Archive for April, 2010

Selfishness in Relationships

by Ifat Glassman

It is a common view that the interests of two people involved in a relationship collide. To take a romantic relationship as the leading example: She likes Ballet, he likes baseball, nobody likes to do the dishes – therefore many times, one has to sacrifice and suffer while the other enjoys. The relationship, therefore, by this view, necessarily has internal battles, and selfishness is a threat to the relationship – something that pulls away from the “together” and builds a wall.

The exact opposite is true, when “selfishness” is understood correctly.

To explain what I mean, let’s take the common notion of “selfishness” to its extreme: The ultimate selfish person would be the one who could make his girlfriend into a slave. She will cook for him, massage his feet, clean his apartment, and if needed, open beer bottles for him with her teeth.

Most people will not dispute that this is the ultimate selfish person – concerned with nothing but his own “ass”. The other end of this idea of “selfishness” is the sucker – the woman from this example, who never gets what she wants and is always busy pleasing her man. One thing that’s obvious about this allegedly selfish person is that he acts to satisfy his immediate needs. But this is not the essence of selfishness.

To explain why, let’s consider a whole different type of a relationship: a relationship where each one enjoys making the other person happy and cares about their partner’s well being.

In action, this means occasionally spending hard-earned money buying presents for the partner, giving them massage when they’re tired, making food for them when the time and mood is right and giving them support and encouragement in their career.

Are they “suckers” or “selfless” for doing such things for their partner? Similarly, is a mother taking care of her kids, paying for their college, instead of training them to be house slaves – a sucker, who is not concerned with her own well being?

It is precisely their happiness and well being that the person from my example (and the mother) is motivated by, while the so called “egoist” I first discussed is not concerned with happiness at all – especially not in the context of the relationship. One cannot seek happiness in a relationship with someone one tries to enslave. And a person who prefers a beer over a happy relationship with his girlfriend (or boyfriend) is not concerned with his enjoyment. He does act to satisfy his immediate wants, but he does not seek the best possible for himself in life.

The person who seeks the best for himself, tries to find ways to get out of a swamp – instead of occasionally scratching his bottoms when the swamp water irritate it. He does not adjust or accept the swampy in his life – he acts to change it.

Investing in those one loves gives tremendous value. It is ultimately one’s “ass” that one looks after when investing effort in supporting a loved one. The smile on their face gives pleasure, their good mood is fun to be around and their psychological and physical well being is required to enjoy their company.

The other type, who cares best for his beer (to choose a random example) is looking, at best, for some sort of comfort from how much his life suck, but it is not enjoyment or happiness that he seeks in the relationship.

To use an example to make this even clearer: If a person grows a plant, and spends time nurturing it – is he a selfless sucker, or is he acting selfishly? After all, he is working for the benefit of the plant. Wouldn’t he be selfish to say “the hell with it, I’m not going to enslave myself for the good of a plant”?

It is easy to see that this thinking is ridiculous – a person nurturing a plant is doing it to enjoy it (for the fruit or the aesthetic value). The fact that it benefits the plant is irrelevant.
Same thing is true if you replace the plant with a human being.

Investing in your partner is ultimately investing in your own happiness. It is part of acting to make your life happy – and because of that it is selfish.

Does this mean that meeting your partner’s every requirement is always centered around one’s well being? No. Investing in someone else as means to one’s own enjoyment depends on one’s mood, tasks for the day, personal interests, etc’.

For example, if you are so bored with ballet, that if you go with your girlfriend to see it, even though her mood might be good afterwards, yours will be so low, you won’t be able to enjoy her company at all – obviously in this situation it is not selfish to go see the ballet show with her. But, to give another example: if your time is free, you don’t mind or like cooking, and your partner comes home exhausted and hungry – it increases your enjoyment to cook something for them and it is therefore selfish.

About doing the dishes – assume two people living together, both equally busy, both finding the task annoying. Is it selfish to try to make the other person do it? Essentially, is it selfish to act unjustly to your partner to get away with doing dishes?

