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  1. This kind of critique of pornography as a commodification and instrumentalization of sex and relationships has been most elaborated in Catholic philosophy and theology going back to Augustine and various classical sources. In this traditional view, which Luther and Calvin shared, any attempt to artificially neutralize the reproductive aspect of sex also instrumentalizes sex. If this is done in the name of economic necessity or convenience, however genuine or sincere that motive may be, it still entails making the market of economic individuals the “lord” of sex. No doubt this apparent conflict between spiritual ideals and pragmatic material realities explains the anxiety and longevity of controversies over contraception among Christians, even — surprisingly or not so surprisingly — contemporary Protestant traditionalists. How far do you take the principle that sex (and all relationships) should not be instrumentalized (reduced to use-value) in the right ordering of our affections?

    1. That’s a great question. I’d have to think about it more to give a better response. But off the cuff, it seems to me that there is obviously some instrumental aspect to relationships, and probably even to sex. The problem probably comes, as you said, in ‘reducing’ sex and relationships merely to their use-value. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think we want to remove use-value entirely from the sex/relationship question, but we also don’t want to have that be the only, or even the dominant, factor. Augustine would probably say it depends more on what we want to use it for–though an element of enjoying it for its own sake remains (especially if we ‘use’ it rightly, that is, to honor God, who created things). That seems potentially right to me–but I’m leery of talking that way in our current context, which has a very different understanding of ‘use’ than did Augustine.

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