The younger generation, as has been said, always thinks that it has invented sex. And those who “don’t know much about history” seem to think that sex and sexual issues are contemporary phenomena. So the editors at Salon are giddy to learn what Martin Luther wrote about sex.
Reading from a new book about Luther that discusses the reformer’s critique of mandatory celibacy for those in religious orders, his criticism of canon laws restricting and regulating marriage, and his defense of marriage as a vocation–which has to include a defense of its defining action–Salon reprints an excerpt under the headline “Martin Luther’s pro-sex shocker” and the deck “Centuries ago, Martin Luther’s ideas were way ahead of their time.”
Well, Luther was advocating marriage and criticizing the sex outside of marriage that was rampant in his time, particularly among those forced into celibacy who lacked that gift. (Some priests rationalized their use of prostitutes by thinking “at least I’m not married,” so I am merely fornicating and not forsaking my vow.)
True, Luther believed that regulating marriage was the business of the state, not the church, which would put him against those who think we should just leave marriage to the church and keep the state out of it. And he was rethinking what the parameters about divorce, etc., should be in the absence of canon law. But his frank talk about sex is not “ahead of his time,” as anyone who reads old books can attest. People weren’t squeamish about talking about the subject until the Victorian era of the 19th century.
Anyway, his views are interesting, so I link to and quote from Salon’s sampling from James Reston’s new book.