Here below is a long essay I wrote back in 2009 under the general title Apologia Pro Opere Sui.
On the Sexual Nature of Man
* * *
As a faithful Roman Catholic who was an atheist for all his adult life (and most of his childhood) I occupy an interesting position in the ongoing debates concerning the social turmoil caused by sexual unchastity, particularly that unchaste practice which issues forth from what is delicately called same-sex attraction.
One is tempted automatically to assume that atheists should support or ought to support the sexually liberated position that declares all sexual acts licit between two or more consenting adult partners in their right wits. One is tempted to assume that no rational grounds to condemn sexual libertinism exist, aside from the dogmas and supernatural reasoning of Christian theology.
This temptation must be resisted at all costs, since not only is it untrue, it is foolish, for the drives the conversation out of the realm of natural and logical reasons to avoid sexual immorality and into the realm of the supernatural and theological. Once the issue is falsely labeled as a theological one, it is falsely libeled as an issue where all discussion is offlimits for being a personal matter of irrational faith, then the topic is ejected forthwith from the public forum.
Allow me, then, to give a personal account of how it was that I, resting only on my human reason and with no particle of loyalty to or faith in any theological speculations (which, at the time, I frankly dismissed as egregious and base superstition), was drawn step by step against my will and very much against my inclinations away from the comfortable libertine and libertarian opinions of my youth to the conclusion that the sex act is licit only within marriage, that unchastity is illicit, and that unnatural sexual acts are illicit as well as unnatural.
There are perfectly natural and worldly reasons for a rational atheist to support the Christian position on sexual morality. The following argument shows that the Christian position is the only logical position to hold, given the realities of human nature.
One a personal level, I did not change my conclusions about sexual morality because I became a Christian. The cause and effect was the other way. After cold logic lead me to the conclusions that the only logical position to hold just so happened to be the one held by my (at that time) hated enemies the Christians, I began to look at their egregious and base superstition with a less hostile gaze.
In order to make sense of the argument that persuaded me to change the conclusions of my youth and early adulthood, I must make mention of what my conclusions were. Forgive the length of this, but the field is rife with misunderstanding, I would rather impose on the patience of my readers than mislead them by omitting a crucial point.
I should explain at the outset that I was (and to the degree not incompatible with Christian faith, still am) a Stoic, a follower of the writings of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and others. The Stoics persuaded me concerning the necessity of self-control, the objectivity of the morals, and the utility of the virtues.
Stoics are somewhat of a morbid school of thought: their primary concern is how best to live one’s life in preparation for an honorable and tranquil death, an eventuality they contemplate with equanimity, even favor. The examples of Socrates in the Crito or Cato of Utica are constantly in the thoughts of a true Stoic. I mention this because the thinking here is not hedonist, nor Epicurean, nor eudaemonist: the argument that something should be done because it is pleasant, or because it extends life, is not within their contemplation. Any argument issuing from Hedonistic roots need not be addressed here. For this argument, all that need be established is that there are non-Christians who are also not hedonists, and I was one such.
1.1. ON SELF CONTROL
The Stoics reason as follows: of things, some are within our control, and others are not. Things within our control include the reason, which is the seat of logic and judgment, the passions, which is the seat of honor and virtue (good habits or bad), and the appetites, which is the seat of desire. Things not within our control include externals: your flesh, your money, your rank in society, your reputation in the eyes of others, the fortunes of war, whether you are healthy or sick, whether you live or die. You can influence these things only indirectly; you can try, but you cannot be assured of success.
Even a cursory inspection of the human condition provides us with ample experience that the passion and appetites cannot be controlled unless habituated. One cannot, merely by a momentary effort of will, create or put aside a passion or an appetite, until and unless those passions and appetites are by long habit of self discipline subject to the sovereignty of the reason. The power to put aside unreasonable passions and appetites is called “virtue” (indeed, originally, the word “virtue” simply meant “power.”)
Because it is unusual to make a distinction between passions and appetites, let me emphasize the difference. The word “appetite” here is being used to mean a self-centered desire for a specific physical pleasure: lust is the appetite for copulation, thirst is the appetite for drink, hunger the appetite for food, and so on. “Passion” by contrast is not necessarily self-centered, and is not necessarily satisfied by any physical pleasure: the desire of a bold soldier for glory in combat, for example, or the desire for a mother to protect her children, or the desire of a friend to come to the aid of his friend, or the desire of a patriot to see his home and nation honored. Many, if not most, passions are connected to imponderables: love and loneliness, shame and honor, glory and humility are matters that concern the passions.
Unlike the brute beasts, a man can train and domesticate his passions to serve his reason rather than his appetite. I do not see the need to dwell further on this point: the literature and philosophy of all mankind through all history dwells primarily on the human condition, of which the tension between these three parts of the mind is the primary reality. A skeptic unconvinced of this point is directed toward those writings.
That man has a duty to so domesticate his passions to serve his reason we can deduce from the raw fact that the appetites are a multitude of contradictory desires, easily able to be inconsistent with surrounding facts of reality. If I desire to keep my cake and eat it too, the reason must arbitrate which desire shall prevail, since both cannot. If I desire to eat the moon, the reason must put aside that desire, since reality will not comply.
Some desires are vain, and it is vain to pursue them.
From this we can conclude that, even from a merely utilitarian motive of arranging our desires so as to satisfy them in the greatest number, or by the highest priority, or in the most efficient fashion possible, self-control is a necessary, indeed, an inescapable duty of any human being. Since this self-control cannot be effectuated by an instant effort of will, or even by a shallow-rooted and momentary conviction, it must be pursued by a recurring habit. This habit is called virtue, and the success of this habituation is also called virtue. The absence of virtue, i.e. self-indulgence, is called vice.
1.2. ON THE OBJECTIVITY OF MORALS
Even a cursory inspection of the human condition provides us ample evidence that there is a moral component to virtue and vice. Aside from the merely practical arrangement of the passions and appetites needed in order to sate one’s hungers efficiently, the reason makes a judgment on the fitness, wholesomeness, goodness or righteousness of the passion or appetite. The seat of moral judgment is called the conscience.
There are those who claim these judgments are relative, or arbitrary, or are the by-product of Darwinian social evolution, or are the product of a programming imposed by economic class-interests. Their claim is that the judgments of the conscience either have no jurisdiction outside a narrow sphere, or have no jurisdiction at all. Their claim, simply put, is that all moral judgments are subjective, therefore illegitimate. To prefer virtue to vice (so the argument goes) is as arbitrary and personal a judgment as to prefer pie to cake.
We can dismiss the claim that moral judgments are all subjective merely by inquiring whether or not we ought to inquire into the claim.
Ought we to inquire whether or not all moral judgments are subjective?
If the answer is no, the question is closed.
If the answer is yes, then ought we to make this inquiry honestly, or dishonestly?
If the answer is that we ought to make this inquiry dishonestly, then (a fortiori) we are not bound the results. For a dishonest thinker is under no moral obligation to accept a conclusion to which his logic drives him; even if he loses the argument, a dishonest thinker is not under a duty to change his mind or mend his ways. For what will impose the moral duty upon the dishonest thinker to conform his thoughts to the conclusions dictated by reason? Why must he be truthful even to himself? Why listen to his conscience?
If the answer is that we ought to make this inquiry honestly, we necessarily thereby acknowledge at least one universal moral duty: the duty to think honestly. This duty is universal because the only other possibility, that we have no duty to think honestly, is not something we honestly can think.
So we can at the minimum conclude that there is at least one moral duty to which the conscience prompts us, and this duty is a universal, which means it is an absolute, which means that the statement that all moral duties are relative is false.
1.3. ON VIRTUE
We said above that virtue consists of domesticating the passions and appetites to the reason; but this phrase is empty unless we establish where and what the reason dictates.
Prudence is the prime virtue for it is the ability to use the reason to assess the proper and proportionate action when a moral quandary arises. It is the general term for the ability to avoid emotional or rash decisions, and to avoid the opposite error of being too dispassionate, inert, and slothful to real provocation. Prudence is commonly called common sense, and it is the most uncommon of all the virtues.
Courage and fortitude are passions employed to confront dangers. This passion is used to overcome the opposite appetite of physical fear, which is the craving for personal physical safety. (We use the same word, courage, to refer to the passion used to overcome the opposite passion to avoid real but imponderable threats to emotional wellbeing, such as shame or humiliation.) The reason can judge whether a risk is worth facing, but unless the passions are habituated to follow the reason, a mere sense of rage and honor, or a mere sense of self-preservation, will make a man flee when he should stand, or stand when he should flee. An imbalance of courage and fortitude is either cowardice or recklessness, depending on whether the passion is insufficient or excessive.
Temperance and moderation are the virtues referring to restriction the passions and appetites to proportionate indulgence or proper, just or fitting times and places and means of pursuing them. An absence of temperance is intemperance.
Prudence is the general term for the common sense, sound judgment and sense of proportion needed before any man can arrange the passions to be fit, proper, and proportionate to the situation, as in, not to react with excessive fear to minor threats nor to react with understated fear to dire threats, nor to react with excessive and undue longing for minor pleasures, nor to treat with neglect major and lifelong joys, and so on. An absence of prudence is folly.
Justice is the virtue restricting the appetite of self-interest of the passion of factional loyalty to its proper sphere, so that neither self-love nor love of one’s own will interfere with the rational judgment concerning strangers and rivals and enemies. Justice is rendering reward, penalty, courtesy, and dignity each according to his merit, rather than to the interests or personal loyalties of the judge. An absence of justice is injustice, or partiality
Chastity is nothing more nor less than justice, moderation, prudence, or fortitude in reference to the sexual passions and appetites.
1.4. LAW AND CUSTOM
Even a cursory inspection of the human condition reveals two opposing tensions. On the one hand, it is not possible for tribes of our race to live together in peace without laws to punish and customs to instruct. Laws by formal sanction alone are insufficient: a consensus is necessary, and is enforced by a thousand informal, often tiny, sanctions and influences. You cannot pass a law even on so trivial a matter as the speed limit, and expect the mass of subjects to obey it, if that limit is not also something they customarily would obey even in the absence of a sanction. Laws, in other words, cannot lead the herd: at best the laws can drive stragglers back into the main mass. The mass determines the direction of the herd.
The Libertine position states baldly that none except the two (or more) persons engaged in the sexual acts have any interest or right to dictate terms; no one can forbid or qualify what the lovers seek. Nonetheless, the Libertine position still allows for a legal sanction against sex outside the established bounds of its position (no child pornography, for example), and this would imply, since otherwise the law is a dead letter, that the consensus of society must by informal custom enforce certain norms.
This implies not only that the individual conscience must be sensitive to violations of the boundaries of the sexual code, but that there must be a social conscience as well, an unspoken and semi-voluntary mass agreement.
DO AS THOU WILT
In my youth, my state of mind back when I was a card-carrying member of the Sexual Revolution was as follows: Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand, not to mention Hugh Hefner, had persuaded me to adopt the moral standard that all sexual acts were licit if between consenting adults and creating no harm to others.
The libertarian writers in particular urged me (with success) to adopt that standard that the laws must place all matters of sexual morality outside their orbit, except that marriage should be treated like a contract, revocable at will, and containing only those provisions the private parties shall mutually agree, the clauses being severable at will.
A logical outgrowth of these two conclusions was that homosexuality, both the desire and the sexual acts, were licit, as was also incest between two adults, or polygamy between more than two.
Let us call this the Libertine position. Although other more accurate and less flattering terms suggest themselves, I don’t want to cloud the waters with a merely terminological dispute.
How could I be both a Stoic and a Libertine? Absent some additional proposition, there is no necessary conflict. The Libertine position specifically outlaws three types of sexual passion: (1) sex with non-adults (2) sex without the consent of the partner and (3) sex leading to some other harm to a third party (self-imposed harm, by these terms, is allowed: you may licitly have the Marquis come by and beat you with a whip, if that is what floats your boat). Lawyers will note that case (2) encompasses case (1) since minors cannot give legally valid consent.
