Sexual perversion

Not a category I usually use, but the desire to have sex with someone who won’t enjoy the experience is pretty twisted, wouldn’t you say? If so, you and Dennis Prager disagree.

As generally used, the term appears to mean no more than “sexual activity I wouldn’t enjoy.” I rarely use it, since it seems to presume that some sorts of sex are “natural” and others “unnatural,” which is a distinction I mostly don’t want to make: I recognize “artificial” and “conventional” as antonyms of “natural,” but how can anything that actually exists be “against nature”?

Maybe the concept people are trying to get at is something like “dysfunctional,” but not having the appropriate biomedical training I’m going to leave that one alone. Nothing “unnatural” or “perverse” happens when an adult male is attracted to adolescent girls; the wrongness of acting on those desires isn’t a biological wrongness.

That said, I think I’m willing to assert that wanting to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you is perverted. By “wanting” I don’t mean fantasizing about it, or imagining that the object of your fantasy has a a change of heart, but wanting to actually have sex with an unwilling partner: someone who consents, if at all, for some extrinsic reason. As a friend of mine once said about dentists who take advantage of patients under anaesthesia: “That’s not sex; it’s just friction.”

Can’t Dennis Prager just buy himself a blow-up doll, or find a consenting nanny goat?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: