The Power of Sex and Sexuality
Human sexuality is beautiful, powerful, positive, life-giving, and dangerous. Eros, lust, sexual attraction, sexual desire, sexual urges, and sexual pleasures are deep seated aspects of humanity properly understood. As such, libertinism as well as prudery are both violations of human dignity and fail to serve human well being.
To be fully human is to be sexual. To be social is to be sexual. To engage in friendship is sexual. Sexuality is an ever present aspect to all human relating, even when those relationships do not involve genital activity.
Sex can be immensely life giving, healing, and restorative. It can also be maiming, damaging, and dehumanizing. Therefore, getting sex and sexuality right is extraordinarily vital.
Judeo-Christianity & Sex – The Real Story
We moderns tend to gloss over and remain unaware of the barbarity, cruelty, violence, and harshness of the Greco-Roman Imperial culture, often equated with the classical world. Slavery, rape, oppression, economic inequality, elitism, and cruelty were rampant and the norm. And this harshness played out sexually as well.
It was not uncommon for powerful men to pressure and even force those socially below them into sexual exploitive relations. It was also common for powerful men to sexually abuse less powerful men as a means of reinforcing subjugation.
The rise of Christianity and its effects on the popular culture changed much of this. Granted, human nature remained human nature, but with the passing of each decade, Christianity tamed the Empire and its surrounding cultures.
And again, we moderns tend to not understand early Christian (and Jewish) views on sex. Charges of harsh puritanism and repressiveness miss the mark. Judeo-Christianity wasn’t anti-sexual, it was anti-cruelty and abuse.
For example, much, although not all, of the prohibitions on male on male sex are rooted in religious reactions to how the powerful used the less powerful, sexually. Anally penetrating, even raping another man was an act of power and not always motivated by lust, eros, or sexual attraction.
The ancient world did not share our carefully delineated notions of sexual identity and orientation. Sex was had for political, social, economic, power and class, as well as erotic reasons. Greek culture for nearly 300 years encouraged highly regulated, culturally rule bound male homosexual relations, especially as a way of established, older males mentoring younger males. The Romans didn’t share these exact Greek tastes, but privileged Roman men rarely hesitated to use slaves, younger males in their services, and men in lower social standing as sexual outlets and symbolic shows of power. Homosexuality as common activity and not expression of orientation was commonplace in the ancient world.
Christianity campaigned to reform such abuses. It attempted to channel sexual pleasure and power into heterosexual marriage as a way of humanizing a culture rooted in dehumanizing practices. Prohibitions on male on male sexuality were less about concerns over orientation or identity and much more about limiting sexual violence and abuse.
Women fared better in Roman culture than in Hellenic culture. Roman women enjoyed expanded legal and social protections for much of Roman history. The Greeks sequestered their wives and women. The Romans made it easier for women to own property and exercise social power.
Christianity furthered the cause of women’s dignity beyond Roman standards. The Christian focus on connecting love to sex, on marital fidelity, on sexual restraint – all were means of furthering the causes of women.
Today, we tend to see Christianity as repressive instead of progressive. This is not to say that many forms of Christianity have grown repressive – they have. And they have veered away from humane, holistic understandings of human sexuality into religious fantasy and suppression, often with ugly results. But much of the early Christian impulse was a crusade against dehumanization, violence, cruelty, and abuse, and not sex per se.
Christianity needs to readjust its sexual ethics, finding ways to morally, ritually, and communally integrating LGBT+ folk and relationships, sex without procreative potential, sexual pleasure, and sex outside the boundaries of marital relationships for the sake of truth and. those committed to its traditions.
Why Celibacy is Unnatural and Harmful
Human sexuality reflects humans, so therefore, it has rational, emotive, meanings in relation to human nature, the human body, and human self governance.
Intimacy, Bonding, and Self Expression
Aesthetics and Creativity
Sex Ethics – Consent
Sexual Choices & The Culture