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Sexual Desire and Pervasion in T. Nagel’s Theories Essay

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The concept of sexual perversion is rather complex because it depends on the discussion of naturalness related to sexuality and individuals’ intimate relations. Thomas Nagel’s account of sexual perversions is closely associated with his discussion of the psychological theory of sexual desire as the fundament for developing the persons’ sexual relations (Nagel 5). According to Nagel, sexual desire is a complicated phenomenon that is associated more with the persons’ relations than with the expression of a certain attitude; thus, sexual desire is referred to as sexual communication between people.

Nagel’s vision of sexual desire can explain the whole nature of individuals’ sexual relations. Nagel claims that sexual desire is associated with the person’s relations in the external world, and it is not a simple expression of the person’s attitude in spite of the fact that this phenomenon is connected with the idea of attraction (Nagel 8). The core of the sexual desire is the mutual perceptions because sexual desire leads to the individuals’ sexual interaction (Nagel 10).

The identification of a person with his body is important to develop the idea of attraction, and as a result, mutual sexual desire (Nagel 12). Thus, to speak about successful or complete sexual relations and natural sexual desire according to Nagel, it is necessary to focus on such factors as the presence of persons who have positive sexual perceptions of each other, who identify the bodies of each other as attractive, and who are ready to start the sexual interaction or communication.

The discussion of sexual desire provides the background for understanding the nature of sexual perversion. Following Nagel, definite types of sexual intercourses can be discussed as pervasions because of their character. From this point, Nagel assumes that sexual pervasions are associated with the “unnatural sexual preference” and with the incompleteness of sexual intercourse (Nagel 5, 14). According to the author’s theory, a pervasion, in this case, is a result of developing incomplete sexual relations or it is a result of focusing on the changed awareness of oneself and the object of desire.

The examples of deviant sexual activities associated with the idea of incomplete variants of the sexual relations are voyeurism and exhibitionism because these activities do not require the response in the form of the partner’s sexual desire (Nagel 15). Furthermore, “narcissistic practices and intercourse with animals” can also be discussed as the forms of incomplete sexual communication because the problem is in the fact that the intercourse is associated with the “awareness of one’s own sexual embodiment” instead of involving both parties and awareness of the other person’s sexual attractiveness (Nagel 14).

Referring to these explanations, it is possible to assume that homosexual relations are not an obvious pervasion because sexual interaction can be discussed as complete while following the basic principles of Nagel’s theory. Anal sex is also not a pervasion because it satisfies the desire of both persons without reducing their awareness of themselves as sexually active parties.

On the one hand, Nagel’s account of a sexual pervasion can be discussed as successful because of developing the idea of natural sexual intercourse. On the other hand, it is possible to criticize Nagel’s vision because the author does not pay attention to a range of significant aspects. Robert Solomon also focuses on masturbation as an important example of a pervasion because it is like “talking to oneself”, and this activity lacks the emotional content necessary for sexual intercourse (Solomon 283). Thus, Solomon pays more attention to the emotional part of sexual relations. Moreover, Solomon is rather strict about homosexual relations.

If Nagel does not provide a clear discussion of homosexuality, Solomon discusses homosexuality as normal because it addresses the requirements of complete interpersonal communication (Nagel 15; Solomon 282). However, Solomon’s ideas only add to Nagel’s discussion of a pervasion, and both authors share the same vision of sexual relations as an act of communication.

Nevertheless, it is possible to state that Nagel’s vision of a pervasion is not complete enough to explain details of the phenomenon because Nagel is more focused on the number of parties involved in the sexual relations than on consequences of pervasions and on their unnatural character. Nagel’s account does not provide a strict idea of why it is unnaturally to prefer sadism and masochism without focusing on the partners’ role in the sexual act. However, Nagel presents the complete discussion of the issue from the other perspective, providing hints to understand the problem.

Works Cited

Nagel, Thomas. “Sexual Perversion.” The Journal of Philosophy 66.1 (1969): 5-17. Print.

Solomon, Robert. “Sex and Perversion.” Philosophy and Sex. Ed. Robert Baker and Frederick Elliston. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1975. 268-287. Print.

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"Sexual Desire and Pervasion in T. Nagel’s Theories." IvyPanda, 27 Mar. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-desire-and-pervasion-in-t-nagels-theories/.

1. IvyPanda. "Sexual Desire and Pervasion in T. Nagel’s Theories." March 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-desire-and-pervasion-in-t-nagels-theories/.


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IvyPanda. "Sexual Desire and Pervasion in T. Nagel’s Theories." March 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-desire-and-pervasion-in-t-nagels-theories/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Sexual Desire and Pervasion in T. Nagel’s Theories." March 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-desire-and-pervasion-in-t-nagels-theories/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Sexual Desire and Pervasion in T. Nagel’s Theories'. 27 March.

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