It is simply not possible to produce, much less promulgate and insist upon uniform adherence to, a code of sexual ethics that applies to interactions with persons one barely knows, to whom one has no binding obligations, guided only by the barometer that measures the chance of getting your rocks off. Even the standard of consent, according to which sexual behavior becomes a kind of economic activity governed according to contract law, is not exhaustive enough to account for the infinite variety of situations in which people acting outside ancient constraints might find themselves. Sex becomes a question of interpreting signals, of arithmancy or rune-casting. Inevitably signs are going to be misinterpreted, often willfully because other people are, frankly speaking, vile.

I am not under the illusion that millions of Americans are only one more #MeToo revelation from professing belief that fornication and adultery are immoral and the sexual act is only licit in the context of lifelong marriage (and even there subject to numerous well-established constraints). But I do think that we are approaching a point at which people are getting increasingly fed up with sex, wishing for a broader, more inclusive understanding of what it means to be human than “someone who, with permission or having given it, wants to interact in a variety of ways with other people’s private parts.”