Friends and Fans — I have retired from my work as a public intellectual, so Philosophy in Action is on indefinite hiatus. Please check out the voluminous archive of free podcasts, as well as the premium audio content still available for sale. My two books — Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame and Explore Atlas Shrugged — are available for purchase too. Best wishes! — Diana Brickell (Hsieh)


Sex

  • Q&A: Judgments of Men Versus Women for Sexual Relationships with Minors: 28 Jun 2015, Question 2
  • Question: Why aren't women strongly condemned for sexual relationships with underage boys? A few years ago, I saw a flurry of news stories about female teachers in their twenties committing statutory rape by having sex with their teenage male students. At the time, many public commentators and comedians said that they didn't see how the boys could have been harmed, and they thought an adult male teacher having sex with a female student would be much more predatory. Besides, those commentators often added, the female teachers in these cases were "hot." At the time, I agreed with those views, but lately, I've been thinking that I should check my premises. So is it the case that an adult man having sex with a female minor is more predatory than an adult woman having sex with a male minor? Are the teenage male minor's rights violated if he is seduced into a sexual relationship with a female teacher? Is a double standard at work here?

    Tags: Children, Consent, Crime, Ethics, Law, Rape, Sex, Sexism, Sexuality, Statutory Rape, Young Adults

  • Q&A: Responsibility for a Child: 14 Jun 2015, Question 1
  • Question: When is a person responsible for an unexpected and unwanted child? Sex sometimes results in an unexpected and perhaps unwanted pregnancy. What are the moral responsibilities of each party in this situation? Do a person's obligations depend on prior agreements about what would be done in such a case? Do they depend on whether contraception was used or not? If the man said that he didn't want children and used contraception, yet a pregnancy occurs, does he have any moral or legal obligation to pay for an abortion, support the child, or act as a father? Does the answer change if the woman agreed to have an abortion in advance, then changes her mind? Should couples talk explicitly about these matters before sex?

    Tags: Abortion, Children, Communication, Dating, Ethics, Law, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Responsibility, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: Revenge Porn: 1 Mar 2015, Question 2
  • Question: Should revenge porn be illegal? Apparently, it is increasingly common after a break-up for a person to share sexual pictures or videos of his/her former lover that were taken while in the relationship. Some people think that sharing sexual images intended to be kept private should be illegal, while others argue that such "revenge porn" is protected speech. Which view is right? Should the consent of all parties be required for the posting of sexual imagery?

    Tags: Ethics, Law, Pornography, Privacy, Relationships, Rights, Sex, Technology, Torts

  • Q&A: Marriage without Love: 18 Jan 2015, Question 2
  • Question: Should people who merely like and respect each other ever marry? Imagine that a person doesn't think that he'll ever find true and deep love – perhaps for good reason. In that case, is it wrong to marry someone you enjoy, value, like, and respect – even if you don't love that person? What factors might make a decision reasonable, if any? Should the other person know about the lack of depth in your feelings?

    Tags: Dating, Friendship, Honesty, Lifestyle, Love, Marriage, Personality, Relationships, Romance, Sex, Values

  • Q&A: Sleeping Around: 9 Nov 2014, Question 3
  • Question: Why would anyone even want to sleep around? Ayn Rand used Francisco D'Anconia to describe her view of sexuality in Atlas Shrugged, but while her explanation was easy enough to understand, there were some things she left out. Namely: why would someone, anyone, sleep around? I've met, and read articles by, women who describe their experiences in the "hookup" culture, and across the board they agree that most of the men they slept with were poor lovers who cared little for them once the act was finished. I know men like this in real life who seem surprised at how unfulfilling their sex lives (admittedly much more active than mine) really are. So I have to ask: why would someone choose to have sex with someone when they know, or at least have good reason to believe, that the person has no actual interest in them personally?

    Tags: Communication, Honesty, Promiscuity, Romance, Sex, Values

  • Interview: Robert Garmong on Love and Sex in China: 7 Aug 2014
  • Summary: What are the traditional ideas about love and sex in Chinese culture? How did those ideas change in Mao's time? How do Chinese men and women approach romantic and sexual relationships today? Is homosexuality accepted? What is the place of mistresses and prostitutes? Moreover, Robert Garmong told us of the pitfalls of marrying a Chinese woman – and explained why he did exactly that anyway.

