frgavin on February 26th, 2012

Picture of Revd John RichardsonSexuality in Western society: the story so far

Until very recently, the dominant view of sex and marriage in Western culture for over a century had been governed by two distinct, but nonetheless overlapping, frames of thought.
On the hand, the churches upheld and offered marriage as the proper context for sex and the basis of family life.
The theological justification for this was largely assumed rather than expressed. But if pushed, most Christians would have taken a position something like that expressed in the 1663 Book of Common Prayer — that marriage was for the avoiding of immorality, the begetting of children and the mutual society help and comfort husband and wife ought to have from one another.
Yet even without the undergirding of religious belief, society generally took the ‘common sense’ view that, given the hazards of illegitimate children and venereal disease, sex was best kept within the bounds of marriage.
People might ‘push the envelope’ of this in personal practice or philosophical principle. The avant garde lived up to their name in being ‘ahead of the rest’, but few were willing to adopt a truly radical lifestyle.
‘Secular’ society and the Church thus agreed — one might even say colluded — in maintaining the status quo of marriage as a social ‘norm’.
The sexual revolution
All that began to change in the 1960s, which saw what soon became known as the ‘sexual revolution’. How much of a revolution it would turn out to be, few realized at the time.
It is important to recognize, however, that the success of this revolution was largely a result of advances in technology. Read more

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