UTILITARIAN views on sexual ethics Fornication: sex before marriage • Utilitarianism says that sex between 2 people who freely agree to it would be acceptable. • They have been known to have a libertarian approach so would say consenting adults can do what they want as it is “the greatest happiness for the greatest number.” • This is as long as no harm is done to others or society in general. • However, utilitarianism would say that sex before marriage could cause some problems. • You might not know the person you are having sex with very well which could result in the spread of STIs and being pregnant with someone you do not want a child with. • Bentham also suggested that fornification could harm society by undermining marriage. • It is also possible that sex outside marriage could be falsely consented. e.g. someone underage might not understand what they are consenting to. • This is not proper consent and is not the greatest happiness for the greatest number. ADULTERY: sex outside marriage • In this situation the greatest happiness for the greatest number does NOT work as those being cheated on would be upset. • Utilitarianism weighs out the pain and pleasure…adultery causes short term pleasure but is not worth the ultimate pain and misery they can cause, e.g. divorce and the break up of a family. • Although they say consenting adults can do what they want this is providing no one else or society is harmed. • Consensual sex can create good, but not in this situation. POLYGAMY • Utilitarianism is tolerant of non traditional sexual orientations. • If marrying and having sex with more than one person is what you want to do then it is acceptable. • Mill stresses the importance of human happiness and freedom. • But all those involved have to consent because they want to, not because they are being forced to. • It can cause public offence. • Could lead to jealousy and people being upset. • Bentham would also say that society could be harmed as it could undermine the importance of marriage which is committing yourself to one person. CONTRACEPTION • Utilitarianism doesn’t specifically mention the use of contraception which suggests they do not have a problem with it. • If both involved are aware and do not have a problem with contraception being used then it is acceptable. • Contraception can bring many benefits to society… • Can stop the spread of STIs and help prevent HIV. • Helps stop unwanted pregnancies which can cause physical and emotional harm. • It allows people to plan when they want a baby which in the long term creates the greatest good for the greatest number. (maybe not the case in abortions because the baby is being killed.) • Mill stresses the importance of individual choice which suggests that if you want to use then you should be free to, but if you have a problem with it then it’s your choice not to use it. HOMOSEXUALITY • If being a homosexual gives someone the most pleasure and makes them happier then it is supported by Mill’s stress of human happiness. • If the gay relationship is approved by both involved and no harm is done to society then it is acceptable. • Utilitarianism says freedom should be protected and we should be able to do what we want within limits. • Mill also said “free scope should be given to varieties of character.” Just because people have different opinions and aren’t acting what is considered “normal” in society, it does not make what they are doing wrong. • Only concern would be from Bentham, who said harm can be done by causing public offence. Homosexuality could possible do this (not so much in society today). • Also if homosexuality were the norm then society would be harmed as we wouldn’t be able to reproduce.