Final Portfolio: Applied Ethics in America Today

May 2019

Introductory Essay

Welcome to my writing portfolio for the course WR150: Applied Ethics in America Today. Below, you will find the work I have done throughout the semester for this class along with a table of contents above. But first, I want to analyze my growth over the semester. Entering the class, I honestly had no real grasp on what philosophy was. However, I was able to recognize the propositional logic being used from a computer science course I was taking and quickly became excited. I learned on a deeper level about the connections propositional logic had to the real world and how I can use it to form arguments. Soon, we moved onto reading about moral frameworks and began discussing them in class. Eventually, the class consisted mostly of discussions and readings. One of the last things we did was teach the class about our topic and try to convince them of our argument for our final paper. In this introductory essay, I want to walk through my experiences in the class and how each one has strengthened me as a writer.

WR150 started at a fast pace as we went through what my professor called a “Philosophy Bootcamp.” During this, we had longer readings designed to cover more basic concepts and ideas about philosophy itself. We trained on how to recognize some basic arguments in the form of propositional logic, debated various frameworks’ practicality, and battled these frameworks against each other in class. If it is unclear how my writing improved, let me highlight it now. With these various in-class discussions, not only was I engaged and enticed to learn more about the subject, but I was also learning more about what a basic argument looks like.

As a side note, something that I really enjoyed about the course was how relevant it was to my other courses. I not only was mastering the basics concepts of reasoning and argumentation, but also picking up the formatting of a humanities essay and how to write one. These lessons proved very useful in the other class I was taking, Introduction to Religion. The propositional logic I was absorbing in my computer science course also married nicely with the class and inspired me.

As we got farther into the course, we were tasked to write an argument against ourselves for our Devil’s Advocate assignment. We were allowed to have a first thought on a subject, but we had to spend most of our time crafting our opponent’s argument. In the essay, I argued for hedonism even though I believed the idea was false. I set up several counterexamples and went to great lengths to defend my opponent. I learned that making a great argument means that you cannot think one-sidedly, that you really must take into account your opponent’s views and take them seriously. If you do not take your opponent’s views seriously, then your argument is weak, it only exists to further the ideas of others who think similarly. The whole point of arguing is to shift an opponent’s perspective and learning to understand them on a deeper level has tremendously helped improve my argumentation skills.

Next, we began discussing in class real-world issues about ethics in America. This was my favorite part in the class. I began venturing into research about philosophy at Boston University (BU) and learned that we had relevant thinkers such as Noam Chomsky battle out with former BU President John Silber. I also heard Yosef Abramowitz speak when he came back to visit BU, who was fighting for what he thought was morally right when he founded the divestment movement against apartheid at BU when he was an undergraduate. I realized that real-life philosophy happens every day and what we were discussing in class was not just class-talk if we took it seriously enough. I learned most from these in-class discussions that we must prepare to defend our ideas against all kinds of opponents and, therefore, it forced me to think more critically about what kind of argument I was making.

Nearing the end of our semester, it was now time for us to present to the class a proposal for our paper and teach them more about the topic we researched. We first did a curatorial write-up recapping a conversation we had with someone outside of class. I polished up my handout after this and rather cockily assumed I would be able to just communicate everything I had learned in the research I had done for my essay to the class with just the handout. I ultimately failed in even getting to the main point of my argument. The topic, hookup culture, even though it was specific, was still too broad for a philosophically grounded debate. I ended up spending most of my time teaching the class the basics of when consent is violated. I learned that, to have effective debates, specificity is imperative. I had a general idea and I thought I was specific. I learned from this experience that the more specific you are, the greater your argument will be.

Finally, we are concluding the semester with our final paper, and I am glad for all the lessons I learned along the way, as I use all of them in my final essay. Overall, I have learned how to improve my skills as a writer by learning strategies to more clearly communicate my ideas. I am walking away from this class as a stronger writer.

