Immanuel Kant on Sex and Pornography

Kant

Immanuel Kant believed objectification involves treating a person, someone with humanity, as an object of merely instrumental worth and consequently reducing this person to the status of an object for use. The objectified individual is made into a tool for another’s sexual purposes.

According to Kant, the pursuit of sexual pleasure is only allowed when serving more valuable goals, such as marriage “Taken by itself sexual love is a degradation of human nature”. For Kant, sex outside a monogamous marriage leads to objectification. Outside marriage sexual acts are wrong in themselves as they involve using another person for one’s own pleasure, treating them as means to an end sexual love makes of the loved person an object of appetite; as soon as that appetite has been stilled, the person is cast aside as one casts away a lemon which has been sucked dry. … as soon as a person becomes an object of appetite for another, all motives of moral relationship cease to function, because as an Object of appetite for another a person becomes a thing and can be treated and used as such by every one’ (Lectures on Ethics, Kant)

In terms of pornography Kant is opposed because one is taking pleasure in looking at a person in such a way that they are thought of as mere things of obtaining sexual gratification. For Kant, both male and females are objectified in porn, but females more so as they “surrender their bodies completely” Kant holds that a person who allows others to use her body sexually in exchange for money cannot do so without losing their humanity and ultimately become an object for the satisfaction of another person’s sexual desires.  Kant’s views on sexuality and objectification have been highly influential within the feminist movement.

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