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Defining Sexual Acts

Norbert Campagna

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According to Halwani, it is impossible to give a satisfactory definition of sexual acts. In this contribution, I want to show that one definition of sexual acts can resist the objections advanced against it by Halwani. These objections are plausible only if you take for granted that penile-vaginal intercourse is always sexual intercourse. But there is no compelling reason to take this for granted. Penile-vaginal intercourse is always genital intercourse and, in a certain sense, always also procreational intercourse, but it need not always be sexual intercourse. The definition of sexual acts I want to rescue against Halwani’s attacks states that an act is sexual if and only if it is performed with the intention to obtain or produce sexual pleasure. The absence of a clear definition of the concept of sexual pleasure is not fatal to this definition, since it does not insist on the presence of sexual pleasure, but on that of the intention to obtain or produce sexual pleasure.

Keywords: sexual acts, genital acts, procreational acts, sexual ethics, sexual pleasure, intention


Bibliography: Campagna, Norbert: Defining Sexual Acts, INSEP, Vol. 2, Issue 1-2014, pp. 5-17.