This article identifies two competing paradigms of sexual ethics in the student handbooks and codes of conduct at American residential colleges and universities. Sexual misconduct is either defined exclusively in terms of consent violation or, regardless of consent, as any sex outside of male-female marriage—the latter found solely in faith communities.
Based on survey results, this article examines faculty convictions related to the above two paradigms at religiously affiliated universities. It finds strong support for both paradigms. Among faculty who reject the “sex only in male-female marriage” paradigm, many consider the paradigm “outrageous” (irrational, extremist, motivated by malice, and productive of human harm)—meriting government sanctions.
However, this article suggests that the most repudiated portion of the Christian sexual and marital ethic, its cross-sex nature, turns out to be in the mainstream of marriage cultures around the world—as studied by anthropologists. In world history, it is the ethic of mere consent that is the extremist outlier. Marriage, as studied by anthropologists, constitutes both a conjugal bond and a biparental bond—attaching men to the social reproduction project, and giving each child a father as well as a mother. The article ends by inviting a comparison of the two paradigms in terms of harms being guarded against, and in terms of the extent to which they are morally oriented towards the good of the next generation.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Robert Priest