Picture this scene. Tony is a 22 year old man from the city who is in his third year at university, working toward an economics major after having traveled for a bit after his high school graduation. He’s been having a hard time with women after his high school sweetheart dumped him for his best friend, but is now at a place where he is comfortable moving on. Susie is a 20 year old woman who transferred to the same university because of its successful economics program, and is on a full scholarship. She has had some boyfriends in the past, but never anything more than fling or a passing crush. They met after having been assigned to work on a project together, and ended up going on a date where they discussed the economics of Star Trek over coffee and greatly enjoyed each other’s company. The second date went equally well. They are now on their third date, and after watching a movie at her place, they begin making out. Tony begins to undress. In this situation, Susie is morally obligated to:
a) Put out
b) Cut his dick off while screaming misandrist nonsense about the Patriarchy
c) Susie is not morally obligated to do anything
If you picked C, congratulations! You understand consent and have disproved morality! Hume’s Is/Ought problem refers to the impossibility of drawing a moral imperative (an ‘ought’) from any given situation in the world (an ‘is’) without an outside value influencing that decision.
This has further implications outside of sexual consent, however. If one looks at the world and sees poverty, injustice, and despair, there is no ‘ought’ that can be derived from that scenario. One can certainly say that if one values equality, then an ‘ought’ is derived. Alternatively, if one values self-preservation, a significantly different ‘ought’ is derived. This turns morality into an “If value X then…” situation which creates problems of relativism and subjectivity that must be acknowledged.
If you want to blame feminism for breaking morality, don’t, because this problem was introduced in 1740 CE, well before women even had the right to vote. How does one behave ethically if an ‘ought’ cannot be derived from an ‘is’? I’ve already written a blog about it, where, hey guess what, I conclude that having a conversation is what drives moral behaviour.