‘PIB’ — the flailing desperation of the but-what-about polygamy, incest & bestiality slippery-slope claim

So the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing arguments about same-sex marriage. Andrew Sullivan has a good summary of the key points from the first day of the discussion (Dylan Matthews has another good look).

Unsurprisingly, the specter of polygamy made an appearance, something that may be familiar if you’ve ever discussed marriage equality with relatives, co-workers or fellow parishioners who oppose it, but can’t quite explain why. It’s not so much an argument as a defense of not having one: “Oh yeah? Well just because I can’t give a good reason why something should be prohibited doesn’t mean it should be allowed! After all, I can’t explain why polygamy, incest and bestiality should be prohibited either — so does that mean those should all be made legal too?”

It’s always those three things, all lumped together. That trinity of slippery slopes is so common that John Corvino has given it a name: “PIB.”

I’ve referred to this slippery-slope argument as the “PIB” argument, short for “polygamy, incest and bestiality,” although other items sometimes make the list as well. What got me interested in PIB, aside from my wanting to defend gay people against nasty smears, is that it isn’t entirely clear what the argument is saying. Is it predicting that once homosexuality becomes more accepted (some of) these other things will become more accepted as well? Is it making a logical point, suggesting that, even if these things won’t ensue, in fact, they’re somehow related in principle? Or is it primarily a rhetorical move, simply trying to scare people away from homosexuality by invoking a parade of horribles? In many ways, the PIB argument seems more like a question or a challenge than an argument proper: “OK, Mr. or Ms. Sexual Liberal, explain to me why all these other things are wrong.”

Corvino’s Salon essay, excerpted from his book What’s Wrong With Homosexuality, is worth reading in full, then bookmarking for future use, the same way one bookmarks the Snopes pages for the urban legends your crazy uncle is always pasting on your Facebook wall. Corvino deals with each of the three matters in turn, but also steps back to consider what these weird-but-popular objections may mean to those raising them. Their popularity clearly doesn’t arise from their logical potency, so what’s the attraction?

The PIB argument, he says, can be approached in two ways: “a logical version and a causal version.” In the “logical” form, Corvino says, the argument claims that the argument for marriage equality “proves too much” — making a case not just for same-sex marriage, but for all the PIB elements too. In this form, he says, PIB is basically a reductio ad absurdum argument that dodges the need to respond to arguments for marriage equality by claiming, instead, that such arguments also somehow support P, I and B. Here’s Corvino:

The point is not to make a prediction: It’s to indicate the alleged logical inconsistency of supporting homosexuality while opposing PIB.

But why would anyone think that supporting same-sex relationships logically entails supporting PIB? The answer, I think, is that some people misread the pro-gay position as resting on some version of the following premise: People have a right to whatever kind of sexual activity they find fulfilling. If that were true, then it would indeed follow that people have a right to polygamy, incest, “man on child, man on dog or whatever the case may be.” But no serious person actually believes this premise, at least not in unqualified form. That is, no serious person thinks that the right to sexual expression is absolute. The premise, thus construed, is a straw man.

He does a nice job in explaining, in each case, why one can consistently support same-sex marriage while opposing PIB, with a particularly helpful discussion of distinctions between same-sex marriage and polygamy.

Corvino doesn’t give a great deal of time or attention to the B part of PIB, briefly noting that, “Of course there’s the issue of consent,” and quickly moving on. But let’s linger there for a moment longer, because I’m not sure that “of course” is appropriate. The reason that so many people continue to raise endless “man on dog” and “box turtle” variations of this weird bestiality argument is that they don’t have the slightest regard for consent as a necessary component of marriage or sex or love. Some of us may nod along, saying “of course, of course” to Corvino’s “of course,” but a great many of the PIBsters don’t see anything “of course” about it. Consent isn’t part of their framework. They’re defending traditional marriage, after all, and traditionally marriage was about property, not about mutual consent.

And “tradition” here doesn’t mean something from biblical times in the ancient world, or even something centuries distant like the world of Jane Austen’s novels. Here in the United States, wives have been regarded as the property of their husbands to the extent that spousal rape was not recognized as a crime until the late 1970s.

