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A Humanist Perspective on Sexuality

Andrew Copson's picture

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Without sex we would not exist – like all other mammals we must have sex to reproduce, and the sexual instinct is hardwired into us as a result. It is a natural instinct, and one that is very enjoyable as a result.


Humanists think about sex as they think about all behaviour: that people should have the personal freedom and choice to do what makes them happy, as long as they do not interfere with anyone else's freedom, happiness or security. None of the behaviour that some religions condemn, therefore, is automatically condemned by humanists – masturbation, gay sex, pre-marital sex, for example – the tests for whether they are moral or not are 1) is it harming anyone else (if so, you should not do it) and 2) is it making you happy (if not, you may not wish to do it). Sex is an enjoyable thing and we should enjoy it.


Treating others as you would like to be treated yourself means taking the wishes and needs of others into account, and this is an important element in sexual relationships. Unfaithfulness to a partner can cause that partner great unhappiness and usually involves a great deal of lying and deceit, which must undermine the trust necessary in a loving relationship. Carelessness about other people's feelings is certainly immoral. Carelessness about other people's physical health is wrong too, and people who know they have infectious illnesses, including sexually transmitted ones like gonorrhoea or HIV, have a moral duty to tell sexual partners and to minimise the risk of passing them on.



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