Before Obergefell: Some Thoughts on How We Got Here

Jul 17, 2015 by

By Alastair Roberts, Theopolis Institute: The establishment of same-sex marriage is not a bolt from the blue, but the logical outworking of a series of related developments in America’s practice and understanding of marriage. Same-sex marriage was unthinkable just a few decades ago. What made it thinkable wasn’t a concerted campaign on the part of gay rights activists to undermine marriage, but the changing material, economic, social, ideological, and moral conditions of the wider society and the way that our practice of marriage was both altered by and advanced this broader social mutation. The neutralizing of sex in marriage is like the sudden collapse of a wall that has long been undermined. The character of marriage has changed under many influences. Medical, technological, and economic influences have been among the most powerful of these. Contraceptive medication and other contraceptive devices, coupled with greater access to abortion, have facilitated the growing detachment of sex from procreation. It has normalized a situation where society regards the default form of sex as ‘safe’—sterile and, ideally, STD-free. Sex that is open to the possibility of procreation is a break from the default form of sex, either a failure of responsibility or a determined act of choice. It is no longer regarded as just natural. There are many consequences of this development. As sex in all of its standard forms is now sterile by default, it has become homogenized, the only criteria that continue to matter being consent and pleasure. Any categorical distinction between same-sex relations and those between a man and a woman will appear very artificial to many as a result. Sex is sex is sex, the use of the body for erogenous stimulation, and possibly thereby as a means of expressing emotional intimacy. When sex is regarded in such a manner, it appears quite gender neutral. Read here...

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Sex Identity

Jul 13, 2015 by

by  Christopher O. Tollefsen, Public Discourse: As animals that reproduce sexually, humans in the paradigm case are either male or female, with the sexes specified by reproductive roles they can potentially fulfill. According to this account, it is impossible for someone to change his or her sex, and all attempts to do so involve mutilation. The first of a two-part series.   I reflect here on our identity as sexed beings. In tomorrow’s essay I consider what it means for us to be gendered beings. But to do so, it is important first to make some distinctions concerning sex, intersex, and trans-sex on the one hand, and gender and transgender on the other. The vast majority of human beings are born as members of one of the two sexes, male and female. In the paradigm case, those individuals are genotypically and phenotypically easily identifiable as one or the other, and their sexual identity is clear. But for a smaller number of individuals, things are not so obvious; the possibilities include individuals with ambiguous genitalia, mismatched genotype and phenotype, and perhaps some form of hermaphroditism. The term “intersex” is now used to describe these cases. For some intersex persons, surgery is recommended and undertaken to bring phenotype and genotype into closer alignment with one another. But there is also debate within the medical community about what the proper treatment of genuine sexual ambiguity requires. Such questions do not fall within the scope of my consideration here. For various reasons, some individuals, not in any obvious way manifesting sexual ambiguity, come to believe that they can and should change their sex. The terms “trans-sex” or “transsexual” are used to refer to the phenomenon of individuals who have undergone some form of medical intervention, typically including surgery and hormonal supplements, in an effort to make a change from the male to female sex or vice versa. Read here...

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Church’s £360,000 budget for retreats to talk about sex

Jul 10, 2015 by

by John Bingham, Telegraph: The Church of England is spending over a third of a million pounds on a series of away-days and retreats to talk about sex. Clergy and lay members are being invited to a series of “facilitated conversations” behind closed doors, aimed at breaking down divisions between different factions over issues such as homosexuality. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, hopes encouraging people to take part in frank face-to-face discussions will help break the deadlock over what has become one of the most toxic issues in the Church. A similar tactic led to breakthrough over the issue of women bishops which was finally agreed last year after decades of argument. The first in a series of regional sessions have been taking over the past few months with clergy and lay members invited to take part in two-day retreats at a former stately home in the Midlands in groups of about 70. As well as discussing theology, members have been asked to share intimate details of their own lives in small group sessions. Details of the budget for the talks are disclosed in papers circulated to members of the Church’s ruling General Synod, which is meeting in York this weekend. In a parliamentary-style series of written questions Rosemary Lyon, a lay member from the Diocese of Leeds, and the Rev Stephen Pratt of Lichfield asked for details of how the discussions on “human sexuality” are being funded. Read here...

