The Missionary's Position

Over the years, courts have accepted Christian traditions on matters relating to sex despite our nation’s commitment to the separation of church and state. When confronted with cases regarding restrictions on sexual behavior, or activities related to sexual behavior like contraception, abortion, or consuming pornography, judges have had to dress up in secular garb what were essentially religious principles. They did this by distinguishing between the “moral views” they said they drew on and the “religious views” they claimed they did not.
Consider the swinging Greeks and Romans. They had no problem with same-sex activity, but the participants were not viewed equally. The receptive partner during anal or oral sex was cast in that most dreaded role: woman. That was fine for a boy before he reached manhood. It was not so great for an adult to have his manhood taken from him by being made to resemble the inferior female. Even during the most sexually open periods described in Stone’s book, women were judged by a different standard than men. They were given less freedom and suffered for their participation in sex even in cultures that were supposedly sexually progressive.

More from Annette Gordon-Reed in the NY Review of Books here