Devil's Advocate Assignment

Final Draft: "On-Demand Happiness: Problems with Psychological Hedonism and Kantianism as an Alternative"

In today’s society where pleasure “on-demand” is becoming ever accessible through means such as Netflix and Hulu, it is not far-reaching to imagine another society where the movies we watch will be, instead, simulations of our own lives. These simulations, as Robert Nozick poses in his thought experiment, “The Experience Machine”1, could be generated to fulfill our deepest desires and allow us to live a “better” life than our own. Would you use the experience machine? Many, including myself, would be hesitant to say yes although it may be unclear as to why. Nozick’s thought experiment is a rebuttal against psychological hedonism, the claim that humans are solely motivated by pleasure. In what follows, I lay out some of the arguments that psychological hedonism gives, highlight the core issues psychological hedonism has, and finally show why it cannot be accepted and push for Kantianism, a less flawed philosophy.

My initial view on psychological hedonism is that it is false. I believe that humans are motivated by far more than just pleasure. Religion is a popular source of greater meaning for many. Following some reading, however, it became clear to me that the existence and validity of religion itself can be questioned. According to Karl Marx2, religion is the “opium of the people”. He believes it is a delusion that mankind created as a means to accept the unhappiness within ourselves. Some could argue that we did not create religion, yet the problem with that is that Divine Command Theory3 cannot be true. If mankind is motivated by more than simple pleasure, then, some will argue, he must also be motivated by religion. If mankind truly was motivated by religion, then this is somewhat problematic. Suppose mankind created religion, then we would not actually be motivated by religion; rather, he would be motivated by the principles we used when creating the religion. If we argue that mankind did not create religion, then Divine Command Theory must be true. Divine Command Theory is false, proving that mankind simply cannot be motivated by religion. Mankind can still be motivated by the practices of religion, perhaps it gives them a sense of balance and pleasure in their lives, but this is not religion. Mankind must be motivated by pleasure if we followed this line of thinking.

However, this argument against religion as a motivator can be qualified; as mentioned earlier, if mankind created religion, then mankind must be motivated by those principles used to create the religion. What could be these principles? Sigmund Freud would claim that the principle is an ‘oceanic’ connectedness4. It is a feeling that you are part of a greater “plan” and you feel some “sense of purpose”. Freud explains, however, that this ‘oceanic’ feeling is really just a psychological illusion, an effect of having an “ego”. He explains that, when we are born, we are not autonomous, we have no sense of self, and develop this feeling of autonomy later in life through the development of one’s ego. The feelings and ‘senses’ you had before developing your ego is this ‘oceanic’ feeling. Some people, claims Freud, simply do not lose this feeling. Even if this ‘oceanic’ feeling idea were true and one would be willing to accept the idea that humans have egos, it is doubtful that it is what motivates us and still does not clearly connect to religion. Freud gives two alternate theories as to what we could be motivated by. The first one centers on our obsession with objects, order and everything around us being in “the right place”. It is based on the idea that mankind draws inspiration of organization from nature and seeks to replicate it. Thus, what motivates us is drawn from that inspiration. A very interesting idea, but it should be pointed out that this motivation is connected to and brings us pleasure. Freud also points out that we may actually be motivated by love and love of all things. He claims that, if mankind is motivated by more than just pleasure, then mankind must also be motivated by love. This appears plausible, as there are many things you do out of love, where you do not necessarily derive pleasure. If mankind is motivated by love, then mankind will do actions out of love. If mankind does actions out of love, then mankind is not motivated by pleasure to do those actions. However, the problem many have with Freud’s theory is that all love, or actions of love, involve pleasure, intentional or not. They argue that humans simply pretend that these actions do not bring them pleasure, but they really do. Whether it is short term or long term, these actions of love are undeniably “pleasurable” in some sense of the word. Therefore, mankind is really motivated by pleasure and mankind is not motivated by love. We are motivated by nothing more than just pleasure.

