Eros and Bad Faith
Teen dies of over masturbation (Published Sept 4, 2011)
A 16-year-old boy in Brazil reportedly died after masturbating too much. He was allegedly to have masturbated more than 40 times throughout the night last month and was found dead by his mother in the morning. The woman said she had planned to bring her son for sexual addiction treatment, but it was too late. According to the teenager’s classmates, the boy was “highly addicted” to sex and was always fascinated about women in all body shapes and ages. He had apparently also asked his friends to watch him masturbate through webcam. The boy had stacks of pornographic magazines in his room. A large amount of erotic pictures and films were also found in his computer.
Definition of Terms:
1) Masturbation refers to the stimulation of one’s own sex organs for pleasure. It is a sexual activity that involves only the self. A universal phenomenon in one form or another, it is one of our earliest expressions of sexual stirrings and an important means of learning about our bodies. The activity has no harmful physical effects on the body. A widely practiced form of sexual release, masturbation is always accompanied by sexual fantasy.
2) Sartrean existentialism is the ethical theory that we ought to recognize that our value is rooted in the projects that we freely pursue and so promote the freedom of all to pursue their projects. This is not, however, simply the liberal view that each person should be allowed to pursue whatever they see as good so long as this does not infringe on the similar freedom of someone else, but rather the more stringent view that the only acceptable goals are those pursued “in the name of freedom.”
3) Freedom is a feature of human consciousness where by people are fundamentally, necessarily and inalienably free regardless of their circumstances. A person’s freedom does not consist in a complete detachment from all obligations; it consists in the constant responsibility of having to choose who he is through the actions he chooses to perform in response to the adversity and resistance of his situation. Even if he chooses to do nothing that is still a choice he is responsible for. There are, however, certain dispositions and responses that require conscious awareness in order to occur but are nevertheless not matters of choice. For example, sexual preference. One does not choose it and cannot choose to change it.
4) Bad Faith is the denial of the reality of freedom and choice, perhaps as a means of avoiding anxiety, as a coping strategy, or with the aim of relinquishing responsibility. Bad faith is not self-deception, rather an ongoing project of self-distraction or self-evasion. It is inauthenticity, wherein one’s outlook and behavior is rooted in a fixed nature determined by one’s inheritance, upbringing, or socialization.
5) Authenticity is the affirmation of the fundamental existential truth that we are free and responsible. Authenticity consists in embracing human reality for what it is and living in accordance with it rather than pretending it is something else. To be authentic is to realize fully one’s being-in-situation, whatever this situation may happen to be: with a profound awareness that, through the authentic realization of the being-in-situation, one brings to full existence the situation on the one hand and human reality on the other. Authenticity involves a person coming to terms with the fact that he will never be at one with himself, that he will never become a kind of thing that no longer has to choose what it is.
Eros and Bad Faith
In Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty endorses the view that bodily existence provides “the possibility of the barest raw material of a genuine presence in the world and establishes our first consonance with the world.” Having a body is significant because it orients us in a world where we are able to individuate subjects and objects. Since sexuality is inseparable from the notion of the body, then sexuality projects a manner of being towards the world. Therefore, the expression of sexuality is an expression of being as an embodied individual in the world. Merleau-Ponty further rejects the dialectic of the mind and body, saying that there is an inter-connection between the two such that they cannot be taken independently from one another. He accepts that desire and love have a metaphysical as well as physical significance. So, the “life of the body and the life of the psyche are involved in a relationship of reciprocal expression.” This is relevant to man as a consciousness and as a freedom.
Masturbation is an expression of sexuality. Since it is one of the ways in which individuals are acquainted with their bodies, it enables one to view and express oneself as a sexual being in the world. Such self-stimulation allows one to explore one’s body and become comfortable with it. This instinct to sex and pleasure is borne out of the reciprocal relationship of the mind and body. In other words, one does not masturbate because he is merely a ‘bundle of instincts’ or a machine governed by natural laws. It involves a psychosomatic subject in the decision to act so. Therefore, masturbation is an exercise of man’s consciousness and freedom.
Sartrean existentialism is founded on the dictum: existence precedes essence. It emphasizes that the value of individuals is rooted on the choices one makes and the actions one chooses to perform (essence), not the circumstances in which he finds himself in (existence). The exercise of one’s freedom must always lead to authenticity, which is embracing the human reality and taking responsibility for one’s actions. These choices must be freely decided; otherwise it is an inauthentic choice. And, inauthenticity or bad faith is unethical.
Sexuality is part of the human reality since man is both mind and body. The sexual-body-in-the-world is a being-in-the-situation where one is subjected to sensations and desires. Though it may not be one’s choice to be female or male, one is always responsible for what he does with the circumstances he is in. So, if he freely chooses to express his sexuality through masturbation, then it is considered ethical. Such an activity permits his essence to become. Otherwise, when he is acting merely out of upbringing or socialization etc., masturbation becomes an act of bad faith. Furthermore, if one rejects the idea of masturbation by appealing to traditional or religious figures etc., then it may also be considered inauthentic. To deny sexuality altogether is a form of self-evasion since man is a body in the world and he would have to deal with the consequences of being embodied.
It should be clear at this point, however, that even though masturbation is a legitimate expression of sexuality, it is not in itself authentic. Authenticity follows from the reasons for our decisions and actions which ultimately form our essence. It involves constant examination of one’s reasons at every masturbatory instance in order to determine whether or not it is at that instance ethical. Such an ethical framework obligates us to cultivate the “single over-arching virtue of authenticity: the disposition to recognize and promote what is most genuinely our own, the fundamental nature of our existence.” #
Cox, G. (2009). How to be an Existentialist. London, United Kingdom: Continuum International.
Merleau-Ponty, M. (2005). Phenomenology of Perception. London, United Kingdom: Taylor and Francis e-Library.
Webber, J. (2010). Existentialism. In J. Skorupski, The Routledge Companion to Ethics (pp. 230 - 240). Oxford, United Kingdom: Routledge.
Yoro, Mendoza, Villanueva, Gonzales
13 December 2011