Monday, July 11, 2005

L&S: The Love That Dare not Bleat Its Name

Well, James has just broken new ground in IHS seminars by asking the students how far they are willing to extend Mill's harm principle. He started by going over various state laws on sexual practices. Then he moved to say "well, one reason I'm interested in this topic is that I'm a member of a persecuted sexual minority, where my 'love' is illegal in every state. To show you, I've brought my partner with me today." He then proceeded to pull out, from behind the podium, a large toy stuffed sheep. His beloved "Flossie." Much hilarity has ensued, but it's also a great way to push Mill's argument about rationality and consent.

The students are resisting that bestiality should be legal by arguing that animals can't consent. James's response is to ask them if they are vegetarians. "You are willing to kill animals brutally to eat them - all I want to do is make sweet love to one beautiful sheep." That's a brilliant response in my book. It's really pushing them to get at what our objection to bestiality really is. Is it just that it's "icky?" Of course the real danger is that rather than get them to rethink bestiality laws, he might turn them all into vegetarians!

Now we've gone to adult, consensual incest and then to necrophilia. We should have some interesting lunch conversation.

I also need to mention that he told us that the state of Idaho has a law against anal sex, the punishment for which is life in prison. James noted the irony of using life in prison as a way to deter men from engaging in anal sex.

(Now with picture!)


David said...

Granted the students didn't think things through when they cited a lack of consent of the problem with raping sheep.

The argument they should have made is argued in favor of the laws that forbide torturing animals. Slaughtering an animal for commerical purposes is far different than slowly killing or otherwise harming it for fun.

Similarly, in war it's expected that people will kill people but certain methods of causing harm (ie bio-chemical warfare) is outlawed, even if the tactic in question doesn't kill.

Amy said...

How is slaughtering an animal so that people can gain pleasure from eating it less bad than not slaughtering it so that people can gain pleasure from having sex with it? I could start a llama sex farm and charge people to have sex with my llamas, thus making it a "commercial purpose." And I don't think you can argue that jerking off a goat is more painful for the goat than most of the factory farming techniques practiced in this country.

James Taylor said...

David--doesn't referring to "raping sheep" rather beg the question against the moral permissibility of such a practice? Why not call it "making love to a beloved animal"? Indeed, I think a good case could be made that outlining the issue in this way rather undermines the seriousness of rape, insofar as animals wouldn't experience unwanted sex in the same way as a (typical) human would.

I should note, by the way, that I think that there is something very morally distasteful about bestiality. But justifying this view is enormously difficult.