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Benatar on the ‘Casual View’ of Sex

Option #2: Benatar on the ‘Casual View’ of Sex
The second option takes up the following passage from Benatar:

Here it might be objected that although a child may sometimes appear to be a willing participant in sexual conduct with an adult, it is impossible for a child to give genuine consent to sexual activity. For this reason, it might be argued, it is always wrong to engage in sexual relations with a child. Now, while this claim is entirely plausible on the significance view of sexual ethics, one is hard-pressed to explain how it is compatible with the casual view. What is it about sex, so understood, that a child is unable to consent to it? On this view, sex need carry no special significance and thus there is nothing that a child needs to understand in order to enter into a permissible sexual encounter. In response, it might be suggested that what a child needs to understand are the possible health risks associated with (casual) sex. That response, however, will not suffice to rule out all that those opposed to pedophilia wish to rule out. First, some sexual activities most especially the noninvasive ones do not carry significant health risks. Second, where children themselves are not thought competent to evaluate the risks of an activity, it is usually thought that a parent or guardian may, within certain risk limits, make the assessment on the childs behalf. Thus a parent may decide to give a child a taste of alcohol, allow a child to read certain kinds of books, or permit a child to participate in a sport that carries risks. If sex need be no more significant than other such activities, it is hard to see why its risks (especially when, as a result of safe sex, these are relatively small) and not those of the other activities (even when the latter are greater) constitute grounds for categorically excluding children and invalidating the consent which they or their parents give.

Step 1:     

Benatar argues that proponents of the casual view of sex do not have a principled reason for condemning pedophilia in the harshest terms while taking promiscuous sex to be morally fine. Explain the argument Benatar makes in this passage in your own words. To set up this explanation, it will be important for you to explain Benatars definition of the casual view of sex, and the main problem he takes the casual view to face.

Extra directions: Be careful articulating Benatars position. He is not making an argument in favor of pedophilia, or that pedophilia is morally okay. Rather, he is arguing that proponents of the casual view of sex do not have a principled reason for condemning pedophilia in the harshest terms while taking promiscuous sex to be morally fine.

Benatar does not himself endorse either the casual view or the significance view of sex. His purpose is to test how well these views can account for common intuitions about sex, including the intuitions that promiscuous sex is basically fine, but there is something specially morally wrong about rape and pedophilia.

Step 2:   

In defense of the casual view, raise an objection to Benatars argument. (This may involve answering the question raised in the middle of the passage: What is it about sex, so understood, that a child is unable to consent to it?)

Extra directions: Since you are defending the casual view, you will need to stick to the basic commitments of that view, such as that sex involves a pleasure that is much like other pleasures. You should avoid raising an objection that draws upon the significance view of sex instead, such as the idea that sex should express loving or liking the other.

Remember to argue for the objection you raise. It is likely your objection will include ideas about sex, consent, and childhood that need to be spelled out and supported. What reasons could you give another to show her that she should agree with what you are saying?

Step 3:   

Consider a possible response to your objection. If Benatar discusses a point similar to the one you have made, you should address what he has to say. If you have raised an objection he doesnt consider, try to think of a possible reply on his behalf.

Extra directions: Benatars main claim is that it will be difficult for the casual view to explain what is specially wrong about pedophilia while consistently maintaining there is nothing wrong with promiscuity. If you are struggling to find a possible reply to your objection, you can always consider: does my argument give grounds for condemning promiscuity as well?

Note on Plagiarism: DONT DO IT.
All you need for this assignment is Benatars text and your brain. There is no need to look at anything else (this is a thinking paper, not a research paper the point of it is to think for yourself, not just show how well you can explain other peoples ideas). However, if you do look for help online, you absolutely must provide a reference to the source of any ideas you use, be it a blog, academic paper, whatever. If you find it helpful to refer to other readings for the course, you must reference those as well.

Note too that it is not enough to make something your own to simply change a few words here or there, or write a very close paraphrase. If you use the exact words another person has written, you must indicate this by putting those words in quotation marks and providing a page reference.

These rules apply to my handouts as well.

You can use either MLA or Chicago style for referencing, both have guides you can look up online.


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