My research will address a significant UU theme, how to make more explicit connections between spirituality and sexuality. I examine OWL in the UU context as my main example of how to do this creative work, which provides an opportunity to ground UU’s sex-positive approach in theology (and to contrast this perspective with other religious views that regard sexuality with more suspicion). Questions I consider include: What does it mean to have a UU spiritual conception of sexual ethics, and what is distinctive about that spiritual sexual ethic? How does our experience as embodied, sexual beings contribute to an understanding of UU spirituality and vice versa? What theological statements and discussions help us to view bodies as intrinsically good as opposed to shameful? Since OWL is one of the distinguishing features of UU identity, by foregrounding theology in sexual education, UUs can help to solidify their identity and story, and feel like a part of an ongoing legacy. Part of this legacy includes exposing the Christian origins of a Western approach that has viewed sexuality with shame and suspicion. Thus, secular progressive perspectives on sexuality are not enough; we desperately need sex-positive, theological ones. I firmly believe UU is the most fertile soil for delineating this Christian history and articulating an alternative, spiritually-based sexual ethic. UUs can also be role models to other progressive religious communities, showing them how to better provide a spiritual identity connected to sexuality and embodiment, and to communicate an explicit set of religious values.
I also argue that there is not an explicit religious liberal framework that can be clearly articulated in the public square. I believe that UU principles can be valuable for framing these arguments. For instance, the UU principle which states that “all people need a voice,” could be used to include young people’s perspectives that have hitherto been ignored during public controversies. Grounded in empirical research and theology, the argument can be made that including their concerns and interests will make sexual education more relevant to their lives and therefore more effective. Those skeptical of religion can begin to understand that there is not just one faith-based, conservative perspective on sexuality. In fact, I argue that people are hungry for such alternative, theologically grounded interpretations. In a pluralistic society where more people claim a “spiritual but not religious,” identity, UU is perfectly situated to speak to this quickly growing audience in spiritual terms, especially because of its facility with multiple traditions.
Katia Moles is a doctoral candidate at the Graduate Theological Union in the area of Ethics and Social Theory with a research focus on sexual education in public schools and religious communities. I have designed and taught a number of related courses, including Sex Ed and the Seminary: Theory and Practice for Leaders in Spiritual Communities, and Reproductive Justice Discourses. This research project is supported by the Fund for Nurturing Unitarian Universalist Scholarship.