The defenders of “traditional marriage” cannot understand the significance of consent because the traditional marriage they are defending does not understand it either.

The other form of the PIB argument, Corvino says, is the “causal version,” in which the connection between same-sex marriage and PIB:

… is not logical but empirical. That is, perhaps the endorsement of one item will lead to the endorsement of others, whether or not it logically should. For instance, maybe the wider acceptance of homosexuality will embolden polygamists and make it harder for others to resist their advocacy.

This is followed by 10 paragraphs in which Corvino settles on Stanley Kurtz as the strongest proponent of this argument. He reviews Kurtz’s argument, fortifies it a bit so that he has something worth considering, and then thoroughly dismantles it. He concludes that, “the causal version of the PIB arguments fails, both as a prediction and as a moral objection,” and anyone reading along will share that conclusion.

Anyway, do go read the whole thing. And then bookmark that link for the next time your Facebook friends or religiously indignant relatives start crying PIB.

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  • I hit this argument on FB just yesterday. Here was the gist of my answer:

    One of these three doesn’t belong. Animals cannot give meaningful consent, and if you spend much time in liberal circles, you’ll discover what a hugely important thing we regard consent to be.

    The root of the taboo against incest is largely on two fronts, to my understanding: squick and genetics. Squick we can disregard; genetics is somewhat trickier for heterosexual pairing. My official position is that anyone willing to take the care and effort to reduce or negate this issue (and, of course, meets the litmus for a healthy relationship in general) has my blessing. I may consider certain pairings weird, but I’m just not bothered enough by brothers and sisters, cousins or generally anyone else of similar age to raise a fuss.

    Polygamy, on the other hand, almost makes a kind of sense. The resources of several working people being pooled together to raise quality of life for the entire family? That’s a good deal. The nasty parts seem to be more from human nature — and the messy issue of divorce. My official position is that, again, anyone willing to take the time to make this work as smoothly as humanly possible has my blessing. As long as everyone knows what they’re getting into (meaningful consent!), go for it. Sometimes it works out just fine.

    PIB is a drink, but sounds more like a sandwich.

  • When I was young, there was this dreadful thing called “the unnatural sin of miscegenation Acts 17:26 Genesis 11.” Miscegenation was often compared with incest. http://books.google.com/books?id=tggfcZQyofAC&pg=PA71&lpg=PA71&dq=miscegenation+incest&source=bl&ots=_00qigDvc2&sig=bRboPAtk8gu3mKJwJ_2uhM9hego&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xpJSUcLCIeiiyAHTvIDwAg&ved=0CEoQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=miscegenation%20incest&f=false

  • The “litmus-for-a-healthy relationship-in-general” test is very tricky to pass with incest, because incest has a much higher likelihood of being all muddled up in familial power dynamics. That puts cross-generational relationships as vanishingly-unlikely-to-be-healthy, and even older sibling-younger sibling relationships at high risk. (Supernatural fandom, looking at you.) Cousins, though, and also siblings who didn’t meet until later in life, with care taken to avoid genetic stuff… much more possible. (And more legal, and more common.)

    Polyamory, the modern version at least with two or more consenting partners engaged in a carefully-negotiated relationship, has zero ethical barriers. The legislative/societal trick is to approve of the stable, consenting relationships while discouraging the abusive and coercive ones — patriarch gets younger and younger brides, etc. Of course, we make that distinction all the time with the relationship models we’re more familiar with — an abusive spouse hitting their partner doesn’t cast aspersions on the whole institution of two-partner marriage, just the character of the abuser. So as society becomes more familiar with a healthy polyamorous relationship model, we’ll be more able, not less, to point out how wrong the patriarchal model is.

    As a side note, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the PIB argument in real life, just online. I’m sure it is common, I’ve just never heard it.

  • Eternal September

    The PIB argument would be more interesting if they would just drop the B, as it is the most obviously different from the other two. Although I don’t find the consent argument convincing, if animals can’t give consent, they wouldn’t give it to each other either, and therefore bestiality wouldn’t increase the amount of harm that animals are recieving.