It is not selfish for a few reasons: One is that you will be damaging your relationship – nobody likes to be treated like a slave – it is a certain romance killer. To prefer avoiding dishes over a happy relationship is not pursuing happiness, but the opposite. And the second reason is that being just to other people is a requirement of self-esteem (but I won’t get into it now). It is in both the partner’s interest to reach some just agreement to handle dishes in this case. Their interests do not collide when both of them have their best self-interest in mind.

To further expand this understanding, consider the case of a battlefield: Is it selfish to stay in your hole, never sticking your neck out to shoot an enemy or help your fellow soldiers? No, it’s stupid. Your fellow soldiers alive and well means more firepower. Cooperating with your fellow soldiers (such as providing backup) means you act in the most efficient way to defeat the enemy thus securing your own survival. The guy sitting in his hole doing nothing is escaping the reality of the situation – not acting to support his life.
What will he do once all his other teammates are dead? His death will follow too. Cooperation with his team is required for his survival.

Does this mean you should do nothing but provide backup for your teammates? Obviously, this would be putting other people’s life above your own. The soldier in this situation has to primarily look out for his own well being, which in turn requires cooperation with the others, and helping them to the extent it serves one’s cause (in this case, survival).

In summary – the selfish person seeks happiness in life – and nurturing a person he loves is an extension of that. Selfishness is therefore a requirement for a good relationship – not a wedge.

The interests of two such people in a relationship do not collide so long as they do not ignore reality.

And the common view of selfishness is completely wrong – reversing the meaning of self-interest by presenting laziness and exploitation as selfish behavior, when in fact just cooperation with people is selfish.

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Notice

by Jason Stotts

Due to a death in the family, I will be publishing few, if any, essays in the next two weeks or so.

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Russia Going Laissez-Faire?

by Jason Stotts

In a surprising move, Russia is poised to become freer than the now ironic “land of the free.”  The Moscow Times, in their piece “Russia Takes Anti-Socialist Approach to Healthcare,”  is reporting that: “While Washington plans to pump unprecedented sums into what critics call a government takeover of health care, Moscow is moving in the opposite direction by backing legislation that could force hospitals and other public institutions to go commercial or close.”

The article goes on to note: “Opponents said they found it ironic that Russia was adopting the bill at a time when the United States, its capitalist foe during the Cold War, was increasing the government’s presence in health care.”  Really, only the opponents found it ironic?  Personally, I find it ironic as well, but I’m glad for Russia and her people who have been without freedom for so long.

I mean really, the United States has never had worse enemies than its recent presidents.

I propose that we denounce both the socialist party and theocratic party and that we start a Freedom party  that will advocate for both economic and social freedom.

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Defend South Park!

by Jason Stotts

I am a big fan of South Park and have been since I started watching the show, over a decade ago. Unfortunately, now, the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, have had an informal fatwa issued against them by muslims.  While it’s not an “official threat,” I side with Ayaan Hirsi Ali (author of Infidel) when she says: “So how worried should the creators of ‘South Park’ be about the ‘marginal figures’ who now threaten them? Very. In essence, Mr. Amrikee’s posting is an informal fatwa.”  (WSJ).  I recommend reading her whole article, but her major point is that we need to defend Matt and Trey if we want to defend freedom itself and the principles of a free society.

I urge everyone to repost the pictures of the Danish cartoonists on their blogs or facebook and to lend their support to Matt and Trey.

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(Disclaimer, if you click the Amazon link and purchase Infidel, I’ll make some small amount of money.)

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Draw Mohammed Day

by Jason Stotts

I’ve only recently found out about Dan Savage and his “Savage Love” column and podcast.  So far, I’ve been impressed with his direct and honest advice to people and his willingness to tackle even complicated issues. However, his sex advice is not the subject here.

In response to the Islamic threats against Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, for almost depicting mohammed, Dan Savage is organizing an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” for May 20th.  If you care about free speech, the American way of life, and freedom generally, then you will defend Matt and Trey and draw your own version of mohammed.

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Sexual Perfection Outline

by Jason Stotts

The general outline for my book-in-progess, Sexual Perfection: Foundations of a New Sexual Ethic, is now available here on Erosophia.  You can either navigate to it using the bar above “Sexual Perfection” > “Outline” or go directly to it at http://jasonstotts.com/sexualperfection/outline/.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting the general overview of the book itself as well as chapter overviews.  Until then, if you would like to make any suggestions or comments about the outline, feel free to do it on this post as I’m not allowing comments on the outline page itself.

