Monday, April 15, 2013

Fucking: it really does exist, you know.

I've been having a nice little conversation in my combox over sodomy and natural law. Anyone interested can see the discussion for themselves - largely I'm outlining why sodomy and certain sexual desires are seen as immoral, injury or otherwise on Natural Law. My go-to example with this kind of thing is the Pepperbees sketch. I think Doug Thomas is an open and shut case of someone whose sexual appetite, despite being entirely consenting, despite not leading to permanent bodily harm (at least unless you consider anal penetration harm - in which case, game over already), is nevertheless wrong, immoral, indicative of a disordered desire, etc.

One of the objections that came up, however, is one I just see again and again - and every time, it strikes me as the most frail objection in the world:
And I would actually say that its pretty obvious to me that acts of sodomy often do have redeeming effects. Relationships can be and are often enriched by a variety of sexual activities. I'm not speaking here simply to lust, but also to love, trust, vulnerability, giving, self-expression, etc
This is the sort of claim that sounds very nice and sweet so long as we A) keep 'redeeming effects' as general as possible, and B) keep 'sexual activities' as vague as possible. It's actually pretty hard to connect 'love, trust, vulnerability, giving and self-expression' to, say... fucking a girl up the ass, in any way but the most flimsy and strained. The best you'll generally get is gesturing in the direction of 'feeling' talk - 'it's a very special, private act I share with my lover, a way to show how special and loving and...' On and on it goes. It relies on the extreme flexibility of human subjectivity, and subjectively speaking, you can talk up coprophilia in poetic terms if you like. I'm not too concerned whether someone subjectively feels a special bond and closeness with their mate as a result of consuming their waste. I'm more concerned with whether this is, you know, actually a moral act, or morally neutral, or - more importantly - a healthy, ordered desire in and of itself.

But I think what really bothers me about this sort of move is that it ignores the reality of sex. I remember a George Carlin bit about pornography where he defended it on the grounds that (giving a quote that wasn't original to him) 'I'd rather watch two people making love than two people trying to kill each other.' That made me wonder if Carlin ever actually saw any pornography in his life, because 'lovemaking' is pretty thin as a theme. The same goes for sex - there's a whole lot of fucking going on out there, a whole lot of fetishes and sexual interests, and 'love' isn't exactly a central component to much of any of it. Hell, a fair share don't even require another human being. Are those acts immoral? Are they disordered? Does their lack of love render them immoral or disordered?

Those are the questions I'm going to be concerned about, and I think for quite a lot of sex... the reason it's not openly talked about isn't because of puritan shame about discussions involving nude bodies and orgasms. It's because it's so, so personal. So personal, in fact, that I think many people themselves try not to think about it. The guy who just loves to get bent over and fucked in the ass may not want to think too deeply about why he considers that the height of sexual pleasure. Maybe the guy fucking a girl in the ass doesn't want to think too deeply about it either. The answers may be too psychological, too strange, too complicated, too confusing. Introspection comes well-recommended by the ancient philosophers, but not because it's particularly pleasant.

10 comments:

Unknown said...

Since you started a new post in honor of our previous conversation, I'll just reply here...

> Nope. Certainly not by natural law.

Well, that was the idea wasn't it?!

> And it's not at all obvious in general, especially when we're interpreting 'redeeming effects' as broadly as you need to be here.

I disagree. I think your vision of sex and natural law arbitrarily rules out many good dimensions of sex. Consider Hinduism and the Kamasutra. Sex was for the married, and directed towards the purpose of creating families, yet it also views sexual activity between the married as a pleasure to seek for its own sake, and also even includes many sodomous acts that you would condemn. But I guess they just weren't the astute observers of human nature that you are?


> Again, no. At the absolute least Doug's actions indisputably have 'redeeming effects' on himself - I mean, that goes without saying. He gets pleasure from it. He also is strongly encouraged to give people top-notch friendly service at his restaurants. Why, it's a win-win.

Consequantalism does not say if an act produces at least one pleasurable consequence, then it must be moral. It weights the balance of all the good and harmful consequences. Smoking, drinking to excess, eating a box of twinkies... consequentialism does not say these things are good because there is some pleasure involved. That's consequentialism 101 there...