    Anyways, the other two on the other hand are really using similar rhetoric to anti-gay critics, even in Corvino’s article.

    With incest, in particular, “sex has a powerful effect on the dynamics of family life.” and “I cannot fathom all of the effects… but I can’t imagine the effects would be good” are using the exact same tactic as talking about gays raising children with hushed voices, and implying that there must be something disturbing or perverted going on.

    It PRESUPPOSES that I am already squicked by incest, therefore I must be horrified by the prospect of incest being allowed.

    “The incest ban means that every person is forbidden to have sex with some people — a relatively small group — whom he might find romantically appealing: his close relatives. By contrast, the homosexuality ban means that gay people are forbidden to have sex with anyone whom they might find romantically appealing.”

    If that’s a significant distinction, should that mean that it’s OK to ban same-sex marriage for bisexuals?

    “there are good moral reasons for prohibiting some sexual relationships, either individually (say, because Jack’s relationship with Jane breaks his vow to Jill) or as a class (say, because the relationship is unfaithful or emotionally unhealthy or physically harmful or morally defective in some other way).

    I don’t doubt that some PIB relationships can realize genuine human goods.”

    Then ban the classes that are actually harmful, rather than the stereotypical problems that they might have. If all texans are statistically more likely to be rapists than new yorkers, that’s a perfectly good reason to ban rape, but not so much to ban sex between texans and new yorkers.

    If you think that polygamy or incest are stereotypically related to pedophilia/spousal abuse/transmission of genetic diseases, that’s a good reason to criminalize pedophilia and spousal abuse, or to ban procreation for relatives, ( and for all the genetically ill!), but not so much for marriage.

  • As an avid Dr Pepper drinker, let me just say, Mr. Pibb is clearly the drink of the Antichrist.

  • I’m against B (of course), but I don’t see how it’s connected to consent. Horses and cows don’t consent to artificial insemination, but people do that to them all the time. We kill animals for food without consent. We keep them lactating for weirdly long periods of time. We sheer their fur. There are reasons not to have sex with animals, but surely the reason cannot be that it would violate the consent of the animal in a way that artificial insemination does not.

  • Hexep

    Personally, I’m not opposed to any of these things, though I don’t care to indulge in them. With regards to the B, I can get up right now, go to an open-air market, and get a wizened expert behind a counter to chop a chicken’s head off for me. It’s actually quite gruesome; the first time I saw it, I almost retched. Even if you don’t have open-air markets with wizened experts behind them, if you choose to eat meat then you must understand that these sorts of doings are going on behind the scenes, on your behalf.

    Or, in retrospect, I could just say that Carl is correct.

  • arcseconds

    I think you should just turn the tables back on them. Why does the slope start with homosexuality?

    (and why homosexual marriage for goodness sakes? the gay horse bolted 30 years ago or more)

    If you think it’s OK to have sex with anyone, as far as I can see, it’s a slippery to gay incestuous sex with your dad’s cybernetic toaster-poodle.

    So… to the cloning vats!

  • arcseconds

    (same argument applies, mutatis mutandis, to marriage)

  • AnonaMiss

    Yeah, bestiality brings up larger questions relating to non-humans and consent. As previously noted, we regularly override animals’ consent, even for our companion animals – my housemates have a foxhound who would love to be able to revoke his consent to a leash.

    This is an especially gnarly subject because traditional animal breeding would be, from a consent-based sexual ethic, pretty much humans setting up rape dates for their animals; IVF would be humans raping their livestock with syringes. And unless you abstain from mammalian meat and dairy and have never owned a mammalian pet, you participate in the forced birth of livestock. (Leaving aside egg-layers here because that’s a whole nother kettle of fish).

    My moral intuition doesn’t have a problem with most of this, though I might just be calloused by a family background in dairy farming. And given that I’m OK with all of this, most notably livestock IVF, I have a hard time seeing why I should have a problem with bestiality on principle.

