Moral dilemmas of participation in dangerous leisure activities

Steve Olivier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Participation in risky leisure activities (including so‐called ‘extreme’ sports) has increased in recent years, along with a concomitant growth in the related supporting industries, and in media coverage of events and associated lifestyles. The rise in popularity of dangerous leisure pursuits has led to questions about whether these activities should be regulated, or whether legislation should be enacted to prohibit particular activities. Arguments have centred on harm to individuals, and on the potential costs to others, such as families, rescue workers, and society at large. Very little work has been done on the moral legitimacy of dangerous leisure pursuits, and this paper attempts to address this, using a multidisciplinary approach. The paper evaluates both paternalistic and libertarian approaches, and pursues solutions to the moral problem from both utilitarian (consequence‐based) and deontological (duty‐based) perspectives. It is concluded that mature, rational individuals ought to retain the right to pursue activities that have potential deleterious consequences for themselves. While recognising that individuals ought to concern themselves with the effects of their actions on others, the paper accepts arguments based on autonomy, and defends the right to engage in dangerous leisure activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-109
Number of pages15
JournalLeisure Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • extreme sports
  • risk
  • ethics
  • autonomy


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