Why sexual desire is objectifying – and hence morally wrong – Raja Halwani | Aeon Ideas
But, one might object, don’t we do sexual things because we love our
partners, and want them to feel pleasure? Of course we do. But if we did
so when we didn’t want to in the first place, then we do not do it out
of sexual desire. And if we don’t do it out of sexual desire, then the
problem of objectification does not present itself. We can enjoy
sexually pleasing someone else. But you can think of the other person as
a sophisticated instrument: to give the maximum pleasure, we have to
please it. Just because I have to oil and maintain my car for it to work
does not mean it is any less of an instrument.
Sex doesn’t just
make you objectify your partner. It also makes you objectify yourself.
When I am in the grip of sexual desire, I also allow another person to
reduce me to my body, to use me as a tool. Kant saw this process of
self-objectification as an equally, if not more, serious moral problem
than objectification directed outwards. I have duties to others to
promote their happiness, but I also have a duty to morally perfect
myself. Allowing myself to be objectified opposes this precept,
according to Kant.