Ryan T. Anderson, Anti-Choice’s own Matt Damon –“He’s so dreamy and young and bright and articulate!”–has his own little outfit, where he totally proves that he cares about baby-genociding by letting his bloggers bitch about liberal sexytimes.
Earlier this year, an article in New York Magazine featured a story involving an eighteen-year-old woman who plans to marry and have children with her father. When the interviewer asked her to respond to those who might question her relationship, she offered the following reply:
I just don’t understand why I’m judged for being happy. We are two adults who brought each other out of dark places … When you are 18 you know what you want. You’re an adult under the law and you’re able to consent.
Her reasoning is typical of contemporary liberal approaches to sexual morality, which are usually justified by appealing to mutual consent. So long as an activity is performed in private between consenting adults, it is argued, there can be nothing inherently objectionable about what they do.
Except that literally no one is making this argument. I think plenty of consensual sex acts are objectionable. There’s a difference between not wanting to police people’s sex lives and finding people’s sex lives laudable. People who are not literal children (the author is a student at FSU) understand this. That being said, points for coming right out of the gate with incest. Subtly implying that libs are cool with it makes for zesty readin’.
The defender of liberal sexual morality might respond by making a distinction between consent and informed consent. The self-harmer may choose to engage in these activities, but he does so without the full knowledge and understanding of the self-destructive effects that accompany them. If he really knew what he were about to do, then things might have turned out differently.
But this response is problematic for a number of reasons. If informed consent is just a matter of knowing the risks of one’s actions, then it is quite conceivable that someone may still freely choose to pursue self-destructive actions, having understood and accepted the risks. Yet there still seems to be something deeply wrong with a person who chooses to engage in self-destructive activities, even if he understands the risks of what he is doing.
Her reasoning is typical of contemporary liberal approaches to sexual morality, which are usually justified by appealing to mutual consent. So long as an activity is performed in private between consenting adults, it is argued, there can be nothing inherently objectionable about what they do. Why? Because they have given their consent, and consent is what matters most when it comes to one’s decision to engage in sexual activity.
The implications of this position are far-reaching. Many have invoked the consent principle to argue for the permissibility of polyamory and consensual incest. Once we view the morality of sex as being determined only by mutual agreement, then it becomes very hard to make any principled distinctions about the shape of sexual relationships.
When Consent Goes Wrong
There are a number of problems with this way of understanding sex. The most obvious problem with basing sexual morality on consent is that we can consent to things that are bad for us. Here we need only to think of those who deliberately cut themselves, desire the amputation of a healthy limb, or intentionally neglect their own health. These persons may have consented to engage in these activities, but their exercise of autonomy is nevertheless bad and self-destructive. So the mere fact that we may agree to do something does not show that what we are doing is morally permissible.
Sooo…you used six paragraphs to say that people often engage in self-destructive activities and you brought up incest again. This is getting kind of gross, Timothy. I’m a liberal, so I won’t try to police your incest fantasies, but I don’t find them laudable. TMI, Timmy. TMI.
Can’t help but notice that Timmy also cops to people engaging in non-sexytime-related self-destructive activities, so I can’t wait to read how he’ll deal with that. Unless he’s just not interested in tackling those subjects because it’ll be harder to indulge in his incest fantasies if he wants to talk about, say, cutting.
The problem with this argument centers on the meaning of “harm.” Persons can be harmed physically, morally, spiritually, psychologically, culturally, educationally, financially, and in many other ways. A harm is simply a setback to any kind of flourishing, and persons flourish in a variety of ways. In a moral sense, every immoral action necessarily harms both the person and the community, for in acting immorally he acts against the moral order. If certain sexual acts are immoral, then they are necessarily harmful as well.
Well, Timmy, I don’t find the idea of truck stop glory holes particularly appealing, but I’m quite sure illicit blowjobs have not prevented me from flourishing. Why, I’m flourishing right now…learning, growing…and my skin’s taken on a kind of opalescent sheen. I’m flush with flourishment.
Sexual liberalism’s misguided view of consent is a symptom of a deeper problem: we have forgotten what it means to be free. Our power of free choice, like the rest of our nature, has a purpose.
Oh, really? According to whom?
The point of freedom is not to choose whatever we want, but to choose only those ends that are in accordance with our rational human nature. It is this exercise of freedom that gives rise to self-mastery. This classical understanding of freedom was best expressed by Samuel West, in a sermon delivered to the Massachusetts legislature in 1776:
The most perfect freedom consists in obeying the dictates of right reason, and submitting to natural law. When a man goes beyond or contrary to the law of nature and reason, he becomes the slave of base passions and vile lusts; he introduces confusion and disorder into society, and brings misery and destruction upon himself. This, therefore, cannot be called a state of freedom, but a state of the vilest slavery and the most dreadful bondage. The servants of sin and corruption are subjected to the worst kind of tyranny in the universe. Hence we conclude that where licentiousness begins, liberty ends.
Ah, of course. Finally we get the meat of the thing. God and his little conduit, Timmy, should be deciding what’s sexually moral, obvs. Well, now I’m bored and disappointed. You didn’t stick the landing, Timmy.