Sex in the Post-Modern Story

Sarah Williams

In these three careful and incisive lectures, historian Sarah Williams explains the way in which private moral decisions in the bedroom have profound public implications. She does so through both personal narrative and historical argument.

Williams opens with the story of Cerian, her and her husband's second child, who was diagnosed in utero with thanatophoric dysplasia, a lethal skeletal deformity that would surely result in death shortly after birth. The pressure they experienced to abort Cerian provokes reflection about our culture's primary lens for envisioning a flourishing life: the capacity for unlimited choice.

Framed this way, the second and third lectures track the philosophical and historical foundations for our common understandings of gender and sexuality, particularly the way in which this understanding is shaped by a free market economy. In our culture, Williams says, "persons and personal identities (including sexual identities) are, above all, products of the individual’s ability to marshal their resources toward a desired and chosen end. This ability to choose is believed to maximize human freedom." But does it? Listen to "Sex in the Post-Modern Story" (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) on the Corban Talks podcast. To read the story of Cerian, see this article from Plough, an excerpt from Sarah Williams' recent book Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian.

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