Some people have a particular “type”, a person with particular physical aspects that they look for in a partner.

What ethical frameworks can be used to evaluate this phenomena? Do those frameworks consider this to be “right” or “wrong” (or something different)? Why?

(Note that in some cases, the verdict reached by a framework may depend on particular assumptions, such as whether or not having a “type” is a choice. Please be clear about the assumptions you are making in your answer.)

QUESTION: Has any author attempted to create an ethical basis for a physical 'type' preference or other means of choosing the company one keeps?

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    Is this an assignment? In any case, please provide your own thoughts on the matter, and where you are having the difficulty. – Conifold Dec 31 '18 at 13:15
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    Interesting question, I think it has attracted some close votes due to a seemingly opinion only answer set. I added a more explicit question to try an clarify a bit. If I missed your intent please edit or roll back... – christo183 Dec 31 '18 at 14:25
  • @christo183 That’s a great way of phrasing the question. Thank you! – Pro Q Jan 1 at 10:04
  • @Conifold No, it is not an assignment. I have heard opinions on this subject ranging anywhere from it being racist to have a “type” to it being completely socially acceptable. I’m not sure what my beliefs / thoughts are, which is exactly why I’m curious about what frameworks are available in order to examine and shed light on thoughts I may have about the subject. – Pro Q Jan 1 at 10:11
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    Take this to its logical extreme. If it is not OK to have a 'type', then is it OK to be gay? or straight? Isn't bodily sex just a physical attribute? There has to be some degree to which we acknowledge natural aesthetics as an acceptable part of our opinions of people. – jobermark Jan 3 at 5:38

One useful principle which ethicists appeal to (especially those in deontological traditions) is roughly as follows:

Ought implies Can: One ought to do something only if they can in fact do that (even if they might not actually do it).

The idea is that nobody is at fault for not unilaterally solving world hunger since that's simply not something any of us is capable of. I suspect that the same might apply to 'types', that is, it isn't really practical to force ourselves to find things physically attractive which we don't already find physically attractive. This depends on the empirical premise that our physical type is not very malleable, which might not be true. Another possible formulation would be on a version of consent where absolutely no reason is a bad reason not to seek a relationship with someone.

The alternative might be formulated as follows:

Implicit Racism: While someone may seemingly have an (innocuous) physical type on the basis of (for this example) race, their 'type' might in fact be just a subconscious (or even conscious but secret) racism, and this racism is the problem rather than the physical preference itself, even though the physical preference wouldn't exist without the racism (e.g. this is pretty overt in most WMAF pornography).

It seems easy enough to make a moral case that this kind of 'type' is morally blameworthy. The real question is empirical, that being whether this is in fact the source of people's 'types'.

Another way of putting it might be on consequentialist grounds:

Combatting Systematic Racism: Someone considered to be in an unattractive racial category may have disproportionate difficulties finding a partner (since our type is likely shared by people in our community), whereas we are able to find love with members of this racial category despite them being 'not our type'. So the benefits overall are positive to going outside our type and this means we ought to do so.

This relies on the empirical premise that dating someone we consider less attractive is not so bad, and that the conditions faced by individuals who are less conventionally attractive are worse.

To an extent the empirical parts of all of these might be true, in which case we need to establish which 'rules' take priority, whether we need to try to make our type malleable despite the challenge of that due to racial or consequential considerations mattering more than the deontic principle.

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