Hence, even for a libertine, there is a need to have the passions and appetites restricted to a defined sphere of licit sex. Examples include: that the moment you discover that you have venereal disease, you expose your partner to an unacceptable risk, ergo you must check your impulses. Likewise, the moment you discover your paramour is one month shy of the age of majority; or too drunk to give legally binding and informed consent; or is married to another and hence not at liberty to give consent; under all these cases, even the Libertine position demands that virtue moderate or quell the sexual passions, base or sublime, even if it is true love you are forsaking.
The erosion of my loyalty to this position was in a series of questions. I began to wonder why some things were in the bounds and others out of bounds.
THE BOUNDS OF THE QUESTION
Since the logic of even the Libertine position demands the subordination of the sexual passions to the reason, we need not long dwell on what might be called the Romanticist position.
Romanticists say that Love Conquers All: the sexual impulse is too strong to be checked, or is determined by genetics, or that it is unjust for some other reason to demand virtue or self-control in sexual matters.
Usually, the Romanticist argument is used to excuse only the form of sexual deviance being defended in the particular argument, since there can be found to be some sexual desires beyond the pale even of those most tolerant of sexual deviation. This is a rhetorical tactic, not a reasoned position, and we need not pause except to dismiss it. A partisan of the Sexual Revolution who, if any exist, sincerely maintaining that sex acts with children, dogs, corpses, other men’s wives and the children, or, for that matter, the corpses of dogs of other men’s wive’s children, in violation both of common prudence and simple justice, must have their argument fail merely on the terms of the absence of consent and the presence of harm.
A prudent magistrate, without even making a moral judgment concerning the sex act itself, must outlaw adultery and bigamy on the grounds that these violate the common peace by breaching solemn contracts.
Since the Romanticist position need not detain us, the question whether the reason ought to check the sexual passions through virtue no longer arises: the only question is where the boundaries fall.
Only two basic positions need concern us, since the other positions are variations on the main two: The Libertine position and the Matrimonial position. The Libertines draw the dividing line at the act of consent and the consequence of harm. Any sexual act inside the boundary of harmless mutual consent is licit. Any outside is illicit. The Matrimonial position draws the divided line at matrimony. Any sexual act inside the boundary of marriage is licit. Any outside is illicit.
Let us assume for this argument that we are only discussing consensual matrimony. If someone wishes to argue that sex within a marriage where the woman does not consent is licit, we can address that at another time. For the moment, that falls outside the boundary of the Libertine position, and lawyers would rightly call that rape or concubinage.
Note that this assumption places the Matrimonial position entirely inside the Libertine position, like a citadel inside a walled city. The disputed ground is everything within the walls yet outside the citadel: non-Matrimonial sex. The technical term for such sex acts, in law, is fornication. Fornication includes what common law defined as seduction, adultery, bigamy, and unnatural acts. Incest between adults falls here also.
4. THE QUESTIONS
4.1. IS MARRIAGE A CONTRACT?
The Libertine position posits that marriage is a contract only, revocable at the will of either party, even if the other party is not at fault. The reason for this is that the licit nature of the sex act rests on the consent of the parties: when the consent is withdrawn, the sex is no longer licit.
As a contract, the terms exist only as what the parties signatory so agree. So, for example, if Ayn Rand wishes to have sexual liaison with Nathaniel Branden, the affair is licit (according to the Libertine position) provided only that her husband and his wife provide an informed consent. If marriage is a contract only, the provision that one’s spouse “forsake all others” is open to renegotiation. For a foursome in an open marriage, the adultery is licit.
As a contract, the terms bind only the signatories. So, to use a completely hypothetical example, if a hypothetical and imaginary character named Mark Sanford is married and his paramour Maria from Argentina is not, and she further has never signed a legally binding document promising otherwise, she is free to form a sexual liaison with him. He is in violation of his contract, but his guilt is not shared with her. For her, adultery is licit. If licit, then no one, not even Mrs. Sanford, has the right to criticize or condemn her acts, and for Mrs. Sanford to display offense at Maria from Argentina would be unjust, even petulant.
The first doubt concerning the Libertine position surfaced when these conclusions intruded itself onto my reluctant awareness. In theory, the adultery of Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden should have worked out to the satisfaction of all parties involved. Instead the opposite happened: Rand and Branden became bitter enemies to the end of her life.
It did not work out in that particular case, nor in any similar case that can be brought to mind. Why not?
Part of the answer is that marriage is not a contract. A contract is a meeting of the minds on such terms as the parties shall mutually agree for the exchange of goods and services or other consideration of value. Contracts have no moral or legal force outside their terms.
One example should suffice to show the difference. Suppose Mr. A makes a deal with Mr. B that, starting noon on Monday, Mr. A will buy lumber from and only from the lumberyard of Mr. B, forsaking all others. Mr. A buys a load of lumber from yard C that same Monday, but at eleven o’clock. Is he in violation of any provision of the contract, or by the word or the spirit? Has he betrayed or wounded Mr. B in any way? Can Mr. B make any claim for which relief at law can be granted? The answer is no.
By coincidence, this same Mr. A was planning to marry Miss D that same day, also at noon. Five minutes before the wedding is scheduled to take place, Miss D walks in on her promised bridegroom. He is standing with his trousers around his ankles vigorously coupling with one of the bridesmaids, Miss E, whose skirts are about her ears and her ankles about his ears. If the marriage were a contract, Miss D would have no more right to criticize or condemn his behavior than does Mr. B the lumberman. And yet no one of ordinary prudence would suggest she continue with the wedding at this point: we might even think her emotions insincere or unrelated to reality if her reaction were calm and understated.
No sober argument can be raised that Mr. A is not betraying Miss D in this case, assuming the marriage was sincere to begin with. I will return to this point later, but for the moment, let us merely observe that an injustice has been done Miss D, even if she herself is completely nonchalant. As his fiancée, it would not be in her best interest to consent to the copulation between Mr. A and the bridesmaid, even if she had been consulted: nor is the matter neutral and unrelated to her interests. Mr. A cannot in good faith say (while he gasps in his pleasures) “We are not married yet; this is none of your business.”
Something other than merely consensual provision is involved here.
4.2. HOW PLIANT IS HUMAN NATURE?
The Libertine position assumes that we humans can, merely because we sign a contract to that effect, change human nature, or change the nature of romantic love, or change the nature of the sex act, and what the sex act implies and entails.
While youth eager to slip the reins cold reason places on hot passion may wish to believe otherwise, sad experience shows that human nature is not pliant to these conclusions. We cannot make adultery either licit or harmless merely by agreeing between all the affected parties that we would prefer to have it so.
In the same way that the single example of an absolute duty to think honestly proves that a blanket statement that all duties are subjective is false, so here, the single example of the stubbornness of human nature proves that human laws and customs have but a limited range. There are certain injustices to which we cannot consent, if the act of giving consent cannot eliminate the injustice.
In my life, I began to entertain the doubt that it was perhaps imprudent, or even an actual act of injustice against one’s eventual spouse, to have sex outside marriage, whether with him or with another, whether minutes before the marriage or years before. The question confronting me was whether one’s eventual spouse, even before you ever meet him, even before you know if he exists, has an interest in your sexual behavior and misbehavior, and in the condition of your habits of virtue, which law and custom ought to protect? (I say “he” and “him” in the sentence above, but you boys know I am talking about either sex.)
The more important question that pestered me was whether, supposing such an interest did exist, could it be waived by the word or deed of the parties? Was this interest part of human nature, and not open to negotiation, or was it something the parties could dismiss at will? Does your spouse have an interest in your chastity? Is that interest protected by a right? Could that right be waived?
In legal terms, the question was whether the right to chastity in a spouse was alienable?
This, my second doubt, came only after I had been married some years, and I met a Christian (I was still a stern and rigorous atheist at this point) who told me that it was prudent and morally acceptable to move in with one’s lover, and enjoy nuptial pleasures, provided (1) the love was committed, was ripening into True Love and (2) the possibility existed that one’s prospective spouse might be sexually incompatible. Point (2) was expressed by the less-than-romantic metaphor that one would not buy a car without taking it around the block for a test drive.
This Christian argued only that pre-marital sex was licit, (in other words, the sex act when performed as part of a preparation for marriage) not that any sex outside marriage was licit.
This argument reflects what I take to be the mainstream position of the society around me: casual sleeping around is frowned upon (girls are more condemned than boys for forming casual liaisons) but sex with a fiancée or long-term live-in lover is both licit and normal. Marriage is basically meant to confirm, rather than to form, an established romantic life-sharing relationship. I had my doubts about this conclusion because of the question above, for I wondered whether one’s prospective spouse had a protectable interest in one’s chastity.
My question was: Did you owe it to her, O bridegroom, to come a virgin to your wedding bed? Did you owe it to him, O bride? If so, when does this obligation begin? At marriage? At the moment of proposal? When your love is serious? When it is merely infatuation? When you meet? Before you meet? How can one have an obligation to someone before meeting him?
The irony was not lost on me that I, the skeptic, was arguing for traditional chastity, and the Christian was filling my ear with modern emotionalistic claptrap that true love permitted the violation of law, faith, custom, and decency.
4.3. IS SEX ENTERTAINMENT?
Another Christian, and this a dear friend of many years, argued with me not only that pre-marital sex was licit, but that any and all extra-marital sex was licit. He said copulation was merely a form of mutual athletic entertainment, a past-time, albeit one that required a partner of the opposite sex. Sort of like mixed doubles tennis.
At that point in my life, I was married and had two children, and my Christian friend was still a bachelor. My romantic love for my wife had grown and grown over the years, until it consumed me, waking and sleeping, refined from its merely lustful beginnings, through phases of infatuation and devotion to a self-sacrificing and self-abnegating adoration. Love in its mature phase is a matter of the will, not of the emotions. I assume most successful marriages pass through similar stages, for the good natured jokes surrounding newlyweds and older couples show an expectation, at least, that mere infatuation is not the basis for lasting love, but is instead the kindling meant to start a longer-lasting and slower-burning but steadier blaze.
My Christian friend’s comment about the nature of the sex act, that it was merely passing entertainment, was not merely false, it was the closest thing my atheist heart could call a blasphemy. He was saying, in effect, that him jacking his juice into some half-drunk frail whose name he might not remember the next day was the same as my selfless adoration to my better half, my mistress of mistresses and mother of my children.
His argument was that the value placed on sex was a matter to be decided by the will of the parties involved. I was free to treat sex as a paramount and significant part of a long-term relationship if I so willed, but he was also free to treat sex as an entertainment only loosely related, or even unrelated altogether, to any tender emotion, friendship, romance, or devotion.
It was not clear whether he meant (1) this was a mutual decision between him and his lovers, or whether (2) he could decide without consulting her that sex had no meaning, whereupon if she ascribed a deeper meaning to it when he did not, this was merely her tough luck.
He did not say, but I have my suspicions. My suspicion is that the lovers sought by such men are being deceived fundamentally, even if no word is ever spoken. She assumes the sex is meaningful: that she is sharing her inmost soul, and expressing her absolute devotion, and he takes advantage of her tender emotions, which he may or may not share, merely to release some organic pressures.
I have listened to locker-room talk from those of my friends who were lady’s men in their youth. One of my best friends—a fellow atheist—joked that not only did he not want to see a girl with whom he had copulated in the morning, he did not want to see her the moment after ejaculation, but would have, if he could have gotten away with it, merely pushed her out of bed and onto the floor the moment his lusts were sated.
Perhaps this was merely meant as a joke. Perhaps. Perhaps this attitude exists only among the more shallow of lustful young men. Perhaps. But you do not know my friend and I do, and I was all too painfully aware of the turmoil and hatred his ex-girlfriends, circling like maddened harpies, created in his life. My sympathies, if you do not mind my saying so, were entirely with the harpies. I regret that they did not do more to my friend to return to him the pain his betrayals cost them. This, even though I love my friend, and would make any sacrifice for him, even unto death. So I did not take his joke as a joke, and I heard similar things from other randy young men when they brag.
But I noticed that my Christian friend was treating his sex partners casually, and my Atheist friend was treating his sex partners contemptuously. They were both of the Libertine position.
(Since I, by contrast, treated the sex act as holding paramount significance, meaningful only in the context of marriage and there having a central meaning, there was no correlation between religious belief and this issue, not in these cases.)
