Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 7: Definitions of “Sexual Activity”

Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 7: Definitions of “Sexual Activity” January 30, 2021

In Part 6 of this series, I argued that the phrase “sexual activity” is unclear, and that the meaning of this phrase is NOT obvious.

I used examples and information about the use of this phrase in the medical and health arena.  I plan to also look at some information about the use of the phrase “sexual activity” in the legal and criminal justice arena.  But before I move on to discussing the meaning of this phrase in the legal arena, I want to dig a bit deeper into some definitions and interpretations of this phrase in the medical and health arena.

DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS OF “SEXUAL ACTIVITY” IN THE MEDICAL AND HEALTH ARENA

Let’s start off with the definition of “sexual activity” that is provided by Vocabulary.com:

DEFINITION 1:   

X is a sexual activity IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) X is an activity, and

(b) X is associated with sexual intercourse.

The Encyclopedia Britannica has an article on sexual activity by an expert on sex, and the article provides a definition of “sexual activity”:

DEFINITION 2: 

X is a sexual activity IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) X is an activity, and

(b) X induces sexual arousal.

 

A third definition of “sexual activity” can be inferred from an article presenting scientific research about the frequency of sexual activity:

 

DEFINITION 3:

X is a sexual activity IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) X is an activity, and

(b) a person P engaging in X on an occasion O constitutes P having sex on occasion O.

These three definitions of “sexual activity” are clearly different definitions.  It seems, at least at first glance, that they are NOT equivalent to each other, and that they have different implications.  If this is so, then there are at least three different possible definitions for the phrase “sexual activity” in relation to the medical and health arena.

Let’s put these definitions to work, in order to see if they are in fact different definitions that have different implications.

Suppose that John kisses Susan passionately on the lips for a minute or two, and suppose that Susan is not completely passive but also engages in passionate kissing of John on the lips at the same time.  Is John involved in sexual activity here?  Is Susan involved in sexual activity here?

If we try to apply DEFINITION 1, we run into some problems.  First of all, is the activity here the generic one of “kissing someone on the lips”?  or is it “kissing someone passionately on the lips”?  or is it “John kissing Susan on the lips”? or “John kissing Susan passionately on the lips”? or is it “John kissing Susan passionately on the lips on this particular occasion”?

Kissing someone on the lips can be done without any sexual desire or any intention to ever engage in sexual intercourse with the person being kissed.  Kissing someone passionately on the lips implies some degree of sexual desire or intention to arouse sexual desire.  However, sometimes people become sexually aroused or intend to arouse sexual desire in another person while having no intention to proceed on to having sexual intercourse with that person.

In fact, two people who are attracted to each other may have an explicit plan to AVOID engaging in sexual intercourse, while sometimes engaging in passionate kissing.  Perhaps John and Susan are just such a pair of people.  In that case, is this passionate kissing activity “associated with sexual intercourse”?  It is very difficult to say.  Kissing in general is remotely associated with sexual intercourse, because people often kiss each other as a prelude to engaging in sexual intercourse.  But it is also the case that people often kiss without there being any sexual desire or intention to ever have sexual intercourse with each other.

Although John and Susan apparently have some sexual desire for each other, they may be perfectly capable of controlling their sexual desires and behavior and be able to passionately kiss each other on the lips without then proceeding to have sexual intercourse.  It is simply UNCLEAR whether this activity constitutes a “sexual activity” according to DEFINITION 1.

But if both John and Susan are engaged in passionate kissing for a minute or two, then it seems clear that this activity “induces sexual desire” in John and in Susan, and thus would clearly count as a “sexual activity” according to DEFINITION 2.

Kissing on the lips, even passionate kissing on the lips, does NOT constitute “having sex” with another person, so this activity is clearly NOT an instance of “sexual activity” according to DEFINITION 3.

We can already see that these three definitions are three DIFFERENT definitions, with different implications.  DEFINITION 1 leaves us unclear as to whether the passionate kissing between John and Susan counts as a “sexual activity”.  DEFINITION 2 clearly implies that the passionate kissing between John and Susan counts as a “sexual activity”, and DEFINITION 3 clearly implies that this passionate kissing between John and Susan does NOT count as a “sexual activity.”

We have examined three definitions of “sexual activity” and discovered that they are three different definitions, and that at least in some cases they have conflicting implications.  Therefore, these three different definitions of “sexual activity” represent three different conflicting interpretations of that phrase.  I did not have to look very long to find these three definitions, so if I took more time, I’m sure I could come up with at least two or three more alternative definitions.  This is strong evidence that the phrase “sexual activity” as used in the medical and health arena is UNCLEAR, and that the meaning of this phrase is NOT obvious.

 

DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS OF “SEXUAL ACTIVITY” IN THE LEGAL AND CRIMINAL ARENA

A commenter who rejected my criticism of Hsiao’s core “argument” in PFA, claimed that the meaning of the phrase “sexual activity” was self-explanatory:

Apparently, 90Lew90 believes that the phrase “sexual activity” is “completely unambiguous” and that the meaning of this phrase is OBVIOUS to most people.  We have seen above that this phrase is clearly NOT “completely unambiguous” and that the meaning of this phrase is NOT obvious.

90Lew90 goes on to point out that this phrase is “also a term of law”.  Although it is true that this phrase is a term used in our laws and our legal system, concerning sex crimes, what 90Lew90 failed to realize is that our laws provide powerful evidence that the phrase “sexual activity” is AMBIGUOUS and that the meaning of this phrase is NOT obvious.

90Lew90 apparently forgot that our laws (in the USA) against sex crimes are, primarily, STATE LAWS.  Thus, we have 50 different sets of STATE LAWS that define various sex crimes.  The assumption that all 50 states would define “sexual activity” in the same way is very implausible, and extremely unlikely.  In any case, a few seconds of searching on the internet reveals this assumption to be not only FALSE, but to be as WRONG as it could possibly be.

Here are just a few of the dozens of different definitions of “sexual activity” provided by different laws about sex crimes:

 

For many more definitions, see this website: https://www.lawinsider.com/dictionary/sexual-activity

I have examined a few of these definitions.  Some are very general and abstract, others contain lots of details and specifics.  The ones that contain specifics differ from each other on what specifics they include or exclude in the definitions.  The general and abstract definitions also do NOT all agree with each other.  So, although some of these definitions are very similar to others, some are unique, and some are different from, and disagree with, other definitions.

In pointing to the use of the phrase “sexual activity” in the legal and criminal arena 90Lew90 FAILS to establish his views about the meaning of this phrase, and instead points us to information that clearly proves his claims to be FALSE.  The phrase “sexual activity” is NOT clear; the meaning of this phrase is NOT “completely unambiguous”; the meaning of this phrase is NOT obvious.

Rather, the meaning of the phrase “sexual activity” is UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS, and it is in need of definition or clarification.


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