> Perhaps. Here's the trick: argue what is a 'negative effect' without either cadmit g into an appeal to human nature (in which case, I've got some arguments about that) or the land of the utterly arbitrary.

> Really, you're going to have trouble doing this evesimply n when talking about his 'ability to form a meaningful relationship'. well.. I don't really care. Meaningful relationship? Hell, what's the standard for meaningful? Yet another appear to the arbitrary? The socially useful?

Well, I summarized some possible negative effects, but admitted I'm not an expert and don't know if my guesses are accurate.

I'll happily admit that facts about human nature are necessary and essential to any moral theory, including (especially even) consequentialism. And I don't really think any old appeal to human nature is natural law, any more than any old appeal to consequence is consequentialism, though sometimes the distinctions get tricky.

All moral theories, I'd argue, actually bottom out on values, which are rooted in facts about human nature. And in my naturalist worldview, values actually reduce to biological function - so biological function of a certain kind to provide the substance to normativity. But there's no necessary connection between all biological functions and normativity. We need to look at what values those functions actually serve, including sex, relationships, procreation, etc.

And in that sense, I think the typified natural law response to sex is stupidly arbitrary and narrow - all adult desires are aside for the noble purpose of baby-making - yet why do we even have babies, if not for the many experiences in life that are sought for their own sake, like marriage and the experiences one has together with a spouse (including the sexual aspects)?


Unknown said...


> By all means, try to argue the redeeming qualities of fucking a guy or girl in the ass. I think you're going to find that the ease of doing this is directly proportional to how vaguely we discuss the acts.

We can similarly talk about heterosexual vaginal sex with such unromantic, loaded terms. I'll leave it as an exersise for the reader to come up with their own, but all you're really expressing here is your own cynical, subjective view of "butt fucking" and "blowjobs", not anything intrinsicly and necessarily contained in the acts themselves.


> But really, you already made a move which LGBT groups could never endorse: you implied that sodomy out of 'lust' is immoral, or negative. Walk that road and you've sacrificed 95% of the argument immediately - everything else is just clean-up duty.

Well, I have no qualms about calling out gay people either, when they are wrong, though I don't really see a need to respond to these sorts of vague generalizations - again, we're just seeing your cynicism, not necessarily anything true about gay people as a whole.

Crude said...

I disagree. I think your vision of sex and natural law arbitrarily rules out many good dimensions of sex.

No, it doesn't. It does rule out some aspects of sex - but no, not 'arbitrarily.' It also questions whether some of those dimensions are good to begin with.

But I guess they just weren't the astute observers of human nature that you are?

I think they were wrong - no more, no less. If the mores of a several thousand year old religion were worthy of automatic respect, this conversation would be over in my favor already.

Consequantalism does not say if an act produces at least one pleasurable consequence, then it must be moral.

I didn't say that Doug Thomas' acts must be moral on consequentialism. I disputed your rendition of them - his situation can easily be argued to have redeeming qualities. In fact, just about any act can be argued to have redeeming qualities.

All moral theories, I'd argue, actually bottom out on values, which are rooted in facts about human nature. And in my naturalist worldview, values actually reduce to biological function - so biological function of a certain kind to provide the substance to normativity.

First off, normativity and morality has no place in naturalism. Even biological function is going to arbitrary under a naturalist, nature-rejecting view - and you damn well better hope it is, because otherwise I'm going to have the easier case to make even on those terms when it comes to sodomy. The biological function of it is highly suspect - that's putting it diplomatically.

And in that sense, I think the typified natural law response to sex is stupidly arbitrary and narrow

There's nothing arbitrary about it, nor is it terribly narrow. Now, the perceptions are something else.

all adult desires are aside for the noble purpose of baby-making

No, that's ridiculous. "All adult desires"? That involves far, far more than sex. As for sex, 'baby-making' is just the natural end of sex. Don't frustrate that. Rather like how you shouldn't purposefully vomit up your food after eating it. It's not healthy, it's not right.