If the Libertine position is correct, however, both my casual friend and my contemptuous friend were entirely right, and entirely within their rights, to treat their paramours casually or contemptuously, and the young ladies had neither recourse nor right to complain.
I asked myself how in the world the world could reach a position where the sex act was diminished from the way I, as a married man, regarded it, namely, as the culmination and adjunct of disinterested and devout love, and the way my bachelor friend regarded it, as a form of athletic entertainment to be pursued either by exploiting and deceiving young ladies, or by convincing young ladies to regard themselves and the intimacy of their bodies, as being as meaningless as my contemptuous friend considered them: mere instruments to service his pleasure.
Clearly, contraception is the cause, perhaps even the sole cause. In any society where contraception is practiced and encouraged, carrying no legal penalty and no social stigma, the attitude of casualness and contempt represented by my two friends was not only possible, but inevitable.
Let us accept that this connection between contraception and contempt for women is a fact, and decide later whether, on balance, this is a good thing or a bad. Absent legalized and socially legitimate contraception, however, there is no Sexual Revolution, because prudence would restrict copulation within the bounds of marriage, even if morality did not.
It was at this point in my life that the suspicion began to grow on me that the Sexual Revolution was little more than a trick meant to disarm womanhood from the attentions of male sexual predators.
Women who are voluntarily sterile do not enjoy the honors surrounding motherhood; their bodies no longer carry the mysterious and godlike powers of creation, but are instead more like the bodies of Playboy bunnies, something meant for casual male entertainment.
Between the social honors paid to mothers and brides and virgins, and the social honors paid to bunnies, I doubt any serious comparison can be made, or that any young woman would be well advised to prefer the latter to the former. If nothing else, the honors paid to bunnies are tied to the short season of their physical attractiveness, whereas mothers found families, and families found civilizations, and so have a longer-lasting influence.
If any man of the generation following mine wonder why the feminists of the modern day are angrier and quicker to anger than those of my day, even though no legal barriers any more exist to their entry into the workforce, the political world, or elsewhere, I humbly suggest that their anger is quite reasonable: men treat women like dickless men these days, equal but inferior, and feel no scruples and no hesitation about exploiting any emotional or physical weakness the fairer sex might be so unwise as to display.
4.4. MEN ARE JERKS
Speaking as a man, and on behalf of the spear side of the race, let me tell any ladies reading these words that men are jerks. Perhaps the males you know are finer beings than what I describe here: if so, you need read no further. Nothing in my cynical world view will persuade you. None of the dangers I deem it prudent to protect against seem like threats to you. So be it.
I can only base my judgments on the evidence presented to me by my experience. If you have never been abandoned by a father seeking a lover younger than your mother, never been subject to a date-rape, never been dumped without a word by a man to whom you gave as much of yourself as you can give, never been abandoned by a lover and left to fend for yourself, never been driven to the abortion clinic at midnight by your best friend because the father of the baby was nowhere to be found, or never been divorced because your husband sought after a younger and prettier trophy-wife, then let me not disturb the curtain of candy-colored clouds in which your romantic hopes for life are wrapped. My view of the world is darker. I have friends and family members, people I know well, to whom all these things have happened. Time will tell which of us is closer to the truth.
I hope any feminists reading these words – if so impossible a chimera can be imagined as a feminist reading anything written by John C. Wright – will agree with me that females have been disadvantaged, exploited, and betrayed by the lusts of men since the dawn of time, and men seek to keep women in a position of weakness, to rob them of their natural rights, because both masculine indifference and masculine ego urges them to do so. You and I, O mythical feminist, disagree only on one point: did the Sexual Revolution help or harm the social mechanisms used to protect women from male sexual predators?
Let me ask the mythical feminist reading these words think about a particular example: when a powerful and well-connected World leader, let us call him Bill, has a young intern working for his staff, let us call her Monica, a lady perhaps half his age, not only convinced that he means to divorce his wife to cleave to her, but also convinced to kneel in his office and suck on his crooked penis, do you think the social rules and institutions surrounding sexual acts were successful in this case in protecting her from exploitation and betrayal? Were they successful in protecting his wife, let us call her Hillary, from exploitation and betrayal? Were the successful in protecting his daughter, let us call her Chelsea, from exploitation and betrayal? If any feminist were ever to read these words (an unlikelihood, I admit) I would wish to ask her whether the interests of the women involved, Monica, Hillary, and Chelsea were being served or betrayed by the Sexual Revolution and the mores and customs it ushered in to predominance.
Or was the unnatural sexual act of our purely hypothetical Bill and Monica in keeping with what your movement allows? Do women like her need no protection from men like him? Does the violation of his marriage vows carry no penalty, neither in the court of law nor in the court of public opinion?
Are men jerks? And if so, what should be done to drive their sexual fury into socially useful channels?
Are men jerks? And if so, what should be done about it? Letting every sister to fend for herself does not seem in keeping with the dignity of women, nor their equality, nor their freedom.
5. THE ARGUMENT
So much for preliminaries. We have not yet reached the meat of the issue. So far, we have only seen a serious of doubts and questions. Is marriage a contract? Is human nature pliant? Is sex entertainment? Are men jerks?
The axioms of the argument I gave above: the necessity of self-command, the objectivity of morality, the nature of virtue, the role of law and custom. We are now discussing where the boundaries fall.
To answer that, we must ask why have boundaries at all? The Libertine answer that the bounds exist to prevent harm can be accepted by both the Libertine and the Matrimonial position, even if the Matrimonial will also ascribe additional reasons for the bounds.
Does the Libertine position concerning the sex act, either in fact, or when contemplated as a thought-experiment, prevent harm?
Judgment on this matter differs. Many might argue that the ability of women to walk away from loveless or abusive marriages in our modern no-fault-divorce culture is so valuable that the negative side effects of the divorce culture are inconsequential.
However, this issue need not be reached. We can narrow our inquiry to merely the question of whether the Libertine Position serves the purposes it pretends to serve, or is destructive of those ends.
5.1. THE SEX ACT
First, a word of clarification. The sexual passions, base or enlightened, are the passions directed toward the final cause of sex. This is as self-evident a proposition that the subject matter admits of: if the unadorned statement that passion A is the drive toward goal A is unclear, I do not see that using a more obscure or indirect set of words would be clearer.
The sex act is copulation. Since the counterargument when the topic of sexual deviance arises is inevitably to equate sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual masturbation, with copulation with a sterile partner or during a sterile time of the month, we must distinguish the cases. Indeed it is true that all members of this set have in common the fact that they do not, of themselves, produce children, and so are not “sexual reproduction” properly so called. But the difference between acts that stimulate the sex organs and the act of copulation is precisely that the sexual passion aims at the sexual act per se, at copulation, and not at the accidental or non-essential side-effects of sex.
When you are sexually attracted to someone, you want to have sex with him. The non-essentials are non-essential. The distinction is a legal one: in law, if married couple does not consummate their marriage, that is, does not actually copulate, then the marriage can be annulled without any further allegation of cause.
Imagine begin a young bride, wafted off to the Honeymoon, only to hear your loving and devoted young bridegroom, his eyes shining with romance, announce that he will not now and never will consummate the marriage. Instead, you and he will engage in sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, and mutual masturbation. Assume moreover that there is nothing physically or mentally wrong with him: he is not suffering from an old war wound to the thigh. You will never mate with your mate. Does that seem like a proper culmination of romantic love to you, or does there perhaps seem to be something missing, even if you cannot at first put your finger on it?
The Common Law on this point is clear enough: such marriages are not binding, and can be annulled at the request of either partner. Perhaps we can debate later the point whether the law is correct to conclude this, but for the nonce, it is enough to observe a distinction between what is the sex act essentially, and what are the non-essentials that surround it. On the other hand, the sterility of the mating is not a sufficient reason, in and of itself, for annulling a marriage, not under the Common Law or Canon Law—just ask King Henry VIII about that. Copulating between sterile partners is still copulation.
Whether or not this distinction is clear to you, dear modern reader, I will point out that laws written during the ages before political correctness corrupted the language, the difference was clear enough to have it own terminology. Copulation was called the natural sex act, and sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus were called unnatural (and masturbation was referred to as the sin of Onan). It is unfortunate that this terminology both leads to confusion (since some idiots cannot tell the difference between “nature” meaning the essential property of a set of objects, and “nature” meaning the wild and wooly outdoors) and to hostility (since calling a homosexual “unnatural” is sure to offend.)
Some partisans of sexual antinomianism set great store by the fact that some animals in nature engage in sex acts that would be deviant if found in humans, such as one buck in spring mounting another, and they conclude such acts as “natural” that is, found in the outdoors. This is not an argument as much as a play on words. The old-fashioned use of the word “unnatural” referred to human nature, that is, an emotion or a passion alien to the natural affections. When King Lear calls his loveless daughters “unnatural” he means it in just this fashion—against human nature. He does not mean that turtles and snakes in the wild enjoy filial affection, but that humans whose passions are properly ordered should.
(Even if this play on words were taken as an argument, it would be dubious: by this definition, a transvestite would be classed as “unnatural” since wild beasts don’t dress in drag.)
Let us leave this old-fashioned language to one side, and merely point out that copulation with a sterile partner, or during a sterile time of the month, is necessarily and legally in the same category as copulation with a fertile partner, whereas sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual masturbation, even if done as preliminaries, or “safer” substitutes, are not only not copulation, in any sense of the word, and they are sexual only in their inessentials, a mockery or substitute for sex, a way to enjoy the sensations without the thing itself, the way vomiting up a meal is an inessential substitute for eating, a way to enjoy the taste of food without the act of really eating and digesting it.
On an emotional level, while the same feelings, base or sublime, lustful or devout, and the same physical sensations which attend the sex act may indeed accompany these surrounding sexual-ish acts, as a matter of biological fact, they are not the same. To confuse the feelings or sensations with the reality is the core the issue: an emotion can be false-to-facts in the same way a statement can be. The thing the emotion represents does not exist; the emotion is false.
In any case, I am not here making the argument that only sex performed in pursuit of reproduction is licit: I am making the more general case that sex within the bounds described by the Libertine position, that is, harmless and consensual sex outside marriage, upon consideration, is an empty set.
The argument consists of an examination of the real negative consequences that follow extramarital sex, either inevitably, or as a matter of imprudent likelihood.
5.2. PASSIONS RELATED TO THE SEX ACT
If human nature is not pliant beyond a certain range, it behooves us to establish what the general, basic, or ordinary course of human nature implies, and then only to see where and if exceptions apply. In human nature, what are the passions related to the sex act?
The appetites and passions related to the sex act include lust, infatuation, devotion, and love.
Lust is the physical attraction. This lust can either be friendly (as when it is accompanied by infatuation, devotion, or love) or unfriendly (as when it is without anything more.)
Lust without anything more is how we describe the attraction felt toward whores, or, for that matter, airbrushed pictures of Playboy bunnies. Neither respect, nor any tender emotion is necessarily provoked by lust without anything more. Indeed, to judge from locker room conversations, hostility and contempt seem to be the frequent, if not inevitable, by-products of lust without more.
This must be sharply divided from that much more satisfying and friendly, even playful form of lust which accompanies infatuation. Half the poetry of mankind is devoted to describing every aspect of these violent and tender emotions: if you are unfamiliar with them, I have neither time nor patience to describe them. Ladies, if you have ever read a Harlequin Romance, boys, if you have ever written a sonnet to the curve of your beloved’s thigh, then you know whereof I speak. Such emotion is often called love, and as saluted as the noblest and strongest passion in the heart, but of course it is merely a preliminary, an introductory emotion, and not the culmination of love at all. I say again that the hostility that accompanies lust without more is not only absent from infatuation, an opposite passion rages, one which bends every waking thought toward the beloved.
But the sad experience of lovers everywhere is that one partner may suffer mere lust where the other partner suffers infatuation. Mere lust provokes contempt for the partner once one’s organs are sated; infatuation, on the other hand, grows as it is indulged. It is naïve to think that a man in lust will not exploit a woman infatuated with him, and scoff later at her weakness. He will put on the acts and the airs of love, in order to win the use of her body for an evening, and the madness of infatuation will cause her to disregard both the clues from his behavior that he is a false lover, and the warnings of her more open-eyed friends and elders. I use the example of the male being the cheat here, merely because my experience is that this is the more typical case: the roles can be reversed. See any Film Noir movie for details. Prudence, if nothing else, would suggest a social mechanism be developed to weed out false lovers from true ones.
