Principles of sexual morality

Five Core Principles

Alastair Roberts posted an article at The Gospel Coalition recently that attempted to probe beneath the hot-button issues of sexuality to some of the moral principles that appear to underlie the debates.  For those who affirm what he calls the “new sexual morality” he finds the following to be chief among them.

“First, sexual acts don’t have intrinsic meanings or purposes. They don’t relate to a deeper natural order, which we must honor and not violate. Their meaning is merely constructed, by society and the persons engaging in them. Sexual relations between a man and a woman need not involve the natural significance of making them “one flesh,” with all that entails. ‘Meaningless’ sex is a genuine possibility. 

“Second, our sexuality is a subjective sense and intrinsic to our self-identity. Provided no harm is caused to others, we have a duty of care for ourselves to realize and express our desired sexual identities, even when this may involve measures such as sexual reassignment surgery. As members of a society, we also have a duty to ensure the sexual identities of our neighbors are affirmed and supported. Opposition to nonmarital sexual relations, or the expectation a person should remain in a marriage for the rest of their life (even though it may be sexually unfulfilling), are two Christian positions in tension with this principle of sexual morality.

“Third, sexual agents are autonomous, rights-bearing individuals. Sexual relations are therefore mutually enhancing arrangements. Appropriate relations presuppose the partners are equal in their agency and there are no significant imbalances of power between them. For those who have developed this principle, traditional forms of marriage can cause discomfort. Such forms of marriage have typically recognized the existence of some degree of inequality of power between husband and wife (e.g., physically, economically, socially), harnessing male powers for loving and responsible service rather than presenting men and women as autonomous individuals facing each other with equal bargaining power. They have also placed limits on individuals’ and couples’ sexual choices, expecting lifelong exclusivity and commitment even against their private desires. Much of this restraint has been for the sake of children, who by the nature of their existence confound liberal concepts of the person and social relations.

“Fourth, freely given consent is the watchword for sexual relations. Where a relationship between given parties is consensual, few if any reasonable objections can be raised against it. When advocates of traditional Christian ethics oppose consensual same-sex relations, for instance, they violate this strongly held moral principle and threaten both the rights and identities of other sexual agents.

“Fifth, beyond the prevention of harm, sexual relations should be freed from social policing and constraint, from norms and from stigmas. While marriage may grant public recognition and affirmation to a couple, each couple should be freed to practice marriage as they choose, and no couple should be expected to get married. But Christianity has always sanctioned certain sexual relations and condemned others, treating sexual relations as matters of public and communal concern and thereby falling afoul of this principle too.”

These principles seem to resonate with my experience.  I wonder what others think.  Do these seem accurate to you?  Are there others we ought to take note of?  Defenses of the above?


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