Sex and freedom in ancient Rome

Classical scholar Peter Brown has published in the New York Review of Books an excited review of Kyle Harper’s From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity (Harvard University Press).  The book, which is said to break new ground in the scholarship of ancient Rome, shows that the vaunted sexual permissiveness of ancient Rome was inextricably linked to the practice of slavery, with slave boys and girls being the primary sex objects who could not object to how they were used.  He also shows how the early Church, which decisively challenged and successfully changed this  brutal and hypersexualized culture, connected sexual morality with freedom.

After the jump, an excerpt from the review with a link to the book.  Question:  Could Christianity transform sexual morality once again? [Read more...]

The worst obligatory sex scene of the year

One of the banes of contemporary literature, in my opinion, is the obligatory sex scene, in which the aesthetic pleasure of fiction is interrupted with a blow-by-blow description of its characters’ sexual experience.  Setting aside the moral issues of a work aspiring to pornography, these scenes are almost always very badly written, even when attempted by an otherwise accomplished author.

So Britain’s Literary Review gives an annual “Bad Sex Award” for the worst sex scene in a novel with literary pretensions.  (Ordinary trashy novels are not considered.)  Previous winners have included John Updike, Norman Mailer, and Tom Wolfe.  The purpose of the prize is  to ”draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.”

This year’s winner is so overwrought, so opaque, so non-erotic, that I don’t think it will offend anyone.  I think I can quote the passage after the jump without violating the G-rated standards of this blog. [Read more...]

Google to fight child pornography

Who says nothing can be done about online pornography?  Google is not only applying technological solutions to blocking access to child porn, it is using the power of shame. [Read more...]

A society that is losing interest in sex

Young people in Japan are not only losing interest in marriage.  They are losing interest in relationships altogether.  And they are reportedly taking the next step:  Losing interest in sex. [Read more...]

Homosexuaity as a social construct

Michael W. Hannon reminds us that postmodernist philosopher Michel Foucault, himself a homosexual, has maintained that homosexuality is a social construct.  Until the late 19th century, there was the vice of sodomy, but no one assumed that those who committed it had any kind of special psychology, much less a particular defining identity.

Then again, Foucault believed that virtually everything is a social construct.  And even if homosexuality is a social construct, that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.  But I’m curious about Foucault’s postmodernist disciples, many of whom are champions of the gay cause.  Gay activists seem to take an esssentialist view of homosexuality, that same-sex desire inheres in a gay person’s very nature.  But postmodernists tend to deny essentialism in everything else, including the notion that a human being has any kind of fixed identity.  So when postmodernists make the arguments that they do, are they just employing rhetoric in the pursuit of power? [Read more...]

Children as casualties of the sexual revolution

“In contemporary America,” says Anthony Esolen, “condemnation of pedophilia rests on sentiment and not on moral reasoning. Nobody can simultaneously explain why pedophilia is so vile and uphold the first commandment of the sexual revolution: Fulfill thy desires.”  Though society, at present, still condemns pedophilia, Dr. Esolen shows that the same principle is governing other fronts in the sexual revolution:  children’s well-being must be sacrificed to adult desire. [Read more...]


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