LUST | The Dilemma: ‘To sex’ or ‘Not to sex’.

Crimina Carnis Contra Naturam

“But, in fact, a person’s sexual choice is the result and sum of their fundamental convictions. No matter what corruption they’re taught about the virtue of selflessness, sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act which they cannot perform for any motive but their own enjoyment. An act that is only possible for the confidence of being desired and being worthy of desire. It is an act that forces them to stand naked in spirit, as well as in body. They will always be attracted to the person who reflects their deepest vision of themselves, the person whose surrender permits them to experience a sense of self-esteem. Love, is then, our response to our highest values and can be nothing else.”
(Atlas Shrugged, Rand. 453-455)

        Sex, a concept whose definition mirrors an individual’s values and perception of human nature, unquestionably presents immense difficulty when attempting to define or entrap it in standard measurements.  However, there are functions and attributions to sex that remain constant to every individual. The father of modern-day economics, Adam Smith proposed his “Invisible hand principle” stating that human beings always act on their self-interest. Based on this premise, I argue that sex is not an act of selflessness unison, but rather it’s complete opposite. Sex, understood as nothing more than the appetite for enjoying another individual. The same way we have an appetite for food and water, we also have an appetite for human beings, also known as sexual appetite. The question then arises: Is there a way of satisfying our sexual appetite without trespassing the bounds of morality or when satisfying these, are we condemned to always incur in Immanuel Kant’s Crimina Carnis contra Naturam, Crimes of the flesh against our human nature?

Morality, defined as “the degree to which something is right and good.” Is in other words, the moral goodness or badness of something, and it plays a vital function in everyday human activities. Because no man is an island, men are born with the innate condition of being societal beings, and this implies that there are rules and parameters that a given society or community establishes to guarantee its self preservation; these including the sublimation of satisfying human desires, including sexual appetites. Sexual appetite, or Lust, is considered by western religion to be one of the 7 capital sins, the reason for this being that sexual appetite reduces a human being, with all of it’s intellect, greatness and potential; to be nothing more than a mere object of desire. Someone who has merely sexual inclination for another is unconcerned with their happiness and will even be willing to plunge them in great depths of misery, simply to satisfy their own self-esteem and appetite.

As the enlightenment philosophe Immanuel Kant proposed in his Lecture on Ethics: of the duties to the body in regard to the sexual impulse, in this type of interaction, a person who is the object of someone else’s appetite is exposed to the risk that once this is appetite fulfilled, the individual is casted away as one casts away a lemon that has been sucked dry. In this sense, both individuals have “partial” rights to each other, for by not acknowledging the humanity of the other party, and reducing each other to be objects of indulgence; they have rights to nothing more than the sexual organs of the other; it is impossible for a person to be both the proprietor and the property, he is either or, not both. As Kant proposes, a man’s desire for a woman is not directed towards her because she is a human being, but solely because she is a woman. Her humanity is of no concern to him, for it is her sex the sole object of his desire. In this logic, these individuals incur in the lowest of human interactions for they do not interrelate as human beings but as things, and can thereby be used as such by anyone else.

In this way, humanity is sacrificed to sexual appetite. It is to dishonor someone else’s human nature, by making the other’s humanity an instrument of their lust, placing them at the level of animal nature. The Enlightenment philosophes praise reason as the sole element that distinguishes and separates men from the beasts and satisfying the desires of the flesh, incurring in Crimina Carnis Contra Naturam, at the expense of someone else’s humanity degrades human kind to a state of equality to the beasts, for it represents our inability to rationalize through our natural impulses. 

Nevertheless, sexual appetite is after all a subject of human nature. However, there is a way in which a human being can enjoy another one within the boundaries of what is considered moral. It is possible to use someone as an instrument of one’s service, to use someone’s intellect, sex, powers and body and yet not incur in immoral interactions. Just like in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract, in which the citizen has the duty and responsibility to obey the government and this must in exchange serve and protect the citizen; One can have full ownership of the whole person, by granting that person the same rights over the whole of oneself. This is obtained when someone dedicates himself or herself to the other, dedicating not only their sex, but also their whole person. As proposed by Kant, in this type of interaction the two individuals become inseparable, for their joys and misfortunes, victories and failures are shared mutually. In a utilitarian view, by handing over the rights of one’s whole self to the other and in return obtaining the full rights to them, one gains oneself back again; for I now have identical rights to the person to whom I have given myself as property, and these individuals are now part of a unity of will. One doesn’t just have partial rights to their sex, but to the entirety of their being: their power, abilities, intellect and their humanity are now all found at your disposition, at expense of yours. In this case, sex, argued as the appetite for enjoying another human being, becomes a moral interaction if and only if, one doesn’t simply enjoy another individual’s sex, but everything else that compiles them. 

