Sexual Morality and Ethics Catch-All

A great new book on the subject, if anyone is interested, is Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan. As a failed anthropolgist/archeaologist, a bit of a geek, and someone who is in a 20 year monogamous relationship that is flirting with the idea of "opening up," I found it very interesting.

I cannot recommend the Savage Lovecast by Dan Savage (NSFW) more highly. I love podcasts and his is one of the best. He coined the term "Monogamish." The morals and ethics (personal and social) of sexuality and relationships is his bread and butter.

Dan Savage wrote:
Why do most people assume that all nonmonogamous relationships are destined to fail? Because we only hear about the ones that do. If a three-way or an affair was a factor in a divorce or breakup, we hear all about it. But we rarely hear from happy couples who aren’t monogamous, because they don’t want to be perceived as dangerous sex maniacs who are destined to divorce.

In my view the only things people need to have an ethical and moral sex life is honesty, communication, informed consent, and a healthy dose of empathy. Whatever configuration, arrangment, or behavior that comes from that should work out just fine.

Malor wrote:
This is how I think about the situation, as a whole, having had a number of friends in various forms of nonstandard relationships: is everyone involved a consenting adult? If the answer is yes, then my opinion is irrelevant.

Yep, well put.

So there was an interesting moral quandry on the Savage Love podcast this week (yes I've started listening even if I lean towards the Sith, err conservative side). A wife pressures her husband to reveal his sexual fantasies and finds out he's into hardcore sadism. I think the phrase he used was "Dexter scenarios turn me on." The guy has never acted on his fantasies, but his wife is still hurt and horrified he hadn't shared this before.

So I don't know what the ethical course would be in this situation. I've always heard from relationship experts that you shouldn't hide big secrets from your spouse. Yet it also seems to me that everyone is entitled to their private fantasies, and as Dan points out in his podcast male fantasies tend to be a lot darker or at least more embarassing than female fantasies. There's also the question of how much these fantasies are a part of a person's true sexual nature and whether the spouse can trust her husband not acting on them eventually.

jdzappa wrote:
So I don't know what the ethical course would be in this situation. I've always heard from relationship experts that you shouldn't hide big secrets from your spouse.

I could see that situation being a problem for the guy if his wife isn't into sadism, because ultimately what are they going to do? She's either going to have to do stuff she's not into, or he's going to have to be satisfied with getting less than he wants. Which he might already be, given that she's just finding out about that now. Fantasies can involve things that a person would rather not act out in real life, so maybe he's happy.

I think there is a spectrum there. Fetish, Fantasy, Curiosity.

What some may call a fantasy is more a curiosity.

I am very into costuming. It is not a necessary part of my normal sexual activities. I am, however, really looking forward to the star trek skirt we just got for my fiancee. For Valentine's day I was given the give of a va-va-vavoom burlesque style corset and stockings.

My fiancee likes games. Again, this is not a part of our regular process. But she had little tags tied with ribbons on different parts of her body, with instructions for me.

We have tried some various things-feathers, rings, etc. We had some family fun with some ice cubes. Some other fun with the bathroom mirror. Baths are nice, but right now our master bath is a stand up shower.

We have had lengthy talks about people in the past who had desires we could not indulge. I am not sure why so many guys have an anal fetish. Humble brag here, I am a bit too big to make that work without hurting someone. There are also the guys into tying women up.

Sociologically speaking fetishes and fantasies can be an indication of disorder. I think choking, hitting can get into that territory. Knife play is something that scares me sh*tless. When we get into the violence and degradation, I think you flirt with that line.

jdzappa wrote:
So there was an interesting moral quandry on the Savage Love podcast this week (yes I've started listening even if I lean towards the Sith, err conservative side). A wife pressures her husband to reveal his sexual fantasies and finds out he's into hardcore sadism. I think the phrase he used was "Dexter scenarios turn me on." The guy has never acted on his fantasies, but his wife is still hurt and horrified he hadn't shared this before.

So I don't know what the ethical course would be in this situation. I've always heard from relationship experts that you shouldn't hide big secrets from your spouse. Yet it also seems to me that everyone is entitled to their private fantasies, and as Dan points out in his podcast male fantasies tend to be a lot darker or at least more embarassing than female fantasies. There's also the question of how much these fantasies are a part of a person's true sexual nature and whether the spouse can trust her husband not acting on them eventually.

