Term Paper: Nagel's Sexual Perversions

Pages: 5 (1450 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] It is from this perspective that he relates to his readers the specific weaknesses of exhibitionism or voyeurism. These, he says, are incomplete relationships. Gaining the ultimate satisfaction without any physical sexual attention from another person effectively short-circuits the psychological charge no matter whether a person tries by watching others or by expressing his or her sexual elements without allowing others to connect with them. It is interesting, however, that in making these points in his full discussion of the topic, Nagel uses an example of a hypothetical Romeo and Juliet connecting; they start their sexual fires through a mirror, what some might identify as the perfect tool for either exhibitionism or voyeurism. He, of course, assumes that his example is referring to just the starting of the process, which is different than cutting the process short -- though once again he takes note of the fact that it is perfectly possible that under some circumstances perverted sexuality might actually be better than non-perverted sexuality. So coming up short in this regard isn't always bad, but as a matter of routine it is when the sense of self- or open expression becomes the end all of the experience.

It now seems appropriate to return to his opening comments, through which he introduces the idea of a conversation. This issue is critically important in our contemporary times for two reasons: over time there has been a broadening of the concept of what sexuality is, just as has there been an introduction to much more pervasive types of computer intimacy, which often starts as talking or seeing even if it will never get to the point of face-to-face fulfillment. Nagel assumes that a very complicated conversation of sorts happens as two people begin their discussion about having a sexual encounter. Ultimately, this leads to the opportunity to finish the conversation in private or wherever. It does not really allow for either a sexuality that is more verbal than physical, and definitely not for sexuality that transpires across a digital network.

Nagel pulls some of the logic and philosophical justification of his ideas from the writings of Sartre, and particularly his interest in sexual desire. Nagel says that he is not interested in some elements of Sartre's theories of consciousness, which basically say one cannot be a subject and an object of another at the same time. Doing so is essentially an ongoing circle of its own that never has success or failure, which means that there can be no room for perversion. Here is how he quotes Sartre's "double reciprocal incarnation," which is characterized as, "I make myself flesh in order to impel the Other to realize for herself and for me her own flesh, and my caresses cause my flesh to be born for me in so far as it is for the Other flesh causing her to be born as flesh." This quote from Sartre's Being and Nothingness is relevant because of its focus on the caress. It is likely that Nagel uses his concern with the shortcoming of "epidermal stimulation." Sartre's cycle is the relevant part here, but it only works in conditions where the cycle can be completed. It is very unlikely that such can happen either through technological relationships or under conditions such that talking about sex is presumably the end result.

While it can be argued that many people who engage in their early sexual psychology via the Internet ultimately want it to come to a physical completion of the give-and-take, this is not always the case. Some people are more than satisfied with the noncommittal sexuality that occurs across the virtual divide. This Nagel would seemingly argue is fine, of course, because it is clearly sexually accepted in general (and thus not perverse in the usual sense of the word). But it falls short of being what two-person successful sexuality is all about. And it is exactly this that he expresses through his general discussion of what is wrong with orgies -- the do not allow for the intimacy of conversation that moves from objectifying to personalizing the joining of two people in sexual completion.


Nagel, Thomas. "Sexual Perversion." The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 66, No. 1. pp. 5-17. Jan. 16, 1969. . [END OF PREVIEW]

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