Consent Is Not Enough: A Case Against Liberal Sexual Ethics

In Bob Fischer (ed.), College Ethics: A Reader on Moral Issues that Affect You, 2nd edition. Oxford University Press (2020)
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Abstract

The standard liberal sexual ethic maintains that consent is the only requirement for ethical sexual relations. While consent is certainly necessary for an adequate sexual ethic (and it’s important to know what it involves), I argue that it’s far from sufficient. The key claims that I advance are the following: (1) The consent-only model of sexual ethics affirms a “casual” view of sex and therefore it can’t make sense of and properly combat what’s worst in the sexual domain: namely, the grave evil of sexual violence. (2) The consent-only model of sexual ethics fails properly to recognize the special significance of human sexuality and the nature of erotic love and its role in human sexual fulfillment and therefore it can’t make sense of and properly support what’s best in the sexual domain: namely, a committed erotic loving relationship. A more adequate sexual ethic, I maintain, would be a more traditionalist one that involves the following: it would give proper recognition to the special significance of human sexuality, avoid dehumanization in sexual desire, and encourage and support committed erotic love and its role in human fulfillment. Moreover, it would regard this as requiring that we cultivate sexual virtues such as chastity, modesty, and fidelity, and that we encourage and support life-long monogamous marriage as the proper context for human sexual relationship.

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David McPherson
Creighton University

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Plain sex.Alan Goldman - 1977 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 6 (3):267-287.

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