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Is it wrong to fantasize about sex with children? If a pedophile never acts on

Is it wrong to fantasize about sex with children? If a pedophile never acts on their fantasies are they still guilty of having evil thoughts, assuming that their abstinence comes out of a genuine desire not to do harm?

I'm sympathetic to most of what Professor Heck says, if we consider things from a deontological or even a consequentialist point of view, where the relevant consequences are external to the agent. Fantasy does not violate anyone's rights, and fantasy that never motivates action will not result in actions that harm anyone. But I think there is a plausible way of looking at things that would still find fault with fantasizing about having sex with children, and that would come from the aretaic (or virtue-theoretic) way of thinking, according to which the primary bearer of value is to be found in characteristics of agents. One who indulges in fantasies about sex with children is doing something that both reflects--and also perhaps perpetuates and sustains--a certain trait of character that we might think is not entirely wholesome or admirable. To the extent that we can regard one who indulges in such fantasies as having a trait of character that is improvable, we might also think that some attempt to eliminate or at least diminish the inclination to indulge in such fantasies would result in that person having some improvement in character. It may be that habituation can only go so far, and that virtue theorists (such as Aristotle) overrate the extent to which one can habituate better character traits, but it certainly does seem that a virtue theorist could find the character of someone who tends to indulge in such fantasies at least improvable, and this way of looking at things does, I think, put a different face on this kind of case than what Professor Heck has indicated.

Suppose you have been in a relationship with your partner for several years (no

Suppose you have been in a relationship with your partner for several years (no marriage, no children). Even though you still have strong emotional feelings for your partner (to the extent that you would claim to love her/him), you are no longer sexually attracted for him/her. While your partner can do without the physical aspects of your relationship, you feel to miss out on something important in your life. Is it selfish to end the relationship, even though the breakup would be very hard for your partner and you don't want to hurt him/her? In other words: Is it immoral to choose sexual desires over friendship and mutual love?

It sounds to me as if what you need to do is to have a frank conversation with your partner about things. Sexual attraction for a partner can ebb and flow, and one option might be that some good communication would improve things between the two of you on that front. Alternatively, you could stay together in an "open" relationship, where the value of your partnership can be preserved but not at the cost of your sexuality. The point is that between the two of you, communicating well about what you have and what you (now) lack, there might be some creative problem-solving that would give a more optimal result than the options you are currently considering.

I recently heard someone make an argument, something like- "if you accept that

I recently heard someone make an argument, something like- "if you accept that there is morality in sex, for example that a father having sex with his daughter is wrong, you can't say gay sex isn't immoral because people should be able to do whatever they want because it causes no harm to others" Is this argument or proof begging the question? Philosophically, what is wrong with this argument.

The main thing wrong with the argument is that it is terrible. Don't we think it's wrong for parents to have sex with their children precisely because we think that it is harmful to the children? One might also think that children have no genuine capacity to consent to sex, an issue that also arises in other settings, such as between a boss and an employee. In such a setting, there are always issues about coercion, even if such coercion is not explicit.

Presumably the thought is supposed to be that there are forms of sex that are morally suspect, even though they do not cause any sort of harm. But then one wants to know what those are supposed to be. Then we could consider whether and why they are morally suspect. The example given, as I said, is a very bad one.


Hello, my question is connected to Buddhist philosophy. What interests me ir the Buddhist view on sexuality and reproduction. As attachment is considered a cause of suffering and a negative aspect which keeps us away from selfless love and compassion, does this make motherhood or fatherhood a cause for low awereness? I mean, I don't think attachement can be eliminated in the case of having children or marriage, any kind of a deep personal relationship. Wouldn't that make Buddhism a very negative doctrine towards life in general? Doesn't this suggest that non-existence and avoidance is the goal?

Not really, and first of all one has to say that there is no one Buddhist view but rather a variety of views.

