Is consent sufficient for morally permissible sex?

Thomas Mitchell


A common liberal view on sex is that consent is both necessary and sufficient for moral permissibility. That is, in order to have morally permissible sex, one need only obtain the consent of one’s partner. Seiriol Morgan challenges this view, arguing that consent is necessary, but not sufficient. He gives a counterexample which, he claims, shows a situation in which a person’s sexual desire should not be gratified, even if consent is obtained. In this essay, I shall first lay out Morgan’s argument. Then, I will propose a counterargument that a defender of a more conventional liberal view might use. Finally, I shall show why this counterargument fails and that Morgan’s view is correct.

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Archard, D (1997) “A Nod’s as Good as a Wink”: Consent, Convention, and Reasonable Belief, Legal Theory, Vol. 3:273-290

Law, I (2014) Lecture 5, Sex, Ethics and Philosophy.

Morgan, S (2003) “Dark Desires”, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, vol. 6(4):377-410


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