Animal dildos: An ethical analysis

Note: This post contains frank discussion of sexual topics. Some content may be of a graphic nature.

Certain sex toy vendors manufacture toys that are based on the penises of animals. While many of these toys are hand-sculpted, some horse-based and dog-based toys are marketed as “life-cast”, meaning they are directly cast from a mold taken of a live animal’s erect penis. Is this process ethical, and is it ethical for consumers to buy from these vendors?

1. The justification, and the objection

One vendor of “lifecast toys” describes the production process as follows:

The casting process takes approximately five minutes, and the animals are always happy to help! No animals are harmed in any way, physically or otherwise.

Their position is that, in the absence of any apparent harm to the animals or visible resistance from these animals, this process should be considered acceptable.

Others disagree, with one blogger writing:

For starters there is the whole thing of *how* they got the animals penis erect, most certainly they probably did not just wait around for it to happen you have to figure there may have been stimulation involving someone sexually touching them which is full stop animal sexual abuse. Secondly they have to put the cast on which may discomfort or confuse the animals.

In response to the supposed compliance or enjoyment by the animals, they add:

An animal may not fight against those things or may even enjoy it but that doesn’t mean they are not being sexually exploited for human gain. In the same way a child cannot consent to sexual acts even if they go along with it an animal cannot.

I’ve spoken with others who likewise contend that, because an animal is not capable of providing informed consent to sex, this sexual stimulation of an animal is therefore sexual abuse. As they see it, just as an underage person’s apparent enjoyment of sex does not mean they are capable of offering meaningful consent, the compliance of these animals with sexual stimulation likewise does not change the fact that they cannot consent to such an act.

The casting process would thus constitute a non-consensual sexual act, making it unethical.

2. Variables in the ethical equation

I do not find it necessary to address the premises, reasoning or conclusion of the argument that this is sexual abuse of an animal. As I see it, that syllogism is a valid (and important) one. So I will not be attempting to dispute any of the following points:

  • Whether these animals suffer harm
  • Whether pleasure translates to consent even when an entity lacks the capacity to provide consent
  • Whether sexual abuse can be ethical

It is also not my intention to derive some concrete, absolute, airtight answer of whether the sex toy production process in question must be considered right or wrong. Instead, I’d prefer to examine situations similar to this process in order to provide a broader picture of how these issues are treated in society. There are a great many more questions that lend an important background to how we understand concepts like “harm”, “consent”, and “sexual abuse”. These words are not merely empty symbols – they have substance, and represent complex ideas. Questions pertaining to this complexity might include:

  • In what situations, other than the production of molds for sex toys, do sexual interactions occur between humans and animals?
  • How commonplace are these situations? Are they largely regarded as acceptable or unacceptable?
  • Why do these sexual interactions occur – what motivates this? Are these motivations seen as justifying such acts?
  • To what extent are people willing to accept the suffering of animals, and violations of animals’ consent, in exchange for their own pleasure and enjoyment?

In this way, I intend to offer a descriptive exploration of existing attitudes toward these questions, rather than a prescriptive and binding moral conclusion of whether it’s okay to stimulate animals sexually in order to sell or use replicas of their genitals as sex toys. I believe this may be more useful than a short, simple and inarguable syllogism. By equipping people with a wider array of information relevant to this question, we can provide them with a somewhat more expansive ethical equation into which they can input their own personal values. They can derive, not a singular right answer for everyone, but an individual answer which is more solidly rooted in a better understanding of the related issues.

3. Disregard for the consent of animals in non-sexual contexts

Livestock farms are businesses: they are motivated to maximize their production while minimizing the expenses they incur. Because this business involves using live animals as a source of meat, milk, eggs, or other products, and providing the resources necessary to ensure humane treatment may come at additional expense, optimizing for profitability can lead to compromising the welfare of these animals. Such compromises occur as a part of routine, widely accepted industrial farming practices. The commonplace treatment of animals by large-scale farming operations includes:

The lack of adequate space for broiler chickens. Broiler chickens – birds raised for their meat – are densely packed into production houses, with around 20,000 animals occupying a space roughly the size of a football field. Each bird therefore has only about as much space as a single sheet of paper. The birds unavoidably walk around in their own accumulated excrement, and the breakdown of this waste produces unsafe air levels of ammonia. The presence of these contaminants leads to irritation, lesions and ulcers on the birds’ legs and feet. Specialists within the industry have written:

[L]imiting the floor space gives poorer results on a bird basis, yet the question has always been and continues to be: What is the least amount of floor space necessary per bird to produce the greatest return on investment?

The close confinement of egg-laying hens. In the United States, 95% of egg-laying hens are kept in small cages for most of their lives. Five to ten birds are placed in a cage about the size of a large file drawer, without room to extend their wings fully or engage in normal behaviors such as nest-building, perching at night, or foraging for food. Due to the enclosed space, the hens have no room to exercise, resulting in bone weakness.

Battery hens in a cage.
Battery hens in a cage.

The close quarters can also lead to cannibalism, something which farms attempt to mitigate by “de-beaking” the hens. Up to two-thirds of a bird’s beak is removed without anesthesia, often using a hot blade that causes painful damage to this nerve-rich area.

A de-beaked chicken.
A de-beaked chicken.

The long-term caging of pregnant pigs. Breeding sows are commonly isolated during their pregnancy to prevent fighting between sows, which could cause injury or death. 60-70% of breeding sows in the United States are kept in individual gestation crates that are about two feet wide and seven feet long. These cages are only slightly larger than the pig, leaving sows unable to turn around, lie on their sides, or walk more than a step forward or backward. Slats in the floor allow waste to fall through, and living above a pit of urine and excrement results in respiratory disease from exposure to high levels of ammonia.

Sows in gestation crates.
Sows in gestation crates.

Sows are confined to these cages for the duration of their pregnancy – about 4 months. They typically birth at least two litters per year, and are immediately re-impregnated after their piglets are weaned. Most of a sow’s life will be spent nearly immobilized in a crate. Pig gestation crates are now banned in the European Union, and nine US states have enacted similar bans. In defense of this practice, National Pork Producers Council spokesperson Dave Warner stated:

So our animals can’t turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets. I don’t know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around. … The only real measure of their well-being we have is the number of piglets per birth, and that’s at an all-time high.

Suppose we grant that a horse or dog cannot consent to being sexually stimulated or having a mold taken of their genitals. In comparison, it also seems unlikely that a pig or chicken could consent to being locked in a small crate for months, having a part of their beak cut off without anesthesia, or suffering foot ulcers from constantly walking around in their own waste.

Yet these practices are nevertheless carried out as cost-saving measures. Treating animals this way is seen as less expensive than providing larger facilities and allowing for the possible loss of some sows, piglets and hens that would come with giving them greater space to move around. Farmers benefit from these practices because they can manufacture a greater quantity of their product at a reduced cost. Consumers benefit from being able to purchase pork, chicken or eggs at a lower price.

Many people give little thought to this inhumane treatment of the animals that produce their food, or if they do, they ultimately find this to be an acceptable tradeoff. And they reaffirm this acceptance in their everyday food choices, far more frequently than anyone purchases specialty animal dildos.

4. Violations of the sexual consent of animals for breeding purposes

Domesticated animals are the subject of selective breeding to optimize for whichever traits may be desired. People decide to retain and emphasize certain traits of these animals, while getting rid of unwanted ones. This is done by choosing animals that express a given pattern of traits, and forcing them to reproduce. The practices surrounding such breeding efforts can involve close contact with the animals’ reproductive organs. Specifically:

Breeding soundness exams, semen collection and artificial insemination of cattle. Cattle may be bred with the aim of producing higher quality beef or greater quantities of milk. As one rancher described a particularly valuable bull named Revelation:

… Revelation’s progeny were showing beef marbling scores that were off the charts, along with breathtaking rib-eye areas. Producing a bull whose offspring have even one of these super stats is like hitting the lottery. But two? A near miracle.

A breeding soundness exam is often conducted to ensure that a bull will be a worthwhile purchase and that it will be able to produce offspring:

Bulls that do not settle their share of cows early in the breeding season contribute to reproductive inefficiency. … Bulls are selected for their genetic potential to improve the cow herd. It is economically important that all bulls are fertile.

Such exams include close study of the bull’s genitals and other organs:

The internal organs can be examined by rectal palpation while the bull is restrained. The vesicular glands, ampullae, and prostate should also be examined for evidence of inflammation, adhesions, or fibrosis. Furthermore, the spermatic cord, scrotum, testicles, and epididymides need to be examined for evidence of abscesses, injury, frost bite damage, or tumors. …

The penis and sheath should be examined for any sores, lacerations, abscesses, scar tissue, hair rings, warts, or adhesions.

A central component of the exam is acquiring a semen sample from the bull in order to evaluate its fertility. This requires that the bull be stimulated to arousal and ejaculation. Semen can be collected by way of an artificial vagina, “a hard tubular casing with a rubber inner liner filled with warm water to stimulate the bull’s penis via temperature and pressure”. However, a sample is “most often collected via electroejaculation”. Electroejaculation is conducted as follows:

The electroejaculator consists of a rectal probe that has a series of linear banded electrodes connected to a variable current and voltage source. The bull is restrained in a chute, the rectum is emptied, and the entire lubricated probe is inserted rectally with the electrodes oriented ventrally. A hand-operated rheostat permits intermittent pulses of current to be given as the voltage is gradually increased. The response varies considerably, but it is common to use 2- to 4-sec pulses repeated at 5- to 7-sec intervals. After a variable number of such stimulations, erection and protrusion of the penis may be seen, followed by a flow of seminal fluid, or the bull may ejaculate into the sheath without protruding the penis.

Electroejaculation is known to be uncomfortable or painful for bulls:

…electroejaculation is associated with an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, and the strength of the muscular contractions induced by electroejaculation suggests that the bull experiences pain and distress. Compared to controls, bulls subjected to this procedure vocalize more frequently, which is considered an indicator of stress and pain.

However, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association maintains that electroejaculation of bulls is an acceptable practice.

Electroejaculator devices.
Electroejaculator devices for bulls.

The process of using bull semen to inseminate cows is similarly invasive. One rancher was praised for his skill in this area:

“He has a gift with his hands to know how to feel into a cow that most people don’t have,” Donnell says. George will feel the reproductive tract with one arm, then with the other hand, guide the syringe through the cervical rings (the tricky part) and deposit the semen at the opening of the cervix. It takes maybe 60 seconds per cow, and every cow on the ranch, 1,300 in all, is bred that way, as many as 400 in a single day.

Breeding soundness exams and semen collection of stallions. As with cattle, horses have been domesticated into various specialized breeds which serve different purposes. Desired traits can include their endurance, strength, speed, skill at working with livestock, or performance at racing and show jumping.

Stallions are prized for their ability to produce a high number of quality offspring, offering a better value to horse breeders. A very fertile and healthy stallion can be a good investment, while a stallion with poor fertility may be of little use. For this reason, they are subject to comprehensive breeding soundness exams similar to those of bulls:

Veterinarians should also evaluate the stallion’s reproductive anatomy during a breeding soundness examination. Threlfall explained that the penis must be able to retract fully, and there should be no abnormal swellings or enlargements of the genitalia. All aspects of the reproductive tract–including the penis, scrotum, and testicles–should be palpated for abnormalities, he added.

Stallions may exhibit resistance to such examinations:

…especially during this portion of the exam, it’s important to stay safe as some stallions will bite, kick, or strike when their reproductive tract is palpated. Twitch or tranquilize the horse if necessary to maintain safety.

Semen collection from stallions can also involve the use of an artificial vagina. Workers apply the artificial vagina (AV) in this manner:

The stallion’s penis should be deflected into the AV, not grasped, because some stallions take offense to being grasped. The AV should be held firmly for the stallion to thrust against and should be at the same angle as the mare’s vagina. As the stallion ejaculates, the AV should be lowered to allow the semen to run into the collection bottle.

Applying an artificial vagina can be a complicated task involving multiple workers to ensure (their own) safety:

All the handlers should be on left side and everyone is advised to pull to the left if there is a problem. The entire collection has to be a choreographed effort by everyone involved in order to get a sample and keep everyone safe. Approach the mare at an angle and allow the stallion to mount the mare. Let the stallion thrust and guide or allow the stallion to insert his penis into the AV. Gently touch the ventral penis and feel the urethra for the ejaculatory pulses. Others can watch for the flagging of the tail that indicates ejaculation.

An artificial vagina for stallions.
An artificial vagina for stallions.

However, collection can also be accomplished by “manual stimulation”, and the training of stallions to accept this stimulation:

You can attempt manual massage of the erect penis with moist towels while the stallion is standing or while he is mounting. Experimentally it took about 1 1/2 training sessions to train stallions to do this.

Semen collection and artificial insemination of dogs. Over 150 distinct breeds of domesticated dogs are recognized by the American Kennel Club. While some of these breeds serve working roles – such as assisting disabled people, herding livestock, retrieving prey for hunters, tracking scents, or subduing criminals – many dogs are no more than companions for most people.

