Saturday, 14 January 2017

Sex and ethics for the culturally progressive

The other day, I read an article in a newspaper which, in the contexts of reports of Donald Trump's peccadilloes, seemed to make the claim that those of us who were politically and culturally progressive needed (to be consistent) to have no ethical standards at all in the area of human sexuality.   The article implied we need to leave ethical judgement in the area of sex in the hands of cultural conservatives while those of us who take a wider, and more accepting, perspective on life need to treat the whole area of sex as an ethics-free zone.

Rubbish.

I speak from the perspective of a person who (while being a married, straight, middle-aged, male, clergy type) nevertheless holds to progressive views in the area of human sexuality. 
  • I respect LGBT people and their relationships.
  • I respect the relationships of unmarried, cohabiting couples.
  • I respect single parents.
  • I respect divorced individuals.
  • I respect the many people I know who, while unmarried and unpartnered, could not be called celibate.

Nevertheless, I believe that there are some strong statements that can be made universally about ethics in the context of human sexuality.
  • I believe that sexual violence is always ethically wrong.
  • I believe that non-consensual sex is always ethically wrong.
  • I believe that is it always ethically wrong for adults to prey sexually upon minors.  I believe it is particularly wrong when the adult has a duty of care for the minor.  (This is why I have called for a voluntary moratorium on churches in Australia making public comments on sex until all faith communities around the world have got their act together on issues of child sexual abuse.)
  • I believe that it is always ethically wrong for humans to sexually abuse animals.
  • I believe it is always ethically wrong when a person (of either gender or any sexuality) in a long-term relationship (married or otherwise) has a series of meaningless sexual flings outside their relationship.
  • I believe it is always ethically wrong when the rich and powerful seek to sexually exploit others.
Ultimately, sex is too important an area of life to relegate ethical reflection upon it to the more narrow sort of cultural conservatives.

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Constructive comments, from a diversity of viewpoints, are always welcome. I reserve the right to choose which comments will be printed. I'm happy to post opinions differing from mine. Courtesy, an ecumenical attitude, and a willingness to give your name always help. A sense of humour is a definite "plus", as well.