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
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...
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