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The Changing Concepts of Sex, Love and Family Essay

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Love, sexuality and family are three interrelated concepts that have had dramatic changes over the millennia. From the bestial, yet necessary act of sexual intercourse, through the complicated and often not understood feeling of love we end up with the smallest social unit that comprises society – the family. The interpretations of love, sex and the structure of family have always varied through the centuries, but no matter how, they have always remained as a foundation in the human life. The strongest binding force to ever connect the living species, including humans, is love.

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Love, whether romantic or just the necessity for another being, is at the basis of human nature and the way he interacts with others. There are many manifestations of love. Aristotle describes all love as philia which also includes friendship and affection. Nevertheless, there is no concrete definition of love, besides that it is a complex pattern of attention, perception, evaluation and feeling. There is a difference between love out of our own concord or out of duty. A mother could love her baby by default or because she chooses to. However, duty is the natural care for one’s well being.

Hence, love is devoid of any such care, and is in fact the emotional attitude towards that person. In all forms of love one loves another for his own sake. The only distinction is the reason why the other is loved. According to Aristotle, one seeks himself in a friend; he looks for his “mirror of the soul”. According to Nakhnikian, such love is not true because by loving the other’s similarities, he, in fact, loves himself. One is simply using the other as an instrument for the love of himself. True love should not expect returns and has no requirements.

I concur with Nakhnikian in that love should be selfless, because that is when the one uses it as an end as Kant would say. If one could benefit from that love, he is using it and therefore the person he loves as a mean for his own happiness which is inherently wrong. According to writers like Stendhal and Proust, loving an object bestows a value in it. Hence, the lover values the effect he has had on the loved. Stendhal’s view is that love is a form of projection, not perception, and the object of love is a fantasy rather than based on reality. Thus, the process of falling in love is a blind action, eprived of consciousness.

The same idea is held by William Hazlitt about friendship. While one sees himself in his friends, one often sees “his virtues magnified and his errors softened” through self-deception. Thus, one creates a better image of himself through his friends. There are a lot of similarities between romantic love and friendship. Both turn a blind eye on other’s weaknesses and both involve trust and mutual respect. C. S. Lewis, however, points a significant difference between the two. In romantic love, the image of the loves includes a lot of imagination, creating a fantasy world of their own.

On the other hand, friendship creates a world of shared values rather than an imaginary one. Solomon argues that what makes romantic love different is the desire for sex. According to him, this type of love manifests not only in the appeal to the other’s character, but in the desire for sexual intercourse. Sexuality is indeed a basic part of human nature, which can both attract us, as well as drive us apart. Philosophers still try to link the natural sexual desire of humans with its fundamental purpose and its rational impact.

According to some religions and some philosophers, sex is not a moral thing. They regard it as necessary only in some limited circumstances. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century philosopher regards sex as a necessary evil only for reproduction, and nothing more. Taking pleasure during sex, even for reproduction, is however morally wrong because it violates God’s will and is therefore unnatural and immoral. Immanuel Kant connects the idea with moral sex to the concept of marriage. According to him, sexual desire makes people treat their loved one as an object and as a mean.

In modern days these view has changed a bit. The concept of moral sex is still around, but the concept of immoral sex has altered. Prostitution and same gender sex are still debated and not allowed by law in a lot of jurisdiction. However, in ancient Greece, sex between males was not only regarded as tolerable, but as something with higher principle of wisdom and good character. Morris Kaplan says that this view has changed because our culture has changed. Christian teachings have deemed same-sex practices as sinful and have limited moral sex only to procreative sex.

Thomas Nagel contradicts this Christian idea. He says that the connection between sex and reproduction is not the value of moral sex, but rather mutual desire and response. Therefore it is reasonable to say that the concepts of heterosexuality and homosexuality and not nature based but rather culture based. Another viewpoint that is also culturally imposed is that men have an uncontrollable sexual desire whilst women act as their brake, regardless of their feelings. Therefore, men are taught to disregard women’s revocation and to use his dominant male power to achieve his goal.

According to Catharine Mackinnon, the aggressive and violent sexual treatment by men is also visible in pornography. She claims pornographic fantasies involve women who enjoy eing ravished and rape and treated like sexual objects. As a result, men wrongfully tend to confuse this fantasy with reality. A similar object-oriented mentality about women is connected to prostitution. By accepting money in exchange of sex, the prostitute becomes more of a good, of a purchase. She devalues herself as a person and allows to be treated as a mean.

I am bound to disagree here because most jobs require physical or in other words selling your body for money. Just like being paid to move some furniture does not make you an object for lifting furniture, being paid for sexual activity does not demean you to an object for sex. A direct result from romantic love and sexuality is the family. It is the coming together of male and female who produce and foster progeny, while continuing their romantic relationship. Different family models have been established, with the mother, the father, or somebody else as the head o the family.

An increasing trend has come up that parents start a family without engaging into wedlock. These relationships, even just a piece of document away from marriage, prove out to be three or four times more likely to be broken. In Europe less than 4 per cent of cohabitants stay together for more than ten years, while married couples are at a 71 per cent for the same criteria. There are four ideological positions for the role of the female in the family. The conservative feminist is the role of the traditional housewife. The liberal feminist which seeks equality and opportunity in the world outside the house.

The socialist feminist aims to transfer domestic responsibilities to the state. The separatist feminist seeks to develop an independent mode of female existence. According to some feminist, both reason and the notion of morality are based on one’s gender. Therefore they see it as something coined by men. Moller Okin, a feminist activist wants to break the idealized natural family myth. She wants to make women financially independent from men by using the following ideas: to ensure legally enforceable anti-discrimination policies in the workplace and to inimize the impact of childcare to working women. Homosexual activist also want to debunk the idealized natural family.

They argue that homosexual families should be regarded the same ways as the traditional heterosexual ones. They claim that with the advance of technology, gay couples could be a of full value by having kids born through paid surrogacy arrangements. However, a problem could arise as in the case of Iaycee Buzzanca, a child born through surrogacy to a gay couple that had split up. As a result, no one from the couple had the legal duty of responsibility, nor the surrogate.

The issue of gay parenting itself creates a controversy: whether children of gay couples require both a mother and a father figure to develop properly. Furthermore children’s rights discussion gave birth to the idea that children should be able to choose their custodial parent or divorce a current parent. Thus, they can recognize bad influence and chose a better alternative. The burden of responsibility, however, should go both ways, some argue. It is difficult to construct a law that would oblige children to look after their elderly parents.

It is difficult to formulate the basis of this responsibility for it could be either by biological connection or social one. Hence, the family still remains a social unit that is governed by itself, and not from outside. The complicated issues of the family, as well as sex and love, seem strikingly simple, yet have puzzled mankind for centuries. Love could not be truthful if the person feels it out of duty or out of reward and even, and sex can be considered immoral if it is out of marriage or non-procreative. We have yet to see how the family will be changed in time, by its ever-shifting base of love and sex.

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