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An Interview with Swingers

by Jason Stotts

This is a compilation of an interview I did with friends of mine who are swingers. The interview originally appeared on the old Erosophia in two parts, separated by about 2 months or so.  In the second interview, my friends adopted the names Wendy and Stan to make it clearer who they were talking about.  These are, obviously, not their real names.

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Part 1

1. For those who don´t know, how would you explain what a swinger is?

This is still debated in the swinger community, but to us a swinger is a person in a relationship, committed or otherwise, who consensually shares sexual experiences with people outside of the relationship. This can be watching others have sex, being watched while having sex, allowing one partner to have sex outside of the relationship, or full exchange of partners. There are many categories of swingers, but in general it would be the active sharing of each other with others outside of the relationship.

2. Why do they call swinging the “lifestyle”?

We would say that the “lifestyle” incorporates more than just swingers. Swingers participate in the “lifestyle” by sharing their partners, while individuals can participate in the lifestyle by playing with couples or groups. In general, the lifestyle refers to the free exchange of sexual favors without normal societal restrictions, as a way of life. Those that consider themselves to be in the “lifestyle” typically do not experience significant jealousy and in fact take great pleasure from watching their partner enjoy sexual experiences, much like you would enjoy watching your partner laugh at a joke or savor a nice dinner.

3. Is swinging the same thing as being in an open relationship?

Open relationships are not necessarily swinging, but it can be in some circumstances. Open relationships are often more decoupled from a sexual perspective than swinging ones. In an open relationship the partners may not know, care, or want to be involved in the other partner’s sexual escapades and may involve essentially serially monogamous sexual encounters. In the swinging version, both partners tend to be fully aware and excited about the sexual activities with the preponderance of activities happening with both parties involved.

4. What motivated you to become swingers?

Carnal drives for the most part. She wanted to explore her bi-curiosity and he has always wanted to see two women together. Once we broached the subject it was simply a matter of seeking it out. Our lifestyle has expanded beyond just threesomes, but that was the initial desire.

5. How easy is it for a couple interested in swinging to join the lifestyle?

If you are motivated and resourceful, not hard. The internet has many lifestyle resources which can connect you with other swingers in your area, swinger clubs, and social groups organized around any facet of the lifestyle. Then, of course, there is Craigslist but caveat emptor.

6. Is the swinging community welcoming?

Like any social group, it can be both very welcoming and very guarded. People are trusting you with often deeply hidden parts of their lives, so on occasion they may be distant until they are sure of you. However, many social groups and clubs offer very welcoming environments where socialization is far more free than any bar or night club, people are all there for more or less the same reason and much of the pretense is removed.

7. What do swingers do at gatherings? Is it more of a party atmosphere where people are gathered to have a good time and sometimes have sex or is it more focused on the sex and less on the atmosphere?

This is entirely dependent on the specific situation. You can find parties where 10 men stand around and have repeated sex with one women. Yes, that really does happen and is easy to find. You can also find dinner parties or normal “vanilla” clubs where you simply get to know others in the lifestyle and have a good time with like minded people. There are all shades between.

8. How prevalent is homosexuality in the swinger community? Is the swinging community open to this?

Homosexuality is not just accepted but generally strongly encouraged… in women. We have found it to be a very rare circumstance where homosexual or bisexual men are accepted. In truth, bisexual females are extremely common in the lifestyle while bisexual men, or at least admittedly bisexual men, are extremely rare and often ostracized.

9. Are swingers sexually adventurous in ways besides simply having different partners or is changing partners the extent of swinging?

This is entirely individual and not directly a function of swinging. While swingers do get exposed to more techniques and ideas than vanilla couples, some choose to stay with basic positions while others can become very diverse. It is about as much of a gateway to depravity as “pot” is to more serious drugs. If you are predisposed it may get you started, but it is not causal in you becoming skilled or adventurous.

