Exploring the sexual revolution with Timothy Sedgwick

Exploring the sexual revolution with Timothy Sedgwick

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Human sexuality is seen as a matter of respect for human dignity and of individual choice as long as those choices do not harm others. But what should inform decisions about sexual relations and, most fundamentally, what has sex to do with anything else?

In June we welcome Timothy Sedgwick of the Virginia Theological Seminary to deliver a course exploring just that. Considering a history of the transformation of desire, body and society, and the aftermath of the revolution, this course runs 13th – 14th June 2016 and will be an open forum for ideas and discussion.

As we edge closer to June, we spoke to Timothy to find out a little more about his ideas, his work and what we can expect from The Sexual Revolution and the Revolution of Sexuality.

What impact has the sexual revolution had upon contemporary life? How does it affect us today?

Revolutions are literally turning things around. An old order was broken apart. Culture is sexualized in creative, conflicting, and confusing ways. At all levels of society, we have to make sense of questions of desire and intimacy, gender, and roles and relations. As a revolution, everything continues to turn, our perspectives change, and we have no clear bearings. At the same time we must act, and we can't walk in a straight line.

Where do its origins lie and what other factors allowed or prompted it?

Modern culture breaks the bonds of pre-industrial society. The industrial revolution turns into the digital revolution. But the social revolution is only part of the transformation of human sexuality. The origins are far earlier and lie in the revolution in late antiquity where sex becomes the ideogram of the heart, the seat of desire for intimacy, the focus of concern, a matter of restraint, and the place of hope for freedom, authenticity, and fulfilment.

Is the sexual revolution now over?

Every action results in a reaction. Once in motion, a revolution continues to turn and seems to turn every faster in creative, conflicting, and confusing ways.

You watch the film Kinsey as part of the course. How does that tie in and what discussions are you hoping it provokes?

The Kinsey studies on human sexuality created arguably the first, broad public discussion of human sexuality, of the nature of sexual response and what people actually do. The film also nicely reflects the range of responses to the sexual revolution. I hope that will be entertaining and provide the opportunity for further discussion on our own various responses to what has happened.

What are your particular areas of interest? 

I'm interested in ‘traditioning’, on how meaning is passed on, received, created. This is a matter of culture, practices, ritual processes, texts, reading, critical thought, and the list goes on. Academically, this means my interest is in hermeneutics, but that doesn't really tell the story. 

What makes Gladstone’s Library a good setting for the course?

Libraries are places for a retreat of the mind, to discover with others and see anew. We will discover in conversation with others.

Timothy Sedgwick is Professor of Christian Ethics at the Virginia Theological Seminary and a prolific author and editor. His published works include The Christian Moral Life: Practices of Piety and Sex, Moral Teaching, and the Unity of the Church: A Study of the Episcopal Church.

The Sexual Revolution and the Revolution of Sexuality takes place Monday, 13th – Tuesday, 14th June 2016 at Gladstone’s Library. Find the full course programme here.

Residential prices start from £101, non-residential from £80. Discount rates for clergy and students apply. For more information or to book, please call 01244 532350 or email enquiries@gladlib.org.