Infatuation again must be sharply distinguished from devotion. Even though is the commonplace, almost universal, for young lovers to vow eternal love to each other when drunk on the wine of infatuation, sad experience says that these vows are shallow and soon to pass until and unless the infatuation turns into devotion. Devotion is not an emotion merely, not an attraction or a lust. Another layer has been added. Devotion begins when your lover also becomes your friend, helpmeet, companion and soul mate, and you hold her in higher esteem than you hold yourself. Devotion is the quieter and longer-lasting passion that follows a successful infatuation. We might even say infatuation has no purpose other than as an introduction to devotion. When devotion occurs, all the previous madness and extravagance, longings and uncertainties and sighs of the infatuation phase have found their object and can be excused. Without devotion, infatuation would merely be a turbulence of the mind, something dismissed with the contempt of a Benedict or a Lucretius.
But the sad experience of lovers everywhere is that one partner may suffer merely infatuation where the other has a heart full of true devotion. Infatuation, common experience knows, comes and goes. Romeo sighs over Roselyn one day and Juliette the next. No matter how firmly the lover vows eternal faithfulness under the madness of infatuation, when the madness passes, the vows are proved empty, and the world laughs at any young lovers still deceived by them. The most obvious and rapid way to extinguish the flame of infatuation is to sate the lusts that underpin it. Coupling with an infatuated lover will soon bring him to his senses: once he had seen you naked, there is neither mystery nor novelty to prey on his imagination. If his infatuation fails, and there is no devotion in his heart, you mean nothing more to him, except perhaps as an object of nostalgia, and he will have proved false. On the other hand, if devotion is present, a whole raft of masculine emotions, protectiveness and sexual pride and tenderness will come to the fore, and he will be a true lover. The same thing is commonplace in women, albeit the emotions are the feminine ones. Prudence, if nothing else, would suggest a social mechanism be developed to weed out false lovers from true ones.
Love is the culmination of devotion. At this point, the lover achieves unselfish love. Even John Galt was willing to sacrifice himself and his monstrous ego for the sake of his beloved Dangy Taggart, as I recall, and this was in the end of a fictional and longwinded paean to pure selfishness. In any case, love is a disposition of the will, not a passion of the heart.
True Love, when it occurs, is the condition that both infatuation and devotion seek to achieve, and which the infatuated and the devout (falsely) think they are in.
Here we see the first limitation of the Libertine Position. This position requires each young lover, alone, and unaided by any laws or customs, to avoid the dangers of deceptive lusts and false lovers: and experience shows that young lovers are (of all people on earth) the ones least likely to heed the voice of prudence voluntarily.
5.3. PRUDENCE RELATED TO THE SEX ACT
The sex act is the act of sexual reproduction. The common and expected consequence of the act of sexual reproduction is the reproduction of the species. This fact is the elephant in the bathtub the Libertine Position merely overlooks, and the mere fact that the Libertine Position argues as if the pursuit of the sexual appetite had no consequences and no context other than the pursuit of any other athletic bodily pleasure (see above), shows the innate falsehood of the pose.
The question to be raised here is, suppose you get pregnant, ladies, or suppose you get your lover pregnant, gentlemen, what does morality command we do about the baby? What does prudence suggest we do beforehand, so we are not caught unawares or unprepared?
Prudence, of course, is not prognostication. Even if the sex act does not lead in most cases to pregnancy, and even if contraception is licit and is effective nine times out of ten, prudence requires that all cases be treated as if they were the tenth case, for the same reason that prudence requires we buckle our safety belts when entering a car, or don a helmet when mounting a motorcycle, each and every time, not merely the one time in a thousand when we have an accident. Nature does not tell us beforehand when the accident will occur. The reason why accidents are called “accidents” is because they do not necessarily happen.
The choices are to kill the baby in the womb or raise the baby. While prenatal infanticide is a commonplace in our current society, logic suggests that it is not in the best interest either of the child, nor of any parent or grandparent with a vested interest in seeing his bloodline preserved.
But even an unnatural monster willing to kill her own child in the womb should be prompted by prudence to consider and make provision for that bloody necessity should it arise. If nothing else, she should discuss the matter with the father of the baby—who, in the eyes of any rational law, has a vested interest in the wellbeing of the child—or with the grandparents of the child—who, in the Darwinian scheme of things, even ignoring any moral considerations, would find it in their genetic advantage to make provisions to preserve the child once he exists even in his fetus-stage. The Selfish Gene, after all, does not care what stage the child is in when the child is killed, since any stage before the child reproduces is a failure from the Darwinian viewpoint.
Now, without making a comment on the morality of prenatal infanticide, let us restrict ourselves to the observation that it places the interests of the mother at odds with the natural course of love, romance, and marriage. Instead of a joyous event, the pregnancy is a horror, something a medical technician must be summoned to halt, and the mother has to have her child scraped free from the walls of her womb like as if he were a tumor, rather than a miracle and a blessing.
In contemplating the wisdom of prenatal infanticide, any young lady about to copulate with a handsome young lover should therefore contemplate the grim necessity which may arise. In my own experience, one young lady I know told me of the time she drove her best friend at midnight to the abortion clinic, and had to comfort and support her, because the father of the baby was nowhere to be found.
Ladies, whether you think abortion is a sacred and private woman’s right, or you think it is the crime of Medea, prudence suggest you make provision for this eventuality before it arises. Will you need comfort and support at that difficult time? Has he agreed to provide such comfort? Or does he assume that all the risks and expense and heartache are on your side, and on his side he gets the benefit of the pleasures of your body, and then he wants you to get up in the morning and make him an egg while he lies in the rumpled bed smoking a cigarette?
Does this scenario seem unrealistic or absurd? It happened in real life. I am not talking about a hypothetical.
Here is the question: what is there in the Libertine Position that makes the behavior of this indifferent father worthy of condemnation, criticism, or comment? The Libertine position is that the sex act is licit, provided both parties are adult and consent, and no harm follows. Did the father of the child agree to raise the child or pay the abortionist to kill the child? Did the father agree to support you emotionally and financially through your difficult time? According to the Libertine position, if he did not agree, then he is not bound either in law or morality.
My observation is that of the couples I know who engaged in casual liaisons, the woman assumed that the man had made an unspoken commitment, and had an obligation to support her and, yes, even to love her, and the man had no such idea in mind, and did not feel himself so bound. Your observations in your life may differ—I can only go by what I see.
Again, I am using man and woman here because that men are more often the betrayers, but the shoe can fit on the other foot as easily. The man was delighted, honored, and overjoyed to be a father, and he did what he thought was the honorable thing and asked to marry the woman: and she went out instead and had the baby killed in the womb. This was after he had bought some baby toys and clothes and so on in preparation for the blessed event.
This is what a lawyer would call an ambiguity. Two people have differing notions of their mutual obligations. They both think there is an unspoken contract or an unspoken natural set of mutual obligations, but they each separately come to separate conclusions as to what those obligations are.
The only way to solve an ambiguity is to make the matter unambiguous: a ceremony, a contract, a formality. The ceremony has to be strictly binary, so the gray areas and uncertainties are minimized: either you are bound by the obligations or you are not, and the obligations need to be spelled out. The ceremony has to be public even if the mating act is private, so that multiple witnesses can confirm or deny whether the formalities are carried out.
The more difficult question is to define what those natural obligations are. The Libertine position is that there are none whatsoever: only what the parties have mutually agreed bind them. There are certain difficulties with this position.
5.3.1. Humans are Altricial
The first difficulty is that humans have altricial offspring, that is, our children cannot be left to fend for themselves like the eggs of turtles abandoned in the sand. It is in the economic best interest of the mother, not to mention in the best interest of the emotional wellbeing of the child, to have the father of the child obligated to raise the child.
I have heard of no feminists or sexual revolutionaries so extreme that they wish to do away with child support; but neither have I heard of any family law court so persistent and efficient (and foolish) as to make the claim that garnishing the absent father’s paycheck is a substitute for a loving and supportive and present father.
More than a mere legal obligation of child support payments would be prudent in order to protect the wellbeing of the child. The goal must be to have the father devoted, sworn, committed and obligated by the strongest bonds of public and private fealty to the raising of the child. Child abandonment should be punished both by social opprobrium and legal sanction, since it is an act that mars a human life, or ruins it entirely.
The father will not raise the child unless he is bound to it by love. Sad experience shows that merely relying on natural affection is insufficient. The family bond must be memorialized by a formality, and all the pressure religion, law, and peer pressure can bring to bear is needed to enforce that bond.
The easiest way (although it is not successful in all cases) to have a father love the child is to have him love the woman who is her mother beforehand.
Because humans are altricial and because men are jerks, natural prudence suggest no woman copulate with a man until and unless his devotion to raise any possible offspring that might arise is already committed. Such commitment is difficult or impossible to enforce merely by child support payment and wage garnishments: it is more prudent to restrict the possible fathers of one’s children to men in love.
This means, for reasons of mere prudence, aside from any considerations of honor or morality, that no woman should copulate with a man unless he is both devout and in love with her, and committed to a long term (or, better yet, a permanent) relationship.
In other words a mating ceremony, backed by social and legal sanctions, must be unambiguously and publically imposed before the mating act.
The rule must apply even if the mating act is not meant to result in mating (as, for example, with a sterile partner or through the use of contraception) merely because otherwise the mating ceremony is without legal or social effect.
Since every society in history and prehistory has had such a mating ceremony, called marriage, experience suggests that everyone, everywhere, facing a similar problem, found a similar solution: the institution called marriage. Within the variations of monogamy and polygamy and concubinage and so on, the general social purpose of father identification was carried out, and child abandonment was minimized. This does not prove everyone is right, but it does shift the burden of proof onto the sexual revolutionaries and reformers to prove their case that the weakening or abolition of that institution will not result in the problems the institution cures.
5.3.2. Bastards and Cuckoos
Now, game theory would suggest that it is in the Darwinian best interest of any man to father as many children as possible, and leave other men to raise the children, preferably one who does not know that child is not his.
Prudence, without any consideration of morality, might indeed suggest that adultery is better than fornication, since the child not only has a couple in a position to raise it, but at Common Law the cuckolded father does not have the legal right to question the paternity of his wife’s children (I should mention that in many jurisdictions this Common Law principle is being overturned (unwisely, in my opinion) by statute.) Getting some other dupe to shoulder the burden and expense of raising your children was can call the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy.
In order to circumvent what this Cuckoo’s Egg strategy, and to minimize the risks of venereal disease, prudence suggest bridegrooms take only virgins as brides. In such cases (unless you are St. Joseph, I suppose) the chance of being victimized by the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy is minimized.
For a similar reason, chastity within marriage, that is, preventing the woman from seeking other mates once the marriage is solemnized, must be strictly enforced.
Note please that so far we have established nothing about the virginity and chastity of the male. By the grim logic of the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy, he should insist on chastity in his wife and yet he should desire and pursue unchastity in the wives and daughters of other men, so as to impregnate as many as possible, and sow his wild oats.
However, we already addressed this issue. Not only is it imprudent for any woman to mate with a married man, the aversion other men, brothers and fathers of the seduced virgins might feel, to deter the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy makes it in their best interest to retaliate disproportionately against anyone attempting this strategy. Both social opprobrium and legal sanction must deter it, merely for reasons of prudence, and independently of whether or not the young virgin being seduced welcomed the mating.
So far we have only discussed game theory, and we have analyzed bastardy in terms of Darwinian advantages. However, if game theory is not the correct model of the behavior, and if Darwinian advantage is indifferent to the moral calculus involved, then this conclusion, while true, is irrelevant. Let us turn next to those more difficult questions.
Are parents obligated to care for their offspring? Since we live in a society where a father can be punished at law merely for failing to provide his child with an education, let us take it as a given (unless someone wishes to argue otherwise) that both the Libertine and the Matrimonial position answer in the affirmative.
Are parents obligated to love their children? While the human heart cannot be governed by moral duties, if we answer this question in the affirmative, prudence would at least suggest removing as many of those barriers as possible to such love: such as, for example, the suspicions that one’s wife loves another, or has in the past, or shall in the future, or that one’s child is another’s.
That the Matrimonial position supports these policies and the Libertine does not is clear enough. The Matrimonial position has these duties vest from before the two partners even meet: the Libertine position has these duties vest, if at all, when and only when both parties mutually agree. Under the Libertine calculus, the father of the child is under no duty to raise it at all, unless he agreed, and the mother can kill the baby in the womb without even telling the father his child exists. The Matrimonial position assumes these duties as an absolute, and so the mere lack of forethought or lack of consent is not a barrier to their enforcement.
Human offspring are not merely altricial, human childhood has one of the longest periods in nature compared to other animals. The commitment of raising a child from birth to majority is at least 18 years, which is a fifth of the average human lifespan. Obviously, if a couple has more than one child, the span in increased.
While marriage serves the purpose of a public mating ceremony in order to identify paternity, once marriage exists, it becomes the cornerstone of civilization. Without marital and familial bonds, the individual is naked and alone against the power of the state and the mob. With those bonds, the bonds of civilization arise naturally: what, for example, is kingship except for fatherhood writ large? What is democracy except for brotherhood writ large? As a practical matter, you cannot have such noble sentiments as the brotherhood of man if you are creatures who live without family bonds, without brothers and sisters or a sense of mutual love and obligation between them.
Hence, no matter what is primary purpose, marriage also serves vital and prudential purposes that are essential. To dissolve marriage merely for personal convenience, or to escape a boring relationship, has negative consequences which extend far past the original couple.
I spoke above about the phenomenon of “trophy wives” where some successful male, once his mate is past her prime breeding years and no longer useful to him, dumps her on the ashheap and seduces some younger and prettier bit of eye-candy to ride his arm, thus exciting the admiration of other bulls in his tribe. Here let us leave logic aside for a moment and indulge in emotion: I cannot but express hatred for such men, and wish the fire would fall from the sky and consume them.
But even without this emotion, cold logic would suggest that it is not in the prudent self-interest of a woman to agree to be the wife on a temporary or conditional basis.
Let me dwell on this point for a moment. Ladies, if you are young now, you will be old and gray in time. Despite the best efforts of the feminists, your incomes simply do not match those of your husbands, not in the majority of cases (there are exceptions). If you take time out from a career to bear and raise children, your income slips below that of a man equally qualified who does not. Life is not fair.
Now, keep that in mind. Suppose a man, your prospective mate, let us call him Rhett, put a piece of paper in your hand on your wedding day, to give you a clear and written contract that you could sign defining the precise nature of his and your mutual obligations. Suppose this contract said your man would kick you out once you were old and gray, but until that time, he would love, honor, and cherish you. It’s a twenty year contract. After you bear his kids, he kicks you in your now-overlarge and liver-spotted buttocks down the stairs, and he will forsake you and cleave to Anna Nicole Smith. When you ask him in tears what you shall do and what shall become of you, he tells you he frankly does not give a damn.
What bride in her right mind would sign such a stupid contract? But according to the Libertine position, when the man acts this way with or without a signed contract, he has done nothing that can be condemned, nor even criticized.
Let us suppose further that a second man, another prospective mate, let us call him Ashley, were willing to put a contract in your hand without that provision in it. His contract vows to love and honor and cherish until death. It is permanent. It lasts until eternity calls.
Independent of any consideration of morality or honor, is not the second marriage contract clearly in your best long-term interests?
I submit to you that the unwritten marriage contract which our society now enforces is one of the first type, a Rhett contract, rather than one of the second type, an Ashley contract.
The legal mechanism to make marriage permanent no longer exists in our society. No man, under our laws, can offer you that second contract, because the laws of no-fault divorce have held that no bridegroom will be held to his word.
Young lovers are naturally extravagant and willing to vow eternal and permanent fidelity. A girl would be stupid and myopic to settle for anything less. Our society, by allowing for no fault divorce, makes it so that no such vow can be enforced, and therefore no such vow can be believed.
Independently of what the laws allow, and even leaving aside considerations of morality and justice, simple prudence would suggest that no woman copulate with a man until and unless he is willing to vow lifelong rather than simply temporary fidelity.
The fact that the wording of the traditional marriage ceremony explicitly promises and vows the opposite, promising lifelong fidelity for better or worse in sickness and health hence under all conditions whatsoever counts for exactly nothing. In other words, the hypothetical given above is not only false, for not only are you not given a contract stating that your man will dump you when it suits him, the hypothetical is the opposite of true, because in real life you are given an explicit contract stating the exact opposite. Indeed, in real life, you have an explicit sacrament and divinely-ordained covenant stronger than any legal contract.
But not only do our laws and customs make these promises of no effect, there is under law no way for a man to bind himself to his bride, or a wife to her bridegroom, according to the terms of the explicit vow they wish to make, since there is no way to make an enforceable prenuptial agreement forswearing no-fault divorce. Signing a piece of paper to that effect is a meaningless gesture, since (at least at the time of this writing) the courts will not enforce it.
Ladies, our modern society treats you with less respect than the bride in our Rhett-contract hypothetical given above. At least she was shown a piece of paper where it was written out that she was going to be dumped when it suited the man’s convenience. In real life, he retains that right and cannot forswear it, despite giving every vow and oath as solemnly as any ceremony can exact.
And, gentlemen, not only is the reverse also true for you, but, if statistics do not lie, is true for you tenfold. The current law makes any marriage contract one where the wife can take your children and your house and kick you into the street and take half your pay, and have you jailed if you do not pony up, at any time, for any reason, at her sole and arbitrary discretion.
Such a compact, to say the least, is not in the long term best interest of those contemplating entering into it.
A similar consideration governs the exclusivity of the contract. The Libertine position would allow for open marriages, orgies, three-way, four-ways, n-ways, temporary or permanent alliances and liaisons, but such things are evidently not in the best interest of the parties involved, for reasons covered above: neither the paternity of the children is clear, nor the obligation as to who is to raise the children, nor is the affection of the father engaged, nor is the marriage as a cornerstone of civilization safe, nor is the woman wise to let herself be exploited by the fly-by-night lovers, nor is the man’s position as the head of his own house and father of his own children secure.
The institution of polygamy can be touched on briefly here: Christianity forbids it, but Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism allow for it, and to my knowledge, the writings of Confucius or other sages of the East do not condemn the practice.
There are reasons to condemn the practice of polygamy independent of Christian considerations. The argument can be made that the competition for the scarce resources (not to mention the limited love and attention) of the father is and must be naturally divided among the several wives in a harem. Even if the women are (as only happens in male fantasies) perfectly content and harmonious with each other, a natural competition of interests exists or may grow up between them, for Darwinian reasons if nothing else, forcing any wife to take any steps they may to remove the father’s love and attention away from the children of rivals and toward her own. The only way to establish peace is to have the husband also be the master rather than a partner of the wives, or establish an internal regimentation, as having the eldest wife command the lesser wives, or something of the sort.
To give credit to the Mormons, it is on record that when the United States forced the Utah territory to forbid polygamy before Utah could enter the Union, some of the Mormon wives supported the institution, protested, wrote letters to the editor, and so on. They say polygamy did not disadvantage them. I find that slightly creepy myself, so I will merely leave that point as to the discretion and judgment of the reader. While I can imagine a masochistic woman agreeing to such an arrangement, I cannot imagine a feminist agreeing to such a relationship.
In any case, I need only make a smaller point. If you, dear reader, for any reason disapprove of polygamy, or think it is exploitative of women, or think it imprudent or unjust, I submit to you that many of the same objections I raise here above to polygamy can be raised with equal force against that form of serial polygamy we call no-fault divorce.
I know a woman, personally who has had as many husbands as Draupadi in the Mahabharata: five. She merely had them one at a time, like Elizabeth Taylor, rather than all at once. The competition for the love and resources to the shared by overlapping mates was more or less the same.
220.127.116.11. Violence between Sexual Rivals
We cannot leave this topic without emphasizing the main point for the exclusivity of marriage. The Matrimonial position differs from the Libertine position primarily in that it not only defines who may mate, but also who may not mate.
The moment a bride is wed, she is offlimits to further propositions, and may not entertain seducers; she may not be courted nor even receive romantic gifts. The same applies to the Bridegroom. In Common Law, even if true love binds Guinevere and Lancelot, it is illegal for him to court her or to urge her to leave her husband for him: the crime is called alienation of affection.
This law has been undermined in recent years, but the principle still remains in effect as a moral principle: under the Matrimonial position, is it morally wrong to ask a woman to divorce her husband and marry you, even if you are in love with her and her husband is not, because the bond of matrimony is (in the matrimonial position) exclusive and lifelong.
In the Libertine position, those who may not mate is defined only by those who cannot legally grant consent: children, drunks, and rape victims. Hence even if Guinevere is married, she is not offlimits for Lancelot to court her, since the Libertine position both allows for the possibility of a three-way orgy, pending Arthur’s consent, and allows for the possibility of an open marriage, if Arthur is as stupid as Ayn Rand’s husband, and can be browbeaten into believing that adultery is meaningless.
Since both these possibilities are not open to criticism or condemnation, efforts to persuade the interested parties are likewise not open to criticism.
This means that all the extravagant and even violent things men do to win the attention of potential mates are not closed when a Libertine marriage contract is signed. I know of cases where a young man climbed a roof at night and jimmied a window to break into a girl’s bedroom just to get a chance to speak with her, and this was when the girl was dating someone else; I know guys who broke into girl’s dorm rooms at college. We are not talking about rape attempts here, just desperation brought on by sexual attraction.
Now, here is where my experience may differ from yours, dear reader. There is a man I know (I have stayed at his house) whose brother is serving a life sentence in jail for murder. The murder was prompted by a woman, and she seduced this brother into murdering her husband. I have never met the brother myself, but I have heard tell of him.
I do not think this type of behavior is all that odd or unusual among human beings: just read a newspaper, or go down to your local court house and read the docket, and see what types of crimes are being committed and why.
Are such crimes commonplace? Maybe they are not as common as car accidents. Let me say rather, sexual competition among males leads to violence often enough that prudent provision must be made to minimize it.
I hope you know a better class of guys than I do, but if you do not, the people who act this way exist. We are not even talking about stalkers and obsessives and nutjobs. Just among ordinary young men of ordinary upbringing, getting into a fistfight over a girl, to drive away rivals, is natural.
The violence surrounding mating rivalry is widespread enough and commonplace enough, that a distinction is made at Common Law between murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree.
In theory, murder in the second degree is murder without malice aforethought, in the heat of passion, and the penalty is meant to be less severe than premeditated murder. In practice, murder in the second degree was meant to cover cases where a husband found his wife in the arms of her lover and killed him on the spot: juries would not convict such men of murder in the first degree, because the crime was so natural (if I may use that word) to their own passions and sympathies, the jurors could not bring themselves to condemn it. The law was therefore sculpted to fit the shape of the real human passions that really exist in human beings, rather than an intellectual construct unrelated to reality. I offer no comment as to whether the law is or is not wise or just in creating this exception: I offer this only as evidence that violence between sexual rivals is a common enough problem that prudent steps must be taken to forestall it.
One way of minimizing violence between rivals is to establish clearly defined markers and boundaries. A wedding band on the finger of a matron is one such means. In older and saner times, married women wore different forms of hair and dress to distinguish them at a glance from maidens and girls. She changed her name partly to show the depth and permanent nature of the commitment: so that even if you wrote her a letter, you knew better than to add any courtship-type words.
Prudence suggests that even these days married men should wear wedding bands for the same reason, and if it were up to me, some honorific would be attached to their names to make it clear that they were no longer allowed to participate in the gallantries of courtship. If nothing else, if all married men had to be shaved bald or tattooed purple something, lonely women in bars could tell at the glance if the guy buying her a drink was a would-be adulterer (i.e. a creep) even before he opened his mouth.
