The account might have implausible implications, however. Moreover, any heterosexual couple that incorporate fetish objects, urine, feces, and so on, in their sexual intercourse would be sexually natural (Gray 1978: 190–192; Primoratz 1999: 53–54). Indeed, coprophilia can sink all the above accounts: two people who exhibit inter-personal attitudes in the form of multi-level perceptions, and who have sexual intercourse of the reproductive type, communicating healthy emotions sincerely, yet use feces in their activity would counter-intuitively not be perverted on any of the above accounts.
Even though explaining perversion in terms of biology seems obvious, “perversion” is opposed not only to “natural”, but also to “normal”, and the natural and the normal do not fully overlap. Moreover, the concept of “perversion” could refer to many things: the immoral, disgusting, bizarre, and biologically abnormal, among others. Using only one of these to define “perversion” will probably fail. It might also be that the methodology of discussing this concept is flawed, failing to account for the concept’s social function (Miller 2010). Thus, some philosophers have proposed to get rid of the concept altogether (Priest 1997; Primoratz 1999: ch. 6; Ruse 1988: 197–201). Recently, however, a new account of it in terms of its inhibiting “shared joy, mutual exploration, self-affirmation, and union” was offered (Kupfer 2016: 351). But this view seems to set the bar too high for what counts as non-perverted.
Furthermore, it will likely be a psychological account, a preference to have sex with or involving certain types of object that are anti-life, such as bodily waste and corpses, and that are biologically odd, such as inter-species sexual intercourse
A good account of perversion might have to be prescriptive, capturing the core of perversion but not necessarily capturing all our beliefs about it (it should explain why our beliefs are mistaken when they are). Evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology would have to play crucial roles.
3. The Value of Sex
What is the value of sex? How important (or valuable!) is this value? Procreation, love, and pleasure (as types, not tokens) are obvious answers to the first question. Sex is usually the way to procreate, so sex is valuable insofar as procreation is valuable. But this value is instrumental, the league phone number and it is contingent given technology’s ability to separate procreation from sex. There is also anti-natalism (Schopenhauer 1851, 1859: ch. 46; Benatar 2006, 2015), which implies that sex has negative value in its procreative aspect. The value of sex in regards to procreation is thus precarious.
Another instrumental value of sex is that X’s sexual desire for Y can (help) cause X to love Y (Bertocci 1949: ch. 2). Here, sex’s value is contingent on love’s, and, despite sounding strange, the value of romantic love, especially in its early, passionate stages, is not obvious given its negative effects on the lover and others. Still, if sex leads to the settled stage of love (via the passionate one), it is valuable for that. Sex can also express love and affection for one’s partner and cement their relationship (McKeever 2017, but see Vannoy 1980: ch. 1). But even if true, all this still makes sex’s value depend on and instrumental to love’s, especially since the two are very different (Goldman 1977: 272–275; Soble 2008: ch. 9 [which adds marriage to the mix]; Vannoy 1980: 7–12).
Does sex have intrinsic value? If it does, it is probably sexual pleasure, as-sensation or as-enjoyment, a pleasure that provides people with the main motive for having sex, often with drastic consequences. So then how valuable is the pleasure of sex? Perhaps we should regard our appetite for sex like we do that for food to avoid obsessing about it (Russell 1929 [1970: 289]). But can we go further?