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6 October, 2023 (Friday) | 4:00-5:30 pm | CPD-LG.39
Title: “Is there A Right Against Sexual Loneliness?” by Dr Zohar Lederman
Abstract: Commentators have recently argued that access to sex should be granted as part of distributive justice, meaning that society is obligated to fulfill some of the sexual desire for some people to some extent. In this paper I critically evaluate this argument. Insofar as sexual relations enable and increase wellbeing, a justice claim seems reasonable. But sex can sometimes be unpleasant; it can actually increase loneliness. Moreover, justice requires that those who are lonely but unable or uninterested in having sex should also have right-claims upon society to alleviate their loneliness manifested by them lacking something that is otherwise fulfilled or given during sexual intercourse. The question is: what is it?
In what follows, I argue that individuals indeed have a right against sexual loneliness which means that society is indeed obligated to address this kind of loneliness to some extent. I emphasize however that first, this is not a fundamental right, and second that it confers complex societal obligations. These mean that some people indeed deserve to be granted several things from society that are commonly perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be associated with sexual relations. I tentatively offer four such things: intimacy, companionship, touch, and physiological sexual fulfilment. Society, then, is required to provide and sustain the conditions for intimacy, including suitable physical spaces and proper socialization of individuals e.g. via public classes. Society is also obligated to provide conditions to optimize companionship, including for instance a reasonable work-life balance and sufficient resources for recreative activities. Similarly, society should provide conditions to optimize touch, meaning conditions that enable individuals to receive the kind of touch they long for (be it pleasant or not) and require for their wellbeing. Lastly, society should provide conditions to optimize the sexual fulfilment of all individuals. Since empirically it is mostly women in a heterogenous relations who suffer from this problem, this particular suggestion really implies that society should assure that men are taught and are socialized to care about and attend to women’s need for sexual fulfilment.
Speaker’s Bio: Zohar Lederman is an emergency medicine physician with a PhD in bioethics from the National University of Singapore and formal undergraduate training in the humanities with a focus on philosophy. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit at HKU. Whenever not hiking or running, Zohar researches several topics in bioethics including loneliness and One Health Ethics. His work has been published in the top bioethics journals including the Journal of Medical Ethics, Bioethics, and Public Health Ethics.