    Tags: Abortion, China, Communication, Culture, GLBT, Infidelity, Love, Marriage, Prostitution, Romance, Sex, Sex Education, Sexism

  • Q&A: Correcting a Cashier's Mistake: 8 Jun 2014, Question 3
  • Question: Is it wrong to remain silent when a cashier makes a mistake in your favor? At a popular department store, I wanted to buy two items for $2.94 each and condoms for $14.00. The cashier was about my grandmother's age. She scanned the $2.94 items three times and said the total was $8.82. I knew the price wasn't right, but I didn't want to say to the elderly woman, "Excuse me, but you didn't scan my condoms." I got a good deal, but I think that was somewhat immoral on my part. Is that right? What should I have done?

    Tags: Business, Emotions, Ethics, Honesty, Sex, Trader Principle

  • Q&A: Moral Judgments of Sexuality: 29 May 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Does the morality of homosexuality depend on it being unchosen? It seems that the advocates of gay rights and gay acceptance are obsessed with proving that homosexuality is never a choice. I find this confusing as it doesn't seem to be the best argument. Even if sexual orientation were chosen, I don't see why there would be anything better or worse about preferences for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality. Rather, I think that if I were able to pick, I would choose to be bisexual, as being straight limits my expression of admiration towards men who may represent the "highest values one can find in a human being" simply due to their genitals. Is that right? Or does the case for rights for and acceptance of gays depend in some way on sexual orientation being unchosen?

    Tags: Ethics, GLBT, Responsibility, Responsibility, Sex

  • Q&A: The Morality of Elective Abortion: 5 Jan 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Is elective abortion morally wrong? Some people support abortion in the cases of rape or incest, as well as in cases of serious medical problems with the fetus or the pregnancy. However, they regard the termination of a normal, healthy pregnancy as morally wrong, particularly as irresponsible. Are such abortions wrong? Does the judgment change if the couple used birth control or not?

    Tags: Abortion, Adoption, Children, Duty, Ethics, Obligation, Parenting, Responsibility, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Sex

  • Q&A: Immanuel Kant on Sex: 15 Sep 2013, Question 2
  • Question: What are Immanuel Kant's views on sex? In your June 30th, 2013 discussion of studying philosophy in academia, you said that Immanuel Kant has some very distinctive and revealing views about marriage, sex, and masturbation. What are they? What do they reveal about this ethics? Have they been influential in academia or the culture?

    Tags: Academia, Ethics, Immanuel Kant, Love, Philosophy, Relationships, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: Responding to Polite Homophobes: 21 Jul 2013, Question 3
  • Question: How should I respond to people who think that homosexuality is an immoral or neurotic choice? I'm straight, but I have many gay friends. From years of experience, I know that they're virtuous and rational people. Moreover, their romantic relationships are not fundamentally different from mine. Also, I'm a strong believer in gay rights, including gay marriage. So what should I do when confronted with seemingly decent people who think that homosexuality is an immoral choice, based in neurosis, or otherwise unhealthy? These people often present their ideas in polite and seemingly respectable ways; they're not just flaming bigots. Yet still I find them appalling, particularly when used to justify denying rights to gays. Should I be more tolerant of such views? How should I express my disagreement?

    Tags: Bigotry, Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, GLBT, Love, Psychology, Romance, Sex, Sexism

  • Q&A: Sex When Not in the Mood: 21 Jul 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Is it wrong to have sex when you're not in the mood? Assume that you're in a long-term romantic relationship with another person. You are not always going to feel the desire to have sex. If your lover wants sex, is it wrong to have sex? Might you have sex anyway, perhaps because you want to do something nice for your lover - perhaps in the hope that your lover might do the same for you later? Many people seem uncomfortable with sex under those circumstances, i.e. absent a strong physical desire. Some think that having sex even if not in the mood isn't right: it's degrading and might lead to resentment. Others claim that if you're truly in love, then your physical desires will fall into line. Hence, if you don't want to have sex, you might not really be in love - or you might have other philosophical or psychological problems. Which of these views is right?

    Tags: Ethics, Love, Relationships, Romance, Romance, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Sex

  • Q&A: Marital Infidelity in the Military: 7 Jul 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Should the military ban marital infidelity? On your June 2nd, 2013 radio show, you explained why marital infidelity should not be illegal. I agree with you, but I wonder about other contexts. Might some government groups legitimately ban and even criminalize infidelity for its members? According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, infidelity is against the law for military members. Might that be proper, particularly given that we have a volunteer army? More generally, might the military want to enforce strict rules of moral conduct on their members, even for seemingly private matters?