Some may still be led to believe that the argument that deals with love as a motivator is not strong because it still leaves many other motivations other than pleasure untouched. There are countless motivations that one could bring up that are not, or at least appear to not be pleasure. Initially, this appears to be true, maybe there is a motivation out there other than pleasure; but, a psychological hedonist will ultimately conclude all actions are connected somehow, someway to pleasure. There may be higher forms of motivations, such as love, yet one still derives pleasure from them. The objection of love may seem weak, but it reveals that something that is supposed to be one of the most altruistic motivations is, in actuality, one of pleasure. Put simply, all motivations are connected to pleasure, be it rational or irrational. Love, some naysayers will argue, is irrational, therefore it cannot be motivated by pleasure. Pleasure, too, can be irrational, it is connected to love, after all. Even still, others will say avoidance of pain is not connected to pleasure. Still, this is simply another form of pleasure. Pleasure is a binary that cannot be escaped and is what defines all of our motivations.

While it is true that pleasure is involved in all of our decisions, a major problem with psychological hedonism is that it too quickly points out that, if pleasure is involved in an action, then the action must be motivated by pleasure. Its conclusion is difficult to refute, yet, I still have reservations. I don’t feel satisfied that humans are merely seeking pleasure and that is the root of all of our motivations. Otherwise, as Nozick pointed out, we would all use the experience machine. If psychological hedonism was supposed to be true, we would see others simply filling their deepest and carnal desires all the time. A psychological hedonist could object to this, pointing out that this does not bring ultimate pleasure, but temporary, so this argument is untrue. Immanuel Kant, an exceptional philosopher, pointed out that what motivates us, could be the initial thought that we had, the initial imperative; and, while pleasure could be a motivator, it is not initially what pushed us to do an action. When a firefighter runs into a building to save someone, his first thought is definitely not the pleasure he is going to get from saving them, rather, it is something else. Kant had his own ideas of what this could be and it is a major flaw in the argument against psychological hedonism that I am making. Defining the motivation is a very difficult task and, from an epistemic standpoint, the analysis of what motivates us may require an impossible introspection of ourselves. However, psychological hedonism is not without its own problems. The claim that pleasure drives all actions, as mentioned earlier could still lead to a questionable, even objectionable, society that is led only by carnal and sexual desire. Additionally, dismissing all forms of motivation other than pleasure to really be just pleasure is biased and myopic. How could one have the capacity to know for certain that all motivations are merely pleasure? The problems that arise out of adopting psychological hedonism are not only problematic, but unacceptable, and must be remedied. If the psychological hedonist could satisfactorily solve the problems it has with its philosophy, I would accept it. A Kantian view on what motivates us, however, is more plausible. It does have problems, yet the assuming nature of psychological hedonism is more flawed. It may be impossible to decisively prove what motivates humans, and a Kantian view can accept this. There are some who may not be satisfied not knowing what motivates us, but it really may be impossible to prove and I am willing to accept that.


  1. Robert Nozick, “The Experience Machine,” in Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974)
  2. Karl Marx, introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right/Marx-Engels Reader (1843)
  3. Divine Command Theory proposes that what is morally good is what is commanded by god(s)
  4. Sigmund Freud et al., Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)

Kant in America: Hook Up Culture and Stormy Daniels

The Issue: The Stormy-Daniels-Donald Trump sex scandal is a recently “settled” sexual (and political) scandal involving the pornstar Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump, and Michael Cohen. The political history of the scandal is complicated and elaborate, involving much naysaying and political deliberation that is not important to this issue at hand. What’s more interesting and not as widely spoken of is that Cohen admitted (in a convoluted manner) that Trump did have a sexual encounter with Daniels.1

This issue, rather surprisingly, has clear connections to what has become a seemingly norm in society, at least in populous college societies, today: hook up culture. TinderU, a new feature of the Tinder app (commonly seen as a “hook up” app, although most use it to boost their egos) has increased the use among college students across the U.S.2 Although roughly only ⅕ of Tinder users admit to using it for hooking up, cultural cues tell me otherwise and that is not even mentioning the more promiscuous hook up app, Grindr. While it may be easy to point fingers at Trump for engaging in a casual sex encounter (please forget that he wrongly stole money and cheated on his wife in the process), many of us college students have been engaging in these behaviors for quite some time and our attitudes towards hook up culture has largely remained static (excluding same-sex promiscuity). 3

Making it Philosophical: Forgetting where Trump got the money from and that he was married at the time of his encounter, there are still ethical issues to be dissected, especially from a Kantian perspective on the ethics of casual sex. No matter which way one tries to spin it, it is evident that “there is a strong case to be made that CS&P [casual sex and promiscuity] necessarily objectify, and that even if they do not, they likely objectify” each individual in the act.4The biggest problem to consider is if it is morally wrong to hook up with others.

For Kantians, the answer is yes, and their reasoning is that, in all (or at least most) cases of casual hook ups, it is inextricably linked to deception and or coercion and (almost always) objectification. Deception is defined as what one would typically think it to be, a trick, lie, or even absence of truth to get what one desires (in this case, sex). Clearly, Trump had to engage in deception when he stole money to pay for the act and lie to his wife about it. This is not typical of hook up culture.

What is more common is coercion, but it is harder to define. First, there are two types of coercion, occurrent and dispositional. In occurrent coercion, it bypasses consent entirely, as seen in cases of brutal rape. With dispositional coercion, it can manifest in many ways, but boils down to the threat of harm and requires that the other party “consent” to the act. In general, under dispositional coercion, if the party refuses to participate in the “offer” (it is really a threat), they will be harmed in some way.

In the Daniels-Trump scandal, ignoring the deception, it is interesting to point out what forms of coercion may have been present. Was Daniels coerced because of Trump’s status in society? Many would argue, yes. Because he was in a position of power, and if Daniels refused, Trump implicitly (by his sheer nature of the position he is in) threatens Daniels with repercussions. Was Daniels simply coerced because she was being paid? Claiming “yes” is a little more muddy, but a Kantian would generally agree on the definition that it is only coercion if they are in a ‘desperate’ situation where it should be expected that she be paid anyways, regardless of her performing the act. This is easier to explain with an example:

“Suppose that A is mired in quicksand and is slowly but surely approaching death. When B happens along, A cries out to B for assistance. All B needs to do is throw A a rope. B is quite willing to accommodate A, ‘provided you pay me $100,000 over the next ten years.’ Is B making A an offer? Hardly! B, we must presume, stands under a moral obligation to come to the aid of a person in serious distress, at least whenever such assistance entails no significant risk, sacrifice of time, and so forth. A is entitled to B’s assistance." 5

Clearly, the ‘offer’ that B claims it to be is really a threat, “Before B’s proposal, A legitimately expected assistance from B, ‘no strings attached.’ In attaching a very unwelcome string, B’s proposal effectively renders A worse off. What B proposes, then, is not an offer of assistance. Rather, B threatens A with the withholding of something (assistance) that A is entitled to have from B. (For clarity, I don't think it is likely that Daniels was coerced in this manner. She did not expect to get paid for doing nothing.)

This may lead many to conclude that they are off the hook for engaging in hook up culture because Trump engaged in deception and (likely) coercion to engage in casual sex, that he is morally wrong for doing so. This is true, but the biggest problem, and what happens with most, if not all, casual sex encounters is objectification4. What’s worse, is that this objectification is merely that, nothing else, in casual sex. It is at this point the argument may then shift to “what is so wrong with objectifying others (using another simply as a tool to get pleasure)?”. In an ideal situation, both parties find it pleasurable. It may also be viewed as simple recreation, release, or distraction. The problem with hook up culture though, is that this is simply not the case. Less than half of people who have engaged in one-night stands rated it as they “were glad they did it”, a positive experience. 6

Discussion Questions

  1. Does it matter that most people do not enjoy their hook up experience after? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think it is arguable that objectification does not matter as long as the benefits outweigh it?
  3. In your view, how does this paper validate/reject your feelings around hook up culture? Can you form an argument in support of the other opinion?


  1. ‘In coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office’, Steve Benen.
  2. ‘5 facts about online dating’, Aaron Smith and Monica Anderson.
  3. ‘Are claims associated with the "hookup culture" supported by general social survey data?’, Monot MA and Carey AG.
  4. “Casual Sex, Promiscuity, and Objectification”, Raja Halwani. The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings 7th ed.
  5. “Sexual Morality and the Concept of Using Another Person”, Thomas A. Maps. The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings 7th ed.
  6. “Sexual regret in US and Norway: Effects of culture and individual differences in religiosity and mating strategy”, Bendixen et. al.

Public Intellectual Assignment Write-up

For my Public Intellectual Assignment, I decided to engage with Hope Ruse, a strong- willed liberal friend of mine. She, in almost every sense of the word, belongs to and is an an advocate of the liberal party and its values. Part of this, is a view that sex in society can be positive and “hooking up” is a great thing. This is not me putting words in her mouth. In fact, she can be quoted saying, “Everyone, or at least most people, want sex. Therefore, if they are consenting, then how can that not be good?” I can see this argument. Sex is typically seen as a positive experience. Many movies and other works depict the losing of virginity as something as a coming of age. What I find problematic and posed to Hope is that most of these encounters where the hook ups occur do not end up really improving the lives of the people engaging in the hookup. In fact, as I told Hope, most of these experiences these people rate as being negative. There is significant evidence saying that people are not enjoying these experiences. She told me that she simply did not believe that. Was my evidence too weak? What had I done wrong? I tried to emphasize that I am not trying to say no one should ever have sex. I am just trying to say that hook up culture has some strange effects that should be considered if one were to hook up. These facts themselves put the actor in the situation to be more likely not to hookup (probably) but I could not understand why I was being met with such resistance. I brought up the additional point that, if most of these people are not enjoying their experiences, then they probably engaged in an act that they most likely did not agree to during the encounter. The lack of communication is troubling and can coerce participants into things they normally would never had originally agreed to. Hope was able to see this point, but she still held that these people were adults and she still did not understand why objectifying people is such a bad thing, especially when the act is mutual. This is something I never really considered before. I think this is something also special to sex and hooking up alone. I cannot think of any other acts in which both parties seem to be using each other as objects in such a mutual way. Perhaps, this is something that people in society simply are okay with, something they are willing to will to become a universal maxim. When I tried coming up with an answer to “What is so wrong with people objectifying others?” I could muster anything but, “Well, Kantianism says that using people as mere objects is one of the most evil things one can do”. However, upon further reflection, I am not sure this statement captures what Kant really meant. In sex, people often use each other as objects, that is simply as a fact. In this case, the people might not be using each other as mere objects, they pass the Kantian test. Another instance, two (or more) people use each other as mere objects in the sex act. In the ideal situation (which is unlikely), they both enjoy it and mutually agreed to use each other this way. Is this “will”-able? Is this allowed to become a universal maxim? I am not sure. I would like to say it already is, but something to me still does not feel right. All the work I did proving that hook-up culture is overall not a good idea still sits with me and I think it might be because this is (hookup culture), a bad maxim that society allowed. If we live in a society like this, how, then, can we ever hope to change it? Do we even need to? I am unsure.

Final Draft

Consent in Casual Sex: Is it All That Matters?

In the typical college setting, hooking up is generally seen as the expression of sexual liberation. It is the greatest example of college freedom of choice and independence where two parties are freely choosing to do what they want with their own bodies. However, for morally permissible hookups, valid consent is required. Invalid consent directly violates the autonomy of the person being ‘pursued’ or seduced; therefore, the hookup is morally wrong. In this essay, I will argue that valid consent in a hookup may be impossible to achieve. Additionally, I want to point out that even if valid consent is attained, there are many problems with accepting casual sex as the only expression of sexual liberation and would like to suggest more definitions. I will begin by exploring the situations where valid consent is undermined, I will show how hookup culture coerces college students into participating in hookups, and I will offer an acceptable solution to the problem with the idea of sexual liberation today.

