Volume 22, 2006
Science, Technology, and Social Justice
Reflections on Blackburn’s Lust
This paper is a critical discussion of Simon Blackburn’s recent work on lust. Blackburn develops a view on which lust is decent only when part of a pure mutuality in sex, and is best left alone—we ought not tamper with its “freedom of flow.” I argue that this treatment, which I believe reflects commonly held views, fails in several ways. First, it does not square with the fact that we pursue lust as a good in itself. Second, pure mutuality is hard to come by and almost impossible to recognize, so Blackburn’s account is more restrictive than it may seem. Third, on such a view, masturbation is morally sanctioned only insofar as it mimics real sex; this doesn’t seem right. Finally, such a perspective fits ill with some recent research on the biology of lust in women.