10. Do people in the lifestyle tend to always meet up with the same couples or are random encounters more common?

There is no trend on this. Some people only go to parties and rarely play while some go to parties and play with a different couple every time. Often swingers can form real relationships outside of the bedroom with playmates and yet it is just as common to meet once and never speak again.

11. In your experience, how common are problems with jealousy in couples?

It is uncommon, but not unheard of. Jealous couples will generally be forced to leave the lifestyle eventually and as such, most couples tend to be very secure.

12. What about deception between partners? How do swingers handle these problems that are so ubiquitous even in regular relationships?

It is generally believed that swingers have less deceptive relationships, due to the fact that one of the largest causes for deceit is removed. Though, this implies that you would have reason to cheat or otherwise violate your partners trust in a monogamous relationship. We can only speak about our personal experience and we simply have no reason to lie to one another, particularly about sexual issues. It is important to point out that swinging does not make you more honest with one another, but it can help build more trust and openness if it is part of your character to develop that. We have seen deceit in the lifestyle and it always saddens us because it makes no logical sense, though the exact same thing can be said of vanilla relationships.

13. How do swingers deal with problems of insecurity and comparison between breast size, penis size, overall attractiveness, etc?

How do vanillas deal with problems where others are funnier, cuter, more fun, more interesting, or more exciting? Hopefully they enjoy the things others have to offer rather than dwelling on arbitrary comparisons. The world is simply more enjoyable if you experience what it has to offer and exalt in the enjoyment of your partner. Insecurity is certainly a concern for any relationship and if you offer your partner too little to keep their love or attention, swinging is the least of your concerns. If you love each other and love sharing experiences then swinging is simply another avenue of exploration to help bond you, not tear you apart.

14. Will you describe how swinging has affected your relationship?

For us it is very much something that brings us together like stamp collecting might for some people, though far more kinky, but possibly as sticky. It is a hobby, it does not define us, but we love the people we meet and the experiences we create.

15. What is the most negative experience you’ve had with swinging?

We have had to turn down people who were interested in us, but we could not reciprocate. Sometimes this leads to bad feelings, though we try to minimize this and it often gets better with time. The swinging community can be amazingly small even in large cities, so we often see people we have rejected at swinging functions and some choose to make it clear they harbor negative feelings towards us.

16. What is the most positive experience you’ve had with swinging?

Amazingly beautiful and erotic scenes that we would need a DVD box set to show you. Emotionally we are closer than ever, and our sex life between the two of us has improved (not that we had any complaints before we started). It is a lot like watching porn with your partner, but more involved and erotic. Some of the best sex we’ve had has been after a night at a club flirting or playing with other people.

17. Do you have any advice for people considering the lifestyle?

Never coerce your partner. If they want to do it they should be enthusiastic. Reluctance and apprehension are okay, but the desire needs to be there. Sex is easy, emotions are the part that can be complicated.

18. Do you have any final thoughts on swinging?

We have a lot of thoughts on swinging, but it is hard to answer such a broad question. We would encourage more questions from all of you, and are not shy about sharing more intimate details.

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Part 2

1. How often do you see jealousy in couples that swing? Do you see significant variance?

First, we’d like to clarify exactly what is meant when we say jealousy, and consider the motivations behind it. From Wikipedia:

Jealousy is an emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, such as a relationship, friendship, or love. Jealousy often consists of a combination of emotions such as anger, sadness, and disgust.

Before we comment on the specifics of your question, we would like to address the issue of jealousy directly. Let’s consider a few common issues that a vanilla might think would cause jealousy. For a woman she might be jealous of another woman’s larger breasts, flatter stomach, for being younger, or perhaps for having a prettier face. A man might get jealous of another man for being more fit, having a larger penis, being a larger man in general, or having all of his own hair. Either partner might be concerned about their swinging counterparts being more interesting, more skilled, more fun, or longer lasting. All of these issues stem directly from insecurity and the fear that ones partner will look at them as less than they were before having interacted with their playmates, that in fact they will lose a piece if not the whole of their bond with their own partner. We would argue that, if these are issues for you, then certainly swinging is not for you. In fact, if jealousy is a concern in any relationship, swinging aside, you need to look deeply into your own insecurities. We would also encourage you to look at yourself and think if that train of thought is rational and/or beneficial to you. If you look at your partner and think, “They will love me less because they had sex with someone who is better than me in some way,” is your relationship secure in the first place? Believe us when we say, a valuable and deep conversation over beers at the local pub can be MUCH more challenging to a relationship than a sexual interchange that ends in the bedroom.

