Peter T. Elliot

The Necessary Power of the Christian Sexual Ethic

Peter T. Elliot
The Necessary Power of the Christian Sexual Ethic

#Metoo is a much needed good for American society. The movement hinges on women sharing their experiences of male aggression and sexual advances specifically through social media. #Metoo utilizes the power of social media to hold employers, family, friends, and acquaintances accountable, knowing that any unwanted sexual advances can be exposed to the world. What was once done in darkness is being exposed with the light. Christians should support this movement as the Triune God is a God who exposes darkness and defeats it. But, Christians should support the #Metoo movement not as a solution to the issue of sexual aggression but as the diagnosis.

Diagnosis vs. Solution: An Important Distinction

#Metoo is not the solution to male sexual aggression and female discomfort in our society. Please do not take my statement as one that attacks the movement, rather partners with it. #Metoo only diagnoses the problem of sexual violence; it is not the cultural medicine needed to heal the issue of unbridled sexual desire. #Metoo, similar to an MRI machine, has shown the cancerous tumors on the body of American society. But, this is all it can do. It is not the physician, and it is not the cure. Again, please do not misunderstand me as an antagonist. I want nothing more than to encourage the stories of darkness to come to the light, but I think the conversation on male sexual violence needs to progress toward a sustainable solution.

Consent is the solution that the American society is currently offering. But, consent thinks too small, because the consent philosophy primarily thinks of the “other” as an object for use. Consent is merely about women approving of a man using her body, it feeds into the idea that a woman is an object. Truly, if a man goes into a night wanting to have sex knowing all he needs is consent, then he will start to view women as targets. Whose consent can I win? This thought undoubtedly goes through a boss’, celebrity’s, or man-in-power’s brain before he harasses and pressures a woman sexually. They think they can leverage their position of authority to get the magic “yes.”

Sex, then, is viewed almost like a video game. Men choose their sex target and embark on their quest, using whatever weapon they need to complete the mission of hooking up. Weapons of choice can be anything from an expensive date to a promised promotion. Yes, the two may consent, but in this act, men objectify the “women” as a tool for personal pleasure and can often use manipulation to pressure a woman into having sex.

Matthew Loftus noted that, “A worldview that treats consent as the be-all-end-all of moral decision-making ignores the fact that affirmative consent can be obtained under all sorts of manipulation, and indeed many stories of sexual assault describe the victim begrudgingly giving affirmative consent to something they did not want to do because of the power that was being misused against them.” So, in reality America has adopted a utilitarian ethic for human sexual relations by embracing consent philosophy. And sadly, what looks to be a solution is actually part of the problem. 

A More Complete Solution

The solution, I believe, is directing American society toward the Christian sexual ethic which is based on virtue philosophy. Virtue ethic is important, because a virtue ethic combats utilitarianism. Virtue ethics teaches that every action has a created order and a specific end. Sex’s end is marital union and procreation, building up the relationship of a man and a woman. The virtue ethic promotes the idea that the “other” is more important than “self;” it believes that true good is not personal pleasure but the flourishing of a society and all of its individuals. So, a virtue ethic utilized in sex will cause one to think of the other before the self. Are they comfortable, are they happy, are they truly open to this intimacy?

This is why Christianity preaches sex within the bounds of lifelong covenantal marriage. Within marriage, if a woman does not want to have sex, the husband must respect her. He must sacrifice and love her as Christ loved the church. In marriage men learn that sex is to be respected not expected. And, although there will be conflict, in marriage men learn to be more “chaste” and women are given a relationship where they do not have to perform to be loved.

Of course, most of America does not believe in a Christian sexual ethic. So, practically speaking how do Christians move American society away from utilitarian ethics toward a virtue-based sexual ethic? I think evangelical politics and the moral majority have shown that you cannot legislate sexual ethics. Rather the correct response is to personally discipline oneself in purity and, in doing so, be a witness to the gospel and work of Jesus Christ.

Conquering Sin

Disciplining oneself in purity requires conquering sin. We are what we desire, and men and women participate in habits and rituals that grow their desires. In the church Christians sing, listen to preaching, and partake in the Eucharist habitually to form and strengthen our desire for God. Americans seem to desire sex with vulgarity and pornography as two of their formative habits. These habits turn men into sexual beasts, and it is the Christian’s duty to show the world a better way; men who are not vulgar and not addicted to pornography and therefore less aggressive and more interested in the well-being of the whole woman. This will take work, sacrifice, and accountability. But, it can be done.

American society is indeed sick. The sexual revolution has created an environment where sex is viewed as meaningless and animalistic. Men in this current society will continue to abuse and take advantage of women. Increased sexuality and decreased covenantal, lifelong marriage will continue the spread of cancerous male aggression. #Metoo will never decrease in its social media volume, because its root issues will never be addressed. And until American Christians promote and practice purity in the public square instead of trying to legislate morality, modern American society will never see the benefit of the Christian sexual ethic as a legitimate solution to male sexual aggression. And, #Metoo will continue to be a trending topic on social media.

Peter is married to, Stephanie Augusta and lives in the Pacific Northwest in the lovely state of Washington.  He has a B.A. in Biblical Studies Interdisciplinary in Historical Theology from Moody Bible Institute – Spokane and graduated from the Ancient Christian Studies Honors Program under Dr. Jonathan Armstrong. Find out more about him at www.ptelliot.com