As I said with Alex, you can screw for all kinds of reasons when you're married, by NL terms. Do it for pleasure. Do it for companionship. Just do it right, or don't do it. And 'doing it right' does come with some limitations. We shouldn't indulge every desire we have just because it gives us pleasure - not with food, not with sex, and not with much else.

Crude said...

We can similarly talk about heterosexual vaginal sex with such unromantic, loaded terms.

Sure we can. But on the final analysis, there's going to be some pretty important differences between the two. And it's not just a homosexual issue - sodomy is rampant among heteros. Hell, I don't present myself as some kind of moral paragon, personally. I just don't feel the need to bullshit about this topic. Speaking frankly about it tends to wash away a lot of that BS.

I'll leave it as an exersise for the reader to come up with their own, but all you're really expressing here is your own cynical, subjective view of "butt fucking" and "blowjobs", not anything intrinsicly and necessarily contained in the acts themselves.

What readers? Ilion, are you out there?

It's not a cynical, subjective view. I'm rallying arguments to explain my position on these things. Now, what I refuse to do is play what IS a very subjective game of airy, vague discourse about sex acts, such that a man jamming his cock in and out of someone's ass to the very hilt gets recast as 'an expression of love, giving and togetherness between two people who care deeply for each other'. My problem isn't love, giving, or togetherness. That's not what I'm questioning the morality of. I'm questioning the cock in the ass, among other things.

I don't think calling it 'ass-fucking' is a particularly loaded term. It's just direct. It is what it is.

again, we're just seeing your cynicism, not necessarily anything true about gay people as a whole.

Absolutely not, because I won't generalize about gay people as a whole. Some gay people are celibate. Some are Christian. Some accept natural law arguments. Some screw up at times, but then recover. Some are sexually active, but on the whole conduct themselves more morally than many heterosexuals or bisexuals. Some showed up to march against gay marriage in France.

Now, LGBT groups? Organizations? Those I will criticize, because they've been pretty rotten. And they're exactly who I targeted in my response. That's why I said "LGBT groups" and not "gays". There is not a 1:1 correspondence between the two.

Nor am I singling out gays here anyway - which is why my examples expressly include heterosexuals. I think a guy fucking a girl up the ass says a whole lot about the guy and the girl, and not all of it is terribly flattering. In fact, it's typically a nice big neon sign that these people have issues. Hey, no big deal - we all have our issues. But let's not paper over them, eh?

Unknown said...

I don't have time to respond to everything, so I'll get back to the oritinal challenge...

> I didn't say that Doug Thomas' acts must be moral on consequentialism. I disputed your rendition of them - his situation can easily be argued to have redeeming qualities. In fact, just about any act can be argued to have redeeming qualities.

But so what? The challenge has been met. If it is true that the sum of consequences of Dougs proclivities result in positive net harm, then his actions are morally wrong. Simultaneously, if is true that anal, oral (or many other kinds of sexual acts) often result in positive net good, then those actions can be morally good (or at the very least, neutral), per consequentialism. Easy peasy.

Now I've admitted that I can't really speak much to what sort of pathologies Doug's behavior leads to or is driven by... but plausible possibilities here have been offered.. from my non-expert vantage point (ie, Doug deprives himself of things of much greater value to himself, despite some fleeting pleasure). And likewise, its easy to see some plausible benefits to a more varied sex life with a committed mate (closeness, love, and perhaps even increased desires for baby making).

So why must a consequentialist assent to either of these conjuncts:

1) Doug's actions are morally good AND acts of sodomy morally good
2) Doug's actions are morally bad AND sodomy is morally bad.

.. or be irrational if he maintains this one:

1) Doug's actions are morally bad AND acts of sodomy can be morally good

Crude said...

But so what? The challenge has been met.

Not at all. You haven't even given an argument. You've basically said "Hypothetically, if we just assume that X things are bad, and if we assume I made an argument that showed Doug's acts were on balance bad, and also assume I made an argument that acts of sodomy were on balance good, then that would mean I argued Doug's acts are bad and sodomy is okay. Case closed!"

