A Feminist Christian Account
A profound feminist Christian reframing of sexuality examines contemporary social practices and ethical sex
From the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church to the US Supreme Court decision outlawing state-level bans on same-sex marriage, it has become clear that Catholics and other Christians cannot afford to downplay sex or rely on outdated normative understandings of its moral contours. Feminist theological approaches offer a way forward by considering not just what we should do in sexual spheres but also what sort of sexual people we should aspire to be.
In Reenvisioning Sexual Ethics, author Karen Peterson-Iyer adopts a feminist Christian anthropological framework to connect robust theological and ethical analysis to practical sexual issues, particularly those confronting college-aged and younger adults today. The book examines four divergent yet overlapping contemporary social practices and phenomena wherein sex plays a central role: “hookup” culture; “sexting”; sex work; and sex trafficking. Through these case studies, Peterson-Iyer shows that ethical sex is best demarcated not as a matter of chastity on the one hand and purely free consent on the other, but rather as ideally expressing the fullness of human agency, communicating the joy of shared pleasure, and conferring a deep sense of possibility and wholeness upon all participants.
This feminist Christian framework will help facilitate frank and profound discussions of sex, enabling young adults to define themselves and others not by hypersexualized and gendered social norms or attitudes but by their fundamental status as dignified and beloved by God.
Introduction: Sexual Flourishing in an Unjust World
1. Looking Back and Looking Forward
2. Moral Anthropology, Justice, and Sexual Ethics
3. Hookup Culture and Sexual Agency
4. Teen Sexting, Objectification, and Justice for Women
5. Commercial Sex, Well-Being, and the Rhetoric of Choice
6. Sex Trafficking, Rescue Narratives, and the Challenge of Solidarity
About the Author
"Peterson-Iyer brings fresh eyes to the complex justice issues that sexual practices like sexting and sex work—and efforts to discourage them—raise for women’s flourishing and moral agency. With characteristic conviction and care, she grapples with sexuality as it is, not as it ideally would be."—Cristina L. H. Traina, Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, Chair in Catholic Theology, Fordham University
"Reenvisioning Sexual Ethics: A Feminist Christian Account is an important book on urgent matters. Dr. Peterson-Iyer describes sexual flourishing as a new framework for evaluating practical, everyday moral questions about sexuality. Relational justice is at the center of this exciting construction of sexual ethics. A significant contribution to the field."—Emily Reimer-Barry, associate professor of Christian ethics, University of San Diego
"Rooted in a robust anthropology and keenly attentive to social context and structural sin, Peterson-Iyer’s justice-focused approach to Christian sexual ethics is nuanced and compelling. It acknowledges complexities, dares to keep the well-being of women and sexual minorities at the center, and calls us ever toward virtue as embodied, socially embedded persons. The work—especially the case studies—will spark lively, necessary conversation in college classrooms, across dinner tables, and within church communities."—Bridget Burke Ravizza, professor of theology and religious studies, St. Norbert College
"Reenvisioning Sexual Ethics is well researched, with detailed footnotes and an extensive bibliography and index. This insightful and nuanced analysis will interest a wide audience ranging from college students to church members and beyond."—Catholic News Service
Karen Peterson-Iyer is an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University. She is the author of Designer Children: Reconciling Genetic Technology, Feminism, and Christian Faith, as well as articles and chapters in sexual ethics, bioethics, and labor ethics. She holds a PhD from Yale University.
208 pp., 6 x 9
208 pp., 6 x 9
Moral Traditions series
David Cloutier, Darlene Weaver, and Andrea Vicini, SJ