Sexual morality has been an issue for centuries, and is still a prevalent issue in the discussion of morals. From pre-marital sex to homosexuality, there is a massive amount of topics up for debate every day. The challenge of discussing ethics stems from the problem that each person perceives it so differently, yet this does not hinder a serious attempt to take the subject matter on. The New York Times features the column “The Ethicist”, written by Randy Cohen, who engages the reader in sound advice to sticky situations in the world of morality. In his article “Fair affair?
” Cohen discusses the morality of having an affair. The scenario presented, however, differs from most, because the woman’s husband suffers from a disease that prevents him from having intercourse. The woman’s concern, though, is not based around hurting her husband. She states, “I’m sure I can keep this [extramarital] relationship secret, so my husband will not get hurt. My devout Catholicism forbids such an affair, but does secular ethics? ” Her dilemma at hand involves her need to be satisfied sexually without breaking loose from a relationship that is otherwise happy.
Is this an ethical thing to do? In the eyes of the woman’s religion perhaps not, but Cohen puts a spin on things through the eyes of secular ethics. “The Ethicist” suggests that maybe the husband has “tacitly acquiesced” to her starting an affair, and that it would not be so hard to hide it from him. Through innocent, though possibly accurate, assumptions he implies to her that it would not be morally wrong to continue such a relationship, based on modern secular ethics. I personally agree with Cohen’s advice to the woman.
The woman and her husband married based on reasons, hopefully, other than sex. In a counterpoint, in Chapter 3: Sexual Morality, towards “Sexual Libertarianism undermines marriage” there is a valid point to take into consideration: “? some marriages actually gain from being open to extramarital affairs. ” It is important to realize that sex alone does not equal love, and therefore is not the mainstay of a marriage. It is quite possible for a couple to have a loving relationship that does not involve intercourse within the core marriage but extends itself to third parties.
This, however, can solely function if all parties involved have an understanding of the situation and are willing to live their lives in such a way. Marriage has long ceased to be a prescribed formula, a fact that is widely reflected in today’s trends in relationships. To further support Cohen’s advice, the Libertarian view towards sex needs to be taken into account. The basic idea of the libertarian view on sex is that as long as no “dishonesty, exploitation, or coercion” is involved, “and as long as it does not violate any obligations to others, it is not immoral.
” Now, it may be argued that there is violation of obligation in this case. Because the woman is married, she’s obliged to fulfill her duties to be faithful and honor her partner for as long as they both shall live, but due to medical circumstances beyond anyone’s control this area is rather gray. It may be argued back that what Cohen had assumed before does stand as true. The husband may have already given subtle permission to his wife to engage in extramarital sexual relationships because he knows he is not able to fulfill his conjugal duties. He may not want her to “simply soldier on, going quietly sexless to [her] grave. “