Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Virtue Ethics Approach to Sexual Ethics

Virtue theory was formulated by Aristotle and focuses on personal character development as opposed to act centred theories which are solely interested in whether an act is right or wrong.

In this post we will explore how we can use this spectacular theory when discussing premarital sex, extramarital sex, contraception and homosexuality. In addition we will briefly discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of using this theory to do our ethics in terms of these areas.

Premarital Sex

Premarital sex is when sexual intercourse is performed before marriage.

Virtue theory has no concerns in terms of having a sexual relationship before marriage it is more focused upon the conditions in which this takes place.  For virtue ethicists sex is about giving love, friendship, sharing compassion for one another and so for premarital sex to be moral they believe both people should give consent and they should not be using each other for sexual gratification (it should be for the reasons suggested above e.g. demonstrating love/compassion). It is only by developing sexual intimacy and investing in another person, we become more virtuous.

Also, in virtue ethics sexual acts are looked at for their own virtue so premarital sex although moral it should not be used as a substitute for marriage. 

Extramarital Sex

This is in essence adultery: it is any sexual intercourse taken outside of marriage.

As with premarital sex if someone like a prostitute is used just simply for sexual pleasure then this would be immoral. In order to make extramarital sex moral it needs to have all those virtues of compassion, sharing etc. If we look at extramarital sex in its own virtue we will realise that extramarital sex would be classed immoral if that was the only means used to develop virtues like compassion clearly sex with the spouse should be used too.


Contraceptions are devices and processes used to prevent the fertilisation of an ovum.

Contraception could argued to be something which helps us become virtuous because it promotes justice, fairness and dignity in our attitudes to women. 

Virtue theory also emphasises strongly that we should play to our strengths and work to achieve a productive society and if one knows that they will not be a good parent they should take responsibility in ensuring they don't become one encouraging them to do other things.

Contraception again allows us to have sexual intimacy and invest time and love into other people hence it being a good thing.


Homosexuality is the sexual attraction one feels for someone of the same sex

Given that the homosexual couple are still being part of society and perhaps adding to society by adopting a child; it is not seen as a bad thing.

Virtue ethicists find nothing wrong with the principle that two people of the same sex are engaging in such activities.

They also say it is better to be in a homosexual relationship and happy then dissatisfied and frustrated in a heterosexual relationship. This is what we mean by looking at the acts in their own virtue.


- Virtue theory seems like a very realistic theory when we observe  the attitudes in the world around us today.
- It preserves the dignity and emotions of people.
- One of the few theories which is not judgemental towards homosexuality or extramarital sex.


- Some of the actions which can be argued to be moral are probably dangerous.
- Clear cut advice is not given and how do you know when e.g. 'you will not be a good parent'?
- Uses sexual ethics to promote equality  between women and men.

1 comment:

  1. "- Uses sexual ethics to promote equality between women and men."
    this is not a weakness!!!!!