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Bringing Sex into Focus: The Quest for Sexual Integrity Paperback – January 21, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"In this thought-provoking book, philosopher and college teacher Caroline Simon seeks to bring clarity to our culture's sexual confusion. She uses helpful metaphor, optics, as a way to talk about six different lenses through which people view sex. . . . The book, written with the non-philosopher in mind, will be particularly useful for young adults searching for a way to think through sexual issues and discern the perspectives that shape media and culture." (Susan Olasky, World Magazine, February 11, 2012)

"The skeptic would argue that the Bible was written in a time and culture so different from ours that its prescriptions are no longer valid or relevant for us. But truth be told, the New Testament world was characterized by as much sexual freedom as we have today. In our age of 'whatever floats your boat,' Caroline Simon makes the virtuous life appealing, worth pursuing and ultimately profoundly satisfying." (Rebecca Manley Pippert, author of Out of the Saltshaker & into the World)

"Caroline Simon presents a balanced philosophical approach to the orthodox Christian ethics of sex for a whole new generation of wonderers. Bringing Sex into Focus is well worth your time." (Andrew Marin, author of Love Is an Orientation,

"In this fine book Caroline Simon delivers marvelously on what she promises: philosophically informed insight into the complexities of human sexuality. Not that she stays on the level of theory. There is much practical wisdom here on the 'ordinary' interactions of our highly sexualized culture: flirtation, seduction, 'hook-ups,' and much more!" (Richard J. Mouw, president and professor of Christian philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary)

"Caroline Simon defends sexual integrity, but that's not her sole intention. With clarity and care Simon describes cultural lenses used to determine what we believe about flirting, premarital sex, prostitution and other sexual behaviors. She challenges readers to avoid simplistic explanations of perspectives other than their own as she helps us understand how each leads to consistent beliefs about sexual behaviors. Simon's readable, philosophical study of sex makes an important contribution to the field." (Lisa Graham McMinn, professor of sociology and author of Sexuality and Holy Longing)

"Bringing Sex into Focus delivers on the promise of its title: clarifying the meaning of sex and sexual faithfulness. Caroline Simon describes multiple lenses--both Christian and secular--used to interpret human sexuality, and fairly brings them into dialogue with one another. The book promotes civility and fairness for Christians engaging diverse sexual views and also upholds Christian ideals. Readers will be challenged to sharpen their vision, supported by this well-researched and lucidly presented book." (Jenell Williams Paris, professor of anthropology, Messiah College, and author of The End of Sexual Identity)

"I found this to be a very readable book. The author considers a number of interesting topics from flirting and seduction to pornography and prostitution to hooking up and casual sex. One of the values of this book is it helps one to consider the extent to which someone is functioning within an alternative view with integrity. . . . These virtue distinctions are presented by the author in such a way as to help others be more honest about their sexual struggles." (Rod Bassett, Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 2014, Vol. 33, No. 2)

About the Author

Caroline J. Simon (Ph.D., University of Washington) is provost and executive vice president of Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. She was formerly the John and Jeanne Jacobson professor of philosophy and interim dean of social sciences at Hope College. Her primary teaching fields include ethics, history of ethics and interdisciplinary humanities. Simon is the author of Introduction to Ethics (Rowman & Littlefield), The Disciplined Heart (Eerdmans), and coauthor of Can Hope Endure? and Mentoring for Mission both from Eerdmans.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (January 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830836373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830836376
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Caroline J. Simon is a philosopher and ethicist. Her books and articles use stories, narratives, and images in reflecting upon human choices and character. She is the author of "Bringing Sex into Focus: The Quest for Sexual Integrity" (IVP Academic. 2012) and "The Disciplined Heart: Love, Destiny and Imagination" (Eerdmans. 1997). Her publications include many articles on moral knowledge, virtue ethics, friendship and sexuality; the most recent of these are "Just Friends, Friends and Lovers, or..." in "Sex, Love and Friendship," edited by Adrianne Leigh McEvoy (Rodopi. 2011) and "Lewis on Love" in "Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis." (Cambridge University Press. 2010). She is a Professor of Philosophy at Hope College in Holland, MI.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on March 12, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Our culture approaches sex in a variety of ways. For the more conservative view, sex is bad, until marriage, and then suddenly and magically, it is good with no explanation of how to make it good. It is difficult to find the proper balance here. I mean, it's like speaking to a child about about dangers of a gun but expecting the children to, in the proper time and place, know how and why to use it, naturally. Sex, in this view, is something hidden, dangerous, dirty. In the liberal view, it is a physical act which is about expressing power and independence. No more cultural and religious barriers to hold us back; we are free to seek pleasure in whatever way is more beneficial to us. Caroline J. Simon argues that these views aren't positive and has written a marvelous book about how to sift through these various views of sex to hone in on the proper enjoyment of it.

