Consequentialism and Deontology …
In two recent blog posts, I’ve lightly touched on some narrow and specific moral dimensions of Ceara Lycnh’s profession. Ceara is part of a generation which often defines right and wrong in terms of consequences. Consequence-based morality maintains that if something doesn’t hurt yourself or others, it’s not wrong. When asked, most financial dominatrices morally justify their actions by pointing out that they aren’t hurting anyone.
Consequence-based morality is usually contrasted with deontology. Deontology judges the morality of an action based on rules. It is sometimes described as “duty-” or “obligation-” or “rule-” based ethics. In deontology, rightness or wrongness is derived from one’s actions rather than outcomes. Critics of financial domination usually take a more deontological view. To them, taking another person’s money by intentionally exploiting weakness is against the rules and just plain wrong.
As a matter of practicality, however, consequentialism and deontology are not mutually exclusive. Unless you’re a pure “ends justify the means” kind of person, most consequentialists incorporate some sort of inviolable side-constraints which restrict the actions they permit themselves to do. They impose limits.
Ceara Lynch is no Girl Scout. She’s not big on rules-based morality. Ceara Lynch wrote to me, “I don’t think of morality as ‘what is proper’ (as you wrote) rather, to act morally is to act in a way that inflicts the least amount of suffering.” Hers is largely a consequence-based approach to morality.
Unintended Consequences …
Evil is wanting and planning for bad consequences. But what if the bad consequences are unintended? Is the person making that particular decision evil? Bad? Amoral? Of course not. As a practical matter, even in a consequence-based moral system,.intentions count for something. At the very least, good intentions mitigate actions when things turn out bad.
Unintended consequences are a fact of life. Sometimes the unintended consequences can be beneficial, sometimes there may be unexpected detrimental side effects, and sometimes the consequence may backfire and be contrary to what was originally intended.
In the case of financial domination, the most likely unintended consequence are detrimental side effects. In addition to the usual mental health risks associated with Dominance/submission play (such as tops disease, outing, emotional vampirism, etc.), financial domination poses the unique risk of financial harm and hardship for the submissive player. Although little to no public information is available about how often and to what extent financial hardship results from financial domination play, it’s probably safe to assume that it does occur.
For a consequentialist like Ceara Lynch, what then is the moral burden when results of the financial domination cause harm and undo financial hardship to her client? In her own words, her moral road map is about imposing the least amount of suffering. Yet the play she encourages and facilitates may unintentionally create harm and suffering. Clearly, she never wanted to hurt her client, so when harm occurs, her motives mitigate her moral culpability to a certain extent. But even though the actions and decisions leading to harm are not solely hers, she must bear some moral responsibility for the consequences of those joint actions. The moral price to pay ( in other words, justice) is predicated upon how much harm is done.
And there’s the problem. Because no one other than the harmed submissive knows the full extent of how much damage is being done. And he’s not saying. Not even to the financial dominatrix.
In the strawman postulated above, the dominatrix is able to avoid facing the moral dilemma posed by overlooking the consequences entirely. In the case of financial domination, ignorance is truly bliss.
An Ethereal Thing …
Discussions of ethics and morality are ethereal. They just seem too perfect for the workings of the real world. People are complex, situations are more often ambiguous than clear. Financial domination play is one of those situations. It’s on the edge – morally, ethically, psychologically. There’s an unspoken trust between play partners that boundaries won’t be crossed. Unfortunately those boundaries are often ill-defined or, in the worse cases (those devoid of any ethical considerations at all), there are no boundaries.
For Ceara Lynch, the boundaries are defined better than most. In that way, she is easier to trust. Still, the potential for harm is always present. How she addresses the potential moral dilemma embedded within her consequentialist perspective is dependent on how she makes sense of those boundaries and the ambiguous nature of internet social-sexual play. Perhaps a more thorough reading of her past blog entries would give me more insight; for now, however, her approach to the ethics of financial domination remains a bit opaque to me.
I’m no moral absolutist and in no position to judge anyone – so will leave this blog open for comments, thoughts, and other insights into the contentious arena of ethics and financial domination. Feel free to add your comments and replies.