FOR FIDELITY by Catherine M. Wallace


How Intimacy and Commitment Enrich Our Lives
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 Five essays that articulate a thoughtful ethic, and to some extent a theology, of ``sexual fidelity in long-term, committed relationships.'' A former English professor and mother of three, Wallace draws upon both literary and religious sources (particularly Coleridge and the contemporary theologian Stanley Hauerwas) in trying to help parents steer their children between ``simpleminded hedonism [and] . . . simpleminded repression.'' Sex is about far more than physical or even emotional intimacy, she insists; it is about a unique one-to-one capacity for vulnerability and compassion. Thus, regulating one's sexual behavior involves a discipline that is grounded in our capacity for ethical living (``sexual promiscuity is a subtle but profound variety of dishonesty,'' Wallace forthrightly proclaims) and for holiness. She slips only in conflating fidelity with abstinence for adolescents (surely the young person's age and maturity, as well as the nature of the relationship, are important variables here) and in insisting that all casual sex, even among singles is ``mutually exploitative and ultimately self-denigrating.'' Why this need be so is never really spelled out; after all, for some married and unmarried couples, what the author might characterize as casual sex at or near the beginning of their relationship proved a gateway to trust, love, and commitment. But even if one doesn't agree with some of Wallace's points, one cannot help but appreciate her book. Her efforts to view sexuality in the broadest possible ethical, religious, and cultural contexts are clear-headed, well formulated, and sometimes profound. They're also helpful not only for guiding children and adolescents during an era too often characterized by ``situation ethics'' and a fear of making hard moral judgments, but also for influencing one's own behavior in intimate relationships.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-375-40079-6
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1998