According to Raja Halwani, professor of philosophy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, “there is a strong case to be made that CS&P [casual sex and promiscuity] necessarily objectify, and that even if they do not, they likely objectify” each individual in the act.1 My opponents would argue that consent is morally transformative, that it changes the moral permissibility of a hookup and the objectification becomes null and void. If there is valid consent, the hookup is morally permissible. But first, what is valid consent? There is consensus around three things that are necessary for valid consent, consent that is morally transformative:

  1. That there be no deception. Deception is defined as what one would typically think it is, a trick, lie, or even absence of truth to get what one desires (in this case, sex).
    1. Suppose person B asks person A if they have any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Person A tells person B, “No,” because they know that person B would not have sex with them otherwise. Person A has committed an act of deception and any consent thereby given is invalid.
    2. Person A has a STD that is dormant and undetectable. Person B has said in the past that they would not want to have sex with someone who has a STD. Person A does not consider themselves to have a STD, it is dormant and undetectable! Any consent given is valid, this is not an example of deception because person A is not lying at all, they believe they are telling the truth about themselves even though most would consider that is not the truth.
  2. That there be no coercion. First, there are two types of coercion, occurrent and dispositional. In occurrent coercion, it bypasses consent entirely, as seen in cases of brutal rape. Obviously, consent is violated. With dispositional coercion, it can manifest in many ways, but boils down to the threat of harm and requires that the other party “consent” to the act. In general, under dispositional coercion, if the party refuses to take part in the “offer” (it is really a threat), they are harmed in some way.
    1. “Suppose that A is mired in quicksand and is slowly but surely approaching death. When B happens along, A cries out to B for assistance. All B needs to do is throw A a rope. B is quite willing to accommodate A, ‘provided you pay me $100,000 over the next ten years.’ Is B making A an offer? Hardly! B, we must presume, stands under a moral obligation to come to the aid of a person in serious distress, at least whenever such assistance entails no significant risk, sacrifice of time, and so forth. A is entitled to B’s assistance."2
    2. Suppose person A has lent person B some money. Six months later, when it is time for person B to pay back person A, they say, “I’m going to make you an offer, you have sex with me and then you can have your money.” Person B has coerced A because they were entitled to the money that was owed and adding the “offer” even if they might have wanted the sex makes them worse off. If they refuse, they will not receive the money they are entitled to.
    3. A teacher, A, threatens a student, B, that they will lower B’s grade unless they have sex with them. Since the student is entitled to the normal grade, the student is worse off after this offer and is being coerced.
    4. A teacher, A, offers a student, B, that they will raise B’s grade if they have sex with them. The student is, technically, according to the offer, better off than they were before because refusing will not harm them. However, can a rational student truly refuse an offer such as this and expect future grades to not be affected by retaliation? Person B, even though they are “better off”, has been coerced.
  3. That the party consenting is rational and able to understand what they are consenting to.

With the examples of what valid consent is laid out, it is easy to see now that there are many limitations on what valid consent can really be. That is exactly why I wanted to lay this out, getting valid consent is near impossible and unlikely. Even if someone consents “yes”, it does not mean that the consent is valid.

However, my own my peers and I still might believe that we can obtain valid consent. Okay, let us grant that valid consent is attained. What is consent, though? At a base level, I am arguing that consent is permission to use someone as an object. Similar to selling your organs for profit, which is undeniably using your body as an object, hooking up for sensual pleasure is just the same. There is a moral duty to not treat people, even yourself, as objects. Giving someone permission to treat you as an object is morally wrong. In casual sex, both the parties leave the encounter with no strings attached. There is an aspect of emotional disconnectedness in the encounter. Both parties are simply expected to get their sexual pleasure and leave. In many ways, it is just as objectifying as using a sex toy, only this time it takes human form. Just because you may give permission for someone to use you as an object, it does not mean that it is morally permissible. Is this objectification a big deal? According to Immanuel Kant, he argued that it is in his formula of humanity: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or any other person, never as a means, but always at the same time and end.”3 The parties involved during a hookup are there to please only themselves; that is their end.

Professor Marino from Waterloo University believes that she may have an answer. Marino proposes that definitions of “weak” instrumental use and “strong” instrumental use. In “weak” instrumental use, “we treat someone in such a way that they further ends of our own, consensually, while we do not concern ourselves with their ends... Weak use involves respecting a person's stated permissions while ignoring the full range of their wishes and desires.”4 “Strong” instrumental use ignores both, it ignores the autonomy of the other human and their wishes and desires. The reason “weak” use is okay, as seen in a hookup is because it is, by definition, still respecting the other’s autonomy and not violating their rights. When someone weakly uses another, they are simply forgetting to take into account the other person’s humanity; they do not “concern” themselves with it. My problem with this is that it suggests that somehow these encounters are just happening and there is no real intention behind them. However, there is an intention and there is a point where someone agrees to be used as an object. The person agreeing is morally culpable. The other, the one asking for consent, is morally dismissed according to Marino’s theory, but it does nothing as far as addressing if giving consent is morally permissible.