    Tags: Business, Character, Ethics, Justice, Law, Military, Prostitution, Rules, Sex

  • Q&A: The Sex Scandals of Politicians: 16 Jun 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Should we stop caring about the sex lives of politicians? In response to the affair and resignation of David Petraeus, many argued that such sex scandals are the absurd consequence of American puritanism. These people claim that sex is easily compartmentalized in a person's life, such that sexual fidelity has no bearing on a person's intelligence, character, or suitability for public office. Is that right?

    Tags: Celebrities, Character, Marriage, Politics, Privacy, Sex

  • Q&A: The Ethics of Open Relationships: 26 May 2013, Question 1
  • Question: Can open relationships be moral? Can it ever be moral to have sex with someone else while in a relationship, assuming that you're honest with everyone involved? If not, why not? If so, what might be some of the pitfalls to be aware of? For example, should the criteria for selecting sexual partners be stricter than if you were single? How should you navigate the tricky territory of opening a previously closed relationship?

    Tags: Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Love, Polyamory, Respect, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: Parental Consent for Abortion: 14 Apr 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Should minor girls be required by law to obtain parental consent for an abortion? Normally, parents are legally empowered to make medical decisions for their minor children, and minors cannot obtain medical procedures without parental consent. How should that apply in the case of pregnancy? Should pregnancy and abortion be treated differently from other medical conditions? Should parents be allowed by law to force a daughter under 18 to carry a pregnancy to term or to abort against her will?

    Tags: Abortion, Ethics, Health, Law, Parenting, Pregnancy, Religion, Rights, Sex, Young Adults

  • Q&A: Being Someone's Extramarital Affair: 24 Mar 2013, Question 1
  • Question: Is it wrong to have a romantic relationship with a married person? In Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart had an affair with Hank Rearden, knowing that he was married. How should those actions be judged in real life? Clearly, Hank's cheating was dishonest and wrong. Was Dagny wrong to pursue the affair? What should she have done instead? Or, imagine that Dagny didn't know that Hank was married until after they'd slept together. What should she have done in that case upon finding out the truth? Should she stop the affair? Should she inform the wife about the cheating? Should she apologize to the wife? Also, if your answer is different than Dagny's, how do you reconcile that?

    Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Character, Honesty, Infidelity, Integrity, Moral Wrongs, Relationships, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: The Wrong of Incest Between Consenting Adults: 3 Mar 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Why is consensual incest between adults morally wrong? In late 2010, David Epstein, a professor of political science at Columbia University, was charged with incest for a consensual sexual relationship with his adult daughter. That case raised uncomfortable questions about the morality and legality of consensual incest. What constitutes incest? Why is it wrong? Should it be outlawed?

    Tags: Family, Health, Sex

  • Q&A: Child Beauty Pageants: 25 Nov 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Are child beauty pageants wrong? The TLC show Toddlers and Tiaras is a reality show that follows child beauty pageant contestants and their parents. Putting aside the often-questionable behavior of the people on this show who may not represent typical pageant contestants or parents, these events ask children to compete based on beauty and talent. So are child beauty pageants immoral?

    Tags: Children, Ethics, Hobbies, Independence, Parenting, Sex

  • Q&A: Sexual Harassment Laws: 25 Nov 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Are laws against sexual harassment proper? We already have laws against sexual assault and sexual battery, so do sexual harassment laws protect or violate rights? Also, what kind of sexual harassment policies should private companies have, if any? Should people be more skeptical of sexual harassment claims of the kind levelled against Herman Cain during the Republican primary?

    Tags: Bullying, Contracts, Free Society, Law, Rights, Sex, Sexism, Sexual Harassment, Work

  • Q&A: Sexual Values in Romance: 2 Sep 2012, Question 2
  • Question: How important are a person's particular sexual values in a romantic relationship? The problems in many relationships seem to be due to conflicting sexual values, such as one partner wanting variety while the other opposes an open relationship. So why aren't such sexual values considered at least on par with other important values in a relationship? When faced with sexual problems, why is the assumption that a couple needs to "work on them" – as opposed to thinking that such problems should be resolved before any commitment? In other words, before accepting and establishing a relationship, shouldn't people seek sexual compatibility in the same way they seek emotional compatibility?

