I haven't seen a discussion post on sex, yet. What are your thoughts, as non-religious, on human sexuality? We are animals and are connected to all living things by sex. However, sex is one of the most shameful and loaded topics among many religions. Who decides what sexual inclinations are "wrong"? "Normal"? How do you view pornography? Incest? Homosexuality? Polygamy?

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There is an entire thread devoted to terms for masturbation. You may enjoy it (the thread).
My feeling is that what happens between consenting adults it is none of my business. In a relationship it is something that the partners should decide together. Sex is natural, sex is fun, sex is best when it's consensual; or something like that.
The one place I would slightly vary this is teenagers. They are not technically adults, nor are they still children, so I would put them in a separate class. Sex with peers (provided condoms are part of the program) is fine with me, but when one participant is an adult, I question it. Fear of sex too often puts kids in a position where they believe they are doing what they want but an older adult is using their age and insecurities to his or her advantage.
As Georg Lopez once said, "Life is too short not to have an orgasm everyday".
Like all morality, such labels are meaningless. Right and wrong are illusions that when examined closely enough, have no foundation in reality. So I can't "judge" various forms of sex as far as morality. To me it's like judging the morality of a green house versus a red one. Or masturbating with your right hand, or your gloved, numb left one.
It seems like pretty much every conceivable form of guilt over normal sexual behavior stems from religious taboos and prohibitions. (See the end of my comment for what I mean by "normal"). The biological impulses to have sex don't need to be detailed here. What separates humans from all other animals is that we are able to contemplate our sexuality and our sexual behavior, and that we can be more creative sexually than any other animal I can think of. We are, like all other animals, intrinsically sexually driven. Since our larger brains give us the capacity to get creative with sex, and since what turns one person on may positively repel and disgust another, I think THAT'S where religion (like in so many other aspects of life with regard to human freedom) becomes a problem. Religion is, of course, an excuse to prohibit and condemn all sorts of behavior. And because most of us are instilled with a certain set of religious and moral assumptions from an early age about, among other things, sex, those hangups and inhibitions and sense of taboo stick with us well into our adulthood. Who knows where many of these ancient religious taboos come from? If homosexuality is mentioned in a book as old as Leviticus, we can be almost certain that a prejudice against homosexuality predates even that book by thousands of years. And that prejudice is just about as valid as the biblical prejudice against our porcine friends.

With regard to some of the other questions raised in this topic (incest, polygamy, pornography), I think the same standards I detail below should apply. In some cultures, incest is acceptable. Even in American culture, which generally frowns upon incest (at least brother-sister, etc), it's not uncommon for second and sometimes even first cousins to marry (and it seems that the risk for genetic problems, often cited as a concern, is generally pretty low). Polygamy? Hey, if it's not coercive, and if you can convince multiple spouses (above the age of consent, of course) to freely accept the arrangement, why not? These two seem to be bigger taboos in our culture, which leads me to the one that's more of a gray moral area for many--porn. Pornography? Again, if it turns you on, and it doesn't involve kids or actual rape or coersion, why not? If, as some nebulously claim, pornography does some kind of damage to the beholder, that's still not a good enough reason to legislate against it. We are, after all, free to help our hurt our own bodies and minds as we choose (in theory, anyway). I've enjoyed hundreds of hours of porn myself and I don't have an ounce of misogyny or a single abusive, unhealthy or negative thought or impulse towards women in my body, nor do I see them in a one-dimensional, sex-object, utilitarian way. Watching porn doesn't prevent me from perceiving my girlfriend as anything other than the human being that she is. I'm only one person, but I don't buy that silly claim that porn promotes misogyny. If you're a sex addict and your enjoyment of pornography interferes with your ability to have a healthy relationship with your significant other, that's an issue of addictive and compulsive behavior--not an indicator that porn is intrinsically addictive (but is sure is fun, haha).
That's my take.
Oh, what's "normal"? Well, that's a loaded term, and what's normal for one person may be weird for another. By "normal sexual behavior", I'm speaking broadly about sexual behavior that meets some of the following criteria that most of us would probably agree to be a sound RATIONAL definition of "normal sexual behavior", where "normal" only means that the elements of abuse and force/coersion are not present and that ONLY the element of mutual and free consent IS present, where all parties are fully able to give free consent; in other words, consensual, non-coercive sexual activity between two (or more) adults (irrespective of gender). (I suppose this should also include minors who are consenting with other minors, because when I look back on when I was 15 and having sex with my girlfriend who at the time was ALSO 15-years old, I don't think anything evil or wrong was being done). This by definition excludes rape, pederasty/sexual activity between adults and minors, statutory rape--and, additionally (IMHO), humans and animals (animals don't really get a chance to consent), the living and the dead (call me a prude) and anything that involves coercion or deception.
Anyway, in defining "normal" in the negative--ie what "normal" is NOT (rape, pedophilia, necrophilia, etc), I'm also stating that for any consenting adult who's able to think for themselves, ANYTHING else should be considered fair game. Heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, bondage, any of the myriad fetishes, role-playing, as well as some activities that many of us might find unusual or repulsive--as long as kids aren't involved, as long as all parties involved are willing--well then, if it makes them happy, then I'm all for it.
It all comes back to the idea of thinking and acting freely, doesn't it?
The major Western religions' attitudes towards sex is a mixed bag.

There was once an institution in many of the pagan religions that Judaism and Christianity replaced known as temple prostitution: young men and women would be required to sell their sexual favors at a section at the back the temple complex that served as a brothel, and turn the proceeds over to the priesthood, until they'd fulfilled their obligation.

Also, when the Jews and early Christians surveyed the wickedness of the Roman Empire, as well as the killing and torture presented as entertainment, they also objected to spectacle rape; of both adults and children, by humans and animals.

So you can see their point: sex was out of control back then, and they saw the Church as an instrument of keeping the beast in its cage (in the literal and figurative).

But of course, they took it too far, and found the ecstasy of the orgasm to be a threat to the state of mind they wanted good worshipers to be in. Authoritarianism is always clothed in the garb of "this is just for your own good!"

Of course, this comes down to the old "morals vs. ethics" argument that atheists have always had with the faithful. Society lacks time and resources for everyone to develop his or her own ethics in a safe environment (or the willingness to provide them), so it imposes morality from above.

But to not simply preach to the anti-authoritarian choir and open up the issue to wider debate: do we need laws to prevent rape? If it were suddenly made legal, I can't imagine it changing my behavior or the behavior of the same number of men who aren't already rapists. (and please don't cite that old slogan "rape is violence using sex, not sex using violence," unless you can cite the psychological studies to back it up.)
Sex is hardly anything that can be considered "shameful"... unless of course you are ashamed of WHO you had sex with.

If you are in a partnership, that partnership is usually based on trust. In that case, it's a matter of trust and honor that you don't sleep with anyone else.

However, there are trust based relationships out there which involve more than two people in the party... this is not up to people outside of the relationship to judge on. They are more than entitled to their own lifestyle... and anyone who wishes to judge such a relationship needs to first look at themselves for judgment before casting judgment on anyone else.

All in all, so long as it's not hurting anyone, love in any form is A - OK!

Anyone who pushes an idealism that states that someone else's love is not acceptable is simply wrong.
And anyone who believes in a "god" that states that a form of love is wrong, is clearly not worshiping a god at all.

Determination of which love is "Correct" is simply a belief in absolutes... and anyone who believes in absolutes is a fascist and ultimately cannot be trusted... ever.

I don't care how much they tote their religion as being peaceful... if you believe that there is a fine line between right and wrong... YOU are WRONG.
"Determination of which love is "Correct" is simply a belief in absolutes... and anyone who believes in absolutes is a fascist and ultimately cannot be trusted... ever."

