It has been argued elsewhere (Halstead 1996b) that the best way to come to understand the educational values of any society is to examine the broader framework of values in that society. We therefore begin Part 2 with a discussion of liberalism, which, we contend, provides the theoretical framework of values that comes closest to reflecting the actual political, legal and economic circumstances that prevail in western societies generally. Liberal values influence both the way we think about sex and the way we think about education, and so it is inevitable that they permeate the theory and practice of sex education.
Most serious writing about sexual values in the western world positions itself in a framework of liberal thinking. In Sex and Social Justice (1999), for example, Nussbaum explores concepts such as personhood, autonomy, rights, dignity and self-respect in her discussions of issues including homosexuality, pornography and prostitution. Drawing extensively on Aristotle, Kant and Mill, she argues that the liberal tradition holds rich resources for addressing violations of human dignity on the grounds of sex or sexuality. As we saw in Chapter 2, Giddens argues that the transformation of intimacy that is taking place in contemporary society involves the principle of autonomy and the 'democratisation of personal life' (1992: ch. 10). This implies that the democratic ideals of the liberal state, including the right to free and equal self-development, respect for others, the right to freedom from oppression and values such as trust and accountability, are increasingly becoming features of personal relationships, lifestyles and forms of partnership. Wilson (1995) argues that love and sexual relations are best when they occur between equals and involve an equal sharing of self. Although promising 'a radically different stance' from most writing on the theme of sexual values, Weeks (1995) also emphasises 'democratic principles and values' including freedom of choice, equal opportunities, authenticity and toleration. In the virtues of care, responsibility, respect and knowledge he finds a system of values in