I could be wrong.
But a “positive-sex” ethic that is reduced to arousal, attraction, and consent cannot stand on its own.
Maturity-wise, its like giving the keys of a car to a 10 year old to drive the car out in the city streets for pleasure and adventure. For those who support such immature acts and get hit by the kid, they're like, “What's the big deal about that? Love-pleasure hurts. We got to get a tougher skin.” This kind of approach will keep therapists and sex-therapists in business forever.
Relational-wise, its like putting Anthony Weiner in charge of teaching sex education classes for newlyweds. Pathology-wise, it's like employing Bill Cosby as a coach of the Olympic women's gymnastics team. Or, it's like Tinder anointing a compulsive white male sexualizer as a dispenser of wisdom for online dating advice.
In my first post, I briefly looked at Susannah Cornwall's appeal to integrate theology and sexuality with a term she created, “sexchatology.” She suggests that we need to see that our sexualities are not going to be eradicated in the new creation. Her appeal to wisdom urges us to take a “long view” toward our sexual choices and sexual relationships.
I appreciated how she included a wide range of voices speaking into sexualities including celibates. I was impressed with that. Many progressives—particularly those with a positive-sex ethic do not find any value or space for celibates.
At the end of the book, she states, “Sexuality isn’t the only or most interesting thing about us as human beings, and—as many celibate people testify—physical sexual activity isn’t the site of ultimate human fulfilment or wholeness.”
Clearly, as a feminist who specializes her scholarly attention to sexualities, she doesn't think sexchatology should be reduced to positive sex plus just Jesus equals healthy sexuality. She calls for a “long view” of sexuality that helps us stay clear away from unwise and selfish choices.
For sexual wisdom with a long view, she turns to friendship.
Don't you love that?
Again, she doesn't explicitly name friendship as wisdom and expound on it, but any friendship scholar will recognize familiar territory of the ancient-modern conversation about friendship in discerning real and virtuous friendships from pleasure-seeking, instrumentalist relationships.
In other words, what Cornwall is saying is that a “positive-sex” ethic with no more than arousal, attraction, plus consent for immediate gratification, cannot stand on its own. There is an abundance of embodied wisdom through friendship handed down to us down through the ages; it states that there is a friendliness kind of care a friend expresses that is merely useful for one's own purposes.
This is not just about sex. Or about patriarchy. Deep wisdom within the friendship conversation has helped us understand it is a human relationship issue.
Cornwall talks about sexchatological hope. At one point she quotes Graham Ward, “True desire, desire for the other, is eschatological.” She ponders the discontinuity and the continuity of sexuality in a resurrected bodily life.
Focusing on the straight side, when you encounter a positive-sex supporter, they’ll point out to you that marriage has never had mutual sex at the center. It’s been about possession, property, and patriarchy. But now arousal, attraction, mutual consent is all you need.
As Chris Donaghue (Sex Outside the Lines) states, “Moving into a sex-only or friendship-only style is always an option” no matter what your current preference is at the moment whether you are doing monogamy or polyamory. “Sex-only”, in positive-sex is the same thing as “healthy sex” is about arousal and attraction that can fluctuate much like a casual friend that you play tennis with occasionally. Just like you have a relationship focused on tennis, you can have a “sex-only” relationship. Or someone you just met at a bar a couple of hours ago.
In the words of Anthony Giddens’ classic book, The Transformation of Intimacy, the positive-sex theorist is free to engage in sex “until further notice.” In the virtual world of instant relationships, instant connection, a positive-sex theorist living in a major city seemingly has unlimited choices to do sex “until further notice.”
With the sexualization of relationships, we now see liberated and “healthy” sex as a moment-by-moment decision to do sex “until further notice.” This is the “authentic” or progressive expression of sexual purity.
I think part of what it means to take a “long view” within a sexchatology is this: What does it mean to know God as a friend? I would like my progressive friends who are open to the positive-ethic to see where God as friend comports with a positive-sex ethic. Now, I do want to eventually get to deep prayer and embodied friendship but first I want to highlight a bigger context.
Philosopher Todd May in his book, Friendship in an Age of Economics writes out of heart to delineate wisdom from the ancient conversation about Aristotle’s three kinds of friendships and how it applies toward culture that thrives on neo-liberalism and consumer consumption.
He writes: “The consumer is oriented toward enjoyment or pleasure, not sadness or pain. The consumer is not simply an individualized experience; he or she is an individualized egoist, wanting to enjoy the goods that are placed in front of him or her.”
“The consumer,” he says, “is also to be focused on the enjoyment that present is obliged to offer. If the present fails to offer such enjoyment, it is falling short of one asks of it….What makes the figure of the consumer such is not just that he or she is oriented toward pleasure, but the combination of that orientation with passivity and an immersion in the present.” He observes, “We do not just consume, but are encouraged to be consumers, to think of ourselves as consumers, and to regard our fellow human beings as consumers.”
Paul Wadell in his book, Becoming Friends reflects in his analysis on how consumerism and economics impacts our relationships, “Consumerism teaches us that nothing lasts, including relationships. If a product wears out or breaks down, we don’t repair it; we throw it away and buy a new one.” He asks about how our economic immersion into consumerism impacts relationships, “Do people today really expect relationships to last? Are we not conditioned to expect them to grow stale and fall apart?...A good friendship is not one that never knows struggles or never grows stale, but one in which the friends do not abandon one another when it does.”
From all I can understand, I consider Hugo Schwyzer to be a positive-sex theorist. On his FB page in recent months he has been giving vivid accounts on his desire to be authentic with his theory as he has pursued women via Tinder. If one looks at his dating stories through positive-sex binoculars, the lens clearly focuses on the immediacy of a moment-by-moment authentic sex “until further notice” using dating to express this unbounded freedom.
But what happens if we lower the binoculars and perhaps begin to expand our vision? I’m not trying to zero in here on Hugo but for all who embrace a positive-sex ethic where attraction, arousal, and mutual consent are sufficient for sex. We perhaps begin to see this “pure” positive sex liberation may be ensnared in neo-liberalism, consumerist absorption, unchecked lust, impulsive arousals, arrogant charisma about being the hottest, among other issues. It brings us face-to-face with objectification in its most gentler and kindest expression toward one’s neighbor.
As sociologist Eva Illouz notes, in the intense sexualization of relationships caught up in marketing sexuality, “sexiness” has become an attribute that is now the most important criterion over character in approaching sexual relationships.
If we lower the binoculars, and look at it through an affluent consumerist intoxication, we can see an affluent alcoholic coming back again and again to her mega-alcohol store where she continues to use her power and freedom to select from the vast number of choices on the shelves. Buying the next bottle, “until further notice.”
For the life of me, I can’t see where the positive-sex binoculars contributes to shalom to authentic, flourishing communal well-being. It doesn't seem like there is a “long view”--that is, sexchatology.
Well, here I am. So many words, and I’ve yet to dive into deep prayer, friendship, and sexchatology. Next post.