Many Buddhists would take the line that any action leading to an attachment should only be undertaken if it could be seen as playing a part in eventually lessening attachment. Having children might fit into such a policy since perhaps one has them in order to increase the number of potentially compassionate people on the earth. There are two ways of making progress for many Buddhists, one being a restrictive form of behavior that increases as little as possible our links with others, and the other doing the reverse. Ultimately since attachment is the cause of suffering it should be handled with caution, and yet it is also the cause of the alleviation of suffering, so should be countenanced.

In traditional images of the Buddha he is depicted with large ears, the idea being that he is open to all the sufferings of the world. Being so available surely increases attachment. He is prepared to accept this risk in order to bring about the ultimate overcoming of such attachment, on many Buddhist understandings of the issue.

If two drunk people have sex, is it rape? Is it immoral?

If two drunk people have sex, is it rape? Is it immoral?

Let's take your second question first: Is it immoral?

First, what counts as immoral will reflect which general theory of morality one has in mind. If you shift away from the having sex part to the getting drunk part, I can imagine that some virtue theorists would think that this alone qualifies as non-virtuous, and thus the decision to have sex being made under non-virtuous conditions. A consequentialist would take into consideration other factors, such as reasonably expected outcomes of drunken behavior (such as lapses in the prudent use of contraception, for example). Given that decisions to have sex can have morally significant consequences, it does seem that the impairments that we all know go with being drunk are morally significant ones. Deontologists stress personal autonomy, and while the decision to get drunk might be made autonomously, it is more difficult to regard the behavior of very drunk people as exhibiting a morally appropriate level of autonomy--including most importantly, the kind of autonomy that goes with the giving of "informed consent." So, to answer your question very generally, I think it is fair to say that at least many cases of two people having sex when they are drunk will qualify as having significantly morally negative features. These problems incline me to think the situation actually does become immoral if one of the parties is so drunk as not to be capable of rational deliberation, if the other (however impaired) can still manage some degree of rational deliberation. Make the situation more uneven in terms of degree of drunkenness, and yes, it looks bad to me!

Is it rape? In the situation I just described, it does begin to look like it belongs at least in that general territory, because it becomes more of a case of taking advantage of another's inability to give informed consent. But if both are out of their wits to an equal degree, it seems more difficult to think of the situation as one of rape. But even so, I would want to know more about how each one came to be drunk, and whether there was coersion or manipulation that led to this condition. If so, it again moves closer to rape.

But to go in the opposite direction for a moment: If a happily and sexually active adult couple decide to celebrate an anniversary of some sort (say) by getting drunk together and having sex, we might still have some reservations about their decision-making, but I think "rape" and "immoral" would not apply. So, I think the specifics of the situation will make a big difference in how we would want to answer your question for different cases.

When we say that porn is not appropriate for children aren't we implicitly or

When we say that porn is not appropriate for children aren't we implicitly or covertly saying that porn is not appropriate for anyone?

Not sure why one might think that. We often, easily, and legitimately (I think) distinguish what's appropriate for children v. for adults, so what would be out of place in this case? Obviously we'd have to define/explain what we mean by 'appropriate' here -- and that could vary case by case, context by context -- but it seems to me the burden of proof would be on the person who holds we shouldn't make such a distinction .... So why do you think so?


Is it hypocritical for prostitution to be legal but pimping to be illegal?

Is it hypocritical for prostitution to be legal but pimping to be illegal?

Hm, I think you mean "inconsistent" rather than "hypocritical" here ... but anyway -- but one quick "no" answer might be generated by this line of thought: if by "non-pimping prostitution" you have in mind the idea of an adult individual freely choosing to sell himself/herself for sex, then basic libertarian principles seem to support it. That is, whatever your view of the morality of doing that is, if we accept the idea that adults should be free to make their own choices etc., one might see nothing wrong about prostitution and argue that it shouldn't be illegal. But if by "pimping" you have in mind the stereotypic situation of one person controlling or manipulating another - the pimp controls and compels the prostitute -- then that clearly would be objectionable on basic libertarian grounds, so one could argue for its illegality .... (A third case might be this: a prostitute and a pimp enter into some free business arrangement --- no compulsion etc. -- so in that case perhaps both should be legal .... But that is not the usual, stereotypic case of course ...)

hope that's a useful start!


