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Details of FB's book The Sex Code

 

1991.005 The Sex Code

 

Selection from reviews etc. of The Sex Code.

 

 

 

'. . . the first guide to secular sexual ethics. It celebrates human sexuality in all its forms as a positive force for good . . . Bennion aims to change society with his sex code. He has written the book he would like to have been able to read when young.'

-Victoria Mather, Evening Standard

 

'Francis Bennion, as many of us know, has harnessed his high intelligence and his robust courage to an array of causes on whose behalf he tilts with Quixotic vigour. It is his nature to challenge and provoke what he deems to be foolishness. So one approaches Bennion on Sex with anticipatory relish, and is not disappointed . . . With a training in law and philosophy, Bennion feels the need for a clear framework, so that his Code is, for him, the backbone of the book. But, like all Codes, it bears the stamp, in places, of a finger-wagging didactic moralist (whom I dubbed "Moses Bennion") who emphasises our "duties" - whereas the stimulating and provocative commentary which surrounds it emanates from a more genial "St Francis Bennion" whose benign motto is "to understand all is to forgive all". When he gets into his stride lambasting the evil fruits of so much Christian-inspired sex hate, he is splendid.'

- Antony Grey, New Humanist September 1991

 

'This most readable book . . . is written clearly, with an incisive wit that explores historical misapprehensions about sex . . . I think Mr Bennion's book should be read by all who have care of developing children . . . I hope this book will be acquired by all medical, college and public libraries.'

- Kathleen Frith, Humanist News July 1991

 

'The whole exercise bears the mark of the academically trained philosopher and systematic lawyer. The result is superb - a lucid exposition of a complete sexual ethic. It is "donnish" in the best sense of the word, being shot through with a very dry, engaging wit, especially at the expense of traditional Christianity . . . On prostitution he is magnificent, cutting through the thicket of prejudices which survive even amongst those who consider themselves enlightened. He is also excellent on childhood and adolescent sexuality . . . I find myself reviewing a book which I very much wish had been available to me when I was fifteen or sixteen. What nonsenses it would have cleared out of my head . . . if you know any kids who are still having the old crap dinned into them by their parents, and who are capable of responding to intelligent argument, slip them a copy of this book . . .'

- Graeme Woolaston, Gay Times July 1991

 

'. . . he is like a man busily and angrily planting explosive charges deep into the fabric of our cruel, stupid and joyless system of sex taboos. In his final chapter, as you withdraw with him to watch the almighty crash of its destruction, it is impossible not to cheer with a sort of mad, happy and half-frightened incredulity. Then, cheered hoarse, you join him to examine his ingeniously drafted sex code, the 60 moral precepts which could guide and govern our liberated love life and emancipated happiness . . . It is, of course, an angry book, a polemic. But so was Tom Paine's Age of Reason, and so was Darwin's Origin of Species . . . Mr Bennion's could be a book as seminal as they. I wish I could communicate to you the plea for new thinking, for a concept of human happiness desperately awaiting such a spokesman. If they don't take Mr Bennion to their hearts, they will wait a long time.'

- C H Rolph, New Law Journal 12.7.91

 

'. . . irritating but fascinating . . . Bennion is most moving of all on sex for the old and for the disabled . . . he makes a passionate plea for truthfulness and free trade in prostitution and other sexual services . . . a brave beginning, with an honest touch.'

- Rabbi Julia Neuburger, Sunday Times 19.5.91

 

'The Sex Code is a standing refutation of the Conservative caricature of libertarian views on sex. A practising Barrister and Parliamentary draftsman, Bennion is also a noted rationalist and humanist active within the British Conservative Party. Amongst his eight previous books is a study of Professional Ethics, and he is currently a research associate at the Oxford University Centre for Socio-Legal Studies. He has also of late been instrumental in the campaign to get the Conservative Party to organise properly and field candidates in Northern Ireland.

 

The Conservative misrepresentation of the libertarian approach to sex stems primarily, I suppose, from the libertarian rejection of the Christian/Conservative view that sex is primarily evil. And certainly Mr. Bennion does not shrink from a vigorous rejection of what he terms 'sex-negativism', a negativism 'instilled by centuries of Judaeo-Christian teaching that sex is sinful'. Such sex negation, he correctly points out, poisons our lives, and is manifest in 'secrecy, prudery, guilt, shame and hypocrisy'. We have a 'duty' (in an Aristotelian sense) to ourselves, Bennion argues, 'to overcome this negative conditioning, and train ourselves and our children to accept and welcome to the full the wholesome sexual nature of humanity'.

 

'The acceptance of sex as a natural, and indeed good, human activity and value, does not imply some form of 1960s style total 'permissiveness', or an amoral view of sex. Unlike other secular writers on sex Bennion does not base his approach upon a relativistic, altruist, 'social' or deontological ethics. He adopts the teleological Aristotelian approach founded upon human individual flourishing, an ethical egoism based upon a rational understanding of ourselves as a particular sort of entity. As he states: 'Morality is objective, not subjective, and . . . its essence is true to the absolutes of human nature'. We thus, he argues, have the same obligation to act morally in our sexual lives that we do in all other areas of our lives. Bennion's book is thus, as its title indicates, an attempt to outline explicitly a rational 'sex code', an application of his ethics to such manifold issues as nudity, prostitution, sexual 'perversio contraception, homosexuality, masturbation, pornography and so on.