Another question arises: what happens when one of the parties grants full rights to the other person, but this one in return only grants partial rights to themselves? Is this a moral or immoral interaction? For starters, one of the parties is acknowledging the humanity of the other and as a way to request rights of the person subject of their love, the person offers rights over himself or herself, and based on what we have discussed, this is within moral boundaries. However on the other hand; the other person has no intention of granting rights over himself or herself, but yet demanding rights of the other individual and utilizing their abilities to their service, and yet manage to not place themselves at the other’s disposition. This then becomes an unequal interaction and is then considered to be immoral.

In the painting “Leda and the Swan” (1741) The rococo painter François Boucher succeeded in portraying a rather graphical depiction of the greek mythological story of Leda, wife of the king of Sparta Tyndareus, being seduced and later having sex with the god Jupiter shaped as a swan. This story for one becomes a true representation of the capital sin of Lust, by incurring in both adultery and zoophilia (cross-species sexual activity, or sexual orientation, between human and non-human animals) Crimina carnis contra naturam, immorality, bestiality in its highest expression.

Just as previously discussed, one of the parties is reducing one of the individuals to nothing but a mere instrument of their service and desires. As proposed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract, when either the citizen or the state incur in a breach of contract, it grants the state the right to punish the citizen, or the citizen is granted with the right to rebel against the regime. Likewise, in this type of interaction, when one of the parties fails to meet the terms on their end, a breach of contract has been incurred and the other party, king Tyndareus, can then choose to remove all rights granted to the other individual, to Leda, and hence terminate all interactions.

However, there is an aspect of human relationships that must not be overlooked. Nature does not grant humans equality in intelligence, strength or beauty, and this also including the capacity to altruistically care for another individual. In other words, humans do not care or love others in the same measure, for every person is a universe of their own. For this reason, it is inevitable that in human relationships one party will demonstrate love and compromise with a greater measure than the other. This type of love is further discussed in Viviana Baldo’s literary recreation and analysis of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book “The little prince” In a dialogue between two characters, the little prince and the rose:

“ (…) And thus, love will never be a cause of suffering. When we love we give without asking anything in return, just for the pure pleasure of giving. To love is to trust that no matter what happens you will be there, not because you owe me anything, not with selfish possession, but to be there, in silent companionship. To love is to give you a place in my heart for you to stay as a father, mother, brother, son, a friend and have certainty that in yours there is a place for me. Giving love does not deplete love; on the contrary, it increases it. The only way to repay such love is to open your heart and let yourself be loved.”

         Human relationships tend to be seemingly unequal. In this case, the truly honest and only moral manner to be reciprocal to someone willing to demonstrate love in great measure is to allow oneself to be loved. This type of interaction finds itself within moral boundaries as both parties recognize each other’s humanity and assign each other’s value beyond their sexuality, and thereby these two individuals find themselves in mutual ownership.

Though sexual appetite will always remain to be part of our nature. People limit themselves when speaking of these vices, for a reason: because it creates a sense of familiarity, tolerance for them, and perhaps even suggesting the individual engages in them. We must then hold shame towards our human nature to a certain degree, rather than fully embracing it. We must study and understand our human nature, so it may be then tamed under reason, mutual respect, and empathy for others; this way we will prevent ourselves from incurring in any Crimina Carnis Contra Naturam. It is only through the sublimation of our animalistic desires that one day we can make ourselves human beings worthy of having someone become ours, to have someone not simply grant us the right to penetrate their sex but to enter their spirit; and if in our regard, the person worthy of our companionship, in exchange, we will willingly allow them to enter our lives, minds and spirits and inevitably, become theirs as well.

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