People drink beer to have fun and nobody calls that selfish. People play games and sports with one another to have fun and nobody calls that selfish. But when two persons have sex with one another just to have fun many people call that selfish. Does that make any sense?

No. There isn't anything intrinsically selfish about sharing fun a deux, whether it is singing duets, riding a tandem, or sex. Of course, the sex-for-fun might be cheating (if you are in a relationship) or unwise (if you don't know where s/he has been) or against professional ethics (if you are a doctor, s/he your patient) or a bad idea for other reasons. But then again, it very likely will be just fine.

I am a 39 year old married woman. I recently attended an adult party (a.k.a. pleasure party) hosted by one of my friends. I did not ask my husband's permission to attend, thinking it wasn't a big deal. I did not purchase any "toys" but nonetheless, my husband is furious at me for attending. He says I "violated" our relationship and socially embarrassed him by going. He has called me a liar, hypocrite (because I don't allow our children to swear, watch porn, etc. but I went to this party) and a whore. I don't understand what is happening. He says I must "admit my guilt" or live a lonely, sex-less life. He also doesn't think he will ever be able to have sex with me again. I want to stay with him but I don't know what I did wrong. Is it morally and ethically wrong to attend a party like this without my husband's consent?

Good heavens, indeed. This isn't, as Charles said, really a question for philosophers. But just on an ordinary human level, it will strike most people that your husband is behaving pretty appallingly, in a way that probably reveals a deep fear or even horror of female sexuality. His response is that of the frightened emotional bully. In the face of his absurd reaction, it must be difficult not to feel crushed, and begin to doubt your own good sense. But of course it wasn't a big deal to go the party (with all the female banter and amused teasing and gibes at male inadequacies -- or so I'm told!); and you need to hold on to that thought in the face of the bullying, and not start to doubt your own sense of moral proportion. To echo Charles again, good luck!

Can sexuality be fluid? Does it have to be black and white?

This isn't a question to be answered by arm-chair philosophical reflection: it is a question about the empirical facts. But surely all the evidence -- from our everyday knowledge of our friends and family through to more disciplined research by those who do various kinds of empirical enquiry, not to mention the witness of a couple of thousand years of literature -- suggests there is nothing at all black and white where matters of sexuality are concerned. It is a cheerfully multicoloured motley out there!

While reading through some questions in the religious section, I came across Peter Smith saying [], "What is it with the obsession of (much) contemporary organized religions with matters of sexuality? It really is pretty bizarre. And for sure, if some of the energy wasted on pruriently fussing about who gets to do what with whom and where were spent campaigning on issues of social justice, say, then the world would be a better place. But I digress ...". Can any philosophers, including Peter Smith, tell me if my reasoning is valid regarding this (or come up with their own reasoning as to why an organized religion would have such rules): There are several reasons why organized religions could be "obsessed" about matters of sexuality, about "who gets to do what with whom and where" etc. 1. Disease: STD's are horrible, and the AIDs crisis in Africa is a good example as to why an organized religion might stress sexual relations with only one partner to whom you are...

Of course we might expect religions to take issues about sexual life and conduct seriously (though with some due sense of proportion, compared with other matters, like issues of social justice -- and it is the seemingly too prevalent lack of that sense of proportion that prompted my passing remark). What is quite bizarre is the kind of daft obsession that leads the Anglican communion to point of breaking up over the question of gay bishops. And what is simply vile is the kind of lunatic obsession that gets women stoned for adultery.

Are there any moral arguments against non-coercive incest between adults?

A footnote to Peter Fosl's sensible response. The trouble, of course, is in the talk of 'non-coercive' incest. Where different generations are concerned -- father and adult daughter, for example -- it would be naive to suppose that the younger party, who may think she is freely consenting, isn't in many cases subject to subtle coercion. And even if, leaving the issue of potential offspring out of it, there is nothing morally wrong with genuinely non-coercive incestuous relations between adults, it could well still be a bad thing if people generally believed that to be so (for the belief, by relaxing the received taboo, could have the bad effect of creating a context in which subtly coercive incestuous relations become very much more common). This is an interesting phenomenon in moral thought more generally, it seems. There can be cases where it might be permissible to do X but it would be a bad thing if people (including ourselves) generally thought it is permissible to do X -- e.g. because...

Why have philosophers presented themselves as asexual in their writings? Derrida asks this question in 'Derrida', but I have not seen it answered anywhere.

