Sex, Ethics, and Communication: New Book

Dr. Valerie V. Peterson (Communication Studies) has been featured in the Grand Rapids Press and on WGVU Radio talking about her new book “Sex, Ethics, and Communication”. The book thoughtfully and candidly considers how communication and ethics are an integral part of successful sexual intimacy.

“There is so much public talk about sex, but very little theory behind it, and very little talk about responsibility and decency toward sexual partners, be they spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, or relative strangers,” Petersen says.  “If sex for humans were as simple as it is for animals, there would be no need to consider the ethics of sex, or how communication relates to sex.  But humans are not like other animals.  Our understandings of what we do are affected by the environments we live in and the ways we talk.  Willingness to address sexual matters makes a person more of a lover: that is, more of a loving person, rather than less of one.”

Peterson designed her book for a wide audience, from parents with teenage children who could use a secular but responsible book to help them talk about sex with their kids, to young adults interested in making smart choices, to older adults trying to make sense of the interpersonal scene, to married couples interested in better negotiating sex as an interpersonal activity, to marriage and family therapists, to college professors looking for a more humane treatment of sexuality, or a more sexual treatment of interpersonal communication and ethics than existing textbooks offer.

“Young people are admonished about sex, and are told to wait until circumstances are ideal,” Petersen adds. “All the while, popular culture, advertisements and pornography sing a different tune.  At some point, young people get older and most of them have sex.  I would hope they make humane and responsible choices, especially when different values come into conflict and when much is at stake.”

Peterson doesn’t tell people what they should do, but she does discuss the problems of hypocrisy and lack of care.  In her book, bravery and honesty are virtues.

“Sex, Ethics, and Communication” is available at the Kirkhof Library at GVSU and in the Kent District Library System.  It can be previewed and/or purchased for $24.95 at, or for purchased for $31.95 at the GVSU bookstore and