  • Hexep

    In Buddhist practice, there is a principle called White-Bone Meditation, whereby the practitioner stares at dead bodies or pictures of dead bodies until they are desensitized against death and lose their attachment to life. I imagine the principle is the same; if you know that you are repulsed by something but know rationally that you shouldn’t be, I guess the best thing is to just acclimatize yourself to it.

  • Eternal September

    All sexual relationships can be muddled up in power dynamics.

    If it would be the law’s role to make dominant-submissive roles illegal, they should do that directly. Make BDSM illegal. Have obligatory mental health checks before marriages. But it is worse than useless to ban relationship types that are stereotypcally believed to commonly involve power play.

    Besides, the same thing could be said about homosexuality, a while ago. Greeks and romans glorified the manliness of the penetrator, while humiliating the penetrated for being like a woman. This is literally the reason why the Bible banned the whole thing altogether, because it was inherently associated with dominant men raping submissive ones. Note the wording of Lev. 20:13 – even though it demands the execution of both participants, it’s wording is the same as the following chapter about bestiality (where the animal is also to be put to death). It’s about one man “lying with” another, not about two guys in love with each other).

  • Nick

    Advocates of traditional marriage don’t care about consent? That’s quite an ad hom.

  • Or it would be if he didn’t continue to articulate that “traditional” marriage is about women as property & that spousal rape wasn’t even recognized as a thing until the 70s.

  • I think if you scratched down far enough you’d find that they in fact would be perfectly happy making being gay illegal.

  • RJ (TO)

    I’ve found the best way to deal with PIBers is to just turn their argument back around on them. “If we allow christians to worship openly and freely in public then sooner or later satanists are going to demand the same thing. It’s a slippery slope!”

    They’ll immediately say they’re not the same thing. Ask them to explain how they’re different. Both are religions (so they’re constitutionally protected), involve the worship and exultation of an invisible, ancient, supernatural being, require total submission and the performance of certain rites. More importantly, ask them why they find the comparison offensive.

    Same with the “Homosexuality is a choice and therefore completely changeable, so it should not be a protected right” argument. Point out to them that the same can be said for religion. It’s a choice they made and, as evidenced by the growing number of ex-christians out there, completely changeable. So, according to their own theory, religion shouldn’t be protected by law either.

  • They betray their mindset with the PIB argument; consent is pivotal, yes, but it shows they think “morals are rules.”

    Unlike reasoning behavior, which says, “Someone is being hurt by this, it shouldn’t be allowed,” I see their arguments based on simple rules. Why if we violate one rule, it throws all of them out the window!

    Because they don’t arrive at their “rules” by a process of reasoning. They get there by being told what to do.

  • Fusina

    “They get there by being told what to do.”

    And this is my biggest problem with Christianity. It started as a thing that looked at the rules and tossed out the silly ones, and became one that wrote even sillier rules than the ones tossed. I am no longer sure I am a Christian–I still believe that God exists, and I believe that Jesus was/is his son… but I don’t like all the rules and traditions that have been added on since the beginning. Also, I am having problems with the church I go to–not the congregation, just the priest, mostly because she thought I was a bad person because I wouldn’t say I forgave someone who hurt me and was totally unrepentant, denied that she hurt me and seemed confused that I could possibly have been hurt by her words. No, I won’t leave, mostly because the people at the church are my family, but I don’t tend to go to service when this priest is presiding anymore. I just hang out with the kids in the nursery during them. But I miss the pageantry and music.

  • Isabel C.

    Sure, but in all fairness, many-to-most heterosexual monogamous non-related relationships are unhealthy too, as most people who’ve ever spent time in a college dorm will tell you. And we do have age-of-consent laws already.
    I mean, incest grosses me out, but so do many relationships that I still think should be legal. (People who talk baby talk to their partners, for instance: if you put Snookie Wookums and Her Pookie Pie up against Siblings Who Make Out, I’d probably be friendlier toward the latter.)

  • “Animals cannot give meaningful consent, and if you spend much time in
    liberal circles, you’ll discover what a hugely important thing we regard
    consent to be.”
    Why do animals have to consent to have sex? Do they consent to get eaten?

