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Sex shouldn't have a special moral standing - Elf M. Sternberg
Sex shouldn't have a special moral standing
In discussing the Time magazine article about porn recently, Professor Denny Burk (Biblical Studies, Boyce College), wrote
This article is the latest evidence of our diminishing ability to speak about sex in moral terms. We are at a place in our culture in which sexual morality has been reduced to consent. Our society has embraced total sexual license. If anyone suggests any other moral norm beyond consent, they are dismissed as a puritanical, repressive throwback.
This seems to me to be exactly right, but Burk is wrong to wring his hands about it. The problem we have with sex is that we treat it differently from other forms of social, interpersonal, or intimate contact. The right to get bruised and beaten on the rugby field or in the S&mapM; dungeon ought to be the same. The issue isn't whether or not one can do that during sex, the issue is whether or not one ought to be able to do it at all.

Burk's concern is that the tangled web of relationships around the very concept of "sex," which in his culture constrains everything, such as gender expression and roles, clothing choices, familial identity and organization, and even the very notion of who is a "good" or "bad" human being, will be disrupted if we stop making sex "special" in its legal and social standing.

It has to be disrupted. We have no other option. (We have a choice, but that's different from having the option.) Birth control is a necessity when it comes to giving 20-somethings the time and space necessary to master the complexities of our technologically advanced world. Cities and internet dating provide a wealth of complexities, and learning to navigate those with intimacy and care is the great challenge of our age. We can't just say, "Here's the guidelines" and hand out Bibles.

When someone like Burk dismisses "consent culture," he's not just throwing away the sex part; he's throwing away all of it. Consent culture is part of what informs the codes of conduct at professional gatherings and entertainment conventions. Consent culture guides and informs legal thinking that protects and serves women who have been raped. Consent culture lets us talk about what we want without requiring us to make of our bodies a public commons. It reaches out from this little intellectual knot called "sex" and helps inform how we should relate to each other: as compassionate, informed, aware human beings.

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