Monthly Archives: June 2022

Review of Christine Emba’s Re-thinking Sex: A Provocation,

Good Sex is Not the Good of Sexuality

I just completed a first reading of Christine Emba’s Re-thinking Sex: A provocation, Penguin, New York 2022. She vividly exposes the wounds inflicted by what I, and she too, calls the belief in the moral neutrality of sexuality. Roughly, the moral neutrality of sexuality creed holds that no consensual sexual act may be morally condemned.

With the polished style of a Washington Post opinion columnist, , Ms. Emba reports numerous conversations, interviews and studies uncovering a deep dissatisfaction amongst college students, especially females, and successful professional women. Believing in the moral neutrality of sexual acts, they consented to sexual activity which left them feeling profoundly unsatisfied even if they enjoyed intense pleasure during the activity.

Furthermore, there was a long-lasting regret which they might have called moral shame if they dared talk of morally shameful sexual acts. In short, the sexual revolution, which is accepting the moral neutrality of sexuality, leads to an ever increasing amount of what is popularly called “bad sex.”

Ms. Emba’s provocative, for her intended readership, re-thinking of sex, is casting aside the moral neutrality of sexuality. The first two thirds of Re-thinking Sex: A Provocation prepares readers for her provocative proclamation that men and especially women must realize that some sexual acts ought never be done even if they want to perform them. With moral limits, they will have less bad and more good sex .

She sketches out how we might discover the moral constraints. I shall not critically evaluate as insufficient her speculations basing sexual morality on intentionally seeking the good of the other party in sexual relations. Ms. Emba does not claim to be a moral philosopher. At this time, it is sufficient that a writer for a popular readership cries out for moral evaluation of sexuality. The fact that she is willing to morally evaluate her own sexual activity and desires shows the sincerity of her cry.

However, I interpret her as proposing sexual morality as a means for having more good sex and less bad sex. Our priorities are mistaken if we accept morality as some type of mental technique for enriching sexual satisfaction – having good sex. On the contrary, we ought to pursue good sex as a means for attaining the good of sex, viz., that for which sex is good.

I state dogmatically what I defend extensively elsewhere. The good of sex is procreation and the life-long monogamous bonding for the mutual companionship and support of men and women in the care of life created by sexual activity.

It is proper to separate the good of sex from good sex. If we hypothetically assume that evolution has purposes or goods, we could say that the good or purpose of human sexuality is spread and perpetuation of the human species. Whether individuals are satisfied with their mating is totally irrelevant to perpetuation of the species. Maybe even the pursuit of good sex by individuals thwarts the evolutionary good of sexuality. Individuals might pursue good sex which avoids procreation.

Keeping good sex as the primary goal of sexuality is, in effect, keeping pleasure as the primary goal – the good of sexuality. It just turns out that sexuality within the limits of morality is a higher, longer lasting and, may I dare say it “more feminine” pleasure. Unfortunately, it also turns out that the pursuit of pleasure for the sake of pleasure, even the most “spiritual” pleasures, leads to failing to find pleasure in what was pursued. Eventually, even morally constrained sex will become boring, viz., bad sex. And, then, when morality is no longer a recipe for good sex, the default setting is the downward spiral into sexual degeneracy which Ms. Emba has so saddeningly portrayed.

When our priorities are properly ordered, we will engage in sexual activity under moral rules to promote the good of sexuality and never intentionally frustrate them. Then it turns out that one of our sexual moral obligations is to pursue good sex in our married lives. Life shows us that we need to struggle-morally struggle- to avoid letting marital sexuality become morally dangerous routinized and boring. That’s a huge occasion of sin.

I try to avoid aphorisms. Nonetheless, I propose “Do not pursue sexual pleasure as the good of sexuality, but you ought to pursue sexual pleasure for the good of sexuality.”

Some natural functions can be selected as morally protected purposes

Male female bonding and the selection problem.

My moral defense of sexual privacy led me to a break-through in how to justify and defend principles of traditional sexual morality. I finally employed the improved way of thinking about sexual morality which I have been developing in these blog posts since I published my book, Confronting Sexual Nihilism * in 2014.

In Confronting Sexual Nihilism, I faced a theoretical problem challenging all of us who, in the last analysis, morally condemn a wide range of sexual acts as frustrating the natural function of the acts in question. In general, though, frustrating natural functions is morally accepted and, indeed, morally required. So, why, select from the innumerable morally neutral natural functions of natural functions the procreative and bonding function of human coitus as morally significant? Note in passing, that the problem is not about selecting procreation and bonding as THE function or main function. The main functions of most natural systems are also morally neutral.

In my book, I tried to solve the selection problem in a theoretically unsatisfactory way. I made an empirical case with anecdotal evidence that if we regarded our sexuality as too trivial for moral control or too animalistic for moral control, we alienated our sexuality from ourselves as moral beings. Then, assuming that sexual alienation was a bad condition, I justified taking a stance that the function of human coitus was a moral purpose. I did not answer why sexual alienation was a bad condition needing moral correction.

The selection of procreation and male female bonding purposes of coitus as morally significant requires argument that these purposes are basic human goods. It is not enough merely to observe that they are natural purposes. I believe that after careful reflection on natural facts about human sexuality a persuasive case can be made that these purposes are basic human goods. However, because the arguments require reflection on natural facts, I concede that intelligent people may not be persuaded.

This lack of persuasive power arises because the notion of basic human good is tenditious. Basic human goods are obligatory goods. This means that we ought to pursue them and ought never act to inhibit them. It is the obligatory goodness which some might not accept. Obligatory goodness entails the notion of intrinsically immoral act. Intrinsically immoral acts are those intentionally inhibiting basic goodness.

The selection problem for naturalistic sexual morality is solvable. But not without hard work. There is theoretical work in moral theory to establish a theory with a notion of obligatory goods. There is empirical work of making a case that procreation and life long male female bonding are obligatory goods.

* A free copy of my book can be ordered at

Limits and Importance of the Law of Love

In Matthew 22:37-40, of the New International Version, we read the following.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

How does the moral law “hang on” these two commandments? For instance, can we use these two commandments to decide that premarital sex is immoral? No, but they do tell us that there is an objectively correct answer to the question and God has determined the objectively correct answer.

To love is to will the good of the other. We cannot choose that things good for God happen to God for nothing bad could happen to God So, to will good for God is to will, or always try to will, the good God wills. The good God wills for people is lives in accordance with the moral laws since lives in accordance with moral laws are good lives for humans. For God always wills what is good.

Next, to love our neighbors as ourselves is to will for them the same good life we will for ourselves when we correctly will what is good for ourselves. Hence, to love our neighbors as ourselves is to will, or try always to will, that all of us live in accordance with the moral laws God has laid out for human beings.

The limits of the two laws of love are that they do not tell us any definite moral rules. And, of immense significance, they do not tell us that any feelings of love are a guide to morally correct behavior. The importance of the laws of love are that they tell us that there are objectively true moral answers and getting and following these right answers lead to good human lives.