This essay will discuss the issues of premarital sex and promiscuity of both Elliston’s and Punzo’s theories. Premarital sex (Punzo’s definition) means two persons engaging in sexual intercourse without full commitment while promiscuity (Elliston’s explanation) is characterized as to have sex with various people without commitment. In the comparison of both philosophers, Punzo is considered the conservative theorist while Elliston is supporting casual sex with a variety of people. In Punzo’s theory, sexual intercourse, such intimate act, must involve a deep commitment between the two persons. However, Elliston would argue that sexual intercourse does not require any deep thinking or consideration of commitment as if it is not a big deal. How would Punzo react to Elliston’s theory of promiscuity-to have sex with a series of people with no intention to any commitment other than the act of sexual intercourse? How does Elliston support his argument that promiscuity should be allowed and under what conditions is promiscuity morally permissible? Other issues such as sex with someone one hopes to love, sex with a friend, or recreational sex with an acquaintance is wrong or not will also be included. All these issues will be discussed in details with both philosophers’ arguments and theories.
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Elliston defines ‘promiscuity’ with the elaboration and combinations of
the definitions of Oxford English Dictionary and Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary. “Promiscuity, according to Elliston, the word has no descriptive content, but only emotive and/or hortatory forceaˆ¦It is to condemn a practice or person as promiscuous is simply to express feelings of disapproval, or issue a prohibitive “Stop!” This position attempts to resolve the issue of meaning by limiting “promiscuity” to its emotional or prescriptive force. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “promiscuous” as: “without distinction, discrimination or order.” Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary adds: “engaging in sexual intercourse indiscriminately or with many persons.”Promiscuity, according to Elliston, ‘is too broad and begs the question at hand. For the promiscuous person clearly does draw some distinctions: typically he or she does not derive sexual satisfaction from a lover’s shoe or copulate with a dead body or a sibling. These would be more precisely called fetishism, necrophilia, or incest. Promiscuity is sometimes identified with “free love.” This persuasive definition may induce some to accept this sexual pattern because freedom, like motherhood, is a good everyone is supposed to espouse. Promiscuity may be identified with recreational sex-intercourse just for the fun of it”(Elliston 142- 143.Despite the above definition, Elliston created his own definition of promiscuity that better suits his arguments. “Promiscuity is defined as sex with a series of other adults not directly related through marriage and with no commitments; no promises of affection, sexual exclusivity in future” (Elliston 144).
In Elliston’s definition of promiscuity, it must include the following 5 components:
I. Promiscuity demands copulation-its telos is sexual intercourse.
II. Repetition is essential-the pursuit of a new partner must recur.
III. Both partners must be adults
IV. The couple cannot be directly related throughmarriage.
V. Promiscuity is noncommittal sex.Elliston explains his objections to sex without commitment would lead
to deception and exploitation by clarifying the personality of promiscuous people that would cause such results. “According to the popular prototype, promiscuous people are unfaithful and unreliable: they break promises, say things that are not true, and use others for their own sexual gratification. If this prototype were true, promiscuity would indeed be wrong, because it would violate familiar moral rules: people are supposed to keep their promises, tell the truth, and not deceive or exploit others” (Elliston 146).
People who only want to get others in-bed just to have sexual intercourse with the other by lying, deceiving, and exploiting, and similar acts, are wrong. It is wrong because it violates the well-established ethical principles, not promiscuity. “The moral fault lies not in noncommittal sex but in the lies, deceptions, and exploitation to which some happens to have recourse in order to have intercourse. This defense is complicated by the fact that a double standard is operative within large segments of society: men are allowed to “sow their wild oats,” whereas women are denigrated as “loose” or “fallen” for the same behaviour. Promiscuity is to the advantage of males and to the disadvantage of femalesaˆ¦it becomes exploitive in a more subtle fashion: men receive sexual gratification; women receive social condemnationaˆ¦it is not promiscuity that is wrong, but the double standard that places promiscuous women at a disadvantage in comparison to promiscuous menaˆ¦since promiscuity cannot be shown to be wrong in all cases, the charge that it necessarily violates generally accepted moral principles is false”(Elliston 146).
The above statements from Elliston are saying that the ‘double standard’ should be removed, not the promiscuity, because it is the ‘double standard’ that puts female in a disadvantage situation to promiscuous women.
