The Corner

GRACE AND THE COMMODIFICATION OF SEX

As literary editor of a political magazine in a country that’s obsessed with sex, I see a fair number of pro- and anti-sex books crossing my desk. We just got another one today, Carol Platt Liebau’s Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too!). Looking through it, I was taken aback by the following (an epigraph to one of the chapters):

So-called sexual freedom is really just proclaiming oneself to be available for free, and therefore without value. To “choose” such freedom is tantamount to saying that one is worth nothing.

Among the anti arguments, this is surely one of the most pernicious: the idea that sex is not a pure gift (“free”), but a commodity–something with a price. But what I find more troubling—especially when one considers that the quote comes from a Lutheran minister–is the theological implication. The definition of grace includes the concept of “free,” because grace cannot be bought. Theologically, therefore, the notion that something that is free must be valueless is dead wrong; and I would add that, in my view, the notion is equally wrong when it is transferred to the sphere of sexuality, because that is an intimate sphere where human beings are closest to God. (I should point out that I have no desire to cast any general aspersions on the author of that quote, a minister named Sarah Hinlicky Wilson. I have read other writings by her that have impressed me greatly, especially her side of a debate in First Things, in which she argued–cogently and persuasively—for the ordination of women.)

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