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These books include “Reenvisioning Sexual Ethics: A Feminist Christian Account” by Karen Peterson-Iyer; and “Rethinking Sex: A Provocation” by Christine Emba. Books reviewed by Nancy L. Roberts. (CNS photo/courtesy of Georgetown University Press and Sentinel)

“Rethinking Sex: A Provocation” by Christine Emba. Sentinel (New York, 2022). 204 pp., $27.

“Reenvisioning Sexual Ethics: A Feminist Christian Account” by Karen Peterson-Iyer. Georgetown University Press (Washington, 2022). 192 pages, $49.95.

Perhaps now more than ever, we need insight to guide our thinking about Christian sexual behavior. There are two new books that explain this important topic well.

First, Christine Emba’s “Rethinking Sex,” is an entertaining, fast-paced trip into the wilds of straight-sex culture. The bottom line today, he wrote, is that anything goes, if the participants have expressed their consent. But this sexual liberation did not lead to much happiness, but the opposite – a kind of “bad sex.”

Emba’s answer is to challenge us to review the many cultural and historical beliefs that influence our sexuality, such as: “Sex is a purely physical activity” and “Women and man it’s the same.” He cites popular culture like HBO’s “Sex and the City” series (“where four single women in New York City use sex and shopping as a proxy for personal growth” ) and Hugh Hefner’s Playboy contribute to a distorted view of sex. .

The famous “Sex and the City” series, which ended in 2004, emphasized that “being an adult should always be a collection of different experiences – especially sex – and the doing so is necessary to become mature, deep and normal. … Sex can easily be only physical, and maybe it should, so that you can have the freedom to know more. , different things.”

Like the “Sex and the City” script, Hefner’s Playboy praised casual sex as “normal” and an “important part of the good life.” But, Emba said, “this new view of sexuality did not introduce any kind of gender equality. The good woman was still seen as unruly and passive; she the only real difference is that he is now willing to have sex without commitment.”

Emba says that “women have more to lose because of sex, and the culture of sex is wrong.” Biology’s precepts “suggest … that compensatory behavior – assuming equal freedom of choice between the two sides – places some very unbalanced things have not been discussed. Therefore, consent, just consent, may not be enough to label sex, or right. is, or equally healthy for both members.” And that, he wrote, is exactly what should be our goal.

Emba, a columnist for the Washington Post, writes with kindness and wisdom at times. His research included interviews with doctors, educators and sex teachers as well as with many college students and other single people. She also weaves in compelling personal stories and quotes from Thomas Aquinas as well as Andrea Dworkin, the feminist writer and anti-pornography activist.

Finally, he recommends a more responsible approach to sex that emphasizes respect for both people. Such attitudes may lead to more restraint, which he says “can give us more freedom to seek and offer love.”

In “Reenvisioning Sexual Ethics,” Karen Peterson-Iyer offers a Christian homosexual perspective on many contemporary sexual issues.

As he wrote: “From the Roman Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal to the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage, it’s been abundantly clear Christians cannot underestimate sex or rely on old things. thoughts about sexual well-being or a lack of common understanding of sexual activity.”

Particularly impressive is his analysis of the cultural problems presented by modern homosexual practices such as the “hookup” convention, ” sexting,” sex work and trafficking.

“Hookup” culture is afraid of actually maintaining a sexual partner; instead, sex is seen as a natural activity that requires no emotional or mental connection. Such a separation, writes Peterson-Iyer, “represents one brick in the path of character development – in this case a person who can be marked by the perception of the mind and distrust .”

Sexuality is often seen in young adults and teenagers, and Peterson-Iyer focuses on the latter. The legal, social and emotional fallout from homosexuality can be enormous. For example, if a teen texts a nude photo of someone under 18, it could be viewed as child pornography, which would result in cancellation. the protection of the First Amendment.

“Over-prosecutions can lead to criminal charges, jail time, fines and federally mandated sex offender registration — a designation that can drive young people out of their parents’ homes and put those young people in trouble.” many years into the future,” he wrote. Social and emotional punishments include harassment by peers, which can cause psychological damage.

He suggested that we reject “a harsh law, especially treating children like adult criminals. … Nor should we accept an anti-body morality that destroys sexuality in general, that denies the sexual freedom of young women or shows women’s sexuality in particular as dirty, dangerous or embarrassing.”

Instead, Peterson-Iyer sees “sex as a sacrament: A visible sign of God’s invisible grace, a window into the deeper nature of reality.”

Therefore, in his view, “a suitable response to sex confirms the divine beauty of the body and human desire, as it is said that these things are best expressed in the context of choice. personal freedom and liberty, a unified identity of the body-self. , cooperation and interdependence, and mutual respect.”

An assistant professor in the religious studies department at Santa Clara University, Peterson-Iyer also authored “Designer Children: Reconciling Genetic Technology, Feminism and Christian Faith.”

“Reenvisioning Sexual Ethics” is well researched, with detailed references and extensive bibliography and index. This insightful and insightful analysis will appeal to a wide range of audiences from college students to churchgoers and beyond.

Also like: “The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory” by Abigail Favale. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2022). 248 pages, $17.95.

Roberts is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York at Albany who has written/published two books about Dorothy Day and The Catholic Worker.

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