The Ethics Of Public Sex

Why dont we do it in the road
I have a new piece up on the Blowfish Blog. It’s one of those pieces where the title is pretty self-explanatory: it’s called The Ethics Of Public Sex, and here’s the teaser:

Is public sex ethical?

My initial reaction to the question I myself am posing is that public sex is at least borderline unethical. I think it creates a troubling situation where consent is concerned: you’re making other people be voyeurs in your sex life, when they haven’t consented to be. Even if you’re in a public place where you hope not to be seen but might well be, where you’re trying to be hidden but part of the excitement is the fear of getting caught… I’d say much the same thing. You’re deliberately taking the risk of getting caught — in other words, of forcing other people to be involved in your sex life. This was the essence of the piece I wrote last week about how parents should deal with their kids being sexual and masturbating: I said that you could be a sex-positive parent, and still teach your kids to keep their sexuality private, since not everyone wants to see them masturbate.

But I realize that this is a complex question. And like many complex questions, it’s complicated by one simple question: Where do you draw the line?

To find out what I think the complex ethical questions are regarding sex in public — and how I try to answer them — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

The Ethics Of Public Sex
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3 thoughts on “The Ethics Of Public Sex

  1. 2

    Next question:
    Is Public Nosepicking Ethical?
    How about mutual nosepicking?
    My issue is why we treat sex as a physical activity that deserves or needs to be distinguished from all other activities.
    Why can’t meat butchery in public be considered unethical? Have you ever seen what they do with animals and their innards and meat? It’s utterly disgusting, especially for vegetarians. Yet, no opposition.
    Indeed, many forms of public and often bloody violence are not only accepted, but are also promoted by the very same people who find open sex disgusting. Boxing, for example, and other contact sports. Also depictions of violence; bloody, gory violence. Acceptable. Kissing in public, however, could get you arrested! WTF, really.
    The longer we perpetuate the status quo of keeping sex, nudity, and “feel good” activities oppressed, the harder it will be to reverse that trend.
    Public sex should be accepted. It’s ethical, but hygienic precautions should be taken, and it should not physically interfere with someone’s ability to interact in society. For instance, if you’re having sex in a theater, don’t be loud or in the way, and bring seat covers.

  2. 3

    I think the difficulty is that one group’s happiness can conflict with another’s.
    Consider horror films. I like them, but I won’t watch them in public on my laptop, or graphically describe them to people who are clearly uncomfortable. Doing so would make me an annoying idiot, not a countercultural hero.
    There are grey areas. In Procrustes’ example, is a butcher’s window display so upsetting to vegetarians it should be covered, or does the butcher’s desire to attract (presumably meat-eating) customers and make a living take precedence?
    The vegetarians are often a small minority, whereas people made uncomfortable by seeing sex are much more numerous. That doesn’t make them evil prudes. Sex by its nature stirs up strong emotions, which makes it especially intrusive and distracting.
    All this is as much a question of good manners as ethics. I’d consider sex in a cinema to be extremely rude, more so than popcorn-munching at an equal noise level — because of the aforementioned emotional distraction.

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