    Tags: Communication, Conflict, Dating, Ethics, Relationships, Romance, Sex

  • Interview: Jason Stotts on Mistakes Couples Make about Sex: 1 Aug 2012
  • Summary: Is your romantic relationship and sex life hampered by wrong ideas and bad habits? Are you inadvertently sabotaging your relationships? Find out how to stop holding yourself back with some simple tips.

    Tags: Conflict, Egoism, Ethics, Marriage, Pleasure, Relationships, Religion, Self-Interest, Sex

  • Q&A: Self-Destructive Pleasures: 13 May 2012, Question 1
  • Question: It is wrong to pursue self-destructive pleasures? Suppose that you know that drinking to excess is not good for your mind or body, but you want to enjoy the oblivion of drunkenness. Or perhaps you know that sleeping with your ex-girlfriend is a very bad idea, but you want the pleasure of sex with a warm body. Is it wrong to pursue these pleasures, if you're willing to accept their destructive consequences?

    Tags: Ethics, Food, Hedonism, Pleasure, Sex

  • Q&A: Statutory Rape Laws: 1 Apr 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Are statutory rape laws proper? Statutory rape laws criminalize seemingly consensual sex when at least one party is below the age of consent, but sexually mature, e.g. when an 18 year old has sex with a 15 year old. Are such laws proper? Should the over-age person be convicted if he or she didn't know (or couldn't reasonably know) that the under-age person was under-age? What if the under-age person lied about his or her age? What, if anything, should happen legally when both parties are under-age, e.g. when two 15 year olds have sex?

    Tags: Consent, Crime, Law, Proof, Rape, Relationships, Sex

  • Q&A: The Proper Place of Women: 11 Mar 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Are women subservient to men in Objectivism like in Christianity? The Bible and Christians teach that God made women to be subservient to men and not to be their leader. Ayn Rand seems to think that women are naturally subservient to men and should not be their leader. Aside from the appeal to God, what's the difference?

    Tags: Ayn Rand, Christianity, Ethics, Gender, Masculinity/Femininity, Objectivism, Psychology, Religion, Sex

  • Q&A: Ayn Rand's View of Women: 11 Mar 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Did Ayn Rand regard women as inferior to men? I admire Ayn Rand, and I've used her philosophy in my business and personal life, but I disagree with her view of women. In her article "About a Woman President," Ayn Rand said that "For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship – the desire to look up to man. 'To look up' does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority." Yet her view seems to imply inferiority in practice: Rand says that no woman should aspire to be U.S. President because that would put her in the psychologically unbearable position of not having any man to look up to. So, does Rand's view imply that women are inferior to men? What is the factual basis of her view, if any? Do you agree with her?

    Tags: Ayn Rand, Career, Ethics, Gender, Government, Independence, Objectivism, Psychology, Rationality, Sex

  • Q&A: Consent in Sex: 26 Feb 2012, Question 1
  • Question: What constitutes consent in sex? Can a person give tacit consent by his or her actions? Is explicit consent required for some sex acts? Once consent has been given, when and how can a person withdraw that consent? Does the legal perspective on these questions differ from the moral perspective?

    Tags: Consent, Crime, Dating, Ethics, Law, Relationships, Rights, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: Sex Without Love: 8 Jan 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Is sex without love or romance irrational? Is it wrong to have sex with someone that you don't love – or don't love yet? (Here, assume that the person isn't unworthy, but just that you're not in love.) Couldn't that be the start of romance? What if you don't have any intentions of pursuing a romantic relationship with this person?

    Tags: Dating, Love, Marriage, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: Friends with Benefits: 27 Nov 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Are "friends with benefits" relationships a mistake? It is moral and/or wise to pursue sexual relationships with friends, even though you're not in a romantic relationship? What are some of the benefits and/or pitfalls? If it's a mistake, what should a person do to avoid such entanglements?

    Tags: Dating, Ethics, Friendship, Honesty, Romance, Self-Deception, Sex

  • Q&A: The Morality of Selling Your Body: 2 Oct 2011, Question 4
  • Question: Is it moral to sell your body? Selling our bodies or certain parts of them are perfectly acceptable in our society, such as being an egg or sperm donor, being a pregnancy surrogate, or selling hair. But others are condemned, such as prostitution or selling organs. Where should the line be drawn? When is it moral to sell a part of oneself – and why?

    Tags: Business, Career, Ethics, Medicine, Sex

  • Q&A: Public Nudity and Rights: 25 Sep 2011, Question 2
  • Question: Do restrictions on nudity and sex visible to others violate rights? While having a zestful online debate, someone claimed that Ayn Rand contradicts herself in claiming that public nudity should be censored. (See "Thought Control" in The Ayn Rand Letter.) Since sex is a beautiful act, why should people be protected from it? Could a ban on visible pornography or sex be a slippery slope to other intrusions by government?

    Tags: Ethics, Etiquette, Free Speech, Law, Nudity, Nuisances, Pornography, Rights, Sex

  • Q&A: Appropriate Contexts for Nudity: 25 Sep 2011, Question 1
  • Question: What's the proper approach to nudity? Should we all be nude all the time? Should nudity be saved for your lover only? Should children see their parents naked? Should we have clothing-optional get-togethers with friends? Basically, what is your view of the proper contexts for nudity?

    Tags: Ethics, Etiquette, Family, Family, Nudity, Parenting, Rights, Sex

  • Q&A: Sexting as Cheating: 11 Sep 2011, Question 3
  • Question: Is sexting a form of cheating? If you are married or in a committed relationship and you send sexually explicit texts or emails to another person, is that cheating?

    Tags: Dating, Honesty, Infidelity, Integrity, Internet, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: Living Together Outside Marriage: 19 Jun 2011, Question 2
  • Question: What do you think of a couple living together outside marriage? Do you think that a romantic couple living together without being married is moral and/or wise? Does the stage of the relationship matter, including whether they plan to marry or not? Does living together before marriage result in a happier or more enduring marriage?

    Tags: Dating, Ethics, Marriage, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: The Morality of Sadism and Masochism: 24 Apr 2011, Question 6
  • Question: Objectivism regards harming yourself or allowing others to harm you is immoral, but how does that apply to sex, particularly sadism and masochism? Should S&M acts be illegal?

    Tags: Ethics, Law, Love, Psychology, Sex

  • Q&A: Spousal Consent for Sterilization: 3 Apr 2011, Question 4
  • Question: Should spousal consent be required for sterilization procedures? A fairly well-known mommy blogger recently revealed that she was required to sign a consent form for her husband's vasectomy. Reading through some of the remarks on her blog, many of her commenters seem to support such a practice, believing that a person has a right to be involved in the reproductive decisions of his/her spouse. I think it's a violation of individual rights, and having had a sterilization procedure myself, I'd have been BEYOND upset if my spouse had been required to give his consent. He was in agreement with my decision, but I can't help but wonder what happens in situations where a person does not want his/her spouse to have a vasectomy, tubal ligation, etc. Any thoughts?

    Tags: Business, Ethics, Law, Medicine, Parenting, Sex

  • Q&A: Bisexuality and Relationships with Men and Women: 20 Mar 2011, Question 3
  • Question: If one is bisexual and derives different values from relationships/sex with men than with women, is it proper to maintain concurrent relationships with both? Assume here, that if such an individual were to forsake having a relationship or sex with either gender, he/she would feel like something is missing and would long for the other.

    Tags: Dating, GLBT, Monogamy, Relationships, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: Evolutionary Psychology: 20 Feb 2011, Question 2
  • Question: What is your opinion of evolutionary psychology? For example, a recent study claims that there is a gene for being a political liberal. Or another claim is that studies show that women are "hypergamous" in that they are "wired" to seek out the most "socially dominant" men that they can find in the "sexual market". What is your opinion on all this?

    Tags: Evolution, Free Will, Psychology, Science, Sex

  • Q&A: Talking about Sexual Preferences: 19 Dec 2010, Question 2
  • Question: When do you talk to a romantic interest (or partner) about your sexual preferences? Is there a right or wrong way to talk with your romantic partner about sexual preferences? Do you wait until you are "in the sack" to find out whether you are sexually compatible? And, how important is sexual compatibility to a romantic relationship?

    Tags: Communication, Dating, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: Polyamory Versus Monogamy: 5 Dec 2010, Question 1
  • Question: What's wrong with multiple sexual partners at a time? Why do you think that multiple romantic partners are psychologically destructive for everyone involved? What is it about romantic love that you think demands attention on one and only one other person?

    Tags: Dating, Ethics, Monogamy, Polygamy, Psychology, Relationships, Romance, Sex


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