To follow, we would like to propose another way to look at these challenges. So far as sex is an entertaining and pleasurable recreation it is totally possible to not only accept but to exalt in the enjoyment that your partner derives from it. If you truly trust each other and you are secure in yourself there can be no cause for jealousy, but in fact there can be much cause to improve your trust and intimacy. We want to make it clear: this is not an activity for everyone. If sexual exploration of this type is not important to both of you, we are not trying to imply that this will bring you closer. If you are secure with yourselves, have complete trust in your partner, and have an interest in exploring sexual frontiers together then swinging can give you experiences to share and bind you even closer.

Now to answer your question, on rare occasions, say maybe 1 in 5 couples, we do see some jealousy, usually when the female is worried about other more attractive playmates. Honestly though, that rarely stops people and it often wears off once people talk and start to enjoy each other’s company. What we see more often is swinging couples becoming jealous of each other when they compete for the attention of an attractive or otherwise desirable couple. This we see almost every time we go to a large lifestyle party. This always boggles our minds and seems to indicate a lot of immaturity in those that act that way. Swingers come from all walks of life and some are more enlightened than others. We just wanted to make you aware of this interesting paradox that we have observed.

2. Do couples tend to be jealous at first and overcome it?

We can’t speak for other couples, but we think apprehension is very normal. Who knows exactly how you will react until you actually do it? Now, for us, there was a little but it evaporated quickly. Our first experience was with a man with a very large penis. This by itself was not an issue, but he made Wendy squirt for the first time that Stan had seen. This hit a sore spot because Stan had been trying hard to make this happen and it hurt to have someone inexperienced with Wendy do it just because he had a large penis. We discussed the concern and Stan quickly came to realize that our sex-life was still great, and when he reflected on how much pleasure she got to experience, that became the dominant thought in his mind.

Most couples have more or less addressed the jealousy issue before their first encounter, or at least they would be wise to have. The reality can catch you off guard and then you have to challenge your experience and emotions. It is very common for couples to have rules like; no kissing on the mouth, no calls or texts between males and females outside of their own relationships, and sometimes couples only play girl-girl for fear of jealousy of other men. The thing that often accompanies these rules is the rapid abandonment of them once people realize they only get in the way of trust. We can’t even count the number of couples that threw the rules out of the window on their first encounter.

3. Do you think jealousy is primarily learned rather than instinctual?

The emotion of jealousy is instinctual. The REASONS for jealousy are both learned and societal as well as some being more instinctive in nature. In all cases jealousy stems from a fear of loss of a resource. The resource that is feared to be lost must be rationally understood. Jimmy is going to get my raise because he goes and drinks with the boss. Janey doesn’t want to come over to my house since she met that football player. On some level you must understand what the resource is and the things that can challenge it. In terms of swinging it would seem that this is very dependant on the value systems of the participants. Sexuality throughout time and across cultures has as many variations as it is possible to imagine. In our modern American culture, you are more or less taught that monogamous sex inside of a loving relationship is the only healthy variety and as such sex is equivalent to love and sharing it would be sacrificing or losing it.

4. Has swinging changed the dynamic in your relationship at all? If so, in what ways?

That may not be a fair question for us. We have always done it, so it is very interwoven in how we interact. We share it as an interest, like anyone else would for any other hobby. In that way it has always bonded us. Reliving fun, funny, exciting, and erotic memories always brings us closer together.

5. You made reference to non-swingers as “vanillas,” but it seems that swinging is only about having different partners and not necessarily about different flavors (different and/or kinky actions). Do you think that perhaps it would be appropriate to characterize swinging as “French vanilla” (a different flavor of vanilla), unless it had other kinkier elements?

It is certainly true that some vanillas are considered by a lot of swingers to be much kinkier and possibly even more sexual than the average swinger. We think the term is more a referral to that particular flavor being added. Maybe for this purpose, think of sex as ice-cream. Vanillas may put a lot of sprinkles and toppings on theirs, but you get more flavor from the experience that only the lifestyle can provide. In the end, terminology and language is not something we would like to defend. Please send your proposal to the swinger terminology board for review.