  • JustoneK

    Are you into vore or something?

  • I actually ran into this argument just yesterday. It’s not necessarily that they “don’t care” about consent. It’s more that they don’t really fully grasp the concept or its centrality or they pretend not to until they can use it themselves.

    I broke my “no arguments on Facebook” rule and got into one. The whole, “What’s next, marrying children?” thing came up. Several people then said, “Consent, duh” (paraphrasing considerably). The person on the anti-gay side then went down the road to, “Well what if we start pushing the age of consent down, then what are you going to do?”

    I quickly realized that all the person was trying to do was derail and make an argument that we can’t change the laws about gay marriage because we might then change laws about other, seemingly related things. It was a derail, similar to the way Fred articulates Corvino’s argument about PIB. It’s also not something easy to deal with, since the person is probably either genuinely or willfully misunderstanding consent and, in general, how the law works in America.

    I pointed out that the logical conclusion of her underlying argument (we can’t change Law A because that might lead to someone deciding to change Law B somewhere down the line, so we must draw the line somewhere) can be worked backwards. Since it was a woman I then took women’s suffrage and asked if she would prefer to return to the time before that particular law was changed. Then the whole thing ended because I had better things to do than argue on Facebook.

  • They have to consent to get married.

  • markedward

    It still is, because this isn’t the 70s. I don’t know a single person who views their wife as mere property. I don’t know a single person who thinks consent isn’t important to ‘traditional marriage’. He’s pointing out the fallacies of the PIB argument, but makes his own fallacies to do so.

  • Not really. He’s pointing out the implications of people calling for “traditional marriage.” The people making those arguments are calling for a return to a time when women were property. It’s the same as if someone were calling for a simpler time before we had all that Civil Rights stuff we had to worry about. Yeah, it’s great as long as you don’t think about the entire group of human beings relegated to a lesser status.

    Humans have a remarkable ability to think that the way things used to be for them is the way things used to be for everyone. Humans also have the tendency to think that the way things are now is the way things always were and should be, with “now” being “within the last few years.” Calling for “traditional marriage” to them is to call for “marriage to remain exactly like it is now forever because that’s the way it’s always been and the way its supposed to be.” This isn’t even remotely the case, so one avenue to deal with the “traditional marriage” argument is to point out that their version of “traditional marriage” is an artifact of society within the last couple decades.

    The “traditional marriage” advocates don’t necessarily think that we need to return to a time when women were property. What they need to realize, though, is that their “traditional marriage” doesn’t exist. Since it doesn’t exist and marriage as a concept has changed over time we can continue to change marriage. There are some bright lines, such as the PIB lines (although I’m not actually against the P part. My main issue is that it invites a whole shitload of complications in terms of division of property, child custody, and medical decision making and if you think divorces are complicated now just wait until there are five people trying to get divorced. That’s the difficulty of the fact that I consider marriage a contractual construct recognized by the state as opposed to an unchanging thing handed down by god hisownself in the Garden of Eden) and child marriage. However, polygamy, incest, and child marriage used to be a thing. We’ve done away with those as time has gone on because we’ve made other, separate decisions about how to deal with people and their interrelationships.

    Either way, as we like to say ’round these here parts: actually, it’s more complicated than that.

  • SisterCoyote

    You don’t have to scratch down tha far. Santorum, at least, has already said that he believes what goes on between two consenting adults in their own homes is the business of the government.

  • ASeriesOfWords

    Trust me, none of that stuff invalidates you as a Christian.

  • You’re not alone in that. The silliness of some of the rules we have (and the things our self-appointed spokespeople say and advocate for) sometimes makes me stop what I’m doing and shake my head. But, like you, I still have those core beliefs that make it impossible to just walk away from the whole thing. However, I at least have a church that seems to be pretty great… that helps a lot. I’m sorry that yours has the problems that it does*.

    *This awkward sentence brought to you by my desire to avoid sounding like I think problem-free churches (or anything else) actually exist, while still affirming that some problems are worse than others.

