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Distinguishing homosexuality from bestiality on an argument based on consent fails in its moral consistency unless the one putting forward such an argument is a strict vegetarian. Many of the people reading this will have just sat down to a dinner comprised in part by the flesh of a creature that was stuck in a holding cell living on cheap corn byproduct for all of its short, miserable existence before finally being relieved of its perpetual suffering by having its spine severed, killing it instantly if it’s lucky. No consent, there, either. Gentle sex would, presumably, be the less objectionable of the two if the animal had any say in the matter. Further–and I’m speculating here, but reasonably, I think–there are probably pets out there, such as dogs whose reason for being is to make their owners happy, who might actually enjoy it.

The point is, opposition to bestiality, at least in the contemporary Western world, rests almost exclusively on the ick factor–probably to a greater extent, in fact, than opposition to homosexuality does.

For honest progressives who genuinely want to try empathizing with conservatives who find homosexuality disgusting and consequently morally appalling, here’s a worthy thought experiment: There’s a big national push to legalize and normalize sexual relations between humans and other non-human animals. Many of the animals that will become sex pets if bestiality is federally protected will be bought by bestials from slaughterhouses, thus saving their new charges from the aforementioned miserable experiences described above. Instead, the creatures will live with affectionate owners through the duration of their natural lives. Are you on board with the campaign? Would you feel some resentment if support for such normalization was all over popular entertainment and in the press, persistently insinuating that you’re an evil, bigoted troglodyte if you oppose as much?

We are deeply in Haidt territory here.

(Republished from The Audacious Epigone by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Many liberals are well aware that conservatives think gay sex is icky. Many liberals themselves think gay sex is icky.

    What we have a problem with is the childishness of following that first icky feeling instead of thinking and acting like adults.

    Children might see someone who has a nasty growth on their face and they will either stare or make a comment. Part of becoming an adult is learning not let the first thing that goes through your mind also blurt out through your mouth.

    There are countless sexual acts that I find disgusting, but I'm not going try to make them forbidden or say hurtful things to the people involved, because it is none of my fucking business and I'm not a rude, childish person.

  2. well said steven.
    i can't watch 2 men kiss onscreen. i have a visceral reaction of disgust. but, people have the right to do that & i can inhibit my reaction. live & let live – let us move on to more important things.

  3. How can an animal give informed consent? And what will PETA say?

  4. Probably finding x icky is selected for. I would guess that folks who find x icky have more offspring. Probably those who find x icky also invest more in their greater number of offspring. Perhaps the GSS can tell us if such is the case.

  5. Steven/Anon,

    So you have no problem with bestiality or pederasty, then? If so, that is a more 'logically' consistent line of thinking than most people exhibit. But it is, of course (at least for the time being), the exception that proves that as a rule support and/or opposition to these sorts of issues is primarily–and often exclusively–based on moral instincts.

    Black Death,

    If the choice is between the slaughterhouse and becoming a love pet?


    Nothing in the survey really zeroes in on the disgust reaction per se, but on the question of whether or not homosexual relations are morally wrong, the average number of children by response among white adults (because black opposition to homosexuality is stronger even than white conservative opposition is, though that's rarely if ever where the supercilious scorn displayed by Steven in the comment above is directed):

    Always wrong — 2.17
    Almost always wrong — 1.91
    Sometimes wrong — 1.58
    Not wrong at all — 1.41

    This is probably a pretty good proxy for sanctity/disgust, so you're likely correct. I doubt there are many people who have no natural repulsion from homosexuality who nonetheless are morally opposed to it because of religious teachings. The latter justifies the former rather than informing it.

  6. Pederasty is wrong because a child doesn't have the mental faculties to give consent to sex. It's a huge fucking difference between that and something that takes place between consenting adults. I happen to find it digusting as well, but that is irrelevant. What is relevant is the harm done to children. I thought you were better than bringing that into the mix.

  7. Damn, you are f* psychic, man. Telepathe. An esper. I had discussed about homosexualism few days ago and yesterday night I came to exactly the same argument. Then I come here and what I see?

    It happened for the second time. Always almost ideal timing.

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Not sure whether you understood Audacious epigone argument.

    Bestiality does not harm any human being.
    From that point of view, it's like masturbation.

    Animals do not consent to being slaughtered; if you are not vegeterian, you simply have no right to say "bestiality is wrong because animals do not consent". Either you give animals right not to be hurt and right to give consent to what is done to them (and then, to be consistent, you must advocate to free the pets, and vegetarianism), or not. Tertium non datur.

    (Of course you can say you would support a hypothetical movement to "legalising bestiality" under condition the said relationships would be recognised only if human would actually not hurt too mucch the animal)

  9. Steven,

    But of course there are precocious kids who are more mentally and morally mature than statutory adults who were born a decade before them. Exceptions to be made in these cases? What if their is parental consent given?


    Staffan did the same thing! Great minds, great minds.

  10. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "What we have a problem with is the childishness of following that first icky feeling instead of thinking and acting like adults."

    Not really. No.

    Your sense of smell, even a very young infants sense of smell, has evolved to protect you and he from eating something that has spoiled and could, probably would, kill you. Same with your sense of taste should, for some reason, your sense of smell fail you or should the object you've picked up not have an "icky" odor.

    Your eyes do essentially the same thing. W/out training, youngsters learn that a flow of blood is a big "ick," enough to make many pass out. It's a good lesson–losing blood can kill you and your loved ones, so the lesson is don't do anything that causes that loss of blood.

    As Jayman discusses in a very interesting post on his blog, our aversion to homosexual acts (whether it's two males kissing, screwing, jerking each other off, nuzzling in a romantic way, whatver) could be a hard-wired response, especially if Cochran's gay germ hypothesis is on target.

    Even if it isn't, there may other reasons for the "ick" in that homosexuality that is encouraged or promoted has a deleterious effect on social structures.

    Check out Jayman's post:

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