Sex and the iWorld
Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationship beyond an Age of Individualism
by Dale S. Kuehne
Reviewed by: Terrell Clemmons
For most of Western history, Kuehne says, questions of identity were of little concern. People were born into a matrix of relationships – family, village, tribe, – each of which incurred mutual obligations and responsibilities, and the context of which largely established one’s identity. This world, founded upon ancient philosophy and revealed religion, Kuehne calls the tWorld, ‘t’ for tradition.
With the Enlightenment, though, came a questioning of tWorld assumptions about the existence of God, the authority of religion, and most pertinent to the subject at hand, any claim to an objective standard of right and wrong. When Galileo and other scientists opposed opinions and statements of the Church on scientific matters, Science began to assert itself, not as a complementary way of knowing truth, but as the superior, in fact the sole, means of ascertaining truth. Enlightenment thinkers rightly observed that science can make no determinations about morality, but wrongly extrapolated that since Science could not speak on it, there was no way anyone could speak on it. Thus was born the moral ethos of modernity: There is no objective right or wrong, there are only personal preferences.
This profound shift in moral reasoning gave birth to the iWorld, which views individual freedoms as sacrosanct and holds that maximum individual liberties will translate into the greatest amount of happiness and fulfillment in life. According to iWorld ethics, you can do anything you want as long as you don’t tell someone else what to do.
Though the fruit of iWorld sexuality wasn’t fully manifested for centuries, it was inevitable that iWorld pleasure-seeking would eventually cast off burdensome tWorld responsibilities and boundaries in relationships. Sex and the iWorld takes a thoughtful look at the harvest, paying special attention to how iWorld thinking has affected our understanding of marriage, sexuality, and relational fulfillment. For example, whereas tWorld, relationships were largely a set matrix into which a person was born, iWorld relationships are entered into by choice for the purpose of self-fulfillment and tend to last only as long as both parties want them to. As a result, iWorld sexuality leads to a kind of relational consumerism where partners attempt to get everything they can out of the relationship before it ends, a utilitarian approach to that leaves people lonely, insecure, and feeling like they’ve been used.
The question that drives Keuhne is, Which world produces the most satisfying and fulfilling lives? The answer he suggests is not a return to the tWorld, for it had its shortcomings, but a transition into the rWorld. The rWorld is founded upon the conviction that fulfillment and satisfaction in life flow from quality relationships more than any other factor. Despite the title, only one chapter specifically discusses sex, but seven chapters of groundwork were required before he could make his point about it: iSex is a personally and socially disastrous dead end.
Sex and the iWorld is neither a diatribe nor a moral treatise. It’s a humble invitation to reason together about how best to find meaning and fulfillment in life. iWorld inhabitants of every persuasion can find illuminating points to ponder in Kuehne’s words.
This article first appeared in Salvo 11, Winter 2009.