To ensure conformance to a given breed standard, people select which individual dogs are bred together. As with cattle and horses, semen collection is part of a typical breeding soundness exam, and artificial insemination using collected semen can allow for vastly more instances of impregnation than a single male dog would be capable of without assistance. The collection process is similar to that of bulls and stallions:

Canine semen is collected using digital pressure and massage. … Collecting semen from dogs is not difficult, but like many things, is much easier after you’ve done it a time or two. The basic process is conducted in the following series of steps:

  • Grasp the prepuce and pull/push it back to expose the tip of the penis.
  • Slide the collection cone over the protruding penis and slide it over the penis, pushing the prepuce back over of the bulbis glandis …
  • Lock your fingers in a ring around the penis, essentially holding the bulbis glandis inside your fist.
  • Apply pressure with forward and backward movement; in most cases, the male will begin to thrust back and forth.
  • Watch for semen to flow in the collection tube. Most dogs stop thrusting as they begin to ejaculate.

Transcervical insemination is one of the less invasive methods of artificially inseminating dogs:

The transcervical insemination (TCI) is performed with the bitch in a standing position. No sedation nor anesthesia is required. A fiber optic cystourethoscope is used vaginally to visualize the opening to the cervix. A flexible catheter is maneuvered through the cervix into the uterus. …The semen is gently pushed through the catheter from a syringe.

A more invasive method involves surgery:

A surgical insemination is a minor surgical procedure that allows the surgeon to inject the semen directly into the uterus. … A bitch’s greatest chance of conception is by having a surgical semen implant. …

A 2-3 inch incision is made on the abdomen through the skin and underlying muscle. The uterus is isolated and evaluated. The semen, whether fresh collected, fresh chilled or frozen, is inseminated though a small hypodermic needle into the uterus. The veterinary surgeon can see and feel the uterus fill as the semen is deposited.

The procedures involved in the breeding of these animals are, at times, essentially identical to the stimulation of horses and dogs performed in the course of producing a mold of their genitals. In many cases, the breeding-related practices go far beyond that and are substantially more invasive. Yet these practices are well-established and accepted among breeders, simply for the purpose of avoiding any expenses or inefficiencies that would come with having less-than-optimal animals among their breeding population.

The general attitude appears to be one of regarding animals as little more than objects, from which semen can be extracted and into which it can be deposited at will, by whatever means people find to be most effective. So it should come as no surprise that, in the drive to obtain desired traits with great efficiency, the consent of these animals is treated as broadly irrelevant.

5. Human needs: Animal exploitation as a norm

This widespread inhumane treatment and disregard for the consent of animals is done in the service of certain human needs. People may need animal products for food, draft animals for working purposes, or dogs for detecting explosives or other roles. But the extent to which these needs justify certain treatment of animals is, of course, debatable. Ardent advocates of animal rights might contend that nothing justifies forcing animals into any working roles. Vegetarians or vegans may feel it’s not acceptable to use animals as a food source at all. Even people who do consume animal products may choose to avoid food sourced from crated pigs or chickens.

One way or another, that ethical line is drawn in a certain place depending on a person’s values. And when it comes to the needs these animals serve, it can be unclear just how necessary some of these roles are. Sure, people require food, but does that mean people need to eat prime rather than choice cuts of beef? Horses may be the best method of transportation for certain purposes – but does anyone actually need a horse for dressage, a sport described as “horse ballet”? Sled dogs may be needed in some areas, but does a person ever really need a Chihuahua? What needs are some of these animals serving that are so crucial, it justifies disregarding their consent? And what makes the desire to own a replica of a dog’s erection for use as a sex toy any less legitimate than the desire to own a pug as a companion animal?

Many of the practices involved in keeping and breeding these animals would also fail the “child test”, badly. As others have argued, an underage person’s apparent enjoyment of a sexual act does not mean they are therefore capable of meaningful consent to this act. Suppose someone were to argue that a child is completely okay with being kept in a crate too small for them to turn around, or that a child actually enjoys having a device called an “artificial vagina” applied to them, and that therefore the child consents to this treatment. Such claims would be considered monstrous and appalling.

