(See Russell Vannoy's spirited defense of the value of sexual activity for its own sake, in .) Irving Singer is a contemporary philosopher of sexuality who expresses well one form of metaphysical optimism: "For though sexual interest resembles an appetite in some respects, it differs from hunger or thirst in being an sensitivity, one that enables us to delight in the mind and character of other persons as well as in their flesh. Note that if a specific type of sexual act is morally wrong (say, homosexual fellatio), then every instance of that type of act will be morally wrong.Though at times people may be used as sexual objects and cast aside once their utility has been exhausted, this is no[t] . However, from the fact that the particular sexual act we are now doing or contemplate doing is morally wrong, it does not follow that any specific type of act is morally wrong; the sexual act that we are contemplating might be wrong for lots of different reasons having nothing to do with the type of sexual act that it is.
They view human sexuality as just another and mostly innocuous dimension of our existence as embodied or animal-like creatures; they judge that sexuality, which in some measure has been given to us by evolution, cannot but be conducive to our well-being without detracting from our intellectual propensities; and they praise rather than fear the power of an impulse that can lift us to various high forms of happiness. Taken by itself it is a degradation of human nature" (, p. Certain types of manipulation and deception seem required prior to engaging in sex with another person, or are so common as to appear part of the nature of the sexual experience.
The particular sort of metaphysics of sex one believes will influence one's subsequent judgments about the value and role of sexuality in the good or virtuous life and about what sexual activities are morally wrong and which ones are morally permissible. An extended version of metaphysical pessimism might make the following claims: In virtue of the nature of sexual desire, a person who sexually desires another person objectifies that other person, both before and during sexual activity. As Bernard Baumrim makes the point, "sexual interaction is essentially manipulative—physically, psychologically, emotionally, and even intellectually" ("Sexual Immorality Delineated," p. We go out of our way, for example, to make ourselves look more attractive and desirable to the other person than we really are, and we go to great lengths to conceal our defects. [O]nly her sex is the object of his desires" (Kant, , p. Further, the sexual act itself is peculiar, with its uncontrollable arousal, involuntary jerkings, and its yearning to master and consume the other person's body.
The one who desires depends on the whims of another person to gain satisfaction, and becomes as a result a jellyfish, susceptible to the demands and manipulations of the other: "In desire you are compromised in the eyes of the object of desire, since you have displayed that you have designs which are vulnerable to his intentions" (Roger Scruton, , p. A person who proposes an irresistible sexual offer to another person may be exploiting someone made weak by sexual desire (see Virginia Held, "Coercion and Coercive Offers," p. Moreover, a person who gives in to another's sexual desire makes a tool of himself or herself. a man wishes to satisfy his desire, and a woman hers, they stimulate each other's desire; their inclinations meet, but their object is not human nature but sex, and each of them dishonours the human nature of the other.
"For the natural use that one sex makes of the other's sexual organs is , p. Those engaged in sexual activity make themselves willingly into objects for each other merely for the sake of sexual pleasure. They make of humanity an instrument for the satisfaction of their lusts and inclinations, and dishonour it by placing it on a level with animal nature" (Kant, , p. Finally, due to the insistent nature of the sexual impulse, once things get going it is often hard to stop them in their tracks, and as a result we often end up doing things sexually that we had never planned or wanted to do. See also Jean Hampton, "Defining Wrong and Defining Rape").
An analogy will clarify the difference between morally evaluating something as good or bad and nonmorally evaluating it as good or bad.