The thrust of Simon's work is that sex is good. After all, it is a very physical act with immediate physical positives. However, she would argue that sex behind the physicality of it produces something vital to human flourishing, both to the male and the female. Indeed, following a certain Aquinian logic, sex is what unites two souls into one, and thus, we must move beyond the succession of lenses in how we view it if we are to be successful in appropriately focusing on sex to build up our personhood. She moves past the Roman Catholic view, or the procreative view, into what she calls the covenantal view, the highest in her estimation. In this view, sex is not just about procreating (and she is absolutely sure to make sure that her Protestant readers do not misunderstand the Roman Catholic view as solely this), but about affirming one another so that there is a certain mutual spirituality present.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lynne M. Baab on February 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
Caroline Simon's writing is so clear. Reading her book is a privilege because it is a window into her thought world, characterized by straightforward, helpful and oh-so-clear analysis. She uses six "lenses" to discuss sexuality in this book: covenantal, procreative, expressive, romantic, power and "plain sex." She argues that we all use these lenses at different times when we think about (or engage in) practices including sexual intercourse inside and outside of marriage, flirting, seduction, pornography, prostitution, and homosexual sex. She analyzes these various issues related to sexuality using the six lenses, which helps the reader see the issues more clearly and also understand lots of nuances. She advocates the covenantal lens as the primary lens that Christians should use to think about sexuality - sexual intercourse in the context of a life-long commitment. But she says that most people use other lenses as well, and that we should use them to some extent.

My favorite part of the book was Simon's discussion of chastity. We are chaste when our experience of and involvement with sexuality is whole, life-giving, rich and full. We can be chaste as single people or as married people. Simon describes chastity as much more than a synonym for virginity. Chastity is "the virtue that helps us focus our sexual energies on committed relationships" but is also "the successful integration of sexuality within a person that results in inner unity between bodily and spiritual being." Chastity enables a person "to use one's sexual powers intelligently in the pursuit of human flourishing and happiness."

Here's a longer quotation: "Chastity allow us to take our sexuality with us wherever we go without treating other people as collections of sexualized body parts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Justin Farley on February 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
I would recommend Caroline J. Simon's "Bringing Sex into Focus: The Quest for Sexual Integrity." I was provided a copy of the book in a special pre-release directly from IVP Academic for review purposes. You can pre-order a paperback copy for under $11 at ( or directly from the publisher at [...].

I am a bit disappointed with her chapter dedicated to homosexuality. Though this book is largely an ethical and philosophical study, this particular chapter seemed to walk a strange tightrope rather than ask the more direct biblical passages as well as the difficult methodical questions (such as, "How is Christ calling the church to repsond to this community of persons?").

That being said, her chapter on Sex as a Commodity was a valuable one. She writes, "Sex always expresses something, and what it expresses in pornography subordination of women. Pornography doesn't just mirror this inequality - it is an active agent in the creation of the subordination of women. MacKinnon claims that 'what pornography DOES goes beyond its content: it eroticizes hierarchy; it sexualizes inequality. It makes dominance and submission into sex" (149).

She goes on to write, "Pornography enlists its consumers to engage, over and over, in having 'sex with another without having to directly interact with, or be accountable to, the sexual other.' Pornography teaches them to expect that women want to be mere objects of someone else's arousal. Consequently, the use of pornography is rehearsal for sexual narcissism. What we rehearse over and over affects who we become.
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