Yet most people who eat pork, drink milk, and own dogs do not seem to apply the “child test” as a standard of ethical acceptability. They are largely content to tolerate at least some of these practices in the course of the breeding and raising of animals. And if they do tolerate this, it seems unavoidably inconsistent and arbitrary to accept practices such as:

  • Providing an individual chicken with no more living space than a sheet of paper
  • Forcing chickens to walk around in piles of excrement and breathe ammonia-rich air
  • Keeping a chicken in a cage so small that it cannot extend its wings
  • Removing a portion of a chicken’s beak using a hot blade, without painkillers
  • Keeping a pregnant pig in a cage so small that it cannot walk or turn around, for several months
  • Restraining a bull to examine its reproductive organs by rectal palpation
  • Inserting a rectal probe into a bull and repeatedly applying a painful electrical current until ejaculation occurs
  • Inserting one’s entire arm into a cow in order to deposit semen onto its cervix
  • Tranquilizing a stallion to prevent it from biting or kicking during a genital examination
  • Guiding a stallion’s penis into an artificial vagina and holding the device in place until the stallion ejaculates
  • Stimulating a stallion by massaging its penis with moist towels
  • Placing a “collection cone” onto a dog’s penis
  • Manually stimulating a dog’s penis to obtain its semen
  • Introducing semen via a catheter inserted through a dog’s cervix and into its uterus, without sedation
  • Partially removing a dog’s uterus from its body via surgery, and injecting semen into it

While rejecting practices such as:

  • Stimulating a horse or dog to arousal in order to take a mold of its genitals

What sort of ethical standard would allow for the former practices while soundly rejecting the latter? In terms of potential harm to animals or violations of their consent, how would one go about isolating the act of creating animal-based sex toy molds as any more harmful or violative than the rest of these commonplace practices? What marks this case as unique?

I believe such a standard is best explained as the product of a sexual taboo. Harm and violation of animals is often uncritically accepted when it is in furtherance of:

  • The fiscal enjoyment of farmers and breeders who reduce expenses and increase output by neglecting to provide humane facilities for their livestock and avoiding the purchase and upkeep of infertile animals
  • The competitive enjoyment of farmers and breeders who are able to produce higher quality animal products
  • The culinary enjoyment of consumers who now have access to “off the charts” marbled beef and “breathtaking” rib-eyes
  • The sporting enjoyment of athletes (and spectators) who use horses for racing, show jumping, or dressage events
  • The personal enjoyment of people who keep dogs for companionship

Yet this harm and violation is seen to reach a wholly unacceptable level when it occurs in the pursuit of:

  • The sexual enjoyment of people who would like to use sex toys cast from a mold of a horse or dog penis

It seems that this sexual motive is seen as being more trivial, more frivolous, and less justifiable than these non-sexual motives. But an identical act, the stimulation of an animal’s genitals to arousal, takes place in both the sexual case and the breeding case. The harm to the animal, and disregard for its consent, is neither exacerbated nor diminished simply by the intentions of the person performing the act. If someone does not consider the argument from harm and lack of consent to be sufficient to condemn these selective breeding practices, then the argument also does not succeed in condemning the sex toy production process.

It may be the case that nobody truly needs such a dog toy. But if so, they do not need a toy dog, either.

Animal dildos: An ethical analysis

23 thoughts on “Animal dildos: An ethical analysis

    1. 1.1

      No, I think it was “This bad thing is no worse than those other bad things, so if you’re fine with the latter, it’s inconsistent to object to the former; however, whether you’re fine with both those things is up to you”.
      Try rereading section 2.

      1. Ada

        I would wager, though, that most people objecting to using animals to cast dildos also object to factory farming practices. (That is, I’m curious if there are people who actually embody the inconsistency Zinnia’s pointing out? Though, of course, even in that case the lack could be due to most people who are fine with factory farming practices not being aware of dildo casting in order to be upset about it.)

        1. Judging by the numbers of people who are fine with pig meat consumption and are horrified by dog meat consumption, I wouldn’t bet my money on everyone’s opinion being internally consistent.
          However, I freely admit I have never considered the problem with animal dildos until today.

          1. Ada

            Judging by the numbers of people who are fine with pig meat consumption and are horrified by dog meat consumption, I wouldn’t bet my money on everyone’s opinion being internally consistent.

            Wait, really? I guess this is just something about which I am shockingly ignorant.

            That being the case, yeah, I see your point.

    2. 1.2

      Forbidden Snowflake has it more-or-less right.

      I think Jones was arguing that if you believe in the slaughter of animals for your dinner, or the lifetime harm of stuffing 5 hens in a file drawer for months or years so you can save a dime an egg, then you are unlikely to have any moral objection to life-casting without resorting to “sex is different!”

      My reading of Jones is that she is arguing *both* against harm to non-human animals *and* against the sexual taboo.

      dysomniak, you have Jones’ argument pegged wrong and are doing her (and her argument) a disservice.

  1. 2

    A considered and interesting post. Ultimately, I must agree that animal exploitation for this purpose is really no different than exploitation for the wide variety of purposes we already have, and since I don’t object to those, neither would I object to this.

