Ch. 4: Sexual Perversion Scott Stewart PHIL 2103
How do we distinguish ‘normal’, weird, unnatural, perverted, and harmful sex? • History of perversion: Aristotle and Aquinas • The traditional view and the telos of sex: Reigning in our desires • Freud: object vs. aim perversion • Object perversion: inappropriate objects, e.g., animals siblings, children, shoes. • Aim perversion: inappropriate ends to our desire, e.g., exhibitionism, voyeurism, masochism. Anything besides intercourse b/w a man and a woman • psychosexual development: oral, anal, phallic, latent, genital. Mature sex is genitally focused b/w a man and a women. Oral and anal sex regressions and perverse as is a woman focused on her clitoris rather than her vagina.
How do we distinguish ‘normal’, weird, unnatural, perverted, and harmful sex? • Intentionalist vs. reductionist views of sexual desire • Intentionalist views “understanding the interpersonal intentionality that occurs during sexual intercourse is essential for understanding sexual desire” • E.g., Nagel and multilevel interpersonal awareness; Solomon and body communication; Nozick – sex isn’t just “frictional force” • Reductionist: sex is not a mere means to something else: it is physical pleasure for the sake of physical pleasure (e.g. Goldman)
How do we distinguish ‘normal’, weird, unnatural, perverted, and harmful sex? • Problems with reductionist account: • Too much attention on the body • Can’t distinguish perverse from non-perverse sex • Problems with intentionalist account: • Too much attention on the mind • too narrow a view of sexual desire hence too many activities designated as perverse. • Over-medicalization of perversion
American Psychiatric Association & Perversion • Paraphilias: “are characterized by arousal in respeonse to sexual objects that are not part of normative arousal activity and that in varying degrees may interfere with the capacity for reciprocal, affectionate sexual activity (DSM III-R emphasis added). • Robert Spitzer, “sexual arousal brings people together to have interpersonal sex. Sexual arousal has the function of facilitating pair bonding which is facilitated by reciprocal affectionate relationships” (2006, 114). • Prescription and perfectionism: compare to Nagel’s view
Description or Prescription? • Nagel, “non-perverse sex is (evaluative in some sense.” • “It is not clear that unperverted sex is necessarily preferable to the perversions. It may be that sex which receives the highest marks for perfection as sex is less enjoyable than certain perversions; and if enjoyment is considered very important, that might outweigh considerations of sexual perfection in determining rational preference” (Nagel, 1969, 16,17)
“Perfectionist” Conception of Sex • Is not meeting the ideal a perversion? an analogy • the “judgment of what constitutes reciprocal, affectionate sexual activity is clearly value laden and suggests an underlying, implicit, theoretical orientation. There are no data to suggest that individuals diagnosed with a paraphilia have any more difficulty maintaining relationships than “normal” heterosexuals, who have staggering divorce rates.” (Moser and Kleinplatz 2005, 102)
Inconsistency in the DSM • DSM criteria: all mental disorders must “… be associated with present distress … or disability … or significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom, DSM IV-TR, 2000, xxx1). • Yet some paraphilias don’t require this: criminality vs. mental illness?
Slippery slope worries • Sexual Disorders Not Otherwise Specified: • (i) "distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used," and (ii) “compulsive sexuality in a relationship” (APA, DSM IV TR, 2000, 582).
Sexual addiction? • In and out – and in? • Schmidt (1995, 254): “the results of the review reveal abundant clinical evidence of sexual activity that can be characterized as excessive” but there was “no scientific data to support a concept of sexual behavior that can be considered addictive.” • Manley and Koeler (2001,260): a new nosology: “Sexually Excessive Behavior Disorders” including sex addictions (excessive masturbation, affairs, and attendance at strip clubs and peep shows).
“All the World’s A Hospital” • “The world we now live in is … so thoroughly indoctrinated in the ideology of therapy that society has remade itself in therapy’s image” (Gordon, 2000, 229). • “The nineteenth century marked a shift to scientific investigation of sexual matters. The medical profession usurped moral and religious authority in the area of sexuality, generated new and highly visible discourses, and promulgated the diversification of new sexual identities. Sexuality, then, represented a site of expansion and control by the medical profession. Physicians were consolidating their power to regulate and define large areas of human experience, even those, as later critics would note, that fell outside of their training and expertise (Irvine, 1995, 430).
Designer Drugs • Ritalin and ADHD • Viagra and Erectile Dysfunction • SSRI’s and depression (Jump in adolescent depression from 0-15/20% in 15 years) • “Listening to Prozac” • Easy to fulfill criteria
Big Pharma’s long reach • Cosgrove et al., 2006: Half the experts sitting on panels for DSM V have “financial ties” with Pharma • Elliott (2004): Half the papers on SSRI’s Pharma sponsored (or written) • Direct Marketing – $11.4M-$29.9M in 10 years (Donohue, et al., 2007) • Steven Sharfstein (2005, 3): “as a profession we have allowed the biopsychosocial to become the bio-bio-bio model.” “a pill and an appointment” is too often the preferred (or only) treatment offered.
SSRI’s and Sexual Parpaphilias/Disorders • Side effects: reduced sexual drive, erectile dysfunction, difficulty reaching orgasms • SSRI’s ‘success’ might “merely reflect their side effect profile” (Greenberg & bradford, 1997, 357)
A cautionary tale • Daniel Bergner, The Other Side of Desire • The tale of Jacob: foot fetishism, chemical castration and Viagra • A different ‘treatment’ option? • No treatment as an option?
Sodomy as a perversion controlled by laws • What is sodomy? • Anal sex? Does this include when the partners are a man and a woman? • Oral sex? Does this include only when it’s two men or also when it’s a man and a woman? What of cunnilingous? • Bestiality? • Changes over time in mores Eg., Plato and pederasty • Christianity and sex b/w members of the same sex • Buggery laws in England
Canada • Canada and the Everett Klipper case (1965): incurably homosexual” and imprisoned indefinitely • Trudeau: There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” • Decriminalization and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Though sexual orientation not mentioned specifically regarding discrimination, in Egan v. Canada (1995), sexual orientation taken as having same standing, and used in cases defending everything from same-sex marriage to same sex couples adopting children.
United States • More complicated: states vs federal law • Bower’s v. Hardwick (1986): US upheld constitutionality of sodomy laws. Tradition and the majority’s views. • Problems: J.S. Mill and the tyranny of the majority. Bill of Rights as protection against majority thought. • Lawrence v. Texas (2003): Overturned Hardwick and maintained that sodomy laws violated the privacy rights of individuals.
Homosexuality, morality, and the “Unnaturalness” Argument • (1) Homosexuality is unnatural • (2) All unnatural things or acts are immoral. • Therefore, Homosexuality is immoral. • Meaning of “unnatural?” Uncommon? Against the laws of nature? Artificial? Dysteleological? Morally bad/Evil? • Avoiding equivocation. Unsoundness.
Devlin & the Disintegration Thesis • “Societies disintegrate from within more frequently than they are broken up by external pressures. There is disintegration when no common morality is observed and history shows that the loosening of moral bonds is often the first stage of disintegration, so that society is justified in taking the same steps to preserve its moral code as it does to preserve its government…. The suppression of vice is as much the law’s business as the suppression of subversive activities” (Devlin). • Liberalism and the distinction b/w public and private spheres. • HLA Hart’s response: • Where’s the empirical evidence of societal disintegration? • Are all changes disintegrations? • Are all changes necessarily for the worse? • Devlin and the “ordinary man.” Tyranny of the majority again.