How did we get on this topic? We were having a conversation about talking to young women (Mollie’s post here), and persuading them to consider conservatism. One argument was that young women dread conservatives because conservatives are accused of wanting to roll back the Sexual Revolution, but that’s what brought women freedom. Then we got into the elements of the Sexual Revolution, and we landed on contraception. The arguments about contraception came up, and then I started talking about the sacred nature of sex, and I argued that contraception mitigates that. Red Feline and others disagreed - - we started talking about the nature of sex - - and rather than sidetrack Mollie’s thread, we now start a new one. This thread is devoted entirely to the nature of sex.
So let’s get started.
I love sex. Really. I look forward to it.
But just because something is enjoyable doesn’t mean it can’t also be sacred. And while I love sex, and think it’s a heck of a lot of fun, I also think it’s sacred.
- Sacred: To me that means something specific. When something is sacred, that means it has its own dignity. In plainer English, it means you can’t “use” it for any purpose but for what it was intended for. You have to respect it. An example is Communion wine. We Catholics consider it sacred, which means that we can’t just drink it because we’re thirsty. It has a special role, and we either use it for that role or not at all.
When you’re dealing with the sacred, you respect it, and you only use it for what it was intended for, and never for anything else.
Human beings, in the same way, should be considered sacred. You don’t “use” people. They have their own lives, their own freedom, and their own dignity. A president can’t just use soldiers, for instance, or throw them into danger because it may help him politically. You just don’t do things like that with people’s lives, because they’re sacred.
Parents consider their children sacred (or we expect them to). You don’t use children. If you want to play with dolls, buy a doll. If you want to have companionship, buy a puppy. But when you have a child, that child is a person in his own right, and as a parent, you respect that child’s life and dignity. You never use children.
Most of the opposition to prostitution is based on that notion that human beings are not to be “used.” You don’t use women, even if they want to be used so they can get money. Human beings have dignity, and you respect that dignity in all cases.
Sometimes the sacred comes in the form of an object, like communion wine. Sometimes, the sacred comes in the form of a person. And sometimes, the sacred comes in an action, or even a ritual.
Sex is an action. I say it’s a sacred action. My church taught me that originally, but as a man who’s been married for over twenty years, I confirm that sacredness by my own experience. Sex is at the core of my life, because my life is lived in union with another person.
Because it’s sacred, I respect it. And once I reflect on sex, I know that sex has different aspects to it.
- Sex communicates love
- Sex produces children
None of this is all that controversial. But here’s an intellectual question: Even if you grant that sex is sacred, and you can’t use it for any other purpose … does that mean that every act of sex has to fulfill every purpose? After all, it’s one thing to list qualities of sex, and demand that you can’t use sex to fulfill some other quality that isn’t on that list. But does that mean that you have to fulfill all of the qualities that are on the list, every time you have sex? If sacred means not using it for something else, does it also mean that you must use it fully?
I say yes.
My church phrases it this way: every act of sex must be open (“must be open;” now’s there’s a phrase!) to its natural purposes … in fact, it must be open to all of them. If sex’s dignity includes both procreation and communicating love, then because it’s sacred, both must be respected during every act of sex.
Now as it is, there’s a battle-worthy distinction between saying that sex [must produce] children and saying that sex [must be open to the possibility of producing] children. My church gets roasted for that distinction, but my goodness, I think that’s a way of letting people off the hook of having to produce children every time. That distinction is the church’s way of addressing the reality that while sex is sacred, people want to have it without getting pregnant.
But as for the dignity of sex:
- I find it impossible to deny that procreation is essential to the nature of sex.
- Nor can I deny that communicating love is essential to the nature of sex.
So, since the dignity of sex includes both, I can’t see a way to wriggle out of the conclusion: I must conclude that every act of sex is open to both, or else I’m having sex without respecting its sacredness. Communicating love is not enough. The possibility of producing children is not enough. It has to be both.
(OK, I’ve talked too much. Time for others to speak if they wish.)