  2. 3

    I cannot say this is what I was expecting to read this morning. However I did enjoy this well considered and researched post.

    This being said, I have never heard of anyone objecting to these lifecast products on the basis of the manufacturing method.

    The most common argument against these devices (and I will admit, I have not heard many) if that these products normalise the notion of animal abuse.

    IIRC I think either the US or Canada has banned the import of certain Japanese manga that depict child abuse on similar grounds, despite there being no actual abuse during their manufacture (as the children are drawn, rather than filmed or photographed).

    Will ethical posts like this be occurring more recently or was this a one off?

    1. 3.1

      Uh, I’m a Furry.

      While I’m curious about these types of toys, and there is apparently a market for them *cough*BadDragon*cough*, there’s a strong taboo within the community against bestiality, so… I don’t think there would ever be an issue with toys somehow “normalising” animal abuse.

      As for farming, I’d love to see animals kept in better (and cleaner) conditions, and am willing to spend a bit more to support it.

  3. 4

    I may really be setting something off with this one, but I think assuming harm from sexual contact without consent is problematic in the animal case.

    While I don’t have any reason to trust the manufacturer’s claims of no harm, and indeed people who benefit financially from animals have tended to dismiss or minimize harm in the past (which gives us a reason to initially be very skeptical of those claims), I think an appreciation of how and why sexual abuse of children causes harm is important.

    Remember what you, Zinnia, were saying about it being abuse even if the child genuinely enjoys the experience at the time? We have no problem with that not only because we must ban even enjoyable abuse to prevent unenjoyed abuse if we cannot reliably tell the two apart (which we can’t because abusers lie and fuck things up and children may have a hard time communicating about sex anyway, not only but not least because of shame). We have no problem calling it abuse because a large number of those cases fuck a person up long-term, even if in the short term it was genuinely experienced as enjoyable.

    But why is that? It’s psychology. It’s how we think about sex, ourselves, our relationships. It’s very possible to have no physical harm (to have even physical pleasure) and have lots and lots of psych harm. Are horses capable of the same psychology? Dogs? Harm is the issue, not mere non-consent regardless of harm.

    If non-consent regardless of harm is a clear violation of ethical responsibilities to non-human animals, is there any such thing as an ethical inter-species interaction?

    You didn’t say that children are the same as animals. You refused to address the question, leaving it entirely unaddressed but in a way (i.e. using wording) that implied this. This is part of the problem I have, because it minimizes what we know about harm.

    I appreciate how you brought evidence of sexual harm to animals (e.g. electroejaculation) and that those financially invested in such practices ignore such harm, or at least find reasons to ethically endorse practices despite such harm (e.g. the vets’ association).

    But I think the life-casting process is not different *only* because of taboo. There is evidence of harm in many of the practices you name. In life-casting there is none (at least none elaborated here) **unless lack of consent (at the very least to anything related to sex, but you undercut the sex-is-different argument later, so I don’t think it’s fair to add that caveat here) is defined as harm on its own**.

    We can be skeptical of life-casters’ claims of no harm without giving the impression that the consent of human children to sex is important because of some generalized consent principle. We don’t require a child’s consent to send the child to school. We don’t require a cat’s consent to open a room’s window when we want a breeze.

    We forbid harm without consent. Non-consent on its own is not harm. We have evidence human children cannot meaningfully consent to sex. We have evidence that human children suffer harm from sexual behaviors with elders (even elder children if the difference results in power difference) and sometimes peers or younger children, given certain circumstances. Your post confuses non-consent with harm at the top.

    I wish you wouldn’t do that.

    1. 4.2

      I see you are a consequentialist. This is not a viewpoint I adhere to, and thus I cannot truthfully agree. The fundamental issue here is that unlike myself (and, I not to humbly presume, the poster) you do not consider the freedom to choose as being a moral goal in and of itself. Your paradigm of morality presumes that one man can ever reasonably state that he has the right to decide what is in the best interests of another man, and thus, assert his will over that other man. I find this abhorrent, and arguably, so should you, as it denies the subjectivity of goals that people set for themselves, and thus permits one person to force another to conformity. Ultimately, you and you alone may judge that which is in your best interests, I and I alone may judge that which is in mine. As the lesser orders of life have not yet been shown (with a few troubling exceptions such as dolphins and the more advanced primate species) to posses those capacities which make one a person, they have no rights to determine their fates, nor their agendas, whereas you and I do.

