The Corner


Bioethicist: Sex with the Dead OK

Opponents of human exceptionalism work overtime to normalize or OK behavior long deemed inherently wrong.  

The latest example appears in Big Think, where a South African bioethicist named Tauriq Moosa argues that copulating with the dead should not be considered immoral.

Moosa correctly believes that respecting the dead flows from believing that human beings have unique value. But as a denier of human exceptionalism, he doesn’t, and hence, does not think that necrophilia should be considered a big deal. From, “Is Necrophilia Wrong?”

The first opposition to necrophilia then is about, as we’ve seen, ‘abusing’ or disrespecting the dead. But the reason we ought to be upset by someone violating a dead loved one is not because it will offend the deceased, but because it offends us. Our dead loved ones become, essentially, property.

Just as we wouldn’t want someone breaking into our home and making a concubine of our toaster, we would not want the same for the bodies of our deceased loved ones. 

Their memory is not violated, only the corpse which once housed their living selves, personality, or whatever. Thus, we can condemn necrophilia but we should get rid of the term and simply call it property violation. There is nothing special about a dead human body.

No. The corpse of my mother was not akin to a toaster.  It was an icon of her–expressing the truth both of who and what she was.

Using her body in disrespectful ways would have been to denigrate her as a once living being. It would be to say that her remains were of no greater meaning than that of a roadkill squirrel’s. It would also imply that her life wasn’t either.

Deconstructing moral boundaries such as the prohibition against necrophilia–often sniffed at by advocates such as Moosa as mere “taboos”–could lead to all manner of degrading and perverted behaviors banned precisely because society accepts the intrinsic and unique value of human life.

For example, cannibalism could be justified by the same arguments made by Moosa to yawn at necrophilia. Soylent Green is people!

Also, if our dead are just so much inanimate material without any moral meaning, why not display human cadavers as art–even in pornographic poses? Apparently, no reason at all. Illustrating the slowly creeping nihilism and decadence infecting our culture, that very degenerate exhibit toured internationally to wide acclaim–even though it is widely suspected that the dead art objects were the bodies of executed Falon Gong political prisoners. 

Unsurprisingly, Moosa connects his human-denigrating values with an assertion that euthanasia and abortion are morally inconsequential:

So much backward thinking continues, such as unrelenting stances against euthanasia, organ donation and abortion, because of the idea that humans are special beings with some kind of cosmically significant purpose. 

Even when we are discussing adults being able to do what they want with their bodies – whether it’s donating organs or taking their own lives – very strong opposition exists almost solely resting on the belief that humans are “special” beings.

Do you see how antiseptic and abandoning this could become? Do you see how it could deleteriously impact the living as well as the bodies of the dead?

Anti-human exceptionalism is also dangerous. As a book reviewer of a Darwin biography put it, when promulgating a purely materialistic and reductionist view of human life:

For ultimately, if animals and plants are the result of impersonal, immutable forces, she observes, then “the natural world has no moral validity or purpose.” We are all of us, dogs and barnacles, pigeons and crabgrass, the same in the eyes of nature, equally remarkable and equally dispensable.

That last word is the key.

Treating the dead with respect not only values the “who” of the deceased in life, but extols the unique importance of humanity itself.

We reject that fundamental insight at our own peril. For if we ever come to see ourselves as just another animal in the forest, that is precisely how we will act.

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