Still, some may believe that their case does not apply, the case when the two parties are truly taking each other’s ends into account and respecting each other’s humanity, treating each other as ends. The argument I have made is against treating people merely as objects, as a means to the end of sexual satisfaction. Someone may present that they are treating the other person as an end. This is where I must conceded that, yes, it is morally permissible if they are treating the other person as an end. But in what cases of casual sex are you treating another person as an end? The whole purpose of casual sex is personal sexual satisfaction. Someone may argue that it is not their purpose in engaging in casual sex; it is to please their partner. If this is true, and they truly do it to satisfy and treat their partner as an end (not for an ulterior motive such as pleasing themselves), then congratulations, the sex is not morally wrong. However, this is not casual sex and is where I draw the line. I cannot imagine a casual sexual encounter, a hookup, where this happens.

Finally, I want to address the issue with casual sex today. We are living in a society that accepts casual sex with valid consent is morally permissible. While it is nearly impossible to get valid consent in many situations and it is questionable that consent is morally transformative, casual sex is the norm, nonetheless. This acceptance has created a casual sex culture, a hookup culture in the U.S. popular in college societies.5 Hooking up is simply seen as a part of college and dating life today. In a study done by Hope Reese, she found that most students’ reasons for why they engaged in hookup culture was not to seek pleasure but social status.6 The biggest reason the students engaged in hookups was because they were trying to fit in and seek approval from their peers. If college students don't participate, they do not see an alternative for themselves; casual sex is the norm. When Reese asked her students why they engaged in hookups, their answer was so that they could “fit in.” If this is true, these students are not giving valid consent, they are being coerced. Promoting other ways to have relationships with others, Reese argues, is just as important as promoting safe, casual sex. Sexual liberation must be re-thought to include abstinence, chastity, the opportunity and choice to opt out of hookup culture without stigma, especially because so many problems lurk around hooking up. Reese argues that when we engage in hookups, especially college students, they are looking to connect with others. They want to love and be loved. Paradoxically, a hookup requires that one does not feel emotion. By including these extra categories in the idea of sexual liberation, by promoting more than just hookup culture, we can hope to see students who are actually treating themselves with respect and not just having sex to fit in.

Attitudes towards hookup culture as sexual liberation among college students has largely been static in the U.S. for some time.7 These attitudes of accepting casual sex as the norm needs to change. It is not the only way for people to connect and casual sex also simply has too many problems with it. The hoops one would have to jump through to get valid consent alone should deter anyone from engaging in it, and it is not even clear it is morally transformative. Consent is not all that matters, ‘yes’ does not always mean ‘yes’. Accepting casual sex as the norm also has negative effects on society. Sexual liberation’s definition today too rigidly constricts many into believing that it is the only way to connect with others and it must be expanded to include other forms as well.


  1. “Casual Sex, Promiscuity, and Objectification”, Raja Halwani. The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings 7th ed.
  2. “Sexual Morality and the Concept of Using Another Person”, Thomas A. Maps. The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings 7th ed.
  3. Kant, Immanuel. 1785. “First Section: Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morals to the Philosophical”, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals.
  4. “The Ethics of Sexual Objectification: Autonomy and Consent” Marino, Patricia. Inquiry
  5. Garcia, J. R., Reiber, C., Massey, S. G., & Merriwether, A. M. (2012). Sexual Hookup Culture: A Review. Review of general psychology : journal of Division 1, of the American Psychological Association, 16(2), 161–176. doi:10.1037/a0027911
  6. The Atlantic, 'Coercion and Conformity and Despair': A Feminist Critique of Hooking Up, Hope Reese
  7. ‘Are claims associated with the "hookup culture" supported by general social survey data?’, Monot MA and Carey AG.