At the risk of offending my Christian readers, I must point out that logic says this same argument applies to homosexual civil unions as well as to marriage. A homosexual betrayed by a faithless catamite does not necessarily feel an emotion gentler than what Arthur felt when Guinevere betrayed him. If the sexual competition for partners among gays is a violent and unruly as among libertine heterosexuals, the need exists for some sign of exclusivity: two men making a permanent vow of loyalty either have to wear rings, or make some other obvious and legally binding sign that they will forsake all others. Independent of any consideration of morality or law, simple prudence dictates that competition between sexual rivals must be minimized by a public ceremony and by legal sanctions. If a Socrates is already claimed and in a committed homosexual relationship, it is morally wrong for Alcibiades to try to seduce him away from his partner: simple prudence would suggest that this moral rule be buttressed by a legal sanction. We are talking here just about a practical measure to keep the public peace.
Now, the question becomes more complicated if Xantippe is trying to seduce Socrates away from Alcibiades, because then we have a competition between a rightly-ordered sexual drive and a wrongly-ordered one: but that question is beyond the scope of this present inquiry.
5.4. THIRD PARTIES TO MARRIAGE
The Libertine position utterly ignores third parties to the mating. According to the libertine position, if Arthur, with her consent, copulates with Morgan le Fay, it is no one’s business but their own. However since Mordred, the bastard son of Arthur, has a claim on the throne, the fact that he was born has an influence or an effect on Guinevere, and any children she might produce. To minimize the competition between rival sons of different mothers, the Common Law solution, for better or worse, was to disinherit any bastards. The children of one mother, the lawful wife, received the plume of legitimacy, and all others were held to be strangers to the patrimony. In order to further discourage the practice of fathering bastard children, the act was surrounded by social opprobrium.
(I must say, in one of those acts which condemn mankind, the opprobrium was more often attached to the innocent children rather than to the philandering father. The word ‘bastard’ came to be a swear word, a synonym for a ruthless and heartless grasper, whereas the real swear word should have been attached to the father of the bastard.)
The Libertine position simply ignores the fact that Guinevere’s interests are being imposed upon by the act of fathering a child on Morgan le Fay. At best, the Libertine position allows that if and only if Arthur and Guinevere so mutually agree, he will keep his royal member in his trousers for such times and places as they mutually see fit. If she does not read the fine print, or overlooks to get him to make such a vow, he is not bound.
5.4.1. The Father of the Bride
The Libertine position recognizes no interest the father (or mother) of the bride might have in seeing to it that his daughter not be unhappy in marriage. However, since she produces (or abandons) his grandchildren, the question arises whether he has a vested interest in permitting or driving off suitors courting the daughter. The Libertine answer is in the negative: grandparents have no duties to protect and love their grandchildren, and hence no right to meddle with any arrangement the daughter might make or fail to make to provide for any child she might bear.
I speak here of fathers and daughters only because historically this was the most common case: indeed, it is not until relatively recently in history, and only in Christian lands, that a daughter selecting her own mate was the commonplace. While we might look on this type of arranged marriage with distaste, it nonetheless behooves us to note the logic behind the social arrangement: in the modern day, if the father had no role in driving off unworthy suitors, that father is the one most likely to have to bear the expense of raising the grandchild if the daughter returns pregnant and in tears if (as often happens) the unworthy suitor proves to be truly unworthy.
Since matrimony proposes that the daughter not copulate with the unworthy suitor until and unless the suitor publicly vow his eternal support, even in a culture where the father has no veto over his daughter’s choice of mate, the marriage vow, if it is strict, inescapable, and permanent, tends to protect the father’s interest. Many an unworthy suitor, many a bridegroom who mistakes his infatuation for true love, will suddenly get cold feet and be confronted by a sober reality when facing the terrors of the rose-covered chapel.
This will act as a filter: in economic terms, the entry cost of copulating with the woman is higher than merely winning her momentary and private consent when she is flown with wine and dazzled with roses. You cannot have her, O unworthy suitor, until and unless you make the public protestation and legally binding vow that your love is eternal and exclusive. If you suddenly sober up at the church steps, and realize you are being stuck for life, your reason, and not merely your sexual appetites, must be consulted before you take the final and irrevocable step, bind yourself as if with chains, and throw away the key.
It is with sorrow and disgust that I note that the modern no-fault divorce culture has undermined whatever utility the strictness of the marriage vow once held. My wife’s best friend and roommate from way back was married to an unworthy suitor, an empty-headed boy who did not take the vows of matrimony seriously, and, as it turns out, did not have to. She was completely loyal to him, and he decided he wanted out, and he dumped her in one of the ugliest divorces I ever sat through. There is no certainty that a stricter law of marriage would have sobered up and deterred this boy; but there is certainty that he would not have been able to victimize my friend with impunity, if he could have found divorce only for cause.
5.4.2. The Grandparents of the Child
Above I cover the case of the grandparents of the child having an interest in whether and how the mother makes provision for the child’s wellbeing and upbringing.
In the Libertine Position, the grandparents are not parties to whatever contract covers the daughter and her various lovers of either sex and any number. This means that if the daughter’s plan is to rid herself of any pregnancy by prenatal infanticide, what is politely called abortion, the grandparents have no right to interfere, and no right even to be consulted.
And since copulation for entertainment value is the point and purpose of the Libertine position, the specter of an unwanted pregnancy (which is impossible, aside from medical considerations, under the Matrimonial position) is not a rare accident but a commonplace one. In modern society, it is assumed and expected that an unwed mother will kill her child in the womb as an unwelcome byproduct of copulation for pleasure.
I call it impossible because the Marriage ceremony is obviously a fertility ceremony: the meaning of the rite cannot possibly (except by committed Leftists) be misconstrued or misunderstood. You might not want to have children when you first get married, but you cannot think the marriage ceremony is a celebration of the fact that you will not be having children: no one can confuse wedding vows with the vows of a nun to maintain perpetual virginity. In any case, even if the point of the mating ritual is lost on you, in the eyes of the law, no additional ceremony or contract or vow is needed to make all the obligations legally enforceable to raise and care for the child once born.
A bachelor who seduces a foolish girl and leaves her pregnant can argue, and with a surface appearance of justice, that he neither expected nor intended to father a child. He can claim he was relying on the girl to use birth control, or, if he is either a modern man or an ancient Spartan, he can say he was expecting the girl to dispose of the baby either by a visit to the abortion provider or to the pit called Apothetae, where newborns were thrown. For all we know, she may have told him that was the plan.
But no married man can make this claim, not without sounding an utter fool. No man of ordinary prudence gets married without knowing he is henceforth bound to the obligations of fatherhood when and if his bride bears children.
What else can he say? “I was not expecting to be a father! I thought marriage was so that I could treat my sex partner as an unpaid maid and housekeeper!”
Good grief. Any man who makes or even thinks that this is what marriage is about should be taken outside the city walls and stoned by angry women for the crime of being a pinhead.
In reality, no additional legal or customary contract or obligation is necessary: once married to a woman, her children, in the eyes of the law, are yours, and the obligation to love and raise them is not one you can shirk without legal and social penalties.
Nonetheless, if the daughter finds she cannot raise the child on her own, it would be unnatural, a violation of the unspoken obligations of parent and child, to turn the pregnant daughter away from her home. Note the lack of symmetry. In order to be logically consistent, the Libertine position would have to hold that the grandparents of a bastard child or abandoned child, once the deadbeat Dad has flown, or gone back to his wife, have no duty whatsoever to support and cherish their daughter and her child, or to raise or to support them, aside, of course from whatever contract they signed.
It is, of course, impossible, even for the most intrusive and meddling parents, to appear in the bedroom of their adult daughter while she is readying herself for the pleasures of a one-night stand with some empty-headed beefcake she picked up at the local biker bar, question the fellow, and discover his prospects. If the Libertine position allows for any copulation within the bounds of adult consent, then the interest of the grandparents are sacrificed.
On the other hand, in the matrimonial position, since a public and legally-binding ceremony must take place before the mating takes place, the grandparents not only can investigate the prospective father of their grandchildren, the ceremony itself makes the provision that the father of the child, if any child is born, is already obligated to raise and love the child, even before the child is conceived. The main interest of the grandparents finds some protection in this provision.
5.5. THE INVESTMENT OF THE INTEREST IN VIRGINITY
We have seen above that the Matrimonial position grants to the parties involved in marriage an expectation that the other partner come a virgin to the marriage bed. This, for several reasons: first, it hinders the spread of venereal disease; second, it deters the birth of bastards; third (and related) it deters the pursuit of the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy by the unscrupulous; fourth, it hinders the competition for resources and affection incumbent upon either polygamy (many mates at once) or serial polygamy (many mates over time): fifth, and for similar reasons, it diminishes violent sexual competition among rivals.
Is this expectation a right? Does the one marriage partner have a right to be offended with the other if the other turns out to be not a virgin? Is there any interest being violated? If there is a right, when does it attach?
Please note that while it is my habit to speak of men as the jerks and women as the victims in most matrimonial conflict, because I think the women suffer more and are exploited more, in this case I keep my language carefully unisex: because historically virginity in women has been praised higher than in men (and this, perhaps, for Darwinian reasons, or due to the ruthlessness and power of men over women throughout history), in this case the women has as much right or more to be offended by the lack of virginity in her mate as the man. I want to emphasize this because it is often overlooked.
5.5.1. Economic and Prudential Considerations
The main point here is that marriage is both an emotional and a legal relationship. Marriage is not merely a contract for the providence of sexual services: this would equate wives and whores. Marriage is not merely a prudential arrangement for the protection and rearing of the young, even thought I have spoken mainly of that aspect of it. Marriage is for love.
If you fornicate with another before marriage then you bring to your marriage partner a diminished capacity for love. Merely on economic terms, your marriage partner now knows you have shared the most intimate moments known to you with another, and so the intimacy you have remaining has less value.
This means that your ability to restrain your sexual impulses has been tested and found wanting: she knows, gentlemen, that you were willing to break the laws common sense and common prudence provide for the restriction of sexual appetites in the past: while past behavior does not predict the future, she had a reason to suspect you have less ability to withstand the temptations of adultery, should those arise in the future, than perhaps other potential suitors for her hand.
This means also that you lack virtue. I hate to say so baldly, but it means that your sexual appetites and your reason have been habituated to the reflex of regarding sex as inconsequential – or (let us be precise) less consequential than someone who kept himself pure until the wedding night. He, your theoretical rival, can claim his physical affections are and always will be an outpouring of his noblest affections. He has never made love except when he has been in love, and he has been in love only with one bride. No matter what else the bride thinks of him, in purely economic terms, this make the faithful lover a more valuable commodity than he would be in the absence of this trait.
There is also the possibility that an old rival, either pregnant with your child or merely inflamed with a renewed ardor, will return to compete with her for your time and affection, or lower the cost to you should you contemplate divorce, in that you may have a fall-back.
You, on the other hand, have two choices.
One: you can say that those other girls really meant nothing to me, baby. I was thinking of you when I was ejaculating into her! Or I would have been had I known you! That was before I met you baby, and my standards were lower back then!
Again, on purely economic terms, all this makes your protestation of true love less valuable (and less persuasive) then someone with no history of taking love to be a casual matter.
Two: you can say that you loved Rosalind (or whoever) with your whole heart and soul, and deep as the sea and as high as your heart could reach, BUT, that you did not love that other girl enough to marry her. This signals to your prospective bride that your capacity for love is limited, and, yes, self-centered, and that your prudence is wanting.
In the modern day, now that there is little or no legal or social sanction against men treating their lovers with self-centered indifference, this lowering of standards may have little or no effect. In economic terms, it is a buyer’s market.
Women are cheap these days, thanks to the sexual revolution, and I doubt that this props up their self esteem. By cheap, I mean that they do not ask for much before they yield to their suitors: instead of a lifelong vow of faithfulness accompanied by a gold ring, a modern woman can be won over with an evening or two of dinner, dancing, and show. Some hold out until they have known the fellow for a month or two.
Under the Matrimonial position, he offers everything he has, all he owns, all his loyalty, all his love, for all his life. Under the Libertine Position, he need only offer her a minimum of friendship and affection, should he find her in a moment of weakness, boredom, or mutual lust, he need not even offer that. There is no social consensus to prompt him to place any higher a value on her, or on sex with her, than whatever value she can be persuaded (or fooled, or pressured) to lower herself to.