      But more crucially, by what objective standard do you presume to judge what is a harm? That which is a harm to one may not be a harm to all (for example, casting somebody from a great height might well be classified as harmful, yet there are those who do so willingly) and individual discretion is the sole reliable determining factor in that conundrum. To assert otherwise is implicitly to assume the mantle of some super-being, some omniscient arbiter of benefit and detriment, and in doing so, invalidate the individual will and choices of all other people.

      You stated that the harm caused by rape is why it aught to be forbidden, however I assert that it should also be forbidden to forcibly subject people to vitamin supplements, even if you believe it would benefit them. William Lane Craig believed that by killing the children of enemy tribes, they brought salvation upon them. Are we to adhere to this standard? After all, his difference of opinion to you is merely as to what constitutes a harm, and thus is a matter in which one of you is empirically ignorant, but not morally flawed.

      1. @meggamat:

        I see you are a consequentialist. This is not a viewpoint I adhere to, and thus I cannot truthfully agree.

        Please explain why you are not a consequentialist and why you adhere to your ethical system, whatever it may be.

        Bonus question: If your preferred ethical system would cause global nuclear holocaust were it ever globally adopted, would it still be your preferred ethical system?

        Double bonus: I care what happens to people in their lives. I care about the harm inflicted, the harm suffered. Since you are not a consequentialist and the outcomes of moral decisions do not affect the evaluation of the decision itself, please explain to us what reason you could possibly have for giving a damn other than consequences.

        The fundamental issue here is that unlike myself (and, I not to [sic] humbly presume, the poster) you do not consider the freedom to choose as being a moral goal in and of itself.

        You’re wrong and this is bullshit. Fuck this tactic that insists your rhetorical opponents hate freedom. Fuck it down the Kola Borehole.

        Freedom to choose is not the same as duty to respect consent. It is trivially easy to show your ill-thought version is contradictory. Opening a window while a cat is in the room is not seen as a situation where freedom-of-choice is substantially lost by the cat. For one thing, the cat may be unable to 1) open the window, 2) close the window, 3) make known window preferences. Objectively, the cat is going to have no control over the window. Thus exercising the control over the window that *I* have is not stealing freedom-of-choice from the cat.

        In a roundabout way, you are proving my point. Failure to get consent from an animal is not an ethical issue in and of itself. Taking away the freedom of a non-human animal is an ethical issue, whether or not you convince yourself that Alex’s multi-thousand word vocabulary is sufficient to negotiate on its own behalf.

        The fact that your formulation of the moral question can’t tell the difference between asking a fly for consent and assessing whether a fly’s freedom is increased, decreased, or unaffected by my use of a door tells me that you are engaged in moral confusion every bit as deep and problematic as that of Jones.

        It does not tell me that I’m an authoritarian who doesn’t value freedom, though feel free to go down to the tea party rally and tell them all about how you totally think those left-wingers are fascists because they argue about ethics.

        You stated that the harm caused by rape is why it aught to be forbidden, however I assert that it should also be forbidden to forcibly subject people to blah, blah, blah.

        No. I said that harm was the missing ingredient that made rape universally condemnable in a world where lack of consent wasn’t enough to get child rape universally condemned, and a world where people are trying to muddy the waters about what counts as consent and relate stories of children who appeared to enjoy, in the short term, sexual activities whose long-term repercussions those children cannot understand.

        Reread what I said without the is/ought fallacy.

        1. @ Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden
          In answer to your first retort, I am an objectivist, in that I believe the only moral standard by which an action can be judged is by whether the person committing the action had reason to believe that it would violate the right of another person to choose. This encompasses bodily autonomy, as well as financial autonomy and freedom of conscience. As the ends of an action are not sufficient to judge the morals of it (mistakes can be made, and plans can go awry) I would not consider for example, attempted murder to be ethically different to murder, nor driving under the influence to be ethically different to alcohol-induced vehicular manslaughter. I believe that the freedom of people to choose their own consequences is what is relevant, and I do not believe that the choices one makes concerning one’s own fate aught to be subject to the moral judgements of one’s fellow man. In summation, the only valid morality which is not subjective (in my opinion) is to allow one’s fellow man to make choices and not to infringe upon them, save to rectify an attempt he has made upon your own (although such action is at the discretion of the violated party). So yes, if in some roundabout way, it came to pass that Nuclear apocalypse would inevitably occur and violation of personal freedoms in people not responsible was the only way to avert it, I hope I would find the moral courage to adhere to my convictions and abstain from action. Does this answer your question concerning my morality?