That's not even 'not very much'. It's nothing. You may as well tell me you just proved murder-suicide pacts are great on the grounds that, if you assume murder-suicide is on balance beneficial, then hey, it's beneficial. Easy peasy.

Now I've admitted that I can't really speak much to what sort of pathologies Doug's behavior leads to or is driven by... but plausible possibilities here have been offered..

You haven't offered plausible possibilities. You've vaguely gestured in the direction of saying you bet you can make an argument, without even arguing why such and such qualifies as 'good' or 'bad'. (Note that saying 'because it leads to beneficial outcomes' is going to result in me asking what makes those outcomes beneficial.) In citing natural law, I've given the arguments and pointed out the fundamental commitments driving the view - and I've noted that that is far from what I'm limited to.

The difficulty here isn't in offering up some framework, any framework, where Doug Thomas' actions are judged bad. The difficulty is in having that framework not only, ultimately, be non-arbitrary, but to be so in a way that doesn't scoop up sodomy along with it. The closest you came to making an argument here was an appeal to biological function - and as I pointed out, that's going to kill you if you actually pursue it, because the biological function of sodomy - for instance, jamming things in the ass - is going to be every bit as questionable as Doug Thomas' acts.

Look - you know you're avoiding actually making an argument, or getting into the details of justifying your view. But you're going to have to do that to get anywhere.

So why must a consequentialist assent to either of these conjuncts:

The consequentialist is going to have to do a lot more than ask me to assume for the sake of argument that he's right about his pulled-from-nowhere declarations about what is morally good or not, or his balance estimations. I have zero doubt that someone could make all manner of arbitrary assumptions, slap on a consequentialist system, and get the result they want. But if arbitrary decisions about what is or isn't beneficial are game, then it's also trivial for me to present a consequentialist system where BOTH Doug Thomas and people engaged in sodomy are doing something wrong. Indeed, if I get to be arbitrary, I can damn well regard both sets of desires as quite disordered.

At the end of the day, among the various things you're going to have to do to make your position plausible, you're going to have to explain in detail the specific value of fucking someone up the ass in terms of 'closeness and love'. It's not enough to dig in your heels and insist that if you turn off the lights, turn your head and squint, you're sure these things are related. Detailed argument will be necessary.

And if you're telling yourself 'Shit, I can't give a detailed argument for that. It would sound desperate and ridiculous.', well, maybe you have a problem on your hands. There's always the escape valve of moral nihilism. I mean, if you're dead set on justifying ass-fucking and the like at all costs.

Unknown said...


Crude,

If you say non-natural lawyers are bound to specific conclusions regarding Doug and sodomy, then the burden of proof really is just that low. Real possibilities fit the bill, all day long.

Of course, who's right depends on the facts of the matter, but you haven't given us any of those either. We know you *really* think something is wrong with Doug. But just what are the actual, material consequences of his actions? What are they, without even evaluating their moral status? Do his actions affect the way he relates to other people? Do they bring him a measure of peace? What are they? *If you don't actually know*, then you can't actually make the claim that you are making - that consequentialists have no possible avenue to condem Doug while praising sodomy, without falling into arbitrariness.

Crude said...

If you say non-natural lawyers are bound to specific conclusions regarding Doug and sodomy, then the burden of proof really is just that low. Real possibilities fit the bill, all day long.

Non-natural lawyers? What?

Nor did I say they are 'bound to specific conclusions'. I said that once you reject natures and essences, etc - once you're off in the land of arbitrary norms or rejected intrinsic norms and purposes - then it's pretty easy to come up with whatever framework you want to give the results you wish. You can have specific conclusions, alright.

Even on your own standards, you haven't really given me an arguments here. You've just gestured at *gestures* of possible arguments you think you could make and what strengths you think they'd have. Well, so what?

Of course, who's right depends on the facts of the matter, but you haven't given us any of those either. We know you *really* think something is wrong with Doug. But just what are the actual, material consequences of his actions?

Actually, this is a pretty interesting transition. At first you were trying to condemn Doug's actions - but now it seems like you're backing off from that, and are questioning the very idea that Doug Thomas is broken. By all means, make that move. It says more about where you're coming from than anything else.

