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Is Sadomasochism Justifiable Under Objectivism?

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The thought just came to my head: Is using physical pain with the person's you are using it against permission is justifiable? In Objectivist society, would it be legal to cause pain if the person agrees with it?

It is a bit of a mind-maze to me, because I know two things about Objectivist ethics:

    1. Everything is legal if both parties involved agree on it;
    2. Force can only be used by individual in self-defense or then performing sports like boxing and by government then someone's rights are violated.

So what about the use of force in sex, etc.?

P.S. I hope I hadn't made any mistakes in my post - correct me If I'm wrong.

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The thought just came to my head: Is using physical pain with the person's you are using it against permission is justifiable? In Objectivist society, would it be legal to cause pain if the person agrees with it?

It is a bit of a mind-maze to me, because I know two things about Objectivist ethics:

    1. Everything is legal if both parties involved agree on it;
    2. Force can only be used by individual in self-defense or then performing sports like boxing and by government then someone's rights are violated.

So what about the use of force in sex, etc.?

P.S. I hope I hadn't made any mistakes in my post - correct me If I'm wrong.

As for your fist question, yes. It would be legal. Strange? Yes. Why would a person do that? But the point is, the two people agreed to it, and therefore it is violating individual rights, and therefore it is to be legal.

As for your second question, the use of force in sex, once again, is only legal if it does not violate the other's individual rights; ie, non-consensual sex or rape.

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I remember from the homosexual thread someone giving the quote of what Rand said when someone asked her what Objectivism tells us about sex and she responded, "That it's good." basically suggesting that as long as you enjoy it...

But I'll agree with Nick. Kinda strange, but then again, I have friends who are totally into that sorta thing, so... yeah lol.

Edited by KevinDW78
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There are men and women alike who enjoy pain, enjoy powerlessness, and even enjoy the simulation of being raped.

What of it? As long as its consensual between two people qualified to make their own decisions, what business are their personal preferences of ours?

Consider Dominque Francon and her "rape by gold engraved invitation".

Some people fantasize about being murdered, it's a real fetish. Is is legal to murder someone who wants to be murdered?

There are bills for legalizing human euthanasia presented in various states on a regular basis. Should euthanasia be illegal?

The real trick with this question is - how does the euthanize-er prove the euthanized was euthanized willingly?

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Some people fantasize about being murdered, it's a real fetish. Edit: *should it be* legal to murder someone who wants to be murdered?

If it's consensual, then yes.

However, as Greebo pointed out, the trick is the documentation. Signatures are forged every day. Rand said something about euthanasia, about how it can be the moral thing to do, and is life affirming, but how the legal documentation would be extremely hard to put together, in a way that we could ensure it's validity.

EDIT: Also, we probably have a few threads on euthanasia, feel free to check them out.

Edited by NickS
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The thought just came to my head: Is using physical pain with the person's you are using it against permission is justifiable?
I'll have to guess at the intended question here -- "Is it justifiable to inflict physical pain on a person if they give permission?". Then you raise a legal question. Legally and politically, there should be no restrictions against inflicting pain on a person who consents. But "justification" is something broader. Should cheating on your girlfriend be legal? Yes. But is it justified? No. The experience of being tortured is not actually a rational value, and if someone claims that they really like having their fingernails pulled out with a pair of pliers, they are lying or seriously deluded, and should seek psychiatric help. It would be perverted (thus unjustified) for you to exploit their mental illness. There are other contexts where different forms of physical pain are not a sign of mental illness.
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I've considered Euthenasia, but my post was concerning people with some abnormal fetishes, who wish to be murdered in brutal ways such as being run over, or worse. Would it change the legality of it if there is nothing particularly wrong with the person physically besides that he or she fantasizes and would like to be a murder victim?

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I think the question of whether 'mentally ill' people should be allowed to consent to serious self-harm is very difficult. The real problem is that theres no objective standard for being mentally ill that isnt purely behavioral, and I think many people would say that simply wanting to be murdered or run over for sexual pleasure means that a person is mentally ill by definition (being mentally ill isnt a predictive medical diagnosis, the illness is identical to a set of behaviors).

There are many cases where 'mentally ill' people want to take a certain action which is clearly bad for them, and which given some kind of care (psychologial councilling, drugs, etc) they would change their mind about wanting. Schizophrenia is an obvious example - the way people act/think in the middle of schizophrenic episodes is often very different from how they think/act while functioning normally and taking appropriate medication. So it's not obvious that people should be left to themselves as long as they arent violating the rights of others when it comes to extreme things like wanting to be murdered. Its not so much that the person doesnt have the right to murder himself, its a question of whether his choice at some specific moment of time should be respected when he's likely to think very different things in the near future and thank you for saving his life if you help him.

The line here is very blurred since mental illness is such a nebulous concept, but I think its safe to say that most kinds of consenxual BDSM should be legal, with only things like consensual murder/serious-injury being outlawed except in cases where the person involved has an unambigious history of 'mental health' (whatever that means).

The problem is that some people try to avoid the deeper issues here by saying things like "people should be able to consent to whatever they like as long as they arent mentally ill", when in reality being 'mentally ill' just means that a person engages in behavior which society currently labels as being indicative of mental illness. There is no clear line between 'freely choosing to make an irrational decision' and 'making an irrational decision because youre mentally ill'. Its a pretty circular argument because there cant be an objective definition of 'mental' illnesses in the same way that there can be objective definition of 'physical' illnesses since theres no difference between the illness and the symptoms in the former case.

