The Puzzle of Sex

The Puzzle of Sex New Edition

Peter Vardy, SCM Press, 2009, 978-0-334-04205-1, 243 pages, paperback, £9.99.

The Puzzle of Sex was first published in 1997 and has been updated with new material more relevant to today’s audience (as an example the Second Lifers experience of sex on the internet is a new development that would not have been considered until very recently).

In this new edition Vardy has reduced the sections from three to two: “A Developing Understanding” and “The Puzzle of Sex Today”. In part one the development of our understanding about sex and sexual ethics is explored. This is crucial for anyone examining any area of sexual ethics. Vardy provides a very good in depth introduction to the various areas of sexual ethics (using Biblical material and ethical theorists) to lay the foundation for where the culturally normative view of sexual ethics comes from.

Section 2 examines the relevance of this normative view in contemporary world. The challenge that has been presented to this received wisdom by modernity and post modernity. This is not limited to societal practice but also with psychological theorising (with which this section begins). As an example of how this section functions I will use the example of homosexual relationships. Vardy traces the origins of terms, looks at traditional Christian responses to it, and then asks the question; “What, then, should a modern moral position be…?” He uses ethical theory, psychological writings, and modern statements by people of faith to suggest different views. What is good, is that he does not seem to answer the question, rather he presents the evidence and points the reader in the direction that each piece of evidence points but then leaves the question open.

The cost of the book makes it accessible to most readers whether in education or not.

In an increasing sexualised society it faces the issue head on and will help people either understand the situation that we find ourselves in better, or it will enable people to formulate their own informed opinion as to whether society has progressed or regressed in its attitudes to sex.

This book is an invaluable resource to the post 16 student who is studying any element of sexual ethics; it provides a non- judgemental introduction to the various aspects that will be explored.