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Some Christians claim to oppose homosexuality by saying, "hate the sin, not the sinner." Is this a meaningful distinction? Is it a cogent defense against accusations of homophobia?

Yes and No. (I'm a philosopher. What did you expect?) Yes, it's a perfectly reasonable distinction. Suppose your sibling or parent or child (as makes the most sense to you) were to murder someone. I hope that you would find what they had done to be horrible and worthy of moral condemnation. But that doesn't mean that you have to think they are horrible. It doesn't mean that you should stop loving them, or stop supporting them. In fact, I myself think that it would be horrible and worthy of moral condemnation if you did stop loving them, or stop supporting them. So, when (right-wing) Christians say things like, "Hate the sin, love the sinner", that's what the sort of thing they mean: You can love this person , even if you think that they are doing bad things. We should all agree with that. But no, it's not, by itself , a cogent defense against accusations of homophobia. The reason it seems like this might be a 'defense' is that the (right-wing) Christians say that they don't condemn people ...

Recently, I read an article about someone whose parents would purposely have sex in front of him when he was a young child. Many of the comments left in response to the article remarked that this amounts to child abuse. (For a less extreme example, it's commonly held that exposing young children to porn or graphic sex scenes is similarly inappropriate.) I agree that this sort of thing is egregious, but I don't know how to explain why. When the child is watching his parents have sex, what exactly is happening that harms him?

Allen has already said a lot about this, so I'll just add a brief note. Early in the response, he says, "Imagine a society in which people live in close quarters and privacy is a luxury." We don't need to imagine such a society! Most human societies prior to the industrial revolution were like that! It used to be quite common for children to see adults having sex. It is, I'd suggest, no accident, that it was in Victorian times that people started to worry about children seeing such things: the "primal scene". (Yes, I'm talking to you, Freud.) I won't draw any moral conclusions from that. That would clearly be unjustified. But it does just point out that this is a very modern problem. It's really not at all obvious to me why it should be obvious to anyone else that seeing such a thing should be harmful to a child. Indeed, I can recall reading a 'parenting manual' some years ago that advocated having one's children sleep in the 'family bed'. Concerning the sort of issue raised here, the advice was: Love...

Is it wrong to fantasize about sex with children? If a pedophile never acts on their fantasies are they still guilty of having evil thoughts, assuming that their abstinence comes out of a genuine desire not to do harm?

So far as I can see, there's nothing wrong with fantasizing about sex with children. There's nothing wrong with fantasizing about anything you like. If that seems crazy, then it's probably because you are thinking that someone who fantasizes about something must actually wish to do that thing. But that is just not true. As Nancy Friday makes very clear in My Secret Garden , her classic and groundbreaking study of female sexual fantasy, fantasy is not "suppressed wish fulfillment". The point runs throughout the book, which you can find on archive.org , but maybe the best statement is on pp. 27-8, though see also the poignant story that opens the book (pp. 5-7). I'd post an excerpt, but the language maybe isn't appropriate for this forum! As Friday's studies reveal, people fantasize about all kinds of things. Some women fantasize about being raped. It's a very common fantasy, in fact. That does not mean these women actually want to be raped, on any level. As Friday remarks, "The message...

I recently heard someone make an argument, something like- "if you accept that there is morality in sex, for example that a father having sex with his daughter is wrong, you can't say gay sex isn't immoral because people should be able to do whatever they want because it causes no harm to others" Is this argument or proof begging the question? Philosophically, what is wrong with this argument.

The main thing wrong with the argument is that it is terrible. Don't we think it's wrong for parents to have sex with their children precisely because we think that it is harmful to the children? One might also think that children have no genuine capacity to consent to sex, an issue that also arises in other settings, such as between a boss and an employee. In such a setting, there are always issues about coercion, even if such coercion is not explicit. Presumably the thought is supposed to be that there are forms of sex that are morally suspect, even though they do not cause any sort of harm. But then one wants to know what those are supposed to be. Then we could consider whether and why they are morally suspect. The example given, as I said, is a very bad one.

Is it wrong to desire sex with a woman when your primary interests are only physical and hence you might not even know or have spoken to the woman you desire sexually? Or does that only become problematic when a man expresses interest to that woman in a manner which is unsolicited and hence it becomes an unwanted and creepy sexual advance?

I don't see anything wrong about desiring to have sex with someone you don't know. I rather suspect this is a completely normal aspect of human sexual experience, and that it is simply a reflection of sexual attraction. Tons of people fantasize about sex with celebrities, for example, or some beautiful person they saw momentarily on a train, or what have you. Perhaps the word "desire" here is a bit unhelpful. Desires can be fleeting or life-long, momentary or sustained, deeply felt or like a twinge. I think it would definitely be strange, or even pathological, for someone to dedicate themselves to having sex with someone they'd merely seen, especially since they would have no reason whatsoever to think the desire mutual. That's not to say it would be creepy to try to take some steps to meet the person, but if one's only desire were for sex, then I think it is creepy again, since one has no reason to think the desire mutual. And sex isn't sex without mutuality, as this wonderful video makes...

A website I came across reads: "Can I Kiss You?" Ask any woman and she will tell you – a man should NEVER "ask" for a kiss. Asking for a kiss goes against EVERYTHING a woman is looking for in a man… you may as well just tell her right there that you are a BOY. Her answer might be "yes" if she is being polite… but her attraction meter on the inside will read a firm, "No!" Now assuming this is true--------Aren't women essentially demanding that men are supposed to risk a violation of their boundaries during the courtship ritual? According to academically sanctioned feminists (most of whom are ironically put in place by the predominantly male controllers of the universities) "unwanted sexual attention" is always a problem that men impose on women unfairly. People who advocate for men's rights (who are actually trying to help women realize their true powers) say that actually women's courtship demands often require that men take a risk that might be unwanted and that the expectation that men always read...

