The problem with evangelical sexual ethics is that we haven’t got any

Do we need a “new” Christian sexual ethic?

Well, yes. But not because the old one needs replacing. We need a new Christian sexual ethic because we haven’t got an old one to replace.

That’s not true for many Christians, but if “we” above is to refer to white evangelicals here in the U.S., then we desperately do need a new Christian sexual ethic because that we ain’t got one now.

What we white American evangelicals have, instead, is a blanket prohibition — a bold line between two binary categories.

Married? (Yes or No)

If Yes: Sex good.

If No: Sex bad.

That’s a rule, but it’s not an ethic. It speaks to good and bad, but cannot speak to better or worse. An ethic needs to be able to guide us about better and worse, and it needs to be able to guide us about why better is better and why worse is worse. It needs to tell us what kind of people we are to become, not just what rules we need to obey. It needs to inform our decisions, not just to demand our compliance.

The clearest indication of the current lack of a coherent sexual ethic is the response of The Enforcers whenever that reasonable and necessary question — why? — is raised. The response is simply to reassert The Rule. That doesn’t answer the question. Nor does it address the reasons for the question. Rules without why — rules without a clear ethic guiding them, explaining them, undergirding and supporting them — cannot produce ethical people, only people who are either obedient or disobedient. Such rules may produce compliance, but cannot produce virtue.

Virtue is even less likely due to the enforcement mechanism that evangelicalism has come to rely on for the single sexual rule it has adopted in lieu of sexual ethics. That enforcement mechanism is “purity culture.”

And there is nothing virtuous, or ethical, about “purity culture.” There is nothing pure about purity culture. It’s predatory. It’s vicious. It promotes and defends and elevates sin.

Evangelical purity culture and its attendant cult of “modesty” enthrones male lust, inverting what Jesus taught us. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away,” Jesus said. But purity culture says male eyes are inviolable, so if a man’s eye causes him to sin, then women’s bodies must be torn out and thrown away — or at least covered up and shut away. Modesty somehow always means women in burkas,* never men in blindfolds.

If evangelicals are to preserve their rule, they will need to adopt an ethic that can support it. And they will need to abandon the enforcement method that undermines it at every turn.

For a clear description of the challenge this entails, I would point to E.J. Graff’s essay last month for the American Prospect,Purity Culture Is Rape Culture.” (Note that Graff deals with India’s mass-protests following some recent horrific sexual assaults and rapes, which she discusses with disturbing candor.)

Graff is not specifically addressing evangelical purity culture here, but this describes why it is untenable, unsustainable and unworthy of being sustained:

“Rape culture,” as young feminists now call this, isn’t limited to India. It lives anywhere that has a “traditional” vision of women’s sexuality. A culture in which women are expected to remain virgins until marriage is a rape culture. In that vision, women’s bodies are for use primarily for procreation or male pleasure. They must be kept pure. While cultural conservatives would disagree, this attitude gives men license to patrol — in some cases with violence — women’s hopes for controlling their lives and bodies.

There, then, is the challenge for those who would adopt a Christian sexual ethic where now there exists none. Right now instead of ethics we’ve got a single rule, and we enforce that rule with a “purity culture” of slut-shaming that tramples the paramount commandments to love God and love our neighbor. That’s perverse and wrong and, yes, unbiblical.

We can do better. We need to do better.

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* See Katie’s comment on that word. I think she’s right.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    For many, it’s not “If Married, Sex good” but “If married, sex still bad but we’ll let you slide so long as the woman doesn’t enjoy it too much”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I think it’s more that so-called “evangelical sexual ethics” are trying to put the human sex drive into an unmanageable box, when really it would be better to accept that a more realistic sexual ethic revolves around mutual consent and enjoyment.

  • Naomi

    I was thinking about this recently while reviewing the sex ed materials used at my kids’ school. It is actually a “comprehensive” curriculum, which means that it gives at least some information about birth control, but it also _emphasizes_ abstinence.

    And there is so much wrong with this curriculum, and one of the problems is that there is not nearly enough of a conversation about “consent.”  I’m not sure the word consent is even used. Because you’re not supposed to be seeking consent or considering whether or not to consent; you’re supposed to be abstaining, period. 

  • Foelhe

    Great post!

    And really, this is the root of pretty much all conservative problems, not just their sexual hangups. When obedience is your major virtue, you’ll do pretty much anything when you’ve got the wrong person cracking the whip.