 

'Does Bennion succeed in his task? My answer is a qualified 'yes'. His ethical basis and his code seem to me basically sound. A more detailed exposition of the basis, and some drawing upon, and reference to, contemporary Aristotelians like Ayn Rand and the Objectivist School, Henry Veatch and David Norton would have improved and strengthened his case, in my view . . . I would also have quibbles with some of the specific applications of his code. Thus, while accepting that there are such things as 'perversions', i.e. dysfunctional sexual activities that can be classified as unhealthy, I am not sure that, for example, S & M activity between consenting adults should be so classified . . .

 

'By far the best section of Bennion's work is that on children and sexuality. Any attempt to broach this issue of late has increasingly been met with accusations or implications of pædophilia and child molesting. However, the attempt to deny the existence of childhood sexuality is a central part of sex-negativism, and one of the major weapons utilised by reactionaries to stifle adult sexual freedoms and expression. Bennion courageously affirms that 'children are sexual creatures and that in the process of having that sexuality denied them by adults the foundations are firmly laid for them becoming in due course themselves neurotic, perverted or malfunctioning adults'. His discussion of how that sexuality can be recognised without opening the way to the abuse of power by adults is sensitive and perceptive.

 

'Bennion's discussion of pornography is also incisive, containing a clear refutation of the "pornography causes crime" argument and a refreshing understanding of the anti-capitalist nature of those who object to the "exploitation of sex for commercial purposes". Why is such exploitation any different from the "exploitation of hunger for commercial purposes", Bennion asks. Moreover, Bennion also formulates the lesson long taught by libertarians: "Prohibition of a strongly demanded service merely ensures its provision at a debased level and high social cost". However, I would dispute another of Bennion's assertions. He argues that while there is nothing wrong with pornography per se "If love is perfect, the lovers and their present love-making fill each other's minds to the exclusion of all else". This seems to me to be open to argument. Why shouldn't "perfect lovers" want to explore all the dimensions of their sexuality by utilising pornography, either together or singly? There does seem to be an undercurrent of feeling in Bennion's work (as there is in Ayn Rand's) that somehow "recreational sex" at a physical level is morally inferior to sex imbued with romantic love. But one does not have to accept a merely physicalist interpretation of sex to hold sexual physical pleasure as a value in itself in the absence of romantic love - as an appropriate and worthy end in itself.

 

'But, whatever disagreements and suggestions for improvement I have, I heartily welcome The Sex Code. It is a readable, frequently incisive, well-argued and fundamentally correct attempt to delineate a rational and libertarian approach to matters of sex. It is a valuable addition to the armoury of all those who oppose what Bennion himself accurately terms "sexual fascism".'

- Chris R. Tame, Free Life, Issue 16, April 1992

Click here for the complete review by Chris Tame

 

Under the heading ‘Enhanced Masculinity – Christian Man to Man’ the website of an anonymous Priest writing in 2011 begins:

‘The author is a Priest trying to put together a new theology of male homosexuality. What bonds man to man is Enhanced Masculinity not Sex. Jacking off and Erotic Manplay do not need the norms of sexual morality applying to them.’

Rather surprisingly in view of that, the site later contains the following, under the heading ‘Sexual Fulfilment’:

‘Francis Bennion, in his book The Sex Code, talks about the duty of sex fulfilment. As a prelude to that he holds that we all have a duty of sexual acceptance:

“Since we are all sexual beings we should look upon our own or another’s sexual organs, functions and desires positively, with welcoming acceptance that they exist and work (the duty of sex acceptance). We should never look on them negatively, with dislike, regret or contempt.”

He makes the astute observation:

“Because of negative conditioning, guilt about the mere existence of sexuality (sex guilt) is endemic in western culture. Yet the duty of sex-acceptance means we should eschew this guilt in ourselves. Moreover we are under a duty not to implant or nurture guilt in another person.”

I feel that he really comes to the point when he makes the following statement:

“Because sexuality is an essential and vital part of the human constitution, we should develop and fulfil our sexual nature throughout life (the duty of sex-fulfilment).”

It particularly hits me with some force that he talks about this sex-fulfilment as a duty. His thinking would be that to neglect our sex-fulfilment would be to be acting immorally. He then makes a point that seems to contradict the received Christian tradition:

“Because they contravene the duty of sex-fulfilment, enduring celibacy and chastity are undesirable in the way that any other failure to fulfil one’s human potential is undesirable.”

That is food for thought, but I find that I am not so much recommending the abolition of celibacy and chastity as their transformation by a new way of understanding and practising them . . . What I have always tried to say, in fact, is that chastity is the spiritual joy, giving God thanks, that is the use of sex as a spirituality. I glory in and give praise to God for my own and my fellows’ masculinity, by enjoying it alone or in company.’

Anonymous Priest's website comment

 

Prof. Germaine Greer in replying to a letter from FB about her new book, The Boy said:

'I wish I had known of The Sex Code when I was researching The Boy. Thank you for a very interesting letter.

Received 20 Jan 2005

 

Letters and articles by FB citing The Sex Code

 

2002.023 'Prudery and Children', FB's letter published only on this website

2011.004 'Weeding out porn', The Spectator 12 March 2011