The Meaning of Human Sexuality: A Philosophical Query
I don’t suppose I’ll be courting much controversy by saying that human sexuality has historical meaning. The sexual revolution would have made no sense had sex meant nothing to anyone. It was a reaction against prevailing sexual norms, beliefs people had about the nature of sexuality, and cultural attitudes concerning appropriate sexual behavior–i.e., the time’s prominent understandings of sex.
Whether the overall meaning of human sexuality extends beyond the meanings historically attached to it–now there’s a controversial question. At the risk of entertaining unapologetic libertines and old fuddy-duddies–I know you’re out there–I fancy a go-around on this matter. So here’s the specific inquiry for discussion and debate:
Does human sexuality have inherent, normative meaning to which all human sexual acts ought to accord?
If you answer in the affirmative, I’d like to know what this meaning is and how you know human sexuality has this meaning. If you answer in the negative, I’m interested in why and what, if anything, you would submit as an objective basis for sexual norms. My sense going into this discussion is that the sexual revolution has not left us with an anything goes relativistic sexual culture; most people draw the line between appropriate and inappropriate behavior somewhere. The line may be more emotional than moral for some people, but it’s still there. Nonetheless, like so much else in our postmodern age, we’re not on the same page or even in the same book when reasoning about the meaning of sexuality. I’m curious to see a sample of how close or far apart we really are.