Depending on your feelings and beliefs about sex and sexuality, you may not be comfortable with Benes's conclusions. He does like to be a provocateur. For example, he argues that monogamy was introduced for political and martial reasons; religious preferences toward monogamy are cultural responses. He makes an interesting point, but Christians and Jews, who tend to think of monogamy as God's plan from the dawn of time, might want to add something to the argument.
Some other interesting conclusions he draws:
- We shouldn't give presidents grief about their sexual liaisons; they are powerful men, and men with the disposition to be in a powerful role want/need/deserve outlets for their desires.
- The policy of prohibiting homosexuals from serving in the armed forces had the unintended consequences of solidifying gay identity, creating gay-friendly areas in port cities like San Francisco, and introducing young people to the concept of homosexuality.
- Struggling urban centers like Detroit should look to the success of other cities' gay neighborhoods and actively recruit homosexuals to move in and lead urban renewal.
- We may not want to admit it, but as porn has proliferated, rape has declined. ("For every ten-percentage-point increase in Internet access, reported rape declined 7.3 percent.")
Benes's arguments are thoughtful and thought-provoking. He leans toward a pragmatic sexual ethic. Actually, he might balk at my even referring to a sexual ethic. Benes's concern is what impact sexual behaviors have, what economic ties sexuality invokes, and what policy decisions impact sexual behavior and vice versa. He's more of an observer than an ethicist. He definitely gets some conversations started.
(On a technical note, I read The Sex Effect on my Kindle. Benes uses tons of footnotes and endnotes, many of them quite lengthy. Most are informative and/or entertaining, but the flow of the text on the Kindle was disrupted terribly. I hope the publisher has fixed this for the final version. One word: hyperlink.)
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!