What's more, you're asking me to explain what's *really wrong* with Doug - but demanding I do so in terms of the consequences of his actions. But I'm not a consequentialist; I say Doug is broken regardless of whether he acts on his desires. It's the desire itself that is busted here. The consequences can be bad, or mixed with some good, etc.

Now, what are the actual, material consequences of Doug Thomas' actions? Well, he's a fictional character being used as an example, so that's an odd question to ask me. I mean, you realize just how open-ended that is, right? You've gestured broadly in the direction of conceivable goods that can come from some guy fucking another guy in the ass - and I've said that you can also imagine conceivable goods coming from Doug Thomas' acts. That part is pretty easy.

Now, what I've asked you to do is give me a defense of sodomy. Detail the justification of a guy ramming his cock into the ass of his girlfriend, what the benefits are, why it's a moral act. Do that, and let's see how I can apply your or similar standards to Doug Thomas - after I analyze your claim on its own terms, of course.

I'm still waiting on that, but again, I notice you're already preparing your next move - once I show the difficulty of justifying one but not the other, you're fully prepared to bite the bullet and say Doug Thomas' sexuality is therefore healthy and normal and just great.

Don't you think this is an awful lot of contortion just to avoid the concession that no, sodomy is not obviously beyond reproach or question in terms of the healthiness of the desire or the morality of the act?

45f0dc88-8e32-11e3-b8ca-000f20980440 said...

"At the end of the day, among the various things you're going to have to do to make your position plausible, you're going to have to explain in detail the specific value of fucking someone up the ass in terms of 'closeness and love'. It's not enough to dig in your heels and insist that if you turn off the lights, turn your head and squint, you're sure these things are related. Detailed argument will be necessary."

Because it feels good.

That's it. What's the problem? It feels AMAZING to be bottomed by my husband (and occasionally switch it up). It's a sex act my husband and I enjoy, both for our own sakes and for each others' sake.

Again, what exactly is the problem here? If we're making comparisons to Doug Thomas, I'd say that as long as his customers knew what they were agreeing to by eating at the restaurant, there's no problem.

Crude said...

Because it feels good.

You missed the question, despite quoting it.

Connect this to 'closeness and love'. I'm sure fucking your husband's best friend may feel good. Or his father. Or his mother. Or, for that matter, his dog.

Explain the 'closeness and love' parts for me, because that's what was being taken aim at here. Though it sounds like you're admitting that, no, those things don't really play a role. All that's on the line here is personal pleasure. Which is great, because it shows how low the stakes really are from your point of view.

It feels AMAZING to be bottomed by my husband

Fascinating. What psychological needs do you think getting fucked up the ass is fulfilling? A need to be dominated? Rekindling some past abuse? Fulfilling some fantasy role - and if so, what's the source of the fantasy?

(and occasionally switch it up)

Oh, pegging? So he's got some bi tendencies. Again, what do you think the source of those desires are?

Again, what exactly is the problem here?

That's been explained in the comments, which you seem to have blown past. The big counter's to this tend to be 'Love!' and 'Closeness!' but you're not even trying to pick those up. You're down to 'pleasure'. Not much of a response, but hey, since you're offering I'd love to get into your personal psychology deeper. Perhaps it will be productive.

If we're making comparisons to Doug Thomas, I'd say that as long as his customers knew what they were agreeing to by eating at the restaurant, there's no problem.

Wonderful. To you, Doug Thomas has an entirely healthy sexuality - no problems there to speak of. People who achieve arousal exclusively by providing people with extra ketchup packets are restaurants are healthy.

Bite that bullet - I encourage it. Because at that point, you're playing a game that everyone knows you've lost. It's like talking to someone who crosses their arms over their chest and loudly insists that a man born with one lung and one kidney with a life expectancy of 30 years is *fine*, he's totally healthy, because you've redefined health in such a way to allow for that. More power to you, citizen - at that point I'm not interested in your input. I'm interested in the onlookers.

And if the onlookers agree, it's even better - they have set themselves on a path that will rapidly lead to the problem in question solving itself over few generations.