To keep my introduction brief, I will simply begin by stating I am of the firm belief that this hyper-sexual culture we are perpetually advancing could potentially destroy civil society as we know it. I don’t plan to bore you with the typical arguments you hear from conservatives about why WAP is bad. Instead, I find it more worthwhile to journey to the root of this matter and look to philosophy to discover why perverted outlooks on sex debauche the self.
First and foremost, the argument I will detail here demands that we tackle what is perhaps the world’s most daunting question: what does it mean to be human? In his book, On Human Nature, Sir Roger Scruton makes the argument for seeing humans not merely as animals, but persons, and for seeing personhood as that which emerges when it is possible to relate to an organism in the way of personal relations.
We are responsible creatures who attribute desires and intentions to ourselves, but not only that, we also see each other as such. We are self conscious. We do not exist in a metaphysical void as pure subjects like Descartes imagined, but we enter into the physical world and encounter others in it.
As Hegel claims in The Phenomenology of Spirit, self-consciousness rests on us being capable of free dialogue in which I am accountable for myself before the presence of yourself. As Scruton masterfully summarizes, “I am I to myself because… I am you to another.”
We are answerable to each other for what we say and do. For Hegel, we are subjects for each other, not objects. This subject to subject encounter is one where we mutually recognize each other’s autonomy.
Let’s now take these concepts on human relations and apply them to sexual and romantic relations. When we are describing two people’s desire for one another, we are speaking in this sense of the subject to subject encounter.
Pay attention to the language we use. I say that I want you. My desire for you is how I feel, not merely an expression. According to Scruton, the touch of desire is epistemic in character: “it is an exploration, not of a body, but of a free being in his or her embodiment.”
Desire should be understood as a mutual negotiation between free and responsible beings who want each other as persons, not simple sexual objects.
To fasten these ideas in with the topic at hand: when we look at our hyper-sexualized culture–whether it be through pornography, inordinately sexualized music videos and lyrics, and the idea of sex with no attachments–it all degrades the self by turning us merely into objects of physical attraction by which our sexual desires are to be heaved onto one another.
It degrades the idea of love, of seeing in another’s eyes that which is like you, a subject, a person, a responsible being who attributes desires to themself, and who desires you as you desire them: as free beings. It prizes mere sexual excitement, free from the I-You relation. As Scruton masterfully states, it makes sex “as though it were a physical condition and not an expression of the self.”
To conclude, the intense sexual nature of much of our culture today perverts what it means to be a human with sexual desires.
We are subjects, not simply objects by which our sexual appetites may be satisfied. Sexual desire is a beautiful thing, it should not be suppressed, but it should certainly be tempered in order to live a fulfilling life and to love someone as the free being and the person they are, and not to see them in terms of raw, physical attraction. The way in which our society is oriented in regard to sex will certainly spoil such a sacred thing.