Sexuality as a "Human Right"

I’m discussing a recent article by the “gay rights activist” Peter Tatchell in The Guardian yesterday in which he argues for a reduction in the age of consent to 14.

One of the wonders of the modern world is that one is often able to speak directly to the author of such opinions via Twitter. Peter Tatchell is one such person.

The article made me feel very uncomfortable and led me to question Tatchell in the context of some of his previous comments which seem to advocate abolition of any age of consent and advocacy for sexual relationships with children. In response, Tatchell has cited this essay as a summary of his position on the subject. Now there are some points he has cleverly left out of that discussion, but my question here is this:

Based on Tatchell’s premise that sexual rights are human rights and the right to love and have a sexual relationship with the person of one’s choice is as much a human right as freedom of religion and the right to protest, despite the fact that not a single international human rights convention recognises sexual rights and freedom of sexual expression (see his website linked to above)

–How does Catholic moral theology counter such an argument?

My initial thoughts revolve around the idea that sexuality is more of a responsibility than a right, but I am bearing in mind the fact that Tatchell is a homosexual, therefore his sexuality is fundamentally confused and he considers sex acts as about pleasure (I wouldn’t even say he considers the unitive more important than the procreative–I don’t think procreative even enters into it.)

Any ideas?

I think we need to differentiate ‘human right’ and ‘freewill’.

The former is an unalienable right, the exercise of which has no adverse bearing on others or their rights. It is fully governed by human laws and human authorities.

The latter is freedom granted by God to choose between good and evil and comes with this rider: be ready to face the respective consequence. Further, it does not take away another’s human right to offer guidance for right exercise of free will.

In England in 1875 the age of consent was only 12. It was raised to the current 16 sometime later in order to protect children from being exploited.

So contrary to what Tatchell says, I think it’s actually decreasing the age again that would take us ‘backwards’.

Adults who argue about decreasing the age of consent just come off as creepy. :mad:

I don’t understand. If sexual expression were a human right, then the state would be obligated to provide sexual expression – at least in some way – to people with unorthodox/perverse/abnormal sexual desires. If someone exclusively desired sex with dead bodies, the state would have to accommodate that desire. If someone exclusively desired sex with children, the state would have to way their “right” to have sex with children against the children’s welfare.

This whole train of thought is utterly bizarre and repulsive.

I’m so with you there! :thumbsup:

BTW this is my argument so far: What is Peter Tatchell’s Agenda Really?

The prodigal Son seems spot on to me.

Its incredible, a few years ago people would’ve scorned at such a suggestion. But here we are 2014 with people suggesting this sort of thing. These all things start small and slow or both then before you know it these ‘causes’ have ‘viable’ support and larger numbers than is comfortable.

Sexuality is not a right, it is an attribute of our human bodies.

Sexual activity is likewise not a right. If it were a right, then a person would be entitled to demand sex from another.


I haven’t read the articles yet. I’ll take a look at them when I have a bit more time, I hope.

One thing that bothers me about the way we’re headed as a civilization is that moral disagreements will become more and more intractable. In subjects like metaphysics, old arguments and positions can be revived and argued for in a novel way. But ethics for many has an “intuitive” element. The reductio ad absurdum in metaphysics might be a contradiction, but in ethics, one tries to reduce his opponent’s argument to absurdity by showing that it has an undesirable consequence. There is usually no formal contradiction, though.

So right now, if someone claims that consent is a sufficient condition for sex to be moral, you might reply that incest between consenting adults is immoral, even if the adults are using contraception and plan to abort (so there is no risk of defects in the child), or if the adults are of the same sex. What leads us to regard incestuous sex as intrinsically immoral is something else.

The problem is that someday, the secular world is simply going to accept these consequences. (The same will likely happen with polygamy and “polyamory,” which are sometimes used as examples of consequences of the principles on which public acceptance of homosexuality rest.) And then it will become nigh impossible for Christians and secular peoples to talk, because they will cease to share common principles.

I don’t know what the solution is. This is a difficult problem to head off. I suspect fudging the age of consent, bestiality, etc. are all on the menu. (You really just need to look at what the far, far left is writing about in academic journals to figure out what the regular left will be demanding as a “human right” within the next few decades. Peter Singer has advocated bestiality, correctly pointing out that a) we don’t allow animals to consent to their deaths when we use them in other contexts and b) even if consent were a necessary and sufficient condition for sexual morality, it is conceivable that animals could consent/enjoy bestiality.)

Right on spot prodigal son!

I would just add that the concept of human rights is related to activities that if not perform can cause either death or irreparable harm to people. For example, eating is a right because if you don’t eat you die. Right to life is a human right obviously. Liberty is a human right because if you tie a human to a chain it can cause irreparable harm. Right to medical care is a human eight because you can die without medical care. Children have a right to be raised by their parents because if you abandon a child in the middle of the street they may die. Things you need to do to live are human Rights.

Sexuliaty it is not a human right because you don’t need to have sex to live. Sex is not a need. A human being can live its entire life unharmed without having sex. Sex is a response to a stimulous not a human need. Because it is not a need it shouldn’t be a human right.

Sexuliaty it is not a human right because you don’t need to have sex to live. Sex is not a need. A human being can live its entire life unharmed without having sex. Sex is a response to a stimulous not a human need. Because it is not a need it shouldn’t be a human right.

Although I agree that sexual behavior (not “sexuality”, which like bodybuild, is intrinsic to our bodies) is not a human right, that argument is a weak one. One could as easily say that because human beings have lived out their lives as slaves, that freedom was not a human right.


As I said above liberty is a human right because it’s opposite, slavery, causes irreparable harm to the human being. Not having sex does not cause you any harm. See the difference now?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit