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You will write a paper on your choice of one of the ethical issues listed by your instructor (see below). Discuss your perspective on the issue, supporting your arguments with the ethical thinking of one or more of the philosophers covered in this course.

The Ethics of Watching Pornography

Pornography

Pornography involves sexual acts that are presented in different media forms for the purpose of sexual arousal. Various groups within the society have given their views on the topic where some have said it is immoral and addictive while others have viewed it as a way of achieving pleasure and satisfying their bodies (Rothman, Paruk and Espensen, 846). Ethical discussions on the topic are based on whether people have the right to watch pornography or whether it is unethical and does more harm to the society that benefits. The society accesses pornography from different sites sometimes legally and illegally. There have been debates on whether its access should be legalized so that people can access it the way women access contraceptives the way they want (Lewczuk, Szmyd and Skorko, 446). At the same time this raises the question on whether people have the right to sexual desires or not. Since sex is a private matter that people do in secrecy, then does it mean that the way that people use to satisfy themselves should be justified? This essay analyses the ethical issues in pornography from a utilitarianism perspective.

In justifying the moral conception behind watching pornography, Altman(4) suggests that people have every right to sexual autonomy and the right to be turned on anytime which allows them to produce and watch porn the way they want. Everything that exists in the society serves a certain purpose that it is designed. People have certain needs in the society that make them rely on some elements of life like porn and sexual arousal pills to fulfil their functions. Those who produce individual know that there is a segment of the society that entirely relies on it. Sex is a private matter that people address in privacy rather than in public (Chilcoat, 327). The proponents of porn argue that the society has allowed people the autonomy to control their bodies the way they want so long as they do not hurt others. For example, contraceptives and sexual arousal drugs can be purchased over the counter since the state has allowed autonomy for people to enjoy and control their bodies. The same way, the society needs to understand that those who watch porn use it to achieve arousal and certain level of sexual satisfaction for their body.

Teck, How and Karpiak (14) suggests that utilitarianism is an ethical theory that argues that people take the best action that maximizes utility.  Utility is the sum total of all pleasures that result from an action without any suffering. For utilitarian’s, the best action is the one that leads to the highest level of happiness at all times. This means that the pleasure received has to be maximized through utility to support the greatest pleasure principle, having anything that is desirable in the society and reducing pain pleasure and happiness are seen as intrinsically valuable (Schmitz, pp. 4).. People should seek pleasure by all means available so long as their actions do not harm others. Pleasure seeking is an ethical element of life that every human being uses. However, humans have the superego that allows them to weigh their actions to ensure that they do not affect those around them. The pleasure principle needs to be limited in a way that ensures others are protected by all means.

Utilitarianism and the Pleasure Principle

Autonomy is the need to be free to access any material that is useful to an individual without restrictions. When people seek out to watch pornography on their free will, then they are satisfying their inner desire without harming any other person. This means that the right thing that people do is the one that results in the greatest amount of happiness for people involved or the pleasure principle (Simkulet, 122). This theory means that human beings need to be put at the core of every activity by focusing on the pleasure that it brings and reducing the suffering or pain. From the pleasure principle perspective, it means those who produce pornography do it with the aim of assisting others maximizes the utility in their life. On the other hand, Lewczuk, Szmyd and Skorko (447) adds that those who watch it seek to maximize their pleasure through achieving sexual arousal and satisfaction. Since sex is a private matter that does not need control, then it means that people should be free to watch and achieve the pleasure that they are seeking for. The society needs to support equality and ensure that people are given equal considerations. Pornography watching should be the decision of the individual as a way of controlling their bodies.

The society and other anti-pornography groups like the feminists have attempted to define and frame pornography as something that has some to the society. Those against it have failed to understand that there are movies produced with sexual acts which are similar to pornographic clips (Rothman, Paruk and Espensen, 847). Despite the fact that the movies require parental guidance, there is no evidence that indicates that this takes place. This means that the society needs to be enlightened so that they can make their own choices whether to watch porn or not. This means that autonomy should be given to people so that they can choose their actions but these actions should be weighed to determine whether they are deemed moral and offer valid consequences that produce more pleasure.

According to Mill, the role of sexual activity in the society was the pursuit of certain pleasures that promoted good character and bring the highest happiness to the individual. Therefore, happiness comes from the pursuit of self-development and higher pleasures not satisfying the immediate wants. Pornography is a way of personal development that ensures that people can achieve higher levels of happiness. There are those who rely on it to get sexual arousal and satisfaction while others watch it for fun. Further, Singer (11) argues that the harm principle of utilitarianism suggests that people’s freedom needs to be unlimited as long as it does not harm others. The society cannot limit the pleasure that the individual seeks so long as it does not harm anyone. This leads to the freedom of life that allows freedom to choose a way of life that pleases them no matter the outcome. This means that those who seek pornography have the freedom to engage in it to achieve the highest pleasure in the society so long as it does not harm anyone.

The Right to Watch Pornography

However, from the utilitarian perspective, if feminists argue that pornography kills the autonomy of women, then it needs to be regulated and it is unethical. Feminists argue that pornography demeans women and leads to other effects that reduce the pleasure principle (White, p. 9). Since some have argued that it leads to violence against women, rape and sexual harassment, then it reduces the pleasure that women can get from it. The fact that children and others who do not want to access pornography can view it unexpectedly, it means that the society need to be protected from the unethical effects of porn and what it brings to the society.

Therefore, a utilitarian approach weighs the circumstances on the action that one does and whether it leads to the greatest amount of happiness for the people involved. Therefore, pornography is ethical if it is watched by the right person in the right environment.  People have the right to be turned and seek any way possible to achieve satisfaction so long as it increases the pleasure they seek and does not harm others. Since need the right to control their own bodies, then they should seek to satisfy themselves and achieve the highest pleasure through any means possible without harming others. Therefore, the argument of whether pornography watching is wrong or not rests on the pleasure that the individual achieves and the effect that the pleasure seeking methods affects others. With this, it can be concluded that the act is good so long as it treated as a private matter.

Reference:

Altman, A. The Right to Get Turned On: Pornography, Autonomy, Equality. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

Chilcoat, Michelle. "Pornography, the Theory: What Utilitarianism Did to Action Frances Ferguson." Journal of the History of Sexuality 15.2 (2006): 325-329.

Lewczuk, Karol, et al. "Treatment seeking for problematic pornography use among women." Journal of Behavioral Addictions 6.4 (2017): 445-455.

Rothman, Emily, et al. "A Qualitative Study of What US Parents Say and Do When Their Young Children See Pornography." Academic Pediatrics 17.8 (2017): 844-849.

Schmitz, M. "The case for banning pornography." The Washington Post 24 May 2016.

Simkulet, William. "Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good: From the Panopticon to the Skinner Box and Beyond." Library Journal 142.14 (2017): 121-125.

Singer, Peter. Practical Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Teck, Tan Seng, et al. "Universalism and Utilitarianism, Two Worlds Apart or Inextricably Linked?" Journal of Management and Sustainability 8.1 (2018): 13-19. 1.

White, A. Virtually Obscene: The Case for an Uncensored Internet. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2006.

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