6. In swinging, the purpose is to experience the bodies of people besides your partner, while not having relationships with these people (or else it would become some version of an open relationship). Do you think that this opens you up to the charge that swinging is completely physicalistic, in the sense that it accepts the mind/body dichotomy and focuses only on the body, since swinging is expressly not about love and is therefore only about physical pleasure? If so, do you think that this means swinging is immoral since it attempts to sever sex from our rational nature, thereby denigrating reason and the mind?

Wow, where do we start? The purpose, for us at least, is not to simply experience the physical bodies of the people we interact with. While it is true we do not need to agree on Objectivism or the proper way to cook a rib-eye steak (rare by the way), we do have to enjoy their company and have a social chemistry as well as a physical attraction. If someone is hot as hell but vapid or rude, we are not interested. It is true, there are some who don’t want to know anything about you and are much more centered on the physical aspect, but we do not play with them and are not interested in experiencing the lifestyle in that way. Romantic love is a long step away from enjoying someone else’s company, so while we do not love any of our lifestyle friends we do like to talk and socialize with most of them outside of the bedroom.

Now, let’s assume it was purely physicalistic, we would like to claim that it can still be done totally morally. Now, of course, it can be done immorally as can most things. In general, if sex is used to fill an emotional hole or to falsely bolster one’s self image then we would agree the act is immoral. If the acts are done with due respect, consideration for one’s partner, and is reflected upon as a positive event by all parties, we have difficulty finding the immorality.

We do want to address the explicit tie between sex and love. Sex made inside of the confines of a loving relationship is grand, and we find it to be the most satisfying. When we are in tune and intensely feeling “in love”, the sex is incredible and we would not trade it for any lifestyle experience. When we experience casual sex with partners whom we do not love, we are not trying to compensate for something missing from our sex life or fill any kind of physical or emotional deficiency. Lifestyle activities only expand our sexual experiences and augment them in a positive way. We believe that in so far as it enriches our lives while not harming others or ourselves, it is moral.

7. Can you elaborate on the reasons people swing, whether in detail or just a list, and what value it has for them? In addition, perhaps you could explain your own reasons for swinging and what value it has for your life. Do you think that there is an ultimate value of swinging? Do you think the value(s) of swinging could be moral values?

The reasons others swing aside from some probable generalities is not something we have a lot of insight into. It can be assumed that people generally swing for the excitement and pleasure of it.

There are several things about swinging that provide value to us as individuals and as a couple. Primarily, as stated in the prior question, it enriches our lives in a measurable way. Our memories of swinging are predominantly positive and give us a rich tapestry of events to reflect on. Throughout our experiences we have learned and taught others many sexual techniques. The skills and ideas we have learned are a definite benefit to us in our personal sex lives. Swinging is also a healthy, pleasurable, and exciting past time involving one of our most fundamental human activities. A large part of most sexual interactions is the giving and we genuinely enjoy giving others pleasure, even when not emotionally connected to a person. To come back though, it is fun, exciting, and pleasurable and those seem like good enough reasons to do most things so long as those things are well considered.

As far as an ultimate value for swinging we would have to say that like any type of activity, it is valuable if it expands and/or entertains you. As mentioned in the previous question it is our belief that the pursuit of pleasure, knowledge, and personal enrichment is a moral one.

8. In your last response, you made the point that there are good reasons to swing and bad reasons to swing, do you think that this means that swinging could not in principle be moral? Do you think that swinging is an optimal condition for some relationships, but not necessarily ever a moral choice (or perhaps that it is a moral non-issue)? Do you think that there are conditions a couple must meet before swinging could be considered a moral option?

To elaborate on the question of morality, it is our stance that this type of activity is going to be done immorally or morally though we cannot think of a realistic amoral scenario. Briefly, when done without the consideration for one’s health, one’s partner, or the consequences to one’s life we find it necessary to define those modes of operation as immoral. When done with explicit consideration to all of these issues and adding in the values we outline above, we find the activity to be moral.