  • Lawrence Mckechnie

    Hello… this article is pretty interesting.  I think there some things, particularly in Paul, which have been converted (casually) into laws/rules which merely constrain behavior, without a clear basis for why we accept them to be rules.  I think there is a difference between highly immoral behavior (when your love for self is paramount) than simply loving someone in a relationship.  I think there are tensions or dimensions in real life which scripture acknowledges and it helps us navigate through the mist.  God work is about what is already DONE rather than what is still to be done, I would say; it is really about the love of God and realizing who we are meant to be in His image.  I think if we live in avoidance and in hiding, avoiding mature debate and avoiding difficult questions which are so manifold that simple, clear-cut, binary answers are difficult (nonetheless, these “answers” are given, often conflating a lot of different contexts, situations and factors), then we will be left and are being left with an unstable ethical foundation.  This is why, I believe, Jesus sums up all the commands in two commandments which revolve around love.  Our love of God and others should be our starting point; it is not about living in denial of the rhythms of real life.  There is such a maligned misunderstanding of what faith and what the bible is saying that it often saddens me.  A clear case in point is that of gay relationships: here, there is no mature debate but merely extreme opposites, often more political (mostly the political right tries to dictate play and the meta-narrative), creating divisions and a disharmony which precludes understanding and acceptance as people believe they are right.  Maybe I am wrong but this is how I see things.  If we don’t accept the unavoidable rhythms of life, we are not growing organically in our faith and certainly not realizing who God is calling us to be.

  • Katie

    I know its really, really common to call any kind of religiously mandated modest dress for women a ‘burka’, but could you please try not to do that.  It unfairly stigmatizes Islam and reduces the varied and complex reasons that Muslim women have for covering (or not covering) their bodies into ‘oppression’.

    There is a conversation to be had about what modest dress means in Islam and for Muslims, and Muslims are having it.  Since you’re talking about and to the behavior of Evangelical Christians, why not say ‘women in baggy polos and denim jumpers’?

  • Lawrence Mckechnie

    obedience in the conservative clusters of thought reminds me very much of the overuse of logic, which is a tool to overcome limitation; if we do not admit of the complexity of things like who are are (that we may be gay, that we desire for relationship) then we are limiting our scope and truly losing sight of who God has called us to be, christians in this world.  Living in denial of how we are wired leads to unnecessary fear, denial of self; we are not growing but merely vivo-phobic (phobic/fearful) of life.  This stems from a casual reading of scripture which does not identify with the overall narrative, which is, quit simply, a revelation of God and His relationship to us.  We seek rules as we try to coceptualise God in terms of the political debate of today, as opposed to getting back to WHO He is (and not What he is).  We have a deeply personal relaitonship with God which goes beyond sets of ideas, easy either/or rules, and concepts which are blindly accepted-but the conservatives, whilst they believe they are sticking to “inerrant word of God” (the fact such a term exists says more about their presuppositions and bias than it does about God), are actually being extra-biblical.  God has been used as emblem of s many things, for example when German theologians were able to justify their anti-semitism in terms of a derived biblical model (Karl Barth could not get his head round this).  That is why Jesus says we should not judge-we are not that good at it; we should just live life in a moral fashion (whatever that means) and refocus on God and loving others.

  • Lawrence Mckechnie

    I apologize for writing so much

  • ako

    Evangelical purity culture and its attendant cult of “modesty” enthrones
    male lust, inverting what Jesus taught us. “If your right eye causes
    you to sin, tear it out and throw it away,” Jesus said. But purity
    culture says male eyes are inviolable, so if a man’s eye causes him to
    sin, then women’s bodies must be torn out and thrown away — or at least
    covered up and shut away. Modesty somehow always means women in burkas,
    never men in blindfolds.

    This is one thing that sticks out for me about attempts to enforce sexual restraint.  Even when they try to have standards for both men and women, far more of the burden falls on women, even though men are generally the ones who are, by that standard, doing wrong.  There’s the occasional “guard your eyes”, but it doesn’t get gone over in the kind of microscopic and creepy detail that “don’t be a stumbling block” gets.  And you never hear of people going “Well, all men are uncontrollably weak and lust-prone, so therefore men should stay indoors, away from women who aren’t their wives, and women can just do anything!  We’ll let men go out if they have a blindfold and a female relative to monitor their behavior.”  There isn’t even the milder “Well, you can go around looking at things willy-nilly and risk falling into lust, but isn’t it better to blindfold yourself when around women you’re not related to so you don’t take a chance of sinning?  Don’t you love God enough to put up with that kind of inconvenience?” pressure.   Instead, we have women pressured into being caretakers and making the bulk of the sacrifices.

