SexualityStephen Hopewell has responded to my latest post on sexual morality, the background of which forms a thread on this topic that runs like this:

1) My post, Philips, Pompeii and human sexuality,
2) His article, The Sex Problem, Past and Present,
3) My response, Stephen Hopewell on Pompeii,
4) His comment below.

Hi John,

Thanks for reading my piece. Interesting response. We are never going to agree on this matter, but I would like to say something about my approach. I think there are some things so fundamental to civilized life that they need to be expressed in the institutions, practices, and symbols of society, including the norm of heterosexuality, Judeo-Christian marriage and monogamy, motherhood, and standards of masculinity and femininity appropriate to the biological and (dare I say?) spiritual differences between the sexes. I am not however dogmatic about what form such a society would take and am not opposed, for instance, to the expanded career opportunities for women that now exist, though I don’t think women should be soldiers, for instance, and I don’t think a particular profession being male-dominated represents a “problem” that has to be solved.

Part of my project is to bring more conservative voices from the past into the present dialogue, since I believe they knew truths that we have forgotten. I do try to be objective about the sources I bring in, though, and not just use them in support of some pre-determined conclusion.

Best wishes,

Stephen Hopewell

Thanks to Stephen for the dialogue; I think he’s right that we won’t agree on this and at the same time it’s useful to learn from another position on the subject. If I could leave Stephen with one central, remaining critique, it would be this: he says he isn’t dogmatic about what form his society would take, and yet this follows a sentence setting out exactly what form it should take, including norms which define society primarily on the terms of the heterosexual, the married, the monogamous, the maternal, and those who fit the gender roles in a traditional way, to the exclusion of a more complete definition of society which – in reality – also includes homosexuals, the unmarried, the polyamorous, those who are not parents and never will be, and a huge variety of people who are comfortable in their own skin without deference to any preconceived formulas or models of ‘male’ and ‘female’ outside of which they are unrepresented by society’s “institutions, practices and symbols.”

The best society is the one which best honors the liberty of the individuals within it to do and be exactly what they desire, and in so doing acknowledge that each of us are rational beings with the right to establish our morality for ourselves, not in need of having it dictated to us by the collective.

Stephen Hopewell’s blog, The Heritage American, is a good, well-written and honest account of traditional conservatism (among the best I’ve read). While I disagree fundamentally, Stephen’s approach is refreshingly free of the ignorance and hyperbole of much of the other material in the same vein.