I have now read the chapter “Sexual Morality” in Mere Christianity. As I’m sure you can guess, C.S. Lewis spends the chapter talking about sex from a Christian perspective.
He begins by stating “I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of propriety is any proof of chastity or any help to it, and I therefore regard the great relaxation and simplifying of the rule which has taken place in my own lifetime as a good thing.” I can agree with him here. People often assume the worst of people who they view to be dressed inappropriately, but what do you actually know about a person based on their clothes? Is that person wearing a baggy sweater and sweatpants actually homeless, or are they maybe sick, or upset, or maybe their reasons are even deeper? Likewise, that teenage girl wearing a short skirt and spaghetti-strap may be a virgin. She may not even have any sexual-related reason for wearing her clothes. Maybe she doesn’t even view them as sexual. So why judge? Unless you’re a mind reader, who are you to say what a person’s reasons are for the clothes they wear? I’m glad we are becoming more aware of the problems associated with judging a person solely on their wardrobe and I hope we get better at disassociating sex from dress.
Lewis goes on to argue that “the Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.'” But where did this rule come from? This idea wasn’t common in the ancient Middle East, at least not among men, nor was it common throughout the Middle Ages. In fact, it was expected that men would be experienced before marriage. The idea of a monogamous marriage really didn’t come into play until the Victorian Era, and even then it was only upheld by certain social groups, ie. the Middle Class. This may be a Christian rule now, but how closely is it actually tied to Christian doctrine?
He continues on by saying of Christian views of sex “Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong.” Why does it have to be one or the other? Can no single part of Christianity be wrong without the whole thing falling apart? If that is the case, it makes Christianity incredibly easy to debunk, but does anybody actually think this is the case? Though, if it has to be one or the other, I’d say that it is far more likely that the man-made religion is wrong than it is that every human’s sexual desire has somehow gotten messed up.
Lewis then tries to compare sexual desire to food cravings to show how sexual desire is messed up. He argues that “In the same way, before accepting sexual starvation as the cause of the strip-tease, we should have to look for evidence that there is in fact more sexual abstinence in our age than in those ages when things like the strip-tease were unknown. But surely there is no such evidence.” Surely there is no such evidence? Is that how we find the truth now? We assert our own opinion without ever doing any research to make sure that our opinion is correct? Try opening a history book, Lewis. Historians have in fact found evidence that the obsession with sex arose in the Victorian Era, which caused both the repression of sexuality and the upraise of sexual entertainment. I have a problem with a lot of sexual entertainment, which can be very violent and teaches people to have unrealistic standards where sex is concerned, but I don’t think strip-teases are inherently wrong. Why do they suggest a level of obsession? Then again, Lewis wasn’t really looking for answers, he was simply looking for an example to support his belief. He made it clear that he didn’t really care to do research to make sure that his assumptions were correct.
Lewis goes on to argue “public opinion is less hostile to illicit unions and even to perversion than it has been since Pagan times.” Evidence? Unless Christianity only arose in the Victorian Era, this is not at all true. It can be claimed that women had only gained sexual freedom, since, throughout history, female sexuality has been oppressed, but men were still less free to express their sexuality in the 40’s than they were in the Middle Ages. In many ways, they still are, since, in the Middle Ages, men were expected to have sex with women other than their wives and many people today still believe that sex only belongs in a marriage.
He goes on to say “They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been. It has been chatted about all day long. Yet it is still a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way around. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess.” Really? The people of the 40’s and 50’s were sexually liberated? Compared to the Victorian era, absolutely. But in reality? Not really. The 50’s was a time when people did there best to return to how things were in the Victorian Era. The people were not chatting about sex all day long. It may have seemed that way to a sexually repressed man, but we don’t even talk about sex all that often today. No, there hadn’t been time for the issues related to sexuality to be sorted out. It many ways, we are only beginning to straighten out these issues today. But we still view sex as a source of shame and something to be hidden and ignored.
Lewis had a bit more to say on the subject, but I feel my above comments adequately explain why Lewis is wrong where sexuality is concerned.