Food and Sex: A polar reversal in 50 years

JP: I hesitated to post this but I think 4BYA readers are mature enough for the content. Neither author is, as far as I know, a believer in Christ. George Will cites Mary Eberstadt’s longer article. I encourage readers to view both, but above all to view God’s Word alone as the authority!

The point of the Mary Eberstadt article and the George Will commentary is how dramatically our society’s mores have shifted in just two generations. Betty illustrates your Grandmother’s generation and Jennifer represents the prevailing views of your contemporaries outside of Christ.

Grandma’s generation saw that premarital sex was wrong – immoral! Jennifer’s generation sees being unfit and eating poorly is immoral.

Eberstadt’s article sums up the difference:

Betty thinks food is a matter of taste, whereas sex is governed by universal moral law; and Jennifer thinks exactly the reverse.

Our challenge is to submit to the authority of God’s Word. The quotation from Hebrews 13:4 sums up nicely God’s view of marriage and sexuality.

Links to the full articles follow:

George Will: Prudes at Dinner, Gluttons in Bed


In 50 years, Eberstadt writes, for many people “the moral poles of sex and food have been reversed.” Today, there is, concerning food, “a level of metaphysical attentiveness” previously invested in sex; there are more “schismatic differences” about food than about (other) religions.

Mary Eberstadt: Is Food the New Sex?


The opprobrium reserved for gluttony, for example, seems to have little immediate force now, even among believers. On the rare occasions when one even sees the word, it is almost always used in a metaphorical, secular sense.

Similarly, and far more consequential, the longstanding religious prohibitions in every major creed against extramarital sex have rather famously loosed their holds over the contemporary mind. Of particular significance, perhaps, has been the movement of many Protestant denominations away from the sexual morality agreed upon by the previous millennia of Christendom.

To begin to see just how recent and dramatic this change is, let us imagine some broad features of the world seen through two different sets of eyes: a hypothetical 30-year-old housewife from 1958 named Betty, and her hypothetical granddaughter Jennifer, of the same age, today.

For Betty, the ground rules of her time — which she both participates in and substantially agrees with — are clear: Just about every exercise of sex outside marriage is subject to social (if not always private) opprobrium. Wavering in and out of established religion herself, Betty nevertheless clearly adheres to a traditional Judeo-Christian sexual ethic. Thus, for example, Mr. Jones next door “ran off” with another woman, leaving his wife and children behind; Susie in the town nearby got pregnant and wasn’t allowed back in school; Uncle Bill is rumored to have contracted gonorrhea; and so on. None of these breaches of the going sexual ethic is considered by Betty to be a good thing, let alone a celebrated thing. They are not even considered to be neutral things. In fact, they are all considered by her to be wrong.

Jennifer’s approach to sex is just about 180 degrees different. She too disapproves of the father next door who left his wife and children for a younger woman; she does not want to be cheated on herself, or to have those she cares about cheated on either. These ground-zero stipulations, aside, however, she is otherwise laissez-faire on just about every other aspect of nonmarital sex. She believes that living together before marriage is not only morally neutral, but actually better than not having such a “trial run.”

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