is the sort of bodily pleasure experienced in the sexual parts of the body, or at least related to those parts in that if it is associated with arousal, the arousal occurs in those parts. (Primoratz 1999: 46)
To distinguish a sexual from a nonsexual kiss, we ask which of the two is associated with arousal, and we understand the notion of arousal as essentially linked to the sexual body parts.
Because the above view relies solely on sexual pleasure-as-sensation, it would have to understand the other two types ultimately free local hookup in terms of pleasure-as-sensation. This implies that “sensory pleasure is more fundamental when it comes to sex” (Goldman 2016: 95). Although in nonsexual contexts we do not pursue activities because of their sensual pleasures, we pursue sex for sexual pleasure-as-sensation.
In most activities, the pleasure and the activity are intertwined-we do not watch a movie and then feel the pleasure. Instead, we enjoy the movie as we watch it. The pleasures here are pleasures-as-enjoyment. Things are different with sex because of pleasure-as-sensation, specifically, orgasm. Sexual pleasure-as-enjoyment supervenes on sexual pleasure-as-sensation, and it often culminates in orgasm, a result that comes at the end of the activity (though the orgasm as an end differs between men and women). We can then see why some prominent philosophers have considered temperance and intemperance to be about bodily appetites satisfied especially through touch (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1118a–1118b).
Moreover, sexual pleasure seems to be the primary motive for sexual activity: although sexual activity has other goals (Meston and Buss 2007), few people would have sex just to exercise, to boost their self-image, or for revenge, and although many people would have sex just to procreate, procreation would plummet were sex to not be enjoyable. It then seems that sexual pleasure provides a basic motive for sexual activity that underlies multiple other motives.
The butterflies one feels in one’s stomach at the prospect of sex exist because of the expectation of sensual pleasure, and so does enjoying a sexual act
Sexual pleasures-as-enjoyment and as-feeling might thus be parasitic on sexual pleasures-as-sensations. Sexual pleasure, especially as-sensation, stands out as the main motivation for having sex, and its concept supplies us with a good way of defining “sexual activity” and “sexual desire”.
It is a contentious question in the philosophy of sex of how the triumvirate concepts of “sexual desire”, “sexual activity”, and “sexual pleasure” are ordered when it comes to their conceptual analysis. Which concept is prior? (Jacobsen 2006).
1.4 Sexual Preferences and Orientation
Sexual orientation is commonly understood as a person’s standing sexual preference for men, women, or both. It is a basic preference, unlike, say, the preference for blondness or buttock size. It is also an organizing preference: other sexual preferences are built upon it (Stein 1999: ch. 2). A foot fetishist is either gay, straight or bisexual, before he is a foot fetishist, though it is an empirical question whether there can be sexual orientations for body parts (or objects) regardless of the gender or sex of the person’s body part (Stein 1999: ch. 2; Wilkerson 2013).
Mere sexual preferences vary tremendously, targeting people, objects, activities, and sexual positions, probably because they are a function of the person’s individual history and the available social and cultural options (on this variety, see Love 1992). Given their variety, it is inevitable that some preferences are considered perverted (e.g., coprophilia), some immoral (e.g., pedophilia), and some both. Yet with others it is not so obvious, such as sexual preferences for members of particular races or ethnic groups. Perhaps X’s preference for Asian women is innocent, on a par with the preference for tall people. But it might also indicate an ethical fault if, say, racially ugly stereotypes inform it (Halwani 2017b; Zheng 2016).