Here are some philosophical questions that I happen to be interested in (or have been interested in, in the past). "Are beliefs functional states?", "What makes our knowledge of our mental states particularly authoritative (if it is)?", "What is the best formulation of a causal theory of reference?", "How much mathematical knowledge can usefully be thought of as logical knowledge?", "Can one give a cogent neoHumean account of the notion of a scientific law?". And there's lots more where they came from -- all highly abstract conceptual questions. And in engaging with these very abstract questions (just as with mathematicians or scientists engaging with their abstract questions), I'm a very long way indeed from dealing with anything that engages with my sexuality. So surprise, surprise, you won't learn anything much about that from reading what I've written on those topics. Sexuality just doesn't come into it. And so it is with an great deal of what is written by a great number of philosophers....

I am of legal age for sexual experiences and my partner is also. My question pertains to the rightness or wrongness of consensually losing my virginity to my partner after knowing her for only two days. I care about her quite a bit and she I. I like to think that I make halfway good decisions, but I felt so caught up in the moment that I stopped thinking and just ran on instinct. I seldom, if ever, make rash decisions but this time was different. So in this situation was I morally wrong to give away my virginity so quickly to someone I recently met? Please note that I am not a devout Christian but consider myself a student of Platonic, Aristotelian, and Kantian thought, I hope this helps frame my mindset and the internal conflict I have been experiencing. Thank you for your help.

Let's see if I'm understanding. You hook up with someone whom you really like and who really likes you. There's a considerable sexual attraction. The hormones are more than buzzing and you are of an age when it is only too natural to want to start a sex life (and you are old enough for it to be legal). She is more than willing and is sending all the right signals. You fancy her like mad. And wow, it happens! Erm, well excuse me if I don't see your problem! Rash? Well, what is life without a few rash adventures along the way? But actually this wasn't particularly rash (unless zero contraceptive precautions were in use)! Just unplanned, but still mutually wanted and enjoyed. But that makes it sound to me a pretty good way to get things started, compared with the usual alternatives. Not weeks/months of old-style (or not so old-style) stressed fumblings towards "going all the way". Not some regrettable anonymous shag with a half-willing very drunk girl at a party. Just a happy experience with someone...

Do you think consensual BDSM is immoral?

Isn't this far too like e.g. the question "Is enjoying pornography immoral?" In that case it all depends what exactly is in question: a bald yes/no answer would be hopelessly insensitive to the great variety of materials that fall under the very sweeping term "pornography". My impression -- and I hasten to cheerfully admit to lack of expertise! -- is that "BDSM" is similarly used as a pretty sweeping term that also can be, and has been, applied to a pretty wide variety of activities. So here too, a bald yes/no answer is surely likely to be inappropriate. Moral philosophers will need to know quite a bit more about just which sorts of activities in what sorts of contexts are up for evaluation before they can proceed to say anything sensible.

I am a male of legal age and am healthy mentally/physically, should I be able to engage in the consumption of pornographic materials with no moral qualms?

Suppose you and an enthusiastic partner have fun getting very imaginative with your video camera. Then after the event -- your partner away for a while, and with their encouragement -- you amuse yourself watching the results, and thereby "consume" what are pornographic materials (here taking pornography to be "the representation in books, magazines, photographs, films, and other media of scenes of sexual behavior that are erotic or lewd and are designed to arouse sexual interest"). It is very difficult to see why you should have any moral qualms about this. Suppose on the other hand you search the sleazier end of the internet to find illegal child pornography. It is very easy to see why you should have more than mere qualms about that . So -- fairly uncontentiously, I hope! -- it all depends on the type of materials, and there can't be a straight yes/no answer to the question asked. The tough question is different: where are the moral lines to be drawn?

When I read contemporary theories of sexual ethics, they all seem to boil down to "if it's consensual, it's okay." I'm not religious, but this sounds awfully reductionist to me. Isn't there more to sex than just pleasure and emotional bonding? I could go hiking with a woman and that would be pleasurable and bonding. Are there any significant differences between sex and hiking? Or am I appealing to a baseless intuition?

But note there's no conflict being saying that "if it's consensual, it's ok" while also saying there can be more to sex than pleasure and a bit of temporary (maybe very, very temporary) bonding. After all, saying something is ok is saying it is permissible, it isn't positively wrong, it isn't to be condemned. And something can be permissible without being optimal; it may not be positively wrong but may fall well short of being particularly to be admired or sought after. Woody Allen jested "Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go, it's one of the best". And there's nothing wrong with a fleeting consensual sexual romp (assuming neither partner is committed elsewhere, or is underage, etc. etc.). Which is worth reiterating in the face of the crabbed puritanism of screwed-up moralists, religious or otherwise. And cheap music and cheap booze have their moments too, contrary to other kinds of puritans. But that's quite consistent with the thought that we can and should...