Heard more than your fill on the subject of Roman Polanski these days? You’ll find today’s On the Square article a fine digestif; Carson Holloway breaks down the issues underneath the pop controversy:

The embrace of sexual liberation necessarily diminishes our horror for rape, and contemporary Hollywood has been nothing if not ardent in its embrace of sexual liberation.

Traditional sexual morality depended on the assumption that human sexuality possessed an objective moral nature and seriousness that all human beings were obliged to respect and that society itself was entitled to protect through law and custom. Sexual liberation rejected such notions, claiming instead that in matters of sex the acts of consenting adults were none of society’s business. That is, the sexual liberation movement denied sex all intrinsic moral content and reduced sexual morality to the requirement that the consent of the participating parties be respected. The problem, however, is that once traditional sexual morality has been swept away, it is not clear that a solid respect for consent can be maintained.

Sexual liberation’s inability to sustain its initial insistence on consent can be traced to a certain tension, if not an outright contradiction, in the case for sexual liberation. On the one hand, we are told that what consenting adults do together is no one else’s business because sex is no big deal. Society was wrong all along to think that it mattered enough to regulate with such strictness. On the other hand, the very notion that sex is no big deal seems to be undermined by the case for sexual liberation itself. If sex is really no big deal, then why does it matter that it should be liberated?

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