Elliston explains his objections to sex without commitment would threatens personal emotional security and growth by using Bertocci’s theory to support his argument. According to Bertocci, premarital sex is wrong by implication against promiscuity which threatens “personal emotional security.” He argues that the sexual demand outside of marriage demonstrates “a lack of self-discipline in people who cannot control their desires, and fails to show respect and consideration for those on who the demand is placed. Such undisciplined and inconsiderate behavior places needless strain on the relationship, threatening to destroy whatever values it embodies” (Elliston 147).
Elliston explains that Bertocci’s perception of “incoherent or irrational behaviour is actually a self-conscious refusal to be directed by the western norm and that promiscuous people should not be faulted for failing to regulate their actions according to a principle they reject” (Elliston 147). Elliston also agrees that promiscuity “entail inconsiderateness only if respect is defined in terms of the western norm is promiscuity necessarily disrespectful… Acknowledging the other’s freedom to engage or not engage in noncommittal sex demonstrates some degree of respect” (Elliston 147). Promiscuity threatens the values of the relation (of the committed couples) which depends on what really is considered valuable; it could be pleasure, freedom, and respect which it should not and need not be jeopardized. Bertocci believes that emotional tensions and guilt feelings that arise from violating the taboos against non-marital sex corrode the relation. The act of promiscuity is also considered risk and challenge to the marriage or the committed relationship.
Sex is body language through the form of bodily interaction of two persons that leads to pleasure, but also has more in-depth meanings behind that; according to Elliston, “sex is more than thrusts and moans, caresses and sighsaˆ¦just as verbal language has a dimension of meaning beyond phonemes and morphemes, so body language has a significance beyond the intertwining of two bodiesaˆ¦Promiscuity has instrumental value in that it can facilitate the mastery of one kind of body languageaˆ¦sexual body language is learned through sexual interactionaˆ¦experiences enable an individual to develop a repertoire of gestures for communicating desire and affection and of decisive movements that clearly state intentions of love or amusement. People can be moved not only by the things we say but also by the things we do-with them, for them, or to themaˆ¦desire and satisfaction can be communicated not only through verbal exchanges, but also through a lingering look and an appreciative caress. To a shattered ego a physical embrace may express far more reassurance than its verbal counterparts, and a kiss may convey desire more eloquently than pleas or poemsaˆ¦The observance of this etiquette is an acknowledgement of the selfhood of the other. The acquisition of it is one of the opportunities promiscuity provides”(Elliston 149). Based on Elliston’s statements above, promiscuity in the “sex as a body language” will improve one’s ‘language’ skills through the practices of promiscuity with a variety of sexual acts with a wider range of people outside of marriage or committed-relationships.
The point of his analogy between sex and dining are both appetites whose satisfaction is socially regulated (Elliston 150). As married couples would be seen in the views of the society as one man is only allowed to dine with one woman; which is referring that dining with only one person means that in a marriage, both of the couples are (traditionally) only allowed to have sexual intercourse within themselves and no third party is acceptable. Since having sex and dining both satisfies one’s appetites and while eating can be accompanied by zero to many people, then masturbation (alone) and sex with more than one person should be allowed with different sex positions or styles. Dining with a variety of menu choices or having sex with more than one person will increase the variety of choice which will also maximize “the spice of life”; therefore, one will not be bored of the having the same meal or sexual experience through repetition. The results of the above changes of menu or sex partners would guarantee to enhance sex lives physically and mentally (meaningful). This practice of “promiscuity has expanded the form of sexual behavior from mere bodily interaction for pleasure to a form of corporeal dialogue” (Elliston 150).
Elliston made his existential defense of promiscuity by analyzing Heidegger’s theory to elaborate and explain his argument of authentic sexuality as an existential defense of promiscuity. (150). Authentic sexuality, in Elliston’s definition, “requires a similar openness to others. Commitments are changes that bind us to some and excludes us from others, blinders that narrow down the field of social praxis to a privileged one (monogamy) or few (friendship” (Elliston 150). So to extract a variety of aspect of the ‘human personality’ involves a wide range of networking and social interaction (in this sense, social means sexual interaction). To maximize healthy sexual development, one needs be open to various erotic aspects of ‘social existence’. Furthermore, “promiscuity provides this openness through freedom from emotional and sexual commitment” (Elliston 151).