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Liberalism Can’t Understand Sex

Jun 3, 2015 by

By Jason Morgan, Public Discourse: Because it reduces the human person into a mere vehicle for abstract rights, liberalism has no language to express the transcendence and sacrifice of human sexuality. For the past several decades, campus authorities from deans and chancellors all the way down to lowly RAs have been reiterating the talking points of “safe sex” to college-age teenagers. For the vast majority of incoming freshmen, these messages of consent and the prevention of sexual assault have been a staple of their educational culture since junior high, if not earlier. But despite this constant campaigning for consent, sexual assault on campus remains a perennial problem. The more we insist on viewing sex in the context of consent, the more insecure we are about our ability to prevent rape. What explains this troubling trend? Other essays at Public Discourse have focused on various aspects of the scourge of sexual assaults on campuses. Robert Carle and Greg Forster, for example, have argued for moving investigations of such assaults out of the hands of compromised university bureaucrats and into the jurisdiction of the legal system. Adelaide Mena and Caitlin Seery La Ruffa have lamented the crassness with which campus administrators confront the hook-up culture, while Jeffrey A. Hart has expanded on Mena and La Ruffa’s proposals by arguing for an “Augustinian philosophical anthropology” that explains why the hook-up culture has left so much misery in its wake. All of these are excellent investigations of the problem of campus rape. But we must understand that the liberalism that undergirds consent- and rights-based discourse on sex is utterly incapable of understanding human sexuality. Because it reduces the human person to a mere vehicle of abstract rights, liberalism has no language to express the transcendence and sacrifice of human sexuality. As long as we are talking about sex in terms of mere liberty and consent, we will continue to face the specter of rape hanging over every sexual encounter. This is because the “Yes” given in consent-based epistemologies—i.e., a yes to a physical interaction premised on radical individual autonomy—is fundamentally different from the “Yes” in which human sexuality is designed to operate: a “Yes” to the other in his or her spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical entirety. Read here...

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Jihadists hate us for our ‘obsession with sex’, says theologian

May 27, 2015 by

By Rozina Sabur, Telegraph: Western culture is obsessed with sex – which is why it is hated in the rest of the world, according to a leading theological historian. Diarmaid MacCulloch, a deacon in the Church of England and an Oxford University professor, said other cultures find it “intensely embarrassing and frustrating” that the West talks about sex a lot. He argued that this hatred of western culture was as far reaching as Russia, the Middle East and in the parts of Africa held by Boko Haram. The history professor and TV presenter went on to controversially suggest that the West’s “obsession with sex” had arisen from western Christianity. The “pressing of sexual imagery on to the world” leads to religious extremists wanting to “kill people in the name of purifying the world”, he said. “It seems to me that it is about sex. A unique feature of western culture is that it loves talking about sex, it obsesses about sex, it presses sexual imagery on to the world,” he added. “Other cultures think about sex a lot but they do not talk about it and they find it intensely embarrassing and frustrating that the West talks about it.” Speaking at the Hay Literary Festival this week, the professor suggested that another factor in jihadists’ hatred of western culture was the role that women play in its society. Read here...

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Sex and the Church

Apr 20, 2015 by

By Ian Paul, Psephizo: Last Friday I very reluctantly tuned in to watch Oxford church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch talk about Sex and the Church. I was reluctant for several reasons. First, don’t we talk about this enough already—aren’t there more important things to focus on at the moment? (Tonight’s ‘Kill the Christians’, for example, highlighting how the US/UK invasion of Iraq has led directly to the elimination of Christian communities in the region). For another, I was pretty clear what MacCulloch’s agenda was going to be: I think religion has got everything appallingly wrong and it has been terrible for us in sexual terms. Sure enough, MacCulloch was evidently very cross at what has happened about attitudes to sex in the West, and he is pretty clear that it is all the fault of Christianity. But I stayed with it for a number of reasons. It was beautifully shot, it was informative (in a popular rather than scholarly way), and MacCulloch certainly has an engaging way of presenting things. But more than that, it was intriguing to see the way MacCulloch wove his argument back and forth, integrating a curious number of contradictions without batting an eyelid on his way to proving his thesis: that the West’s obsession with sex comes from Christianity. In fact, the first contradiction arose in relation to the thesis itself, from which he immediately stated the the Church’s current obsession is irrelevant. But if the West is obsessed with sex, and if it is the Church’s fault, should not the Church be reflecting on this, and wouldn’t this reflection have some relevance?   Read here...

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