she got pregnant from it. (I’ll have to see if I can find an online cite for that case.) This is very definitely unethical/immoral, as far as I’m concerned. (I don’t know what I’d conclude if the guy actually though the woman was dead. Probably that I’ve met smarter mineral deposits.)

True…but I think that in this one narrow instance we can waive the requirement for consent, since a corpse is in effect an inanimate object. I suppose if we reallywanted to muddy the water we could postulate the ethics of somebody having sex with the corpse of a child…but I’ve had enough thinking about Corking Cadavers for the moment.

(And I hereby apologize to Polycarp for bringing the subject up in the first place.)

Did that DTDDOAD come from that list of fexual acts thread? It should be nominated if not; it even has DOA in the middle. Movin’ right along. . .

Number eight is the very essence of the libertarian ethic.