What if that love is between an adult and a child? And by love, do you mean sex, too?
As long as the majority of society believes that sexual behavior between adults and minor is criminal we should continue to prosecute theses individuals. Perhaps some leeway should be added in cases where the adult and child are similar in age and development, but that bridge hasn't been crossed yet.
I think ultimately it's a matter of victimization. A child cannot decide for themselves whether or not sex is a healthy choice, and could easily be coerced by an adult into making an unsafe and unhealthy decision. If I'm wrong, then perhaps we as a society should change the age when we consider one an adult. I personally am sickened by the idea of men and women in their 30s targeting young teens(under eighteen) as sexual targets, but I'm not saying it's wrong for everyone.

That being said, society must take some responsibility, considering the average model is between 13 and 17, and adds showing off their sexuality are constantly bombarding us every time we pick up a magazine or turn on a TV.

These of course are all discussions for consequential sex partners, so I guess I'm not sure I believe that someone who is under 16 is capable of rendering consent on a real level.
I'm not sure whether this is a thread for deep thought or just opinion; since it's in the philosophy section, one might suppose the former, but not wishing to spend a whole lot of time on this right now, let me instead give a fairly brief synopsis of my opinions.

Sex should not be shameful. Warmth, love, sex, and affection are good things. Naturally, one is speaking of sex between consenting adults, of whatever number or variety do the consenting.

Similarly, relationship-structures of all sorts should be permitted among consenting adults--male-female, male-male, female-female, polygamy, polyamory, swinging, BDSM, and whatever I've missed. (Government should get out of the business of sanctioning marriage.)

Pornography, as long as its production does not involve child abuse or some other form of abuse, should be permitted. The argument that it exploits and debases women might seem less laughable if (a) there weren't male pornography and (b) nobody had to be a shoestore clerk or mine worker to make a living.

Incest should be permitted, as long as it is between consenting adults and as long as its participants are not producing children. Once genetic screening reaches a sufficiently advanced state, that second qualification won't be necessary, but for now, it is, if we're to avoid the Hapsburg jaw and suchlike.

In an overpopulated world, it might be a good idea to *encourage* homosexuality!

Polygamy: Parents say to their oldest child when they have a second, "My love doesn't divide--it multiplies!" Why not do the same with adults? (I would far rather my partner found someone else to share love with than left me before doing so. I understand choosing to add loved ones to your life; choosing to subtract them is harder to relate to, assuming we're not dealing with mass murderers or the like.)

One of religion's clearest and most easily-attacked problems is with its attitude toward sex and sexuality, and one of the hardest points to make to believers is why that attitude is wrong. I believe in "Love they neighbor"; I do not believe in unnecessarily restricting human beings' freedom when they aren't hurting anybody else.
Either opinion or deep-thought. However, I was aiming at a thread on the ambiguous ethics and morality of making value judgments on sexual relationships, but at some point it is impossible to avoid value judgments.
Well, to begin with, I take it to be a fundamental principle of ethics that human beings should be maximally free to pursue the satisfaction of their needs and desires in whatever ways they see fit, as long as they are not harming others or unduly interfering with others' pursuits of their ends. Some of my philosophy of sex and relationships is simply an application of that.

In addition, I personally value relationships, and I personally think of love and of being loving as good, and I find it difficult to understand social strictures that restrict people from being loving toward persons of the same sex or toward more than one adult person at a time. There might very well be practical difficulties involved with some relationships that others wouldn't have, but their prevention by moral or legal codes strikes me as wrong.
Heck, the only sexual acts I would consider immoral are incest (and pedophilia, of course) and bestiality. Everything else is okay for consenting people. That simple. I may find some unappealing but that is simply on a personal level.
Sexual acts don't imply reproduction. As long as you make the distinction clear, you have no rational basis to condemn non-reproductive consensual incest as immoral.




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