THE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL ETHICS
Throughout history, men have wrestled with the problem of sexual ethics or, in other words, with the question whether their own or other people's sexual behavior was good or bad. Today this question is as important as ever, although the answer has now become much more difficult than it was in the past.
All ethical standards are, of course, based upon certain fundamental beliefs, convictions, or assumptions, and the sexual ethics of any given society reflect its assumptions about the purpose or "nature" of sex. For example, there have been peoples on this planet who were unaware of the causal connection between sex and procreation. Obviously, these peoples arrived at different standards for sexual behavior than those who believed that procreation was the only purpose of sex.
In our own society this latter belief has long been espoused by religious authorities, and thus it has also determined our traditional sexual morality. However, in modern times the advance of science and technology, the gradual loss of faith, and the increasing communication between different cultures have created a pluralism of values that was formerly unknown. As a result, we now find ourselves in a new historical situation. In the course of our lives, we encounter a great variety of conflicting opinions about the purpose of sex and are forced to choose between a number of competing value systems.
The following pages briefly discuss this development and describe some of our present and future options.