“EEUUWW” is Not an Argument

That Other Blog Over There seems to be getting a lot of posts from a guy who thinks “Ick” is an argument against certain sexual acts, and thinks he can best make his point by referring to those acts as graphically as possible, so as to provoke the “ick” response in as many readers as possible.

I’ve already read Henry Miller, thank you very much.  And Norman Mailer, and the rest of those boys.  More to the point, I’ve spent a great deal of time with college-age females talking about why they don’t eat liver, and sashimi, and brains, and giblets, and okra (“EEEEUUWW, slimy”), etc.  It’s the same response.  Little kids do it even more vociferously, about anything they’ve never experienced before that isn’t on the Disney Channel.

Nonetheless, traditionalists, going back at least as far as C.S. Lewis, consider the disgust response to be a valid moral guide.  Many of my relatives consider seafood and pork products disgusting, and probably also consider this a valid moral guide.  (BTW, Maimonides says that isn’t a valid approach to keeping kosher.  We are supposed to recognize that bacon and lobster may well be delicious, and give them up joyfully in spite of that, because we are so commanded.  What merit is there in giving up something inherently disgusting?)

Well, never mind lobster and escargots and spinach and broccoli and the various other morally neutral foods that many people find disgusting.  Autopsies are disgusting, but may be medically and forensically valuable.  Surgery is disgusting, unless you do it for a living.  A cesarean delivery is disgusting, to lay people.  And perhaps more to the point, a normal vaginal birth is likely to be perceived as disgusting, even by the father of the child n question.  Normal, loving, marital sex is disgusting to children.  You get the idea.

The disgust reflex tells us absolutely nothing about the moral value of its object. It is utterly useless as a moral guide.  Can we turn our attention to how people treat each other?

Jane Grey

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