Tim Keller writes,
“Three different personal and cultural attitudes toward sex have been predominant through the centuries.
*Sexual Realism: Sex as natural appetite.
*Sexual Platonism: Sex as animal passion.
*Sexual Romanticism: Sex as repressed creativity.
Many of the ancient Greeks and Romans viewed sex as similar to any other bodily activity, such as eating or sleeping. When you felt like doing it, you should do it—just be careful not to overdo it, as with all appetites. This modern view of sex has been called “realism.” Realists claim to be neutral about sex; they see it as just one human activity among many, but one that must be demystified. Their message, prominent in today’s public school sex education, is that we should understand the natural biological drive of sex, realize that if we are not careful sexual activity can have negative consequences, master it like any other skill, and be responsible.
Sexual Platonism: Sex as animal passion.
One of the most influential branches of Hellenistic philosophy viewed the spirit as the highest good and the body as “lesser.” That is, the lower, physical, “animal” nature was seen as chaotic and dark, and the higher, more rational, “spiritual” nature was seen as civilized and noble. This led to viewing sex as a degrading, dirty thing, a necessary evil for the propagation of the human race. Premarital sex was forbidden because sex in general was dirty and was allowable only for the higher good of having children and building up the family name. Unfortunately, this view took root in many places in the Christian church. Truly spiritual people should refrain from sex, sex is allowable only if you are trying to have children, sexual pleasure is not appropriate for high- minded people—these notions grew out of a kind of sexual platonism.
Sexual Romanticism: Sex as repressed creativity.
While Hellenism located the source of evil in the physical, the Romanticists located it in the cultural. They thought that human beings in their unspoiled original state were brimming with natural goodness and creativity; it was society that stifled it. Goodness would be achieved by liberating the basic, primal instincts, which were in themselves pure. Opposed to Romanticism was Victorianism, the assumption that goodness could be achieved only by suppressing the primal instincts, which in themselves were evil.
While the first perspective sees sex as an inevitable biological drive and the second view sees it as a necessary evil, the last view sees sex as a critical way of self-expression, a way to “be yourself” or “find yourself.” For biological realists, all sex is right if it’s safe. For Platonists, the flesh inhibits the spirit, so sex is naturally tainted in some way. For romantics, the quality of interpersonal love is the primary touchstone that makes sex right or wrong.