[On this subject, see also Modes, 5.2.4]
What we have been saying in the preceding chapter is fairly easy to see with regard to nutrition. Its application to sex, however, is what is now called "controversial." I find it fascinating that people who are quite willing to admit restrictions on all of our other activities sometimes act as if sex were special and sacred, and no restrictions upon it are to be even mentioned.
But this is another of the things I brought up at the beginning of the book that no one really believes, even though people will hold demonstrations in its favor. I don't know of anyone who thinks that it's all right to rape someone if you want a child by her, for example, nor do I find anyone who claims that Jeffrey Dahmer should not be deprived of his sexual fulfillment, which involves cutting people up and having sex with their corpses. Even if that's the only way he can get sexual fulfillment, it doesn't follow that he has some God-given "right" not to be sexually frustrated.
"But that's sick!" you say. Remember, "sick" is today's code-word for "evil." What I'm getting at here is that it doesn't automatically follow that (a) if you have an urge, there's nothing wrong with gratifying it, or even (b) if you can't get sexual fulfillment except by a given kind of sexual activity, that activity is just an "alternative lifestyle."
"Yes, but he's harming other people by what he does. There's nothing wrong with what some people think is 'kinky' sex if it does no harm." Well, a fairly accepted "alternative sexual expression" nowadays seems to be anal sex; and Magic Johnson in his book on AIDS points out that you had better use a condom (and a strong one) every time you have anal sex with anyone because it almost invariably causes bleeding, at least of capillaries, though the bleeding can be so slight as not to be visible. If you're breaking someone's blood vessels in your "alternative lifestyle," you're doing him or her no harm?
And what harm does it do to a child to have sex with him or her? Before you scream, "It does psychological harm," be aware of the fact that that's because sex with children is regarded as a great taboo in our society, and isn't taken as a matter of course, the way sex with adults is. So it is done furtively with pledges of secrecy and all of that, and so the child naturally thinks that there is something wrong with it; and then when he grows up, he attributes his hangups to the sex itself rather than to (a) the fact that everyone around him looks on what he did when young with horror and regards him as a victim (social pressure), or (b) to the