What have philosophers said about the idea that sex results in babies so

What have philosophers said about the idea that sex results in babies so therefor we should look at the meaning of any sexual act in terms of sexual reproduction? It does seem as if we didn't evolve to have sex without reproduction and therefor sex without reproduction is a modern phenomena not attached to our evolutionary nature. So maybe our emotional responses to sex and the feelings of shame that correspond with sex might be because of this evolutionary nature?

Something seems to have gone a bit wrong here. There can be no doubt that human evolution has effects on our sexualities, but I see no reason at all to agree with the reduction of all sexuality to reproduction. Sexuality can manifest itself in sociality and other very important aspects of human life--aspects required for fitness in the environments we inhabit. The very fact that human females are only fertile for a fraction of each menstrual cycle--but can be sexually active throughout that cycle--seems to me to show clearly that there is more to sexuality than reproduction. So I'm afraid I'm inclined simply to reject the assumption behind this question.

Ethically, what is the difference between a sex object and a sex symbol when

Ethically, what is the difference between a sex object and a sex symbol when talking about a person? Why is the latter term considered less degrading and even beneficial? Is a symbol merely a representation of an object or actually an extension of one?

This is a great question I hadn't thought of. One response perhaps is to acknowledge how it reflects the fundamental ambiguity our society has toward ALL matters sexual. Sexuality is both good and bad, in various ways/senses, at least for many. Profoundly religious people of a certain sort might not agree, but then they would not be so likely to see the distinction you raise between object/symbol above -- both would be equivalent and equally bad. But for others, who DO see your distinction, we can admit that being sexually attractive is something we desire and thus, in a sense, approve of; a sex symbol is someone who represents an ideal of sexual attractiveness that we all would love to instantiate ourselves, so a "sex symbol" is good, all else equal. But of course human beings are MORE than physical, sexual animals -- there are other aspects to ourselves that we value -- and insofar as we treat or think of someone as MERELY a sexual 'object' we are failing to value those other features appropriately. So treating someone as a "sex object" is bad, all else equal. But then you're right: the very same person praised as a sexual symbol we condemn those who think of that person ONLY as a sexual object .... (Notice another distinction here: it's the attractive person who is the sexual symbol and who gets some praise thereby, but it is the viewer's ACT of treating that person as an 'object' that gets condemned ... So another aspect to the difference between the two is that the moral acts of praise/blame are attributed to different things ....)

hope that's a useful start -- great question!


How would you respond to the following argument against tolerating gay athletes

How would you respond to the following argument against tolerating gay athletes on sports teams. The problem with gay athletes is that they may be attracted to their teammates. Even if a particular athlete is not attracted to his teammates, or does not act on his attraction, the mere possibility of such an attraction is enough to create a distressing environment. Heterosexual players may reasonably feel uncomfortable undressing and showering in the presence of someone that might view them with sexual interest. To put this another way: gay athletes should be kept out of locker rooms for just the same reason that we do not allow men to be present in women's locker rooms. What matters is not that we separate different sexes, but rather that we separate groups that are liable to sexually objectify each other.

This argument seems to be one against tolerating gay athletes in locker rooms (not on sports teams). And if the argument is correct, we'd need a lot of locker rooms....two for avowed heterosexuals (with some cutoff for bisexual attraction) and one each for everyone else! I think it is far more comfortable and respectful for us to simply tolerate any discomfort one might feel undressing and showering in front of someone who might view them with sexual interest. Or perhaps those who experience the discomfort can have their own private locker rooms. In any case, the reasons for having separate sex locker rooms is not (merely?) to separate groups that are likely to be sexually attracted to one another; it may be in part because of fears of rape (sexual violence). People don't get as upset about women being in men's locker rooms as they do about men being in women's locker rooms.

Students who live in dorms with co-ed bathrooms manage their various sexual attractions just fine.