    (And before anyone misinterprets this, I don’t think that kind of behavior would be a good thing.  I just think it’s telling that we’ve only seen the opposite extreme.)

  • Water_Bear

    Because baggy polos don’t have very strong connotations with anything in particular. The Burka and veil are, for good reason, seen as clothes designed specifically to hide the woman’s body and forced on them as an act of oppression. They are more well known and more prevalent than anything else which serves that function, and don’t really have a western equivalent.

    Of course, some women want to wear Burkas for their own reasons. Islam does not mandate them, nor veils, although it does have the same poisonous concept of modesty which all Abrahamic religions share. They are culturally significant. Etc. They’re also a really potent metaphor, and one which is particularly useful against Islamophobic opponents.

  • Lunch Meat

    Instead, we have women pressured into being caretakers and making the bulk of the sacrifices.

    This reminds me of the rage-inducing incident recently when a judge told a woman who’d been sexually assaulted “If you had stayed home, this wouldn’t have happened.” Yes, it wouldn’t have happened…to her! The man would have just chosen a different woman to victimize. Why not encourage men to stay home if they can’t control themselves?

  • unpious

    Thank you, I was scrolling down to reply to similar effect. Using burka here makes for a snappy sentence, but there are more important things than snappy sentences.

    I really do love this post though, it gets to the heart of the issue with purity culture so well.

    And now I’m trying to come up with a snappy sentence that makes a similar point….”Modesty is somehow always about women’s attire, not men’s attitudes.” Ehh. Kinda.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    I think saying “but ‘burkas’ is a useful term, in that it has a common connotation of female oppression for the Western mind” is just using the existence of a wrong to justify perpetuating that wrong: which is to say, people who don’t know a hell of a lot about Islam and aren’t well disposed toward it tend to portray the religion in a negative light and use its terms and trappings as blanket negatives, thus perpetuating the culture of Islamophobia in this community. It’s a vicious cycle, and one I doubt Fred would be proud of perpetuating. Kudos to the person above who pointed it out.

  • MaryKaye

    I think the poster that’s been showing up on various walls in Seattle lately says it very well:

    It shows a woman, dressed like one of my college students, holding up a sign that says:  “Don’t tell me what to wear.  Tell men not to rape.”

  • Katie

     And I think that there are better ways of convincing people that they shouldn’t do something than to tell them that they shouldn’t be like those icky Muslims.  Even when you think it will work.  No, I’d even go so far as to say *especially* when you think it might work.

    I don’t want to derail this conversation further with a debate on modest dress in Islam, because that isn’t the issue at hand.

    I will also say that the Evangelical ‘purity culture’ makes it especially difficult to come up with a set of sexual ethics.  Increasingly, it isn’t pure enough to merely not have sex, you must never have a sexual thought before marriage.  Even about the person that you intend to marry.  This isn’t about reducing sexuality to a binary, its about reducing it to a light switch.

  • Makabit

    When a curfew for women was suggested, during a spike in rapes, Golda Meir, back when she was Prime Minister of Israel, is said to have responded: “But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.”

  • Makabit

    The burqa is not a general garment of Islam, however. ‘Hijab’ would be general; the burqa is worn in a specific region. It was also revived and forced on women who hadn’t worn such coverings in some cases for generations, for political and religious extremist reasons. it causes health problems in the women who wear it, and limits their vision and their physical safety. I’d say its reputation is well deserved. It’s not just another variant of modest Muslim dress.

    This is not to say that ‘prairie dress’, wouldn’t be a better term when talking about evangelical women, but the burqa is a very problematic garment.

  • stardreamer42

    This seems like a good place for me to mention my extreme distaste for the Evangelical phrase “modest dress” to describe clothing that leaves only the head and hands uncovered. Why? Because it seems to validate the idea that the way I dress is “immodest”, and that in turn feeds into the entire Rape Culture notion that a woman who is insufficiently “modest” is fair prey.

    I have not been able to come up with a good short alternative to “modest dress” myself, but am open to suggestions.

  • stardreamer42

    There’s a story about Golda Meir…

    When Israel was experiencing an epidemic of violent rapes and someone at
    a cabinet meeting suggested women be put under curfew until the rapists
    were caught, Meir shot back, “Men are committing the rapes. Let them be put under curfew.” To no one’s surprise, no curfew was implemented.

