What is wrong with Necrophilia?

Olly Neville January 29, 2013 15
What is wrong with Necrophilia?

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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  • John

    I think the risk of disease is much higher than you think, but also things get passed on.
    I heard of a girl going to a doctor who was diagnosed with something you can only get from sex with the dead … her boyfriend worked in a mortuary!

    But on a principal then you’re right, your body belongs to who you leave it to, unless you specify otherwise.

    When there were rumours that saville had been doing this, many people got thinking and decided it may have been better that way.

  • http://libertarianhome.co.uk/ Richard Carey

    As the law stands, I don’t think a corpse is treated as property, and there are certain practicalities which effect this, such as the possible necessity of performing an autopsy etc.

    I think the important thing is to find a reason to keep it illegal, such as;

    Necrophilia is a violation of an implicit contract, that when someone dies, nobody will fuck their dead body.

    No one of sound mind can give consent to such a thing, so there’s a catch 22 preventing consent.

  • http://libertyscott.blogspot.com Libertyscott

    It can’t be a contract matter, but it can be a presumption that in any will, the corpse is available only for autopsy and for burial/cremation or other specified disposal, unless expressly stated otherwise.

    The question then becomes, is it criminal if someone ignores this? I’d argue it becomes a trespass case, both if someone has to trespass to access the corpse and because the act itself is a trespass on the property entrusted to the beneficiary of the will (or the state if intestate).

    The associate question for all of these issues is the status of pornography or other recordings of the act. My view is that if it is legal to do in real life, it should be legal to record it and distribute and own the recordings of it – subject to the consent of all parties.

  • Aaron Darkwood

    FAMILIES – although the person may leave a consent form, should the families get a say? If your child dies and they have completed an organ donor form, it appears that the family can still override that and say no to being taken apart? Should it be the case that once your family member is dead, you can then say I don’t want someone ejaculating over my daughter, grandmother, brother, whomever?

    DISEASE – I think if my neighbours were to bring a body bag back that they had just purchased from the morgue I might be a little uncomfortable with that, but then that’s their business. if that body was then decomposing,how long before that rotting corpse becomes a public health issue to it’s neighbours? The flies and all?

    How long is a corpse viable for to a person into necrophiliac? There must be a point when it turns to mush, with maggots that even “they” are no longer sexually turned on by such a thing?

    CONSENT – My initially thought at the start of all this was if the deceased had signed a consent form, then all would be fine, but having given it the above thoughts, I think perhaps not.

  • http://www.twitter.com/victoriaklm Victoria

    If the default position is that an individual is NOT allowed to have sex with a corpse UNLESS the corpse has given permission when alive/the recipient of the corpse gives permission (a little bit of nudge theory to ensure everything runs well and with minimal abuse) then I agree with your stance.

    Futhermore, @Aaron Darkwood – familial considerations are useless. They are not relevant. Family do not get to dictate your actions in life, and that does not change because you are dead. They should not be able to stop an individual’s corpse being an organ donor, or a sex toy.

  • Lee Jenkins

    I am with Victoria on this. If a person wishes to be sent to a taxidermist and turned into a statue after death, then that’s their view. Equally, if person wants to be eaten after death, the State has no place in the equation so long as the ‘food’ is only consumed by those who know its source.
    Family opinions are irrelevant.

  • http://www.thebackbencher.co.uk Christopher Gage


    End of comment.

  • Emma

    In my work I deal with a lot of dead bodies. If you were around a lot of dead bodies, you would see how inherently perverse this particular peccadillo is.

    And that story about a girl going to her doctor..etc..etc…is an urban myth. Been going around for years and years.

    • http://www.thebackbencher.co.uk Victoria Monro

      I’m definitely not saying it’s not perverse. Nor am I saying that if someone I knew engaged in it, that I could continue to associate with them. Olly’s not saying that it’s a good thing, or suggesting at all that he agrees with it, either.

      It’s just a question of whether there’s a moral case for it being illegal. From the libertarian perspective, the answer concluded here is ‘no’. Real libertarians can’t justify it being illegal – Olly is right to point this out.

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  • James

    You’re a sicko Olly.

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk Jimmy Saville

    That’s what I tried to tell them!

    Please do a follow up on Human Sacrifcice for the boys and girls at home.

  • http://twitter.com/stevetierney Steve Tierney

    Isn’t it interesting that some people simply struggle with the idea of debating a concept and have to keep returning to emotional pleas as their argument.
    Well done Ollie for being willing to look at something pretty horrible from a purely logical philosophical standpoint. It’s always worth doing this because it sometimes shakes up thought in completely different areas due to the paths the logic is forced to take. It certainly doesnt indicate you, or anybody else, wants to have sex with dead bodies. It’s a (yucky) thought experiment.
    In my view, you can’t “own” somebody’s body. I can’t precisely say why, but it feels wrong to me. Even if they signed a contract to say you could. It’s too similar to owning a person – even though they are dead. I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea.
    But what if they gave you permission to keep their body on ice and to fraternise with it after death? You are correct in saying its hard to say precisely why this is wrong from a pure logical perspective – but most people fundamentally feel it IS (I amongst them.) With that in mind, perhaps this is some kind of fundamental right we need to recognise? The right to dignity and respect after death?

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  • Rosanna Miller

    Just the fact that you need to ask ‘What is wrong with necrophilia’, speaks volumes about your mental capability, to me. Now maybe it is because I am not one who believes there are no stupid questions, but then again I am fairly sure you aren’t going to be fond of my answer either, so it really makes no difference. The bottom line is some things just go without saying and this is one of them. Necrophilia is wrong. The end.