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Men, Women, and Marriage in Contemporary Culture

It’s hard not to take for granted our culture’s most basic assumptions about sexuality, marriage, and family—to think of them as being as natural as the air we breathe; undeniable; in need of no defense. Most people assume, for example, that the main value of sex is in its power to please and to foster affection; that marriage and family are whatever we make of them; that seeing deeper meaning in sex, or unchosen duties in family life, would be superstitious, and maybe devastating in its effects.

But these assumptions are questionable and, in historical terms, quite novel. How we think about sex and family shapes most of our lives very deeply. We have every reason to haul our assumptions about both into the light, to think about them critically, and to make up our own minds. The readings for this seminar are picked out to help us do just that. They’re meant to help us step back from our default ideas about sex, marriage, and family and to empower us to imagine alternatives.

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