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Whizz Through PowerPoint: Sexual Ethics

A quick revision PowerPoint for Sexual Ethics brought to you by Philosophical Investigations. A resources and revision website for A Level Religious Studies, OCR, AQA and Edexcel. Visit: for more.

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Whizz Through PowerPoint: Sexual Ethics

  1. 1.  To explore a range of Christian and secular viewpoints  To apply these to homosexuality, contraception and pre-marital sex  To seek insights from Kant, Natural Law, utilitarianism and situation ethics
  2. 2.  Sex is created by God as means of procreation (Genesis 1 and 2)  Sexual relations with other tribes forbidden (1 Kings 11:1-13)  Adultery punished by stoning (Leviticus 20)  In Levitical code, women property of men and socially inferior. Women were “unclean” due to blood taboo after childbirth etc.
  3. 3.  Jesus says little about sexual relations, mentioning “sexual immorality” once (Mark 7:21) as “making us unclean from within”.  Paul sees the body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, bought back from slavery (1 Cor 6:12-20). Context: shrine prostitution in Corinth.  Paul condemns homosexual practices as abominations (Romans 1: 21-27), deserving death (he was a Rabbi).
  4. 4.  “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free: you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)  Jesus allowed unclean women to touch him (Mark 5:30) and wash his feet, (Mark 14:6). It’s as if the radicalism of Jesus wasn’t fully grasp by the Rabbi, Paul.  The woman caught in adultery is not condemned or stoned. Jesus says “go in peace and leave your life of sin”. (Jn 8)
  5. 5.  Augustine (354-440) saw the Fall of Man as the origin of sexual lust and passion.  Before the Fall, sex was an act of will.  After the Fall, women desired men and men ruled over women.  Sexual shame required modesty.  Sex was for marriage, and should be done out of duty (to procreate) not pleasure.
  6. 6.  The body is the seat of wicked desires and passions: “sins of the flesh”.  The soul had to overcome these temptations.  We “do not do what we want, but the very thing I hate is what I do” (Romans 7:15).  The flesh must be “put to death”, says Paul. This mortification is the origin of self-flagellation (Da Vinci Code), and is still practised in Spanish and Italian cities at Lent.
  7. 7.  Sex is for procreation, a primary good  “Any act from which of its nature generation cannot follow” is wrong.  Aquinas condemns masturbation, homosexual acts, and acts where “the natural style of intercourse is not observed”.  Adultery “conflicts with right reason”, even though natural, and breaks the primary precept of living in society.
  8. 8.  Might God have created us with different natural sexual inclinations?  Is an “unnatural” sex act (like masturbation) wrong if it harms no-one or (like living together) is done with consent?
  9. 9. 2357 “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexuality as a grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”.
  10. 10.  Homosexuality is like a disease.  Breaks the natural relation to sex: procreation, so contra naturam  But…if an alcoholic gives up drink the benefits are clear, yet if a homosexual is in a loving relationship, what bad effects are there?
  11. 11.  Given that key aspects of human nature include culture and history, any moral principle must be tested, verified, retested, and refined according to human experience, which may change according to time and/or place, there can not be one “answer” that fits for all times and places
  12. 12.  “It is an error to think that a conjugal act which is deliberately made against natural law and so is intrinsically dishonest, could be made honest and right by the context of a lawful married life.”
  13. 13.  The regulation of conception appears necessary for many couples who wish to achieve a responsible, open and reasonable parenthood in today’s circumstances. If they are to observe and cultivate all the essential values of marriage, married people need decent and human means for the regulation of conception. They should be able to expect the collaboration of all, especially for men of learning and science, in order that they have at their disposal means agreeable and worthy of man in the fulfilling of his responsible parenthood.” Pontifical Birth Control Commission
  14. 14.  Look at the nature of the sexual faculty  Designed for procreation, in marriage context  Focus on the individual “act”  Therefore, each and every sexual act and expression should be open to the possibility of procreation; anything that obstructs this is intrinsically disordered (contra naturam)  Key value is following this “natural function”.
  15. 15.  Looks at the individual and the couple in their whole, real life situation  Stresses the relational aspects, especially love and “responsible parenthood”  Evaluates single acts within this total context  Key values are personal and interpersonal flourishing (eudaimonia)
  16. 16.  Tension Between ParadigmsTension Between Paradigms  “…objective criteria must be used, drawn from the nature of the human person and human action, … which respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love…”  Gaudium et Spes, 1965:51  “it is not permissible, even for the gravest reasons, ... to make into the object of a positive act of the will something which is intrinsically disordered, ... even when the intention is to safeguard or promote individual, family or social well‑being.”  Humanae Vitae 1968:14
  17. 17.  Remember the Principle of Conscience inRemember the Principle of Conscience in Moral LivingMoral Living ◦ Sanctuary of Conscience ◦ Sacred Place: Where we meet God  Safe Place: no outside authority may enter ◦ Primacy of Conscience ◦ Always follow your conscience ◦ Even when “erroneous” ◦ But take care to form and inform it.
  18. 18.  Cannot universalise eg adultery – a contradiction in will.  Difficult for heterosexuals to conceive a universal law legalising homosexual acts contradiction in nature.  Kant argued that “sexual love is a degradation of human nature” (link with importance of reason and his dislike of passions)  As soon as someone is an object of someone else’s lust, they are being used as a means to an end. Breaks second formulation (principle of ends).  In the contract of marriage, sex is fine.
  19. 19.  Marriage is a contract of equals (respect, rights, dignity).  Partners surrender rights to each other eg the right to your own body.  The sole condition on which we are free to make use of our sexual desire depends upon the right to dispose over the person as a whole.... If I have the right over the whole person, I have also the right ... to use that person's organa sexualia for the satisfaction of sexual desire. But how am I to obtain these rights over the whole person? Only by giving that person the same rights over the whole of myself. This happens only in marriage. Matrimony is an agreement between two persons by which they grant each other equal reciprocal rights, each of them undertaking to surrender the whole of their person to the other with a complete right of disposal over it .... If I yield myself completely to another and obtain the person of the other in return, I win myself back.... In this way the two persons become a unity of wills.
  20. 20.  Pleasure is the intrinsic good.  Shared pleasure can build happiness in a relationship.  Consensual sex is what most seem to desire to be fulfilled, so maximises happiness.  Bad consequences eg STDs should be avoided.  But is consent enough to make something “good”? (eg sex with minors?).  Mill saw sex belonging to “lower pleasures”.  Harm principle eg long term pain of affairs.
  21. 21. Pain STDs Pregnancy Emotional pain Social taboo Pleasure Contraception Sense of value Love Loss of taboos But as some of the “pains” diminish (eg due to contraception) how do we measure the emotional pain promiscuity may produce?
  22. 22.  Sexual shame comes out of parental influences on the superego.  Being moral may not accord with our real natures at all… the conscience needs to mature.  Failure to control sexual urges will undermine the development of a virtuous character and can lead to pathological shame.  Oedipus complex: unconscious repression of desire to kill father and possess mother formed aged 3-6 years. Resolved by identifying with same sex parent.
  23. 23.  Draw a grid, placing the three issues, pre-marital sex, homosexual sex, and contraception on one axis and Kant, utilitarianism and natural law on the other  Fill in the boxes, summarising different approaches to sexual ethics
  24. 24.  Taking the recent Church of England Report Issues in Human Sexuality, describe and explain the differences in moral reasoning between Anglicans and Catholics on the issues mentioned here.  NB There isn’t one RC or Anglican view!