Why Sexual Desire Is Morally Wrong

The great philosopher Immanuel Kant who lived during the 18th Century felt that the tendency of humans was to be evil. Specifically he believed that human beings were prone to do the things we desire to do rather than the things we should do. In essence, we really want to give in to the siren songs of our desires. Kant saw morality as the force that is supposed to close the gap between what we want to do and what we should do. 

Connecting Desire and Sex

After desire pops into the picture, sex is always close by. Kant was quick to point out the strong power that comes from sexual urges and the ability they have to prevent us from doing the proper things. He believe that sex was especially morally condemnable, as feelings of lust focus strictly on the body, and not the minds of the ones we desire sexually – thus, they are reduced to mere objects. And it will cause us to view these objects of our longings as merely things. Thus, these objects are reduced to being tools of our selfish gratification.

Reducing People to Objects

In can mean several things whenever we treating people as objects. This includes when we beat them, when we verbally abuse them, and when we violate them. However, there even less violent ways that we can objectify others. For instance, we could choose to treat another person as simply a way to fulfill our own perverted sexual pleasures, thus we are satisfying our lust upon that person. And the fact that this other individual consents will not necessarily eliminate this objectification since two people can mutually agree to use each other purely sexual pleasure.

But many people believe that we are using one another every day under these criteria. Since most of us are providing services to others as we work our jobs – aren’t those who are receiving the services objectifying us? Under the Kant beliefs and philosophies, there types of relationships are not really provoking the exact same moral qualms. It is believed that either are not involving objectification, or these objectifications are neutered somehow.

Kant felt that scenarios like this were not a real problem. He has drawn a distinction between merely using someone – which is the very basis of objectification – and instances that rise about mere use. Even though we employ others to do jobs for us, and we accept payments for the work we do, this is not treating the other person as merely a tool; we are still recognizing the humanity of that person.  

Sex is viewed differently. If I employ a carpenter to build cabinets, according to Kant, I desire his talent. But whenever I desire another person sexually, I am desiring their body and not their talents or their intellectual capabilities, even though these could actually intensify the feelings of desire. Whenever we desire the body of another, we are often focusing on the parts of their body during sex: their buttocks, their penis, their clitoris, their thighs, their lips, etc. And the things we might desire to do with these body parts may differ from one person to the next.

Some may prefer to fondle them with their hands, others may want to so with their lips, others might want to use their tongues; and others may just want to look.