Sexual Morality: Is Consent Enough?

Primoratz, Igor
September 2001
Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Sep2001, Vol. 4 Issue 3, p201
Academic Journal
The liberal view that valid consent is sufficient for a sex act to be morally legitimate is challenged by three major philosophies of sex: the Catholic view of sex as ordained for procreation and properly confined to marriage, the romantic view of sex as bound up with love, and the radical feminist analysis of sex in our society as part and parcel of the domination of women by men. I take a critical look at all three, focusing on Mary Geach's recent statement of the procreation view, Roger Scruton's theory of sexual desire as naturally evolving into intimacy and love, and several radical feminist discussions of sex in sexist society which argue that the notion of consent is unhelpful and, indeed, irrelevant. I argue that none of these lines of argument is convincing, and that consent remains the touchstone of morally permissible sex - although, admittedly, it may not be very helpful in discussing ideals of human sexuality.


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