Sex By Deception

In John M. Doris & Manuel Vargas (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Moral Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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In this paper I will use sex by deception as a case study for highlighting some of the most tricky concepts around sexuality and moral psychology, including rape, consensual sex, sexual rights, sexual autonomy, sexual individuality, and disrespectful sex. I begin with a discussion of morally wrong sex as rooted in the breach of five sexual liberty rights that are derived from our fundamental human liberty rights: sexual self-possession, sexual autonomy, sexual individuality, sexual dignity and sexual privacy. I then argue (against the standard interpretation) that experimental findings in moral psychology show that the principle of respect for persons—a principle that grounds our human liberty rights—drives our intuitive moral judgments. In light of this discussion, I examine a puzzle about sex by deception—a puzzle which at first may seem to compel us to define 'rape' strictly in terms of force rather than sexual autonomy. I proceed by presenting an argument against the view that, as a rule, sex by deception undermines consent—a position held by prominent thinkers such as Philippe Patry (2001), Onora O’Neill (2003), Rubenfeld (2012), Tom Dougherty (2013a, 2013b), Joyce M. Short (2013), and Danielle Bromwich and Joseph Millum (2013, 2018). As we will see, sex following deception to increase your chances does not always constitute rape. Lying about your age, education, job, family background, marital status, or interest in a relationship, for example, does not make your sex partner incapable of consenting, which is to say that sex by deception need not be rape. I even go so far as to say that sex with another person that is facilitated by withholding information about having a venereal disease shouldn't be classified as rape. Although sex by deception doesn't compromise consent, it nonetheless violates the principle of respect for persons, not by vitiating sexual autonomy and compromising consent, but by failing to respect other sexual rights, such as our rights to sexual dignity, individuality, and privacy.
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First archival date: 2018-06-29
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