  • Daughter

     I think it was Libby Anne at “Love, Joy, Feminism,” who made the point that in evangelical patriarchal cultures, children are expected to resist temptation. You don’t childproof your house; you expect the child to obey when you tell hir “don’t touch.”

    Yet grown men aren’t expected to have the same degree of self-control and obedience that they expect of children.

  • Paul

    “Married? (Yes or No)
    If Yes: Sex good.
    If No: Sex bad.”

    I can’t believe I hadn’t realised before, but if you are an evangelical Christian operating on the above rule, and with culturally reinforced preconceptions about gay sex, then *of course* you have to oppose gay marriage – otherwise your rules won’t compute.

  • Carstonio

     

    And you never hear of people going “Well, all men are uncontrollably
    weak and lust-prone, so therefore men should stay indoors, away from
    women who aren’t their wives, and women can just do anything!  We’ll let
    men go out if they have a blindfold and a female relative to monitor
    their behavior.”

    I wish I had thought of that.  The arguments used by advocates of woman control often imply or state outright that men become mindless at the sight of female flesh. Imagine some of us actually confronting such an advocate and challenging him to explain the contradiction.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    The association I have for ‘prairie dress’ is the illustrated Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and those aren’t anything like the shapeless things modern fundegelicals wear.

    A quick google doesn’t back me up, but does anyone else remember “gunny sack” as being synonymous with shapeless clothing?

  • ako

     Thanks.  It’s kind of interesting, as an intellectual exercise, to try to picture a world where people had the straightforward and logical response to their “Men are uncontrollable lust-beasts when they see women!” beliefs.  (While “impose massive restrictions on an entire gender” strikes me as a staggeringly stupid approach, it’s obviously something human society is willing to resort to, and if one did seriously buy into the lust-beast idea, it’d make far more sense to restrict the lust-beast gender than the one that was consistently capable of civilized behavior.)

  • ohiolibrarian

    I remember it, but I’m not sure what a “gunny sack” is.

  • Carstonio

     You carry your guitar in it, when you’re headed to the railroad track to strum in the shade.

  • Cathy W

    I’m not sure what the derivation of the term is, but essentially, the kind of cloth sack a bulk quantity of potatoes or flour might have come in prior to the modern supermarket – essentially a big cloth rectangle.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Yes. Actually, many marriage-equality opponents make this argument quite explicitly… allowing same-sex couples to marry is a way for society to say that sexually active same-sex couples are a Good Thing, which on their view we aren’t, and therefore on their view such marriages should be prohibited.

  • Carstonio

    Gayle Trotter’s arguments against gun control imply that male violence against women is simply an unavoidable fact of life. When men use the lust-beast argument to defend female restrictions, it’s easy to dismiss this as an attempt at protecting privilege. But there may be women who use the same argument with an attitude of resignation, almost like an abused person who has internalized “You made me do it.”

  • http://twitter.com/amyunchained Amy Mitchell

    So what do we do with the fact that many mainline (and even some evangelical) Christians are trying out the sex/marriage equivalent of “love the sinner, hate the sin”?  I’m now hearing the old standard purity culture revised to mean that the most “loving” thing to do is to still wait until marriage, but not because sex is bad–just because it’s somehow “better” if the couple have a piece of state-issue paper.  In my opinion, we need to start the conversation in a different place than just a discussion about *why* we hold to the married yes/no question.  We need to start with respect, commitment, and consent before we even get to the whole issue of marriage.  We should also have a conversation about the ways in which even the married/not married line is hetero- and cis-normative and that the “rules” are irrelevant in many situations.

  • Stressfactor

    I’ve known of several couples who had moved in together before marriage for various reasons — love, testing the waters for living together, finances, etc.  When the couples made their wedding plans one of two things happened — either they lied to their pastors and priests about their living situation or else the pastor refused to marry them unless one of the two moved out and stayed moved out for at least six months.  And the reasons the ones who lied did so was exactly that reason — the pastor or priest would refuse to marry them.

    I just don’t *get* this mode of thinking.  If the goal of these religions is to have a relationship be “right with God” then why wouldn’t they marry them ASAP so that they were no longer “living in sin”?

    Also, it ignores the fact that these couples then don’t *have* to have a church wedding and can just go get married by a Justice of the Peace in a quick, 15 minute ceremony.  If the idea is to “punish” or force some kind of “repentance” on them it doesn’t work.  Also, with the exception of the Catholic Church I believe, most Protestant denominations accept civil marriage as marriage so…. yeah, they’re married.  And the only thing the pastor did was piss off the bride and groom.  Or else they went to a different, more liberal, church and had the ceremony and, again, in the eyes of the law they are married and there pretty much isn’t anything their pastor can really say about it anymore.  It’s not like their pastor can now push them into having *another* ceremony….