A modern woman is in a position of weakness: if she demanded more, her suitors would scorn her and drop away.
(Here again, I speak from experience. I know what a friend of mine said about the Christian women they wanted to seduce in College; the one woman who resisted, I mean, and employed what I here call the Matrimonial standard. Just from a pragmatic standpoint, even though I hated the religion at that time and everything associated with it, I saw this Christian woman was not being treated with the unceremonious contempt my Lothario friends displayed toward their bedmates in the morning.)
I hear sad stories about a girl sleeping with her boyfriend not because he loves her but merely because she hopes that the sexual congress will win his affection and constancy. Here sex is being used not as the reward of faithfulness, but as the lure. (Ironically, a truly faithful lover would not yield to the lure. This method is self-defeating because it habituates boys to expect the rewards of matrimonial faithfulness without suffering the difficulty or commitment of matrimony.)
Being cheap, the modern women are not in a position to demand their menfolk take love and romance and devotion very seriously at all, much less fatherhood. The decision to be cheap or dear is not one an individual can make, any more than one individual can set the height of wages and prices. If all the women around you are willing to sleep with men without demanding of them the honors and obligations of matrimony, then if you hold out, rival women will undercut your price. Previously, the social consensus enforced something like a monopoly: men who wanted sexual congress either had to pay the price all the women demanded, which was marriage, or the man had to seek his pleasures outside polite society, in the cathouses.
(Note that the Matrimonial position condemns the exploitation of whores, whereas in the Libertine position, whoring is an honest profession. The Libertine position is not girl-friendly, my dears.)
So then: even if we cannot say that your prospective bride has a right to your virginity, we certainly can conclude that she is prudent to insist on this when selecting between suitors. While the modern sexual competition has cheapened women, there is still an advantage to holding out for the higher price and greater value of mutual virginity.
5.5.2. Considerations of Duty
So from a pragmatic standpoint. From a moral standpoint, does she have a right to expect virtuous behavior from you? If you are caught in a lie, or being a coward, or a drunkard or a gambler or in any other habituation to self-indulgence, her conscience is right to condemn the behavior. But when you enter an intimate relationship, more is involved. Her self-interest, not to mention her emotional wellbeing, is now tied to yours: such is the nature of devotion and love.
The Libertine makes no account for this commingling of self-interest, except, unless, to regard it as something like an alliance between suspicious nations, who treat with each other at arm’s length. This posture is called individualism or atomism. This posture need not detain us; those who adopt it forswear the sorrows, but also the pleasure and glory, of intimacy. Even a cursory inspection of the human condition reveals that that falling in love with a girl imposes upon a boy the duty to better himself, and to guard her best interests: and, logically, if the love is returned, the duty is mutual. If each is obligated to better and serve the other, any vices or shortcomings of the one is an offense against the other.
We would not doubt this in regard to other close relationships. When a son lies, is his mother not shamed? When a soldier flees, are his brothers-in-arms not disgraced? Has not your vice hurt them? If you answer in the negative, the conclusion would be, not that your vice does not offend your loved ones and hurt their interests, but rather that the natural affections and bonds which ought to be present in that relation were absent. If you commit some shameful act, and you express surprise that your mother would know or care, or if you tell her it is none of her business, then your mother is right to condemn you as unnatural. Likewise, if your mother learns of some shameful act in you, but shrugs nonchalantly, her affections are unnatural: you are a stranger to her, not a son.
There is no particular reason to carve out an exception for romantic love over other types of love. The mere fact that the beloved is loved creates a duty in you not to disappoint her by the discovery of vice in you. If the love is merely infatuation, and not true love, a different consideration applies, an economic rather than a consideration of duty. Prudence will foresee the heartache to which she is prone should she consummate her infatuation by falling in love with a vicious man: rivals for her affection displaying no such vices are the wiser alternative. Hence, both the love of the lover who lives for another, and the selfishness of a suitor who has not yet found love, conspire, for opposite reasons, to place a value on virtue.
If there is no special exception separating romantic love from the duties love generally imposes, then likewise there is no special exception separating vices of lust from vices springing from other causes. If your beloved has a right not to be lied to, she also has a right that you remain chaste for her.
5.5.3. When Does the Duty Attach?
This being the case, when does attachment take place? When can she expect or demand that you come to her marriage bed a virgin?
Unfortunately, this is a binary quality. Either you have it or you don’t. If you don’t have it, you do not have it to offer to your true love once she arises.
By this logic, even from before you meet her, even from before you know her or can imagine her, you are under a prudential if not a moral obligation to preserve your virginity intact for her: because once it is gone, you have nothing to offer her, aside from your lame explanation that those other women really meant nothing to me, baby! This is a protestation that is hardly the exemplar of romance.
Women have never been so plentiful, so easy to seduce, so unprotected, and so vulnerable to exploitation as these modern days. Even a science fiction fan, with his ungainly looks and pungent odor and awkward social mannerisms, yes, even such gargoyles as you or me can find ourselves alone with a female of the opposite sex in a state or partial or total dishabille. It is comical to assume that any young man in such a situation with a willing partner will forgo the immediate pleasures of the flesh for some highly theoretical as-yet unmet future bride, not if the girl in your room is already taking off her bra. And, hey, for all you know, this girl in your room might be your future bride, in which case this will be (retroactively speaking, of course) not extramarital sex but merely premarital sex.
The weakness of the male of the species requires that there be a social and legal sanction keeping his virginity intact for his bride, because the value of it is otherwise lost.
The same logic applies to women, I suppose, except with the added layer of risk arising from the possibility of pregnancy.
18.104.22.168. A Digression on Duties Running to Persons Unknown
A possible objection to be raised here is that no duty can attach that runs to a non-existent or unknown person. While a strict libertarian might agree, for the purposes of this argument, I need only point out that the principle of duties running to parties unknown is an established legal principle.
Suppose, for example, that I am a life tenant on an estate, and I wish to cut all the lumber within the metes and bounds, nor ever to replant? The heirs one day to inherit may not have been born as yet, but under Common Law, I am legally bound not to act in disregard of their interests, and can be sued for wastage.
Again, while a strict Libertarian would scoff at honesty in labeling laws, at present, the law holds a manufacturer who puts an article into the stream of commerce to be under a duty honestly and correctly to label his product. If I sold baby shampoo in A.D. 2000, and failed to mention that it contained peanut oil, and a mother used it on a one-year old child in A.D. 2002, and the child had an allergic reaction to peanuts, it would be no bar to her lawsuit to claim the baby harmed had not existed in A.D. 2000 when I manufactured the article: I nonetheless have a duty, legal if not moral, to tell my customers the truth about my products, and not to defraud nor deceive. This duty runs to persons unknown.
In any case, anyone who believes in duties running to generations unborn, such as environmentalists fretting over the ultimate destiny of the planet, or believes in duties running to unidentified heirs, or running to unidentified customers, cannot without somehow distinguishing the cases hold that a duty to chastity does not exist on the grounds that the ultimate bride or bridegroom to whom that value is owed (if it is owed) at any given point in time is indeterminate or unidentified.
Of course, prudence suggests that someone legally bound never to be wed, such as a priest under a vow, is not under a duty to remain chaste: but the paradox involved in that will excuse us from examining that chain of reasoning further.
6. MATRIMONY or FORNICATION
Now we come to a crucial point. What is the magistrate to do in all this? Keep in mind that no magistrate, howsoever wise, can learn and know the private dealings of everyone who comes before the court. The laws must be simple and clear enough for all rational men to be able to conform to them.
Fornication (including adultery) either is or is not against the law, and either it is punished or not. If it is either not against the law, or is against the law but not punished, then no deterrent exists, and the law is a dead letter.
Likewise, if fornication (including adultery) either is or is not rigorously and vigorously penalized by social opprobrium. In this, there is not much latitude for diversity of opinions: the society as a whole is either committed to the proposition, or is not committed. The minority has a veto over the majority. If the majority condemns adultery, but a sizable minority does not join in that condemnation, the condemnation has no real force or effect. Anyone suffering ostracism or mockery for his adultery can move to the neighborhood where it is not condemned. The society merely polarizes in this case, it does not form an enforceable consensus.
That decision to condemn fornication at law rests with the magistrate, and to condemn with social opprobrium with the common opinion of the consensus of the people.
Such is the human condition.
Under these facts, the proposition that adultery is licit when all three parties agree and give their consent, and is otherwise illicit, cannot be carried into effect. In a society where the Libertine position is the consensus, If Arthur goes to the magistrate carrying a paper in hand, which purports to be the document where Guinevere vowed eternal fidelity, a contract she broke, the magistrate cannot condemn or punish her beyond what terms the contract stipulates. The magistrate cannot, in the long run, enforce the contract, because the contract does not follow the values and opinions of the consensus. A society that approved of adultery would be outraged that a mere legality, a flimsy piece of paper, would block her sacred right to commit adultery: the outcry would ring to the sky. But even if the outcry were ignored, and the penalty stipulated in the contract enforced (if there could be such a thing) such contract laws would only penalize the short-sighted, and the social utility of punishing adultery would be lost.
Under any practical consideration, adultery cannot be against the law in a Libertine society, even if the two individuals would have it so. The law reflects the consensus, not the individual will.
Likewise the opposite: in a commonwealth where adultery is illegal, the magistrate has no choice but to punish it, even if the three people involved agreed in writing not to complain, lest the law be no deterrent to others and hence of none effect.
As the magistrate keeps the laws, so too does the consensus of public opinion keep the customs. The laws cannot bind if custom does not, and the keepers of the public opinion operate under the same restriction as restricts the magistrates: public opinion cannot track each individual contract, or carve out exceptions. The society that allows for adultery when a contract stipulating open marriage allows for it, will be at best lukewarm in its condemnation of extra-contractual adultery. It is simply risible to assume that a society could condemn the loss of honor involved in breaking a contract, but embrace the loss of honor involved in breaking a marriage vow.
(Even on a personal level, we see this: I know of no one who excuses, for example, the adultery of Ayn Rand who does not also excuse the adultery of Bill Clinton, despite that one was performed with the consent of the spouse and the other was not. The libertarians I know who approve of consensual adultery, oddly enough, seem to lack the fire of conviction when it comes to condemning non-consensual adultery.)
Experience, if not logic, shows the choice is a binary one. The consensus of society must adopt one standard or the other: either the Matrimonial Position, or the Libertine Position. If merely half the consensus follows the Matrimonial Position, there is insufficient social opprobrium to maintain the standards: anyone annoyed with small town enforcement of matrimonial customs will move to the big city, and sleep around.
The examination of the Libertine Position shows that it claims of being harmless are false. All it does is remove the social institutions that otherwise would protect the interests of the women, the children, the fathers of the bride, and the grandparents, all of whom are either aborted or ignored or exploited or unable to help their loved ones while a pack of ravening sexual predators competes for increasingly undefended females.
The best a woman can hope for in a society like ours is to dump the guy before she gets dumped herself. If she goes from man to man, breaking hearts and hoping her contraception holds out, she can maintain her self-esteem. Or she can be lucky enough to snare the ever-shrinking pool of nice and decent guys who want to settle down and get married early on, before the lifestyle begins to tell on her. You’ve come a long way, baby. You are woman, hear you roar!
Or not. Modern liberated womanhood, hear me. Your boyfriends are playing you for fools and taking advantage of your good nature and feminine instincts.
You are no longer free to be feminine.
Femininity is weakness.
You are now free to be like men.
Men are jerks.
You are free to be jerks.
Our society is your enemy, ladies, and remember you hear it here from me first. They made the baby in your womb your enemy, and handed you a bloody abortionist’s scalpel and told you it was the very banner of freedom.
This is the outcome of the Libertine Position: broken hearts, wasted lives, dead babies (about 46 million, disproportionately among Blacks), the silence of the fathers and the helplessness of the grandparents, the breakdown of the family, and the erosion of civilization itself. The Libertine position makes insufficient provision for the negative externalities of the sex act.
7. PRUDENCE REGARDING MATRIMONY
Having established that the Libertine position is false, on the grounds that permitting any and all allegedly harmless sex acts between consenting adults to grave and lasting harms to parties outside the agreement, to general society, and to the character of those so engaged, we are left with the Matrimonial position.