According to Elliston, having sex with a person first is compulsory before deciding whether to love that person or not; basically, having sex first would be the pre-stage of whether that person’s sexual skills or chemistry through sexual intercourse would allow one to decide whether to love this person is feasible or not. Therefore, Elliston agrees that promiscuity would work or should be allowed because one can have sex with many others in order to build a profile of sexual skills and experiences which would increase the harmony of one’s sexual gratification in his/her marriage. For example, sex with many others that’s not the spouse would increase one’s skills and expertise in sexual experience, then one can use such increased knowledge and skills to satisfy his/her beloved spouse to a higher extent; therefore, it would lead to happier sexual experience in the marriage which would also satisfy both spouse’s sexual desire and increase love affections for one another. Having sex with many others, one will know the ideal person he/she would find compatible to commit with and have sex with love would lead them to a higher degree of satisfaction of not only physically, but also mentally; sex with someone who one loves and with that person’s appreciation, understanding and acknowledging one’s complete self, one would become more complete and satisfied as a ‘full person’.
Elliston would think that having sex with someone ‘one hopes to love’ is ideal because sex with that person with pre-mindset of hoping to love him/her would increase the mental satisfaction; so having sex with that person would actually give one a clearer view of whether to really love that person or not. This is because one has already experienced the most intimate contact, sexual intercourse, with that person and one would recognize the feasibility of loving that person or not in the long run. Recreation sex with an acquaintance, in Elliston’s view, would be ideal but so long as both parties have the mutual understanding of whether commitment is included or not. Therefore, recreational sex or any sexual encounter should be allowed as long as the act does not violate the ethical principles; no one is or should be deceived, misinterpreted, or have sex under the commitment of lies.
Sex before marriage or sex without commitment is wrong in Punzo’s
opinion. Punzo answered the first question of ‘is pre-marital sex without commitment wrong?’ by using Wilson’s theory of ‘sexual intercourse’ to compare with ‘playing tennis’ and Chesser’s theory of two persons engaged in premarital sex has no difference comparing to going to see movies together. Basically both Wilson and Chesser find it normal and nothing morally wrong about premarital sex. Meanwhile, Punzo disagrees with both of them that ‘it is the acquisitive character of our society that has blinded us to the distinction between the two activities’ (Punzo 118). Going to the movies or playing tennis with many others are general activities that everyone can encounter; it does not necessary have to be the same people that one would engage in sexual activity with. However, sexual intercourse, in Punzo’s view, must be only between two committed persons; therefore, sex without commitment is wrong.
In Punzo’s argument of existential integrity is explained by his statements below:
“It is the unchaste person who is separating himself from his sexuality, who is willing to exchange human bodies as one would exchange money for tickets to a baseball game-honestly and with no commitment of self to self. The sexuality of man is seen as an integral part of his subjectivity. Hence, the chaste man rejects depersonalized sexual relations as a reduction of man in his most intimate physical being to the status of an object or pure instrument for another. He will not freely make of himself in his bodily existence a thing to be handed over to another’s possession, nor will he ask hat another treat his own body in this way. The total physical intimacy of sexual intercourse will be an expression of total union with the other self on all levels of their beings. Seen from this perspective, chastity is one aspect of man’s attempt to attain existential integrity, to accept his body s a dimension of his total personality”(Punzo 119).
Punzo agrees that sex involves reveling oneself psychologically to the other in a way that is potentially self-, or life-, altering because commitment is a must before sex. Through sex, two persons give themselves to each other in the aspects of trust, expressing one another’s mind, feelings and affections through the most intimate activity-sexual intercourse. Although, Elliston agrees that sex involves reveling oneself psychologically to the other in a way that is potentially self-, or life- altering (in the future sense), but his theory is within a lesser serious extent; in the early stage, one only gives itself physically to many possible partners, then he/she will find a person that is compatible to commit with and then gives that person all his/her psychological self.