    This sort of black and white thinking is just baffling to me because it is so much like ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face”.  Either the couple lies in order to be married in a church they want to be married in or else they go elsewhere and they’re still married and the pastor has had NO impact on the situation whatsoever because the outcome is still the same.

  • Stressfactor

    P.S., I think the whole “sexual ethics” idea follows the same pattern.  It’s binary thinking and attempts to coerce/force/punish/force repentance into one set way of being.  In the end it doesn’t work because human beings rarely respond well to being coerced, forced, or wheedled into something they don’t believe.

  • Twebb2

     Stressfactor, the pastor at my church responds exactly as you suggest – if they are already living together, he gives them two options: (1) get married on the spot, and have a ‘ceremony’ later if they want, or (2) stop living together until they have the ceremony that they want.

  • Fusina

     ”Don’t tell me what to wear.  Tell men not to rape.”

    This. This is exactly the point. And nothing can convince me that even if the only reason for rape was sexual (I think it is a power thing that has become sexualized–twisted minds, perhaps?) it is out of the man’s self control–eg, they are usually planned, by which I mean, such that the rapist won’t get caught in the act. I can’t believe that it is a matter of a person being out of control. Therefore, that excuse needs to be off the table. We also need to remove from the table the clothing issue, as a result of men not truly being out of control. Unless the man was so inflamed with lust that he just raped her in the street like an animal, he was not out of control. I do not recall reading in the paper about any rapes that happened like that.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Besides which, any man who claims a woman’s clothing “assisted” him in the matter of losing control is invited to justify why it is that attractive women wear flattering clothes generally and the vast majority of men manage to somehow keep their wangs in their pants and their hands to themselves.

    To rape someone is a deliberate choice (I am excepting the rather small number of cases where the accused fits the case of legal diminished capacity) as it involves deciding to disregard a person’s bodily autonomy.

    I don’t see how it becomes murky or complicated, like rape apologists would like to have us all believe with legions of false accusations of rape supposedly waiting in the wings.

  • Gwen Ayliffe

    I agree. relationship is at the heart of christianity, and in a good relationship two people look out for one another. I believe that Christian men and women BOTH have a responsibility toward one another — women taught to dress becomingly and with dignity, and men taught to treat ALL women with respect, period. The issue in my opinion is best discussed within the context of relationship, and virtue — what is beauty? what is honorable? why does it matter? The correct answer is NOT “because the Bible tells me so.” That answer may be appropriate for a 5 year old, but not an adult.

  • Marian L Shatto

     Yes, I am familiar with the term in that context.  When I hear it, I picture small farm girls wearing shapeless dresses made by cutting neck and arm holes in a gunny sack and slipping it on the child.  A gunny sack, in turn, was a sack made of rough fabric like burlap, in which produce could be shipped.

    Then in the late 1970s and into the ’80s a fashion designer created a whole line of elegant, intricate dresses based on a fanciful idea of 19th and early 20th century dress, and called the company Gunny Sax.  I made several dresses for myself and my nieces out of Gunny Sax patterns.  They were anything but shapeless, though most of them did feature long skirts ~ often multi-layered and ruffled ~ and long or three-quarter length sleeves.  So the whole image of what a gunny sack dress should look like was changed in the public eye.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jessica-Eng/100000151981340 Jessica Eng

    Lol. Read through the comments, seeing what others would consider a sexual ethic. Saw more complaining about conservative ethics. I am a conservative and i do have an evangelical background- though i am not one. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what a new sexual ethic would look like. I’m sitting here, thinking about my daughter and she is a teenager. She got the sex talk from school because even though i offered she was too embarrassed to hear it from me. Knowing my daughter, she is going to be a late bloomer when it comes to sex. Overall, I think whatever changes in our culture should be respect. Respect for those who are not going to respond to youthful hormones and respect for those who are.

  • Dash1

     Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was starting to steam when I read the words “modest dress” with their implication that of course modesty involved covering parts of the body as mandated by a bunch of men in the context of a different culture. I happen to live in one in which a bathing suit can be perfectly “modest,” thank you very much.