A couple needs to have some basic values and beliefs in place before they can act morally in the context of swinging. These values would have to be shared and not coerced or the endeavor is going to start off on immoral grounds. First, jealousy cannot be a concern or at least not an insurmountable one. If it troubles either partner deeply and they cannot challenge the jealousy with rational thought, then it is hard to imagine the outcome being other than disastrous. Apprehension is acceptable and if both parties are willing to address it after some experience then a choice can be made based on actual knowledge rather than preconceptions. Obviously, sexual exploration needs to be a compelling interest or you would have to challenge the reasons for taking part in the first place. A critical condition is if these activities could impact your normal life in a way that could cause you harm, what the likelihood of that happening is, and if that risk is worth the values you have decided it offers you. If someone runs in without consideration of the consequences, leaving themselves open to unknown and possibly significant problems, it would be an immoral undertaking.

9. In what ways, if at all, do you think that swinging is different from simple promiscuity? Is being promiscuous as a couple different than being promiscuous as a single person? Is one moral, but not the other?

Promiscuity is certainly similar to swinging and we would not argue that one is OK and one is not. Instead, much like swinging, let’s consider the stigma on promiscuity. The prototypical promiscuous female acts as she does to increase her social status, to improve her self-image, or perhaps she does so because of some deeper mental issue such as nymphomania. Sadly, our plucky little heroin is acting immorally because her motivations are flawed and the promiscuity is much more likely to cause emotional and possibly physical or social harm than it is to benefit her life in any meaningful way. It can only cause momentary gratification for her, which is irrational. Now, her antithesis, an emotionally strong and independent woman who has no immediate need for a relationship yet enjoys sex and pursues it with no expectation of love or attachment can certainly act morally in doing so. If it were her character to be emotionally harmed by casual sex or it was likely that she would have to modify her personal beliefs in an unjustifiable fashion to accommodate her lifestyle, then again her morality could be questioned. It is our argument that people with the proper rational perspective and emotional maturity to approach their sexuality with an informed and well considered belief system can act morally when being promiscuous or when swinging.

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Use Somebody

by Jason Stotts

In dealing with sexual issues, I frequently hear the objection that X is wrong because it involves “using somebody.”  This argument is so painfully silly that it vexes me every time I hear it trotted out as the coup de grace that X is immoral.  So, let’s analyze this little Kantian silliness.

When someone uses the term “use somebody,” the objection that they are making is that somehow a person is going to compel or force another person to do what they want.  The problem is that these things, force and coercion, are already recognized as immoral and, further, the situations where the “use argument” is applied is never situations of force or coercion.  The implication of the use argument, then, is that the other person, the one to be “used,” is somehow a non-agent; that they lack volition and cannot make choices for themselves. This is a valid criticism of an actual non-agent like a child, the mentally retarded, or psychologically ill people; it is, however, not a valid criticisms of an adult with their reason intact.

The actual reason that the use argument exists is that some people already believe that certain actions are immoral, disgusting, or just plain unnatural, and thus that someone could not desire them and therefore would never freely choose them. Thus, if a person is engaged in that action, then they must not have freely chosen it.  The problem, though, is that this argumentative path begs the question: it presupposes that X is immoral in order to prove that X is immoral.  If we remove the presumption that X is immoral, then there’s no problem that a person could choose it and therefore there would be no concern that any person choosing would be forced.

The thing that galls me the most is the presumption of the person who would use this kind of argument. They assume that since they would never choose X, that no person could desire or choose X: that since they would never choose X, any person who does is not a full person (they lack agency).  It’s really an instance of the most vile kind of subjectivism.

It’s silly to say that one person is “using” another when the two people are freely choosing to engage in an action and they both understand what the action is and desire that it happen.  Adults with their faculties intact can only be “used” by another through force or coercion, in cases where these are absent, the no one is being “used.”  I want to point out that this argument applies mutatis mutandis to “self-use;” the idea that since no one could choose X, anyone who does is being “used” by their emotions or desires, as though these were not part of the person and under his control.

So, in the future, banish this sloppy idea from your thinking!  In all things, and sex especially, as long as there is free consent from all involved, then all (non-harmful) things go.

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