In the first part of ‘What is wrong with’, I looked at the moral and practical justification (or lack thereof) for the current ban on consensual incest. Today, I take one murky step further into the realms of unpleasant sexual acts with a look at what is wrong with Necrophilia.
Necrophilia does not have some of the ‘problems’ that incest faced. There is no real prospect of pregnancy or any of the issues related with that. However, it does face what is at first glance the larger issue that the person you are having sex with is dead, so can’t consent. One of the big arguments for incest was that it was consensual, so surely this barrier halts those with a corpse fetish dead in their tracks (excuse the pun).
This is in fact not necessarily the case; consent can be given. I’ll add a general caveat here despite the fact that those that wish to be offended/sickened won’t read and won’t care about it. Legalising necrophilia does not mean legalising having random sex with any corpse you want – just like legal sex doesn’t mean you can sleep with any person you want.
Consent can be given by the owner of the corpse. When someone dies they no longer can own property – they pass on their belongings to a person or persons of their choosing. Your body is another one of your belongings, clearly you own your body in life but as you can’t own it when you cease to exist, it, like all other possessions, is inherited by the person you specify. It becomes their corpse.
At the moment people allow their organs to be taken and transplanted on death, their bodies used for medical science. I see no problem in an individual donating or selling their body to a necrophiliac. But going further (which is where people will probably disagree with me) I believe that once you have given your body to someone it is theirs to do with as they wish. If they want to sell it on so be it. If a body is just another possession in that it can be owned like any other, and used like any other.
This, of course, can be avoided by having your inheritee sign a contract – probably with your lawyers – that they will do with your body as you require, as a condition on inheriting it and anything else. In most cases if you want your body buried or cremated your loved ones will do it, rather than have sex with it. But if you are truly distrusting, a contract can ease your fears.
So consensual necrophilia is possible, getting agreement from the person before death, or from the owner of a corpse who inherited it without being required to not sell it on. Of course necrophilia poses other problems such as diseases, but banning it for this reason opens up a can of worms in regard to whether you can ban things because the person doing it might hurt themselves. Having normal sex can cause disease, base jumping is likely to see you hurt. Necrophilia can be no more banned due to risk of disease than rugby can be banned due to risk of broken bones.
I would be interested to hear people’s views on whether a body can be treated as a possession. Despite many people’s attachment to their bodies and their natural squeamishness at the prospect of people having sex with a corpse, neither desiring a body not to be property, nor disgust at the implications makes it not so. Necrophilia is pretty disgusting a concept, which is why most people don’t do it, but here like in any case – as JS Mill said:
“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”
What is wrong with a voluntarily, consensual sexual coupling? What is wrong with Necrophilia?
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