    Do we need a short term? For those for whom a burka is “modest,” a chador will not be; for those for whom a chador is “modest,” a headscarf will not be. And there will be debates about whether a chador that allows some head hair to be seen is as “modest” as a headscarf that covers all of it.

    I think use of the term “modest” in the context of religiously mandated clothing requirements not only begs the question but keeps us from paying attention to the specific restrictions involved.

  • Dash1

    In not unrelated news, Ralph Reed is going after the National Cathedral because apparently they’re exercising their First Amendment rights to religious freedom.

    Which, strangely enough, Ralph and his buddies are all in favor of when it’s their side doing it.  [Stop the presses! Anti-marriage-equality forces are inconsistent!] 

  • Nancy

    I just want to say that I´m new and I enjoy this blog.

  • banancat

    If you’ve spent any time on other threads in this blog, you would know that the sexual ethic most important to most of us is consent.

  • banancat

    Why do I have to dress becomingly? Your assertion included no reasoning. Also, how can you define “with dignity” in a way that isn’t completely arbitrary?

  • lowtechcyclist

    “What we white American evangelicals have, instead, is a blanket prohibition — a bold line between two binary categories.
    Married? (Yes or No)
    If Yes: Sex good.
    If No: Sex bad.”

    I think it’s more like:

    “Married to someone of the opposite sex?” (Yes or No)
    If No: Sex bad.
    If Yes: genital, non-kinky sex good. 

    Seriously, good luck in getting an evangelical pastor to publicly state that oral sex is OK for a married couple to engage in, let alone less tame stuff.

  • spinetingler

     Welcome Nancy. Please don’t kill us with sheep.

  • Foelhe

    Men should treat people with respect, women should treat people with respect. What a woman chooses to put on her own body shouldn’t be part of that equation, and any system that demands more from one gender than the other has some serious issues.

  • springaldjack

    But the “men as lust-monsters” belief is a post-hoc rationalization of the patriarchal control of bodies of women, rather than a cause of that control. Because the actions precede the belief, the belief has limited ability to control the actions. 

    Previous Christian cultures have often instead believed that women are the lust-monsters who must therefore be controlled (which also once justified the fact that women were who was “discovered” to be witches).

    It’s not just that patriarchal society is more fond of restricting those it understands as “women” than those it understands as “men,” it’s that the restrictions produce the belief rather than the other way around.

  • springaldjack

    One problem is that there is a general phenomenon of “policing of women’s dress to fit certain patriarchal ideals of sexuality as part of the larger system of patriarchal control of the bodies of those understood as women” as well as the specifics of why this community is happy with women wearing a headscarf and that one calls for a chador. 

    So it does seem there should be a general term and ”policing of women’s dress to fit certain patriarchal ideals of sexuality as part of the larger system of patriarchal control of the bodies of those understood as women” is a lot of words. 

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Sorry, but American evangelicals do have a sexual ethic, though it’s not often voiced aloud. The problem isn’t that Evangelicals lack an ethic, it’s that like the Catholic prohibition against contraception, that ethic has been overwhelmingly rejected by the lay people.

    The American evangelical sexual ethic is pretty simple:1. The purpose of sex is to potentially produce children, if that is God’s will.
    2. Sex within marriage is sanctioned, but only for the reason given above. All other sexual activity is immoral.

    From there, the rest follows. 
    Homosexuality? See #1, no reproduction happening. 
    Contraception? Again, #1. 
    Abortion? #1 once again, because pregnancies are God’s will. 
    Having lustful thoughts from looking at a member of the opposite sex? #1
    Rape? It doesn’t technically violate #1, just #2. 

    Again, it’s not that they lack an ethic, it’s that most Americans reject it. 

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    This reminds me of something I was thinking about while reading the MLK/Margaret Sanger thread (though I felt it was far too late to contribute).  S.L. Whitesell had popped up on that thread and said something about “the social harm caused by divorcing sex from procreation”.

    (Never mind that if human sexuality were only for baby-making, we’d have an estrus cycle…)It occurred to me that such people can’t understand that sex can be a good thing in and of itself.  That’s very saddening, but it’s something that appears in some form or another in a lot of our society:  from Whitesell’s “sex can only be good if it’s a means to this end” to purity culture’s “a marriage certificate magically transforms sex from a sinful act into a blessing” to the mainstream notion that it’s not enough for sexual partners to show each other the same respect and consideration that’s necessary for any humans to work well together, they ought to be In Love.

    People who think this way probably don’t consider themselves to have anti-sex views, but why else would they believe that sex is only a good thing if it’s serving some other purpose?


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