Edited by eriatarka
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I might be imposing here but I just had to comment when I saw this topic.

I think a serious mistake is being made here by framing people who practice BDSM as being "mentally ill." Sure there are some really sick people out there, but for the most part people who enjoy that kind of play in the bedroom are normal in their everyday lives and are careful and sensible about what they do, in fact there is a saying that's used in the BDSM community that can sum it up: Safe, Sane and Consensual (or SSC). Look it up.

That's all I wanted to point out, it might still not be justifiable under Objectivist ethics but just know it's usually not as extreme as CSI drama might have you believe.

Edited by Melchior
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As for the original title of the thread:

1. It is legal in free countries, and it should stay that way.

2. If you are in a boxing(football, martial arts, etc.) match, you are not initializing force. The other people agreed to the rules. Force would be punching someone once they are on the ground, and for that you could be arrested.(because it's against the rules they agreed to)

It's the same with sex. If you agree to the rules beforehand, you shouldn't have legal problems.

As for it being justifiable under objectivism, I would've just titled the thread "Is SM moral?". That's the question I'll try to answer.

You have to ask yourself what is right for you and your life.

Ayn Rand for instance is very far from agreeing with the idea that anything goes in sex. In fact she was against homosexuality, wich we know today was probably too definitive a thing to say (because the scientific perspective on homosexuality has changed in the past few decades).

Ayn Rand wrtote: "there is a psychological immorality at the root of homosexuality" because "it involves psychological flaws, corruptions, errors, or unfortunate premises" (that's from a wiki page). Scientists today aren't 100% convinced that it in volves psychological flaws, it might be something you can be born with, or predisposed toward genetically.

However, if you are a homosexual because of some "psychological flaws, corruptions, errors, or unfortunate premises", you should deal with those things instead of living a homosexual lifestyle.

The same goes for SM. I know nothing about psychology, so the pseudo science in this this next part is probably a bad idea, but: Are you practicing SM to fulfill your natural sexual needs, does it make your sexlife more satisfying, without it messing with other aspects of your life, or is it an obsession that causes you to not have healthy sexual relationships, or makes you vulnerable to sexual predators, abusive boyfriend etc. If for instance someone was abused in their childhood, and is now looking to "fix" that experience in their minds, by being compelled to relive it(hoping for a better outcome), their moral course of action would be to seek treatment, not engage in SM.

P.S. I speculate a lot about human psychology in the last paragraph, hopefully somone with a little actual knowledge of the subject will correct me.

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Someone who wants to be killed is very, very likely mentally ill. Death is final. Once you die there's nothing else. No more values to achieve, no more actions to take, nothing.

Of course there are exceptions like terminally ill people in great pain, soldiers in battle who choose death to achieve an objective (this is trickier because most soldiers killed in battle do not choose to die; think of a soldier jumping on a greande vs one who steps on a land mine), and even people in hostage situations that turn violent (and this would include the heroes who tried to rescue Flight 93).

Consider assisted suicide. The classical case is a man who has months to live at the very best and is in great pain. Often such pain can't be beaten with painkillers, and the combo of analgesics and sedatives leaves him in a kind of semi-conscious state. Rationally that isn't a life worth living, and it will end soon anyway regardless of his best efforts and those of his doctors. Therefore it is rational to choose to end it all.

Or consider Flight 93. If the passengers knew the terrorists would try to ram the plane into a target, then the choice to risk saving the flight is emminently rational. But if the choice were to crash on an empty field or into a target, then choosing to die alone without taking other people with them is also a rational choice.

But when a healthy person with a safe life wants to be killed, something's wrong with him. Therefore he can't be judged to be making a rational decision, therefore killing him is murder.

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The same goes for SM. I know nothing about psychology, so the pseudo science in this this next part is probably a bad idea, but: Are you practicing SM to fulfill your natural sexual needs, does it make your sexlife more satisfying, without it messing with other aspects of your life, or is it an obsession that causes you to not have healthy sexual relationships, or makes you vulnerable to sexual predators, abusive boyfriend etc. If for instance someone was abused in their childhood, and is now looking to "fix" that experience in their minds, by being compelled to relive it(hoping for a better outcome), their moral course of action would be to seek treatment, not engage in SM.

P.S. I speculate a lot about human psychology in the last paragraph, hopefully somone with a little actual knowledge of the subject will correct me.

That makes good sense to me.

I don't have statistics for you (they don't exist) but I think it's safe to say that the vast majority of people who engage in BDSM do it just for fun, it improves their sex life and they don't take it to extremes. There are a minority of couples who practice something called "power exchange" where it becomes a little more real (they sign contracts "exchanging" rights), and still there are some who really are abusive and/or seek to be genuinely abused.

There are some psychologists (particularly sex counselors part of the scene) that say reliving the moment can be a form of therapy, like this one:

When a person has a physical wound in their flesh, it is both pleasurable and painful for it to be touched. Scabs tend to itch and the desire is there for it to be scratched. The same goes with an emotional wound or hurt.

http://elisesutton.homestead.com/psychology.html

I don't know how much I agree with that, but it's a good point.

By the way, sadism and masochism are both classified as mental disorders in the DSM (there is some debate over the listing of sexual disorders), however so was homosexuality just 30 years ago...

Edited by Melchior
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