  • Fred has had multiple posts on how fundamentalist Christians have no sexual ethics, because it is all defined about what is proper biblical sex and what is not. Others who do not buy into that paradigm instead establish sexual ethics based around consent, which is why support for gay marriage does NOT translate into support for incest and bestiality and most forms of polygamy, because the ability of individuals to consent isn’t possible.


  • That guy is the pits.

  • Someone hasn’t been paying attention to Republican lawmakers, then.

  • Lori

    Colbert has some things to say on the subject of opposition to same sex marriage:


    Narcicitizenship is my new favorite word.

  • Yes, because sexual activity and killing are interchangeable in arguments, just as the relationship between sexual participants is completely analogous to the predator-prey relationship.

    If you believe these things, find a qualified mental health professional and discuss them to try and understand how horribly, horribly wrong you are about a great many things.

  • arresi

    Regarding the issue of bestiality and consent: I don’t think that animal’s general lack of ability to consent means that consent-based sexual ethics can’t block bestiality. That seems to imply that sexual ethics are the same thing as the ethics of eating or pet ownership. Or maybe just limited by. Why should we assume that because something is permissible in an entirely different context that it should be permissible sexually or vice versa?

  • I’m against B (of course), but I don’t see how it’s connected to consent.

    Because of Discus’ terrible threading system, I’ll wind up repeating this comment elsewhere I suspect, but here’s where you’re going astray:
    The discussion isn’t about “the role of consent in the ethics of animal treatment”
    The discussion is about “the role of consent in the ethics of sex“.

    Fred has had quite a few posts on what a responsible sexual ethic looks like. That is, what are the criteria a person should have for enjoying themselves sexually without violating ethics.

  • I know I’ve said this upthread, but again, the issue of bestiality in this context isn’t about the ethics of animal treatment, but the ethics of sexual conduct.

    Bestiality isn’t wrong because animals need to consent for actions to be ethical, bestiality is wrong because consent is necessary for sexual acts to be ethical, regardless of who is involved.

    I have a hard time seeing why I should have a problem with bestiality on principle.

    Because the principle here is “any sexual act without consent is immoral”.
    The principle is notall non-consensual acts are immoral”.

  • AnonaMiss

    I’m sorry, do you think that sex has a higher standard of consent than killing? If so, please explain. If not, stfu.

  • HBD

    Well, technically satanists already DO have the right to worship openly.

    Probably a better response would be “Well, when that topic comes up for consideration, let’s debate it at that time. For now, let’s focus on the topic of same sex marriage between human beings.”

  • AnonaMiss

    As I noted in my original post, we perform sexual acts on animals without their consent (IVF) all the time.

  • AnonaMiss

    In vitro fertilization of an animal requires sexual penetration, and is a common way of breeding certain animals (especially e.g. racehorses). Would you consider this unethical based on the requirement for consent in sexual acts?

  • P J Evans

    There are a lot of people who don’t understand it. And most of them seem to post their (lack of) argument online.

  • In vitro fertilization is not a sexual act; it is a reproductive one.

    Not all reproductive acts are sexual acts. (in vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, abortion, sterlization, etc.)

    Some sexual acts are reproductive acts, but not all. (do I really need to list examples?)

    All sexual acts require consent of all parties in order to be ethical.

    Not all reproductive acts require consent of all parties in order to be ethical.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not all reproductive acts require consent of all parties in order to be ethical.

    You want to unpack that? Because all four of the examples you listed absolutely do require all parties’ consent. (Note that the only party to an abortion is the pregnant person, unless one wants to count the abortion provider.) I’ll grant that conception through penis-in-vagina sex doesn’t necessarily require all parties’ consent, since it so often happens without anyone’s awareness till weeks after the sex act in question, but sex often happens without all parties’ consent too. That does not mean that either conception or sex should happen without all parties’ consent.
    The ethics of doing things to animals without their consent, regardless of the nature of the thing in question, is a dicey subject on which I do not feel qualified to speak.

  • Sex with people is a far more complex subject than sex induced by estrous. If you want to make an argument about how we should all be vegetarians, then that’s a perfectly valid topic for another thread.