The ethical course in this situation would be the wife not freaking out when her husband truthfully answers her question. Or not asking the question in the first place if she wasn't prepared for the answer.

Everyone is indeed entitled to their private fantasies. Everyone is also entitled to inquire about their loved ones' fantasies, but they should be prepared for what the answer might look like, and they should be prepared for their loved ones to not necessarily be comfortable discussing them.

KingGorilla wrote:
Sociologically speaking fetishes and fantasies can be an indication of disorder.

Most of what little evidence there is indicates otherwise (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...). Even the DSM-IV TR requires that that to present as a disorder a fetish or paraphilia must "cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning".

KingGorilla wrote:

Sociologically speaking fetishes and fantasies can be an indication of disorder. I think choking, hitting can get into that territory. Knife play is something that scares me sh*tless. When we get into the violence and degradation, I think you flirt with that line.

No offense, but this is largely bullsh*t.

There is an enormous gulf between consensual BDSM-play and non-consensual abuse, and you're conflating the two. The linkage you see just isn't there.

That's not to say that some abusive assholes won't also be attracted to BDSM, but that's correlation, not causation.

What you call bullsh*t, I call scholarly work from the American Psychological Association.

At no point did I state that desires, curiosity, fetishes lead to violence or crimes. I am stating that you get closer to that line when you begin to flirt with dangerous, potentially, or likely harmful activity. The risks of accidental harm go up markedly with people who engage in these in an amateur capacity.

What I am stating is that darker desires can be an indicator of an underlying disorder or psychiatric problem. This can be indicia of a past abuse in a sexual partner; unresolved sexual abuse from childhood is especially common in the US. When we talk rape fetishes, a growing amount of research is showing childhood or adolescent brain trauma to be a significant factor.

Maybe case by case.

Do you think a man who enjoys attaching electrodes to his genitals hooked to a car battery might have an underlying psychological disorder?

Do you think that a woman who desires anal fisting to the point of fissures might?

Do you think a man who gets gratification from punching his partner in the face might?

If a friend told you he really enjoys wrapping a belt around his boyfriend's neck and pulling as hard as he can, would you suggest he get evaluated by a professional?

KingGorilla wrote:
What you call bullsh*t, I call scholarly work from the American Psychological Association.

At no point did I state that desires, curiosity, fetishes lead to violence or crimes. I am stating that you get closer to that line when you begin to flirt with dangerous, potentially, or likely harmful activity. The risks of accidental harm go up markedly with people who engage in these in an amateur capacity.

What I am stating is that darker desires can be an indicator of an underlying disorder or psychiatric problem. This can be indicia of a past abuse in a sexual partner; unresolved sexual abuse from childhood is especially common in the US. When we talk rape fetishes, a growing amount of research is showing childhood or adolescent brain trauma to be a significant factor.


Citations needed

How about this one:
Richters et al (2008). "Selected Abstracts of Presentations During the World Congress of Sexology, 2007: Demographic and Psychosocial Features of Participants in BDSM Sex: Data From a National Survey", Journal of Sex Research, 45(2), pp. 90–117.

"BDSM is simply a sexual interest attractive to a minority, not a pathological symptom of past abuse or difficulty with normal sex."

Or this one, Moser, Journal of Social Work and Human Sexuality 1988, summarised at wikipedia with the following statement

Moser emphasizes that there is no evidence at all supporting the theory of BDSM practitioners having any special psychiatric problems or even problems based solely on their preferences.

KingGorilla wrote:

Do you think a man who enjoys attaching electrodes to his genitals hooked to a car battery might have an underlying psychological disorder?

Do you think that a woman who desires anal fisting to the point of fissures might?

Do you think a man who gets gratification from punching his partner in the face might?

If a friend told you he really enjoys wrapping a belt around his boyfriend's neck and pulling as hard as he can, would you suggest he get evaluated by a professional?

Sure. "Might" to all of them. But a categorical "no" to the idea that any of the activities listed somehow imply a psychological disorder.

Do boxers have a psychological disorder? What about free climbers, or base-jumpers? That's applying your exact same logic to different activities.

Consensually engaging in behaviors others perceive as risky != psychological disorder.

