Relationships in a World of Individualism

  • rWorld

    The rWorld is about more than Dale Kuehne's book Sex and the iWorld.
    The rWorld is a New England based, non-profit (in formation), that is composed of a growing number of people and organizations from many faith and ideological backgrounds worldwide. We believe that much of the fulfillment for which women and men are looking can be found by enhancing the quality of our relationships. While the individual freedom we enjoy in the West is a gift, the love and intimacy for which humans yearn will not be found in self-serving materialism or hedonism, but in a variety of healthy relationships.

    Contact us if you'd like get involved:

  • Dale Kuehne

    Sex & the iWorld

    Professor of Politics and The Richard L. Bready Chair for Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH.

    In this blog I'm highlighting signposts of the world in which we presently reside as a means of helping promote a civil, and meaningful dialogue about what kind of world in which we wish to live. I am particularly interested in exploring how might we reconcile the individual good and the common good, and where reconciliation isn’t possible, which should take precedence and why.

    I also blog at

    [Content Caution]

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Postmodern Sex Education (British Style)

Posted by Dale Kuehne on June 23, 2010

The Sexy Stuff: A Guide for Guys who like Guys
A sex education guide for British teens

[Content Caution]


A Reflection on Liberty

I flatter myself that I love a manly, moral, regulated liberty as well as any gentleman of that society, be he who he will; and perhaps I have given as good proofs of my attachment to that cause, in the whole course of my public conduct. I think I envy liberty as little as they do, to any other nation. But I cannot stand forward, and give praise or blame to anything which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object, as it stands stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind. Abstractedly speaking, government, as well as liberty, is good; yet could I, in common sense, ten years ago, have felicitated France on her enjoyment of a government (for she then had a government) without inquiry what the nature of that government was, or how it was administered? Can I now congratulate the same nation upon its freedom? Is it because liberty in the abstract may be classed amongst the blessings of mankind, that I am seriously to felicitate a mad-man, who has escaped from the protecting restraint and wholesome darkness of his cell, on his restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty? Am I to congratulate a highwayman and murderer, who has broke prison, upon the recovery of his natural rights? This would be to act over again the scene of the criminals condemned to the galleys, and their heroic deliverer, the metaphysic knight of the sorrowful countenance.

When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work; and this, for a while, is all I can possibly know of it. The wild gas, the fixed air, is plainly broke loose: but we ought to suspend our judgment until the first effervescence is a little subsided, till the liquor is cleared, and until we see something deeper than the agitation of a troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men upon a blessing, that they have really received one. Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver; and adulation is not of more service to the people than to kings. I should therefore suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France, until I was informed how it had been combined with government; with public force; with the discipline and obedience of armies; with the collection of an effective and well-distributed revenue; with morality and religion; with the solidity of property; with peace and order; with civil and social manners. All these (in their way) are good things too; and, without them, liberty is not a benefit whilst it lasts, and is not likely to continue long. The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please: we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations, which may be soon turned into complaints. Prudence would dictate this in the case of separate, insulated, private men; but liberty, when men act in bodies, is power. Considerate people, before they declare themselves, will observe the use which is made of power; and particularly of so trying a thing as new power in new persons, of whose principles, tempers, and dispositions they have little or no experience, and in situations, where those who appear the most stirring in the scene may possibly not be the real movers.

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)


One Response to “Postmodern Sex Education (British Style)”

  1. Lauren Fithian said

    To carry on from long ago: “The endeavor to keep alive any hoary establishment beyond its natural date is often pernicious and always useless.” Mary Wollstonecraft, The French Revolution , Bk. V, ch. 4. The Edmund Burke passage reminds me of all the nay-sayers against needed and just reform who base their opposition on the mere fact that the reform is a change (or that it could lead to additional change). The purveyor of this style of reasoning is usually a person who already has the right or “liberty” that the reform is designed to make available to a wider class. It’s similar to the specious arguments used against women’s suffrage such as that women would not know for whom to vote or that their husbands could represent their vote so women did not need the right. I’m guessing Burke would have wanted to wait to see how women actually voted or how their votes may have changed the political power structure before passing judgment on whether granting them the “liberty” of equal voting rights was a good thing!

    Beyond that–Burke’s statement that the “effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please”
    is quite broad and unnecessary. The effect of granting equal civil or human rights to a group of people who have until then been denied those rights gives no liberty beyond that already enjoyed by the group that previously already had greater civil or human rights. If the individuals who already have the right have used their “liberty” to “do what they please” then so be it. Whether for good or for bad, there is no argument that some individuals ought to have this “liberty” and not others (at least as far as it concerns groups based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, etc…).

    As Mary Wollstonecraft argued: rights ought not to be based on tradition. They should be rights because they are reasonable and just–no matter how many decades, years, centuries or millenia the unjust tradition that denied the rights may have endured.

    [The sex education guide seems to be reasonably well done–although I did not actually read every word. Since we know there a gay teens out there and we know they will engage in sex shouldn’t we make every effort to educate them about safety? (Yes there is a lot more to the guide than safety issues.) We can’t thoughtfully and effectively speak in favor of abstinence and waiting if we pretend there’s nothing happening, head-in-the-sand style. To me the teen guide and the Burke passage are not related.]

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