The logic of the Matrimonial position applies both to monogamous and polygamous societies, albeit in my personal judgment the monogamous societies are more beneficial to women on other grounds.
The Matrimonial position states that no copulation ought to take place outside of marriage, for the prudential reasons given above. Matrimony, in other words, necessarily involves the condemnation of premarital and extramarital sex, fornication and adultery.
The word for this is chastity. Chastity is self-command or virtue exercised in the realm of moral quandaries concerning sex just as courage is self-command or virtue exercised in the realm of moral quandaries concerning personal danger.
Self-command is mutually exclusive with self-indulgence. Self-indulgence of the sexual appetite habituates the mind to be unable to exercise self-command when called upon to do so. Self-indulgence of the sexual appetites is called unchastity or vice. It is the lack of virtue or power. (see 1.3, above).
Matrimony erodes when laws and customs do not support it, because no law can stand except that custom supports it (see 1.4, above).
Chastity and unchastity are mutually exclusive. Chastity is a necessary precondition for Matrimony.
Hence, A society whose laws support matrimony cannot at the same time approve or tolerate fornication and adultery or any form of unchastity. Also, a society whose customs and norms support fornication and adultery or any form of unchastity cannot at the same time support chastity.
Now this statement admits of some qualification: clearly a society can limp along for a number of years if the unchastity is kept out of sight, or confined to certain holidays, red-light districts, or sailor’s taverns, or if the elite feel free to violate the customs binding the common man. But we are talking here about the consensus: the majority and public opinion.
The hypocrisy of disobeying a public moral code you uphold certainly CAN exist; but if we also apply a standard of logic or justice to our public morals as well as to our private behavior, we come to an opposite conclusion as to whether social hypocrisy SHOULD exist.
Obviously it should not: it offends simple justice and honesty, which we know (see 1.2, above) to be a universal moral imperative.
Indeed, the standard of honesty means that, no matter what society as a whole might say, a solitary member of that society cannot support or maintain the virtues needed to maintain matrimony, while at the same time indulging the vices incumbent on unchastity.
Logic does not allow an honest man to support an idea he also simultaneously opposes.
All non-essentials forms of sexual gratification are unchaste in essence. They mock or impersonate the sex act with the same physical sensations as the sex act, but they are sexual by accident, not sexual essentially. This means that a proper concern for virtue (and virtue is based on habit) should permit, if at all, these non-essential sexual acts when and only when they are part of, or leading up to, or added to, the sex act. With apologies to my Christian friends, I see nothing wrong with unnatural sexual acts with your own wife, provided these acts increase the union and love of matrimony.
But care must be taken not to allow non-essentials to drive out essentials. There are people who suffer a neurosis (there are harder words for this, but I will not use them here) where ordinary sexual acts or sexual stimulation will not stimulate them. Their sexual attraction does not attract them to sex, but, rather, away from it. We call this neurosis sexual deviancy.
Here we must make a distinction between sexual deviancy and merely sexual difference. The extreme cases are easy enough to distinguish: a man who prefers redheads to brunettes merely has a difference of taste. He will say Ginger is more attractive then Mary Anne (and, of course, he will be wrong on that point!) but there is no accounting for taste. A man who cannot get an erection unless his love is dressed in a Nazi uniform with stiletto-heeled boots, on the other hand, is neurotic. Likewise for a man attracted sexually to creatures with whom he cannot, biologically speaking, have sex: prepubescent children, dogs or sheep, dead bodies, and so on. There are specific names for each neurosis: pederasty, bestiality, necrophilia.
Sexual attraction to members of one’s own family is also a neurosis. This is because erotic love is exclusive and familial love is inclusive: human nature is not pliant and cannot change the nature of love. You cannot fulfill the proper obligations or have the proper emotional relations running to daughter, sister, or mother, if she is also your lover. While the Libertine position would allow for incest between adult siblings, the Matrimonial position must forbid it, if for no other reason than that the prudent magistrate cannot carve out an exception which leaves the negative externalities in place: if your elder and adult brother and sister are married while you are still below the age of majority, this distorts your emotional and ethical relations with your sisters, for example.
There is a gray area where certain things that seem like mere differences of taste might be neuroses, or things that seem like neuroses are mere differences of taste. The touchstone for making the distinction is whether or not it adds to or subtracts from normal and healthy lusts for normal and healthy copulation.
If it is neurotic, the lust for the non-essential will grow over time, and drive out the appetite for the normal. It will be a substitute rather than an adjunct. Ladies, if your man looks at a racy magazine rather than at you before the loveplay so to encourage an erection, that is odd, but not unhealthy. If he cannot get an erection at all without the magazine, he is addicted to porn, and that is unhealthy. Such a man is powerless, addicted to vice.
His erotic emotions and appetites and passions not longer serve the purpose of erotic love. This is not a matter of taste. If I prefer beer to wine, that is a matter of taste. If I drink urine and it tastes like wine to me on my tastebuds, there is something objectively wrong with my tastebuds. My appetite for wine is objectively disordered: it no longer reflects reality; it is as illogical as a statement that is false.
From this we can conclude that while customs and manners therefore can tolerate non-sexual or non-essential forms of sexual gratification only to the degree and in the ways that these do not erode matrimony: they are allowable between man and wife in the privacy of the bedroom (or the kitchen floor, depending on how impatient you are).
A virtuous society cannot hold up sexual non-essentials as a norm, or as a substitute or equal version of copulation, nor can a virtuous man allow his tastes, if his tastes run to that, to devolve into a neurosis or an obsession.
I do not see that this standard is difference from a common sense standard which might apply to drinking alcohol or gambling for money. If done in moderation, in certain times and settings, no opprobrium attached. When they become addictive, obsession, or neurotic, they become vices, and must be deterred.
Customs and manners therefore cannot support non-copulation forms of neurotic sexual deviance without eroding matrimony. The two are mutually exclusive.
Unfortunately, while practitioners of incest and bestiality can copulate, at least somewhat, practitioners of homosexuality are limited to sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual masturbation. Whether we think homosexuality is nobler than incest of not, or no matter what status we give it, it still cannot escape the general prohibition against non-essential forms of sexual gratification neither leading to nor supporting copulation. The erotic love between Alcibiades and Socrates, no matter how otherwise noble and admirable, cannot be consummated.
I do not say it ought not, which means that it can be consummated and should not be: I say the fact is physically impossible. Homosexuals can find neurotic sexual gratification with each other, no doubt, but they cannot couple, that is, cannot perform the sex act. (It is shameful and absurd that in the modern day we are so lost and confused that any argument on this point need be made, or the matter stated as if to an audience unaware of it.)
While homosexuality in and of itself may or may not erode matrimony (the debate on that point is ongoing) the prudent magistrate when protecting matrimony must forbid not merely some, but all forms of extramarital, premarital and unchaste sex. If so, the Lawrence decision was incorrectly decided, on the grounds that even private sexual relations between consenting adults may have wider social consequences which it falls within the ambit of the state to regulate.
By this line of reasoning, non-essential forms of sexual gratification, when pursued outside marriage, constitute vice, and a chaste man would eschew it even if he lived in a society that approved and allowed for them.
Of course, homosexuality is not the main issue; it is barely even a side issue. The main issue is between the Libertine Position, which is the mainstream consensus of the modern West, and the Matrimonial Position, which within living memory had been.
The Libertine position you should all recognize as the rallying cry of the Sexual Revolution. The Sexual Revolutionaries (as we might call the partisans thereof) currently support homosexuals because they have a harmony of interests, in the same way they supported women, or pretended to, as if it were in the best interests of women to be unprotected by marital laws and norms. The general disregard of the Sexual Revolutionaries for women I have outlined above, and at some length. My fear is that those prone to the vice of homosexuality will fall under the same dismissive disregard by the Revolutionaries once their object is achieved, and the Revolution will move on to some other target, perhaps supporting polygamy, or lowering the age of consent: rumbling and foreshadowing of that are already present.
So you will forgive me if I do not acknowledge the idea that by taking the Sexual Revolutionaries as my enemies, I necessarily must offend either women or homosexual men or even practitioners of other sexual abnormalities and peccadilloes.
8. CLOSING REMARKS
It is very important to the partisans of the Sexual Revolution to support the idea that religious sentiment AND NO OTHER CAUSE can impel and opposition to their program.
I would go so far as to say this is a myth, or dogma of theirs. This myth allows them to rally support from atheists and agnostics and intellectuals in general who otherwise would have no harmony of interests with them. Most Leftists are happily married and do not cheat on their wives: why would they throw in with the Sexual Revolutionaries, pornographers, and so on?
This myth allows them the excuse: anything that offends religion and undermines moral authority makes a common cause with the Progressive movement, who must uproot all traditional authorities before their new Progressive scheme (whatever it happens to be this season) is put in place.
It is simply a lie, one the Sexual Revolutionaries neither defend nor attempt to defend.
9. AFTERWARD: CHRISTIAN MODIFICATIONS TO THIS POSITION
The above argument exists for a single purpose: namely, to show that an argument which makes no reference whatsoever, explicit or implicit, to any theological or religious dogma supports the ideals of matrimony, chastity, and fidelity, and undermines and destroys the position of the Sexual Revolution as absurd and self-destructive.
The only assumptions requires here are those explicitly and clearly stated above: that men have an objective moral duty to be virtuous, despite their natural inclinations otherwise, both in sexual as in all matters; which means to be ruled by reason and rightly ordered passions rather than by appetites and disordered passions; that the right ordering of the sexual passions is toward the end of sexual reproduction, or at least not exclusive of it; and that humans are altricial, ergo prudence demands provision be made for the natural and foreseeable outcome of sexual reproduction, including the rearing of children, which is the rightly ordered outcome of sexual reproduction — what happens, in other words, when sexual reproduction is consummated successfully.
The roots of rational support of matrimony in my case were not Christ, but common sense; not religion, but romance.
As a public service, and in the interests of total honesty, I have to say where and how my position was modified when I was converted.
First, Christ commands that I not judge other men, lest I be judged. This means I cannot criticize or condemn the persons who fall into temptations, sexual or otherwise. I can criticize the sin, of course, or warn the unwary against it.
Second, Christ commands love, not merely toleration. While my chain of reasoning above led to the conclusion that sodomy laws should be enforced, my Christian sentiment tells me that this position lacks love and charity, and so I cannot in good conscience support anti-sodomy laws, except, perhaps as a last resort to prevent worse abuses of the law. Homosexuals suffer hard lives, and cannot walk down the street without being surrounded by hostility. Every man of good will must be tenderhearted toward them, no matter what the laws say.
Third, Christ bled and died for my enemies, the Leftists and the Sexual Revolutionaries, as well as for those tempted by sexual sins and lures. Not only must I pray for my enemies, I must do so even though that praying holds me up to their derision. Since Christ died for them, I cannot hold these people up to the scorn they deserve, or mock their weaknesses, since those things are of secondary or even of no importance in the grand scheme of things.
Let us see what the Catechism says on this matter, shall we? One advantage of being a Roman Catholic is that everything my conscience is bound to believe is written down in a fair and lawyerly fashion:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
This language is certainly more temperate than when I called them perverts. I was wrong to use such hurtful words: I freely admit this in public and humbly beg for your pardon and forgiveness, but if I were not a Christian, nothing could have planted the seed of doubt or self-doubt in my iron heart, and not even a team of wild horses could have dragged that admission from my stubborn teeth. Someday Christianity may make me fit company for human beings, my brothers, and you are vastly deceived if you think this religion is making me more irrational, rather than less.
Shall we look at another quote?
“It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.”
– “On The Pastoral Care Of Homosexual Persons”, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Sins of love, or so the poet Dante says, is the least of offenses against heaven, and pride is the worst. Who am I, who indulge in the worst of sins, to use harsh and mocking language against those who indulge in the least? The love a homosexual feels toward his lover may be disordered—but it is still love, and love is still divine, and that love can draw that man to heaven certainly quicker than my pride may drag me to hell.
We are made for mercy. We must be merciful to each other. We must ask mercy and show mercy, lest we die the death.