KingGorilla wrote:

Do you think a man who enjoys attaching electrodes to his genitals hooked to a car battery might have an underlying psychological disorder?

Citation needed to demonstrate that this is anything other than a one off practice. There are specific devices designed so that you can have safe electro-sex. Why wouldn't he be using one of thise?

KingGorilla wrote:

Do you think that a woman who desires anal fisting to the point of fissures might?

If you're getting fissures not only are you doing it wrong but you might have a medical issue that you should go an get checked. Also we'll need a citation that correlates the desire for extreme anal sex with psychological problems

KingGorilla wrote:

Do you think a man who gets gratification from punching his partner in the face might?

Is it consensual? I get a reasonable amount of gratification for practising full contact martial arts, is that a problem? Or is it only a problem when sex is involved?

KingGorilla wrote:
If a friend told you he really enjoys wrapping a belt around his boyfriend's neck and pulling as hard as he can, would you suggest he get evaluated by a professional?

Plenty people enjoy breathplay, belts aren't a very safe way to engage in it. But really I don't have much objection to other people engaging in activities with a reasonable risk of death like base jumping and bungee jumping, I don't regard them as having a psychological problem

http://element.e-uni.ee/_download/eu...

http://www.nnvawi.org/pdfs/alo/Campb...

http://www.acog.org/Resources_And_Pu....

You can continue to argue what I am not saying. Or you can read what I am saying.

By the numbers risky sexual behavior, violent sexual fantasies are common indicators of past abuse in an individual. Violent and coercive sex among "consenting" adults is particularly common in these instances. You will be hard pressed to find a male rapist, or a woman who is in an abusive relationship who lacks a formative traumatic experience that went unresolved (Sexual abuse, physical abuse).

I never said consensual BDSM led to diddly. By all means people can and should explore their sexual desires safely, with knowledge.

I said that sexually risky behavior can be an indicator of underlying disorder. So far as I have read, that is not so controversial. And that disorder can often come out in a person's sexual desire and sexual practices. In the same way that an underlying depression comes out in alcohol or drug use. Did I just say that every person who gets drunk or snorts cocaine is mentally ill?


None of these are about consensual BDSM activities. The terms BDSM and fetish don't feature in any of those articles. These are about domestic abuse, which is a completely and utterly different psychological and interpersonal process.

I thought we were talking about BDSM activities. If you are conflating BDSM with domestic abuse and you can't tell the difference then I think I'm done here.

e2a:

KingGorilla wrote:
By the numbers risky sexual behavior, violent sexual fantasies are common indicators of past abuse in an individual. Violent and coercive sex among "consenting" adults is particularly common in these instances. You will be hard pressed to find a male rapist, or a woman who is in an abusive relationship who lacks a formative traumatic experience that went unresolved (Sexual abuse, physical abuse).

All of this can be true but it still doesn't tell you anything about the average BDSM practitioner. Who, if you'd bothered to read my references, are no more likely to have prior psychological issues than the population at large

Your first 2 sources are talking about unconsensual violence between partners i.e. abuse, and the long-term effects of exposure to that abuse. And yes, I agree with that paper that suggests that being abused has long term psychological effects. That's not what we're talking about. Next.

The third source is more what you're driving at, and the only conclusion that that one really comes to is that survivors of abuse are more likely to engage in sexual risk-taking. Again, you've got your causation the wrong way around. Yes, abuse can lead to sexual risk taking, but it's far from the only reason for sexual risk-taking.

More to the point, fetishes and kinks don't necessarily need actual risky behaviors to be satisfied. In many cases, they need the appearance of risky behavior to be satisfied. "Safe, sane and consensual" isn't the catchphrase of the modern BDSM community for no reason...

KingGorilla wrote:
Do you think a man who enjoys attaching electrodes to his genitals hooked to a car battery might have an underlying psychological disorder?

What about a guy who likes to runs around on a field in tight pants hurling himself into another dude as hard as he can? Or a guy who is willing to carry a ball while other guys do their best to pound the crap out of him for 60 minutes? These activities involve a lot of unnecessary pain but bring the participants a huge amount of gratification. If the activities are conducted on a playing field while other people watch, we call these normal, healthy entertainment. Do that by yourselves in a bedroom with the door locked, it's a freaky psychological condition.

There's a lot of extreme human behavior which shrinks find normal in some social contexts and abnormal in others. I don't think you're going to find it easy to separate the sexual from the non-sexual, or the healthy from the unhealthy, with any consistency across human activity.

KingGorilla wrote:

I said that sexually risky behavior can be an indicator of underlying disorder. So far as I have read, that is not so controversial. And that disorder can often come out in a person's sexual desire and sexual practices. In the same way that an underlying depression comes out in alcohol or drug use. Did I just say that every person who gets drunk or snorts cocaine is mentally ill?

Here's what you said:

KingGorilla wrote:
Sociologically speaking fetishes and fantasies can be an indication of disorder.

What you meant to say is that sexual risk-taking can be an indication of disorder, and you ignore the fact that the vast majority of people indulging their fetishes and fantasies go a long way towards doing it in the least risky way possible.

also, isn't "sexual risk taking" things like putting yourself in sexual situations where you're at high risk of rape or further abuse, or high risk of exposure to STIs or pregnancy?

In what way is consensual degradation role play or knife play linked to "sexual risk taking" such that you are flirting with the line of a disorder?

Funkenpants wrote:
Or a guy who is willing to carry a ball while other guys do their best to pound the crap out of him for 60 minutes? These activities involve a lot of unnecessary pain but bring the participants a huge amount of gratification.

Whoa, buddy. Am I gonna have to code up a NSFW tag?

I never bloody said it was direct cause and effect like knocking over dominoes. That is the fun part about social sciences, it is about probabilities and likelihoods.

Put another way, this is about looking back. Rapists tend to watch a lot more porn (particularly violent porn) that the given male population.

By no means does this mean porn (violent porn) leads to men raping women. What it does show is that men with rape tendencies exhibit a warning sign of heavy consumption of porn and violent porn. Now at whose peril do we operate when we tell a woman that is just his kink, as opposed to possible indication of sexually violent tendencies?

Jonman wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:
Sociologically speaking fetishes and fantasies can be an indication of disorder.

What you meant to say is that sexual risk-taking can be an indication of disorder, and you ignore the fact that the vast majority of people indulging their fetishes and fantasies go a long way towards doing it in the least risky way possible.

And those kinks I am referring to are often sexually risky. I would love for someone to tell me the safest way to punch a woman as hard as you can in the face.

KingGorilla wrote:
By no means does this mean porn (violent porn) leads to men raping women. What it does show is that men with rape tendencies exhibit a warning sign of heavy consumption of porn and violent porn. Now at whose peril do we operate when we tell a woman that is just his kink, as opposed to possible indication of sexually violent tendencies?

Nobody is advising a guy who would like to go and rape someone to go out and do so. And no one is suggesting "rape" is a kink.

The topic at hand is about a woman whose husband has dark fantasies and what they/she should do about it. And the advice is "consensually indulge in the ones you think you'd enjoy and leave the rest to the world of fantasy".

Bonus_Eruptus wrote:
Funkenpants wrote:
Or a guy who is willing to carry a ball while other guys do their best to pound the crap out of him for 60 minutes? These activities involve a lot of unnecessary pain but bring the participants a huge amount of gratification.

Whoa, buddy. Am I gonna have to code up a NSFW tag?

Too hot to handle, eh?

IMAGE(http://www.dailyherald.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=DA&Date=20120830&Category=SPORTS&ArtNo=708309560&Ref=EP&NewTbl=1&item=5&maxw=507&maxh=370&Q=70&cache=1)

KingGorilla wrote:

By no means does this mean porn (violent porn) leads to men raping women. What it does show is that men with rape tendencies exhibit a warning sign of heavy consumption of porn and violent porn. Now at whose peril do we operate when we tell a woman that is just his kink, as opposed to possible indication of sexually violent tendencies?

Possible indication? Guilty until proven innocent? Surprised to hear that coming from a legal mind.

Oh hey, I watch a bunch of porn. Whose peril are we operating at when I turn up to a Slap'n'Tickle?

Jonman wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:

By no means does this mean porn (violent porn) leads to men raping women. What it does show is that men with rape tendencies exhibit a warning sign of heavy consumption of porn and violent porn. Now at whose peril do we operate when we tell a woman that is just his kink, as opposed to possible indication of sexually violent tendencies?

Possible indication? Guilty until proven innocent? Surprised to hear that coming from a legal mind.

Oh hey, I watch a bunch of porn. Whose peril are we operating at when I turn up to a Slap'n'Tickle?

I have a bunghole cover.

The thing is a woman or a man does not get the benefit of a childhood of information when it comes to warning signs from an intimate partner. You will not quite know if they tortured animals, were masochistic bullies, wet the bed until puberty, etc. You get a narrow snap shot to work with. And sadly the closest thing I can give to a guarantee is that in that subset of the population that is abused some way in childhood in North America, they are not likely to have gotten the treatment that they need for it.

So a sexual partner has to go with what they know. And that is the exhibition of desires with the here and now, and their own reaction to it. I would like to think any decent man or woman who has seen dysfunction would seek help, or absent that dysfunction would seek it at the behest of an intimate partner just to ease their mind.

And for me, I have a tainted mind that has been despoiled by a few too many police reports, but the common theme is there. And like every other man, we have to excuse ourself from the deviant population at every turn. We are every guy who slips a pill into a girl's drink, every man who slaps his wife, every man who got a hooker in Vegas until we show otherwise. Women in the US cannot take the risk thinking any other way.

KingGorilla wrote:
Put another way, this is about looking back. Rapists tend to watch a lot more porn (particularly violent porn) that the given male population.

By no means does this mean porn (violent porn) leads to men raping women. What it does show is that men with rape tendencies exhibit a warning sign of heavy consumption of porn and violent porn.

For something to be a warning sign, don't we have to take into account the number of false positives? I would be surprised if rapists DIDN'T watch a lot more porn, particularly violent porn. That doesn't mean it's a warning sign. That means you need to have more information about porn-watching habits before making that jump to calling it a warning sign. You said "That is the fun part about social sciences, it is about probabilities and likelihoods." Sure, but the important likelihood here isn't that a rapist will watch a lot more porn than the average male. The important likelihood is how good a predictor watching a lot of porn is of someone being a rapist. Do you get the difference?

KingGorilla wrote:

So a sexual partner has to go with what they know. And that is the exhibition of desires with the here and now, and their own reaction to it. I would like to think any decent man or woman who has seen dysfunction would seek help, or absent that dysfunction would seek it at the behest of an intimate partner just to ease their mind.

And we get back to kinky = abuse survivor and/or abuser. Which DanB has debunked with citations upthread.

DanB wrote:
The topic at hand is about a woman whose husband has dark fantasies and what they/she should do about it. And the advice is "consensually indulge in the ones you think you'd enjoy and leave the rest to the world of fantasy".

And also "chill the f*** out". Judge the man on his behavior, not his idle fantasies.

KingGorilla wrote:
And for me, I have a tainted mind that has been despoiled by a few too many police reports, but the common theme is there. And like every other man, we have to excuse ourself from the deviant population at every turn. We are every guy who slips a pill into a girl's drink, every man who slaps his wife, every man who got a hooker in Vegas until we show otherwise. Women in the US cannot take the risk thinking any other way.

Getting a hooker in Vegas is deviant? That seems like a pretty different activity than rape.

KingGorilla wrote:
And like every other man, we have to excuse ourself from the deviant population at every turn. We are every guy who slips a pill into a girl's drink, every man who slaps his wife, every man who got a hooker in Vegas until we show otherwise. Women in the US cannot take the risk thinking any other way.

Speak for yourself pal. Don't tar me with that brush. I am categorically not every date-rapist, abuser and john. I am also not a murderer, child molester or burglar.

Yes, sure, people shouldn't necessarily assume the best of me when they don't know me, but I don't need to excuse myself from that population - my actions do that loudly enough.

Funkenpants wrote:
Bonus_Eruptus wrote:
Funkenpants wrote:
Or a guy who is willing to carry a ball while other guys do their best to pound the crap out of him for 60 minutes? These activities involve a lot of unnecessary pain but bring the participants a huge amount of gratification.

Whoa, buddy. Am I gonna have to code up a NSFW tag?

Too hot to handle, eh?

IMAGE(http://www.dailyherald.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=DA&Date=20120830&Category=SPORTS&ArtNo=708309560&Ref=EP&NewTbl=1&item=5&maxw=507&maxh=370&Q=70&cache=1)