  • smrnda

    Fred is pointing out that ‘traditionally’ women were property. Contemporary proponents of traditional marriage who don’t think that are backing a ‘tradition’ which has never really existed.

  • smrnda

    For people who base sexual ethics on consent, we see that same-sex marriage is unlike the others. For people who follow rules mindlessly, once you start thinking about changing rules they can’t figure out how you can throw out any without throwing out them all. They’re just incapable of reasoning out why one thing should be permitted or allowed based on the likelihood that it causes harm.

    On animals and consent and eating, a good discussion there. Perhaps it could be seen as a matter of animal cruelty. Some people maintain that raising animals for food is okay provided that they are allowed to live comfortably and killed in the least painful matter possible. So it’s better in that view to shoot an animal that has lived a natural and free life than to eat an animal which spent its short life being force-fed and confined to a cage, and that having sex with animals would be unnecessary cruelty.

    I’m assuming animals can consent to sex with each other because they have some sort of mutually intelligible mating behavior. Even if they don’t, I can’t imagine that we could enforce consent among animals, but the fact that animals engage in cannibalism sometimes doesn’t force us to view it as okay.

  • I’m sorry, do you think that sex has a higher standard of consent than killing? If so, please explain.

    I think sexual ethics include consent.

    I think the ethics of killing preclude consent.

    I don’t hold apples to a higher standard than oranges, I hold them to a different standard. If you can’t distinguish between hierarchical and categorical standards, then “stfu”.

  • AnonaMiss

    In addition to Ellie’s excellent point, you are claiming that sticking an object into an animal’s vagina is not a sexual act. Is bestiality then acceptable if the sex is undertaking using a toy, instead of organic parts?

    Or are you claiming that consent is unnecessary if you’re raping the subject for the purpose of reproduction?

    And for clarity’s sake, my position is that if bestiality is wrong, that implies that breeding animals is wrong, and that killing animals is wrong (because I think killing something without consent is at least as bad as raping it. I’d rather be raped than murdered, but I consider assisted suicide morally OK).

    However – and this is where I’m a little shaky on the foundation of my ethics because of the aforementioned dairy family upbringing – I consider breeding animals OK, so by the law of the contrapositive, I must therefore consider bestiality OK. I am also open to the position that neither bestiality nor the killing of animals is OK, and could be persuaded around to it.

    But I can’t wrap my head around a position that says it’s OK to kill an animal, and it’s OK to rape an animal as long as it’s for the purpose of forcibly impregnating it, but if you rape an animal without intending to impregnate it, well, that’s just wrong!

  • For my own part, I prefer a model of sexual ethics that isn’t definitionally unrelated to my model of ethics more generally. But even leaving that aside, it’s not clear that the sort of analysis you champion here makes sense.

    Suppose Sam argues that using a vibrator to stimulate myself to orgasm is immoral, since that’s a sexual act and vibrators can’t consent, and “any sexual act without consent is immoral”.

    Of course, I could reply “Sam, you’re just being ridiculous, it’s obvious that there simply is no ethical question to be asked about sex with inanimate objects.”

    But then Sam says “Well, it’s equally obvious that there is no ethical question to be asked about sex with animals.”

    It seems to me that in order to meaningfully respond to that claim, I need to talk about the ethical status of animals more generally, not simply assert a rule about what sorts of sexual acts are and aren’t immoral.

  • Here’s why I think the “but we kill/eat/leash/impregnate animals against their will all the time!” argument is problematic:

    An argument can be made for vegetarianism being the more moral course of action, sure, and a lot of the most questionably moral activities regarding animals have to do with maintaining an ample supply of meats for the purposes of keeping the population supplied with large amounts of animal protein.

    I do not consider an already absurdly uneven power dynamic to be an excuse to abuse it, though. See again: healthy relationship. Just as people are rightly wary of “father and sixteen year old daughter” incest, what we’re talking about is a relationship in which one entity is utterly dependent another in almost every possible way. Just because we’re already exploiting that relationship in some ways doesn’t mean that should be considered either consent or excuse to further do so. The idea is to minimize the harm done.