I guess I'm wondering why we should assume any such thing is true. Frankly, the website where I found that advice sounds like it's trying to explain precisely how to manipulate women. So the rest of the questions just don't seem to arise. And why believe there is any such thing as "women's courtship demands"? Is there some kind of secret society that decides what those are? Are they passed by majority vote? or is the decision imposed by an unelected dictator?

According to Nicholas D. Smith in response to a question about sexual harassment legislation, "The minute someone in that place begins to give sexual attention to someone else in that workplace, the environment is changed--and changed in a way that makes the workplace no longer an entirely comfortable place to work." However the fact of the matter is that a great many people marry their coworkers and that studies show only a small percentage of those relationship were started by people who accidentally met up outside of work. If the purpose of sexual harassment legislation is to ban all interaction of a sexual nature between coworkers (since all sexual attention makes the workplace an uncomfortable place to work) then those marriages could not have occurred if sexual harassment law was 100% effective in achieving its supposed purpose. Since marriage is a highly regarded social institution isn't it highly unlikely that the purpose of sexual harassment legislation is to ban all sexual interaction between...

As Nicholas said in response to the other question, there are questions to be asked about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the workplace. And, while there are companies that prohibit co-workers from dating, most do not, which is simply to say that sexual harassment policies are not in general intended to prohibit all sexual interaction between co-workers, but only such interaction as, first, is unwelcome or unwanted and, second, constitutes a form of harassment. Even unwelcome sexual attention, by itself, does not constitute harassment, according to the definition promulgated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but only if: submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individuals, or such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an...

There has been some debate surrounding sex dolls (expensive, life-size, quasi-realistic approximations of humans intended for use as sex toys). On the one hand, proponents claim sex dolls are a useful sexual surrogate for men who are socially challenged and "sexually frustrated", and who want a more "realistic" experience than self-sex (the assumption is these men are not able to find dates themselves). On the other hand, feminists decry these life-like sex dolls (which are predominantly female-shaped and bought by males) as misogynistic, because (feminists claim) they are advocated as a replacement for women and reinforce the stereotypes that women are hard to deal with for men, not to mention being the example par excellence of objectification of women. Which is it? Is it valid to say that these dolls can play a healthy role in a socially challenged persons life, or are these things which reinforce misogyny and should not be promoted or made to seem acceptable?

I guess you're talking about "Real Dolls" and the like, of which Howard Stern seems to be such a fan. The terms in which you describe this debate seem to me to be highly contentious. I really do not understand why the question whether someone is "socially challenged" or "sexually frustrated" has anything to do with it. I think the sensible, default viewpoint would be that, if someone wants to masturbate, then they should be free to do so in whatever way they choose, either alone or with their partner or whatever. And if they enjoy using sex toys, then they should be free to use them, too. If one of the sex toys they like to use is a "love doll", either of the blow up variety or the incredibly expensive "Real Doll" variety, then so what? Maybe they like to fantasize about making love to super models, and maybe the doll helps with the fantasy. Great! Feminists like Nancy Friday worked very hard to earn all of us, men and women, the right to such freedom. That said, "so what" could have an answer,...

What is wrong with watching child pornography? Let's be clear that child abuse is wrong, and anything that makes more of it likely in the future is also wrong. Even if we agree that watching child pornography which encourages further harm to children is wrong, it seems less clear where the wrong is in doing so when there is no chance of causing harm. There are many pictures of adults and children who have been harmed to an extent at least on a par with the victims of such child abuse from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we do not normally think that viewing those images is wrong or makes us complicit. The most obvious candidate is the motive of sexual gratification on the part of the viewer. What makes that different from the motives of readers of bombs in the Middle-East? Is it the fact that the viewer must have a deviant sexual orientation or because they are benefiting from the harm in a way that the reader isn't? The first reason seems off the mark since it seems that the act of...

Let me ask a view questions. Is it clear that viewing child pornography is always wrong? Consider a detective who is viewing it in an attempt to establish the identities of the participants. Is it clear that any photograph of children being sexually exploited by adults is ipso facto wrong? Consider a reporter who takes pictures of some politician in bed with a pre-pubescent boy. What is distinctive of the case in which we would intuitively regard the viewing as wrong? What attitude towards the participants does such viewing involve? In particular, what attitude towards the children does it involve? Does viewing child pornography as a way of achieving sexual gratification seem compatible with a compassionate attitude towards children and a proper respect for their interests and their autonomy? Does it seem compatible with a proper appreciation of their suffering? The wrong might lie less in the viewing than it what one's viewing such things as a means of sexual gratification says about...

Is the definition of marriage changing?

I couldn't agree more with what Miriam says here. But let me add a bit. First, the common talk one hears about the "definition of marriage" seems to me to be confused. One might reasonably speak of a definition of the word "marriage", but marriage, the civil or cultural or religious institution, is not something that is "defined" in the way a word is defined. For this reason, among many others, the common refrain one hears, that we can look in a dictionary to find out what marriage is, and in particular to find out whether two men can marry, is just silly. (And, if it weren't silly enough, of course dictionaries change.) That said, one might seek something like a characterization of the institution of marriage, as it has existed in (say) American society over the last few hundred years. One might want to know what marriage is, as one might want to know what goldenrods are. As Miriam says, such an investigation would likely find that there was a good deal of variation, across religious groups...

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