Document Type




Format of Original

9 p.

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Source Publication

Heythrop Journal

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Original Item ID

doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2007.00369.x


Some of the causes of the 'sexual revolution' during the past few decades are widely known: The development of relatively safe and reliable contraceptives, especially the birth-control pill; the 'morning after' pill; antibiotics to relieve or cure sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, herpes, and syphilis; the increased social acceptance of pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and other behaviors that formerly were considered deviant; and the legalization of abortion as the ultimate 'contraceptive'. But little attention has been paid to two rather cerebral factors relevant to these developments – namely, ethical theories, and theories of overpopulation. In this paper I will argue that these two less well-known and more subtle factors have been at least as powerful as the more obvious factors mentioned above, in bringing about sea-changes in sexual mores. More specifically, I will argue that some implicit approaches to ethical theory are more conducive than others to bringing about the present status quo in sexual mores, and that the widespread belief in world overpopulation has not only changed the moral climate regarding sexuality, but has helped to redefine what is moral and what is immoral.


Accepted version. Heythrop Journal, Vol. 49, No. 3 (May 2008):361-369. DOI. © 2008 Wiley. Used with permission.

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