          In answer to your second, as I stated in my initial reply, I do not believe that the lesser orders of life posses any personhood, thus their “freedom” or lack thereof is irrelevant. Concordantly, open the window at your own discretion, it matters not to my morality. And on a not entirely separate note, please stop with the wild accusations. I am a Briton, in no way associated with any American political movement or ideological conglomeration. I did not wish to call you an authoritarian, I merely pointed out that your morality has been used as justification for authoritarian travesties in the past.

          Your final retort is the most easily addressed. You asserted that (sorry I don’t know how to do the quotey thingy)

          “lack of consent wasn’t enough to get child rape universally condemned”

          This was the a fundamental aspect of your argument, a proposition essential to your conclusion. Thus, to annihilate its relevance is to destroy your final retort. Universal condemnation is a matter of individual perception and thus not related actual right and wrong. Huge numbers of people have been and continue to be morally flawed. Consensus has no place in discussions of good and evil. Whilst not directly commiting Argumentum ad populum, you have allowed your morality to be determined by mas approval.

    2. 4.3

      This is kind of my thinking as well.

      Consent is based on the right of bodily autonomy, which animals do not have in our current legal framework. If animals had these sorts of rights, then pet ownership would be legally slavery, killing animals would be legally murder, lab research would be legally torture, having pets spayed or neutered would be legally mayhem.

      Animals DO have legal protections, which attempt to balance animal welfare against animal utility. This is why practices such as farming, artificial insemination, electroejaculation and lab research are legal, with varying levels of regulation. It’s also why these laws vary so widely, as public perception of the value of value of animals products (like fur, fois gras, or cockfighting) increases or decreases.

      Given our current framework, the issue of harm and potential for abuse is relevant when compared to the benefits to people, but this is separate from the consent issue, which is irrelevant.

      This is a separate issue from children, where guardians have control over the child’s bodily autonomy, and can compel them to attend school, bathe, eat their vegetables and receive medical attention. Here, the child legally cannot consent, only the guardian can. In the interests of protection, because the potential for harm and abuse is incredibly high, guardians are restricted from providing consent for sexual activities.

  4. 5

    It’s basically the “I’d rather be screwed than stewed” argument, right? We can’t have sex with cows because they can’t consent to it, but we can kill and eat them regardless. I’ve always thought that our prohibitions against sex with animals came more from a desire for a consistent, consent-based foundation of sexual ethics than from a desire to treat animals humanely.

    1. M

      Even if it is true that “our prohibitions against sex with animals came from a desire for a consistent, consent-based foundation of sexual ethics”, it still shows a desire to treat animals humanely. I do not need to ask my Fleshlight for consent…, so we’re still putting animals in a category above “inanimate object” and making an effort to treat it humanely. It’s still hypocritical to think it’s okay to eat an animal, but not to have sex with it.

  5. 6

    I imagine most of the objection is due to the objector being squicked out about the idea of human/animal sex, and trying to dress up their objections in something a bit more respectable than “omfg that’s gross. ewww”

  6. 7

    If sexual touching without the consent of those touched is wrong, then it does not matter who/what is the recipient of that touch. Either we agree that consent is required or we do not. Who among us will make the list, detailing when that dog or horse is old enough to “participate” in having it’s penis covered with some noxious substance until it hardens, which is then pried off? What could possibly go wrong?

    An animal cannot consent.

  7. 8

    I don’t know. Seems to me that most animals, outside humans, and perhaps chimps, lack the culture of shame, humiliation and secrecy about sex that makes sexual violence so potentially corrosive to self image and dignity. Yes, they can be confused, and I feel confident that they feel both physical and some level of emotional pain. But they don’t IMHO, without further evidence presented, seem to spend a lot of time beating themselves up, in regret, or dive into cycles of self pity, anger, and resentment.

    I agree that animals, in principle, cannot consent. But we do so many things with animals that seem so much more painful, destructive and questionable that starting with a small number of animals of each species used as exemplars in a less painful and non-destructive molding process seems silly, unreasonable. We herd wild horses into slaughterhouses and make them into dog food. Or, more wastefully, herd them into a ditch and shoot them, letting their bodies go to waste, But here we are focusing on the dildo makers.

    Meat, dairy, and egg production, and most of animal husbandry, looks to me to be far more traumatic than any of what the dildo manufacturers do and certainly none of those animals consented.

    Of course there seems to be some room for improvement in the dildo makers methods. Using a laser scanner and a 3-D printer you could immortalize any cock you wished in digital form. Once scanned and digitized a 3-D printer makes a model that is used as a form for a mold. Little or no inappropriate touching required.

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