Punzo’s view of Elliston’s analogy between sex and dining is a faulty analogy because dining and sex are different in an extreme that it has nothing to connect both as if they are the same in terms of moral and social aspects. Dining can be with any or many others that does not involve sexual intimacy while sex is the most special activity that must be encountered with one’s most special person (spouse). Dining (eating) and sex gives people satisfactions, but these satisfactions are totally different; food gives people satisfaction of hunger, while sex gives people a deeper sexual connection of two people’s bonding; this satisfaction occurs to enhance the intimate (romantic) personal relation. Elliston’s theory is to have sex with one or many others before love exists, while Punzo’s theory is to have love or commitment before sexual intercourse. The moral perspectives of both philosophers are totally opposite in this perspective; therefore, Punzo would not agree with Elliston’s analogy of sex and dining because it violates his own philosophy.
Evaluation and original position:
A defect of Elliston’s arguments or views is that the benefits of
having sex with a series of persons is actually not only increasing the skills of one’s sexual ability, but also diminishing the value of the specialness of “the most intimate activity of sexual intercourse”. As we all know that having sex with someone (only one person) that we love is the most fantastic feeling of being complete as full persons with the one we love (spouse or beloved one). Engaging in sexual activities with a variety of people and then claiming to be in love with their spouse is not a rational theory; it is also confusing and unreasonable that promiscuity does not damage the committed relationship. It is hard to understand or imagine “how one could love a person so much that he/she would still have sex other people?” Maybe the excuses would be to increase or maximize the sexual skills or abilities to satisfy one’s beloved through outsourcing, but the actual reason is to satisfy one’s ego of being better or the best at that activity. If such ego is more important, then sex with anyone would increase one’s satisfaction and it doesn’t have to be with love. So the value and specialness of having sex the committed one would decrease; since he/she does it with a lot of others, how can one prove that having sex with the spouse is better or more special?
Sex without full commitment, one alienates oneself through uncommitted sex; this view may not be completely correct, one can have sex without full commitment but he/she may find out more of oneself-it does not necessarily alienate oneself just because one does not have the full commitment for the other person. A flaw of Punzo’s statement of “full commitment” is not clarified; what is full commitment mean? Does full commitment have to be a legal documentation that proves two persons are married or common-law couples are not considered fully committed? Commitment can be personal views; for example, a couple that is only dating but they have the hope to marry each other in the future. Does their engagement of sexual intercourse consider “without full commitment?” Punzo should clarify his definition of full commitment because different people have different perspective based on the term.
Punzo’s philosophy is more reasonable in that sex must involve commitment at some point. “Sex union is not simply a union of organs, but is as intimate and as total a physical union of two selves as is possible of achievemen”t” (Punzo 118). When having sex with a person (obviously with commitment), one is definitely giving his/her most intimate expression and feelings that one would not normally show to any other people.
Under the conditions of mutual understanding and respect that pre-marital sex is not going to affect each other negatively, but to promote and increase the harmony of the two persons’ relationship. If pre- marital sex involves the intention of future commitment, such as marriage, it would be ideal. If pre-marital sex is allowed, then protection such as pregnancy control must be involved because unprotected sex is not desirable and it would be considered as a negative impact to the couples. The above arguments rely on the prescription of understanding and respect of both persons; concerns to avoid harms such as to prevent unprotected sex and pregnancy would not destroy the foundation they are building. It also promotes future harmony between those two such as working hard to build their own future or start a family. Other moral principles may be the friends and family’s perceptions of how they perceive pre-marital sex; if they think it is morally unacceptable or degrading the traditional value of sex, then it may cause pressure and limit the couples’ activities.
In conclusion, both philosophers have their pros and cons.
Premarital sex should follow Punzo’s theory of sex and must involve commitment, but not necessarily ‘full commitment’. If ‘full commitment’ means at the stage of marriage, then engaged couples or ready-to-marry couples are not really under his theory of ‘full commitment’. For instance, these committed couples whom engage in the act of sexual intercourse should not be consider immoral. Furthermore, Punzo’s statement of two person’s “union is not simply a union of organs, but is as intimate and as total a physical union of two selves as is possible of achievement” is true; engaging in sexual intercourse two persons is not only giving one another their physical selves, but also psychological selves.
In addition, promiscuity must involve all of the five components and should be permitted only if no one is deceived or hurt as a result of promiscuous acts. Furthermore, it is true that Elliston’s argument of ‘double standard,’ that places disadvantage to promiscuous women, should be removed and not promiscuous. Moreover, promiscuous acts are good practices to increase the sexual skills and ability; it is true that the term of ‘practice makes perfect’ would suit the act of promiscuity.