In Defense of Smut: Kate Lovelady on Ethics and Sexuality

Some people think that sex positivity is just a fancy term for an  ‘anything goes’ sexual ethic — that people who describe themselves as sex positive don’t care about ethics at all. That’s of course, not true. But sometimes it’s easy to shy  away from paying attention to ethics and sex, because traditionally that has involved a lot of shame and negativity for many.

This Sunday, Kate Lovelady, the leader at St. Louis’ Ethical Society will be giving a talk entitled “In Defense of Smut” in which she challenges her listeners to think about the kinds of eroticism they like and why.

Kate was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about ethics, sex and our current culture.  Her thoughtful questions have me really looking forward to this Sunday’s 11AM Platform Talk!

 

What are the most important features of ethical sexuality in your
opinion?

Ethical humanism focuses on trying to build relationships that “bring out
the best” in people. So in terms of sexuality, there’s the relationship
you have with yourself, and (possibly) the relationship you have with your
sexual partner/s. Ethical sexuality would ideally increase the esteem and
positive feelings you have for yourself and for your partner/s; increase
the happiness and mental and physical health of yourself and your
partner/s; and increase the ability of all parties to act ethically in
other aspects of their lives. At the very least, I define ethical
sexuality as that which doesn’t decrease self-esteem, happiness, mental or
physical health, or the ability to act ethically in other aspects of life.

Are there any ethical principles that apply exclusively to sex?  For example, consent applies to many areas of our lives, as does honesty.  In other words: is sexuality ‘special’ and does it require special rules or a special set of ethics?
If there are exclusively “sex principles” I can’t think of them. Not
passing on disease is also important when you have the flu, not hurting or
lying or manipulating others is important in non-sexual relationships. . .
. Maybe I’m just having a failure of imagination, but I don’t think
sexuality is ethically “special,” although of course the constellation of
active principles is different in a sexual relationship versus a
friendship or business relationship, etc.

Do you think U.S. society is getting more or less ethical when it comes to sexuality? In what ways?

I find it difficult to really know what’s going on in U.S. Society because
there’s so much hysterical media coverage. What concerns me in popular
culture lately that is related to sexuality is increased obsession with a
mainstream definition of beauty that denigrates aging, certain
ethnicities, uniqueness, and even reality. This is nothing new, of course,
but it continues to get worse as more people mutilate themselves with
unnecessary surgery and spend more and more to try to stop maturing,
physically.

Increases in casual sex, or teen sex, may or may not be ethical problems,
depending on why people are engaging in such sex and how they are treating
themselves and each other in their relationships.

The biggest ethical “sex problem” in the U.S. is the continued insistence
by a conservative religious minority that everyone should be forced to
follow their beliefs and practices when it comes to sex.

What’s your favorite representation of ethical sexuality in popular
 culture? Why?

I’m impressed by the attitude of many people who write smutty fan-fic.
Some of it is pretty raunchy and out there, and the writers (granted they
use pseudonyms, but still) seem to assume that they and their fans are
totally normal, which I think is very healthy.

What are good ways as an individual or community to promote sexual ethics without being overly-prescriptive?

By promoting good communication and basic healthy relationships skills,
society can give people the tools to have ethical sexual relationships
without saying what those relationships should look like.

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“In Defense of Smut” is this Sunday’s topic for The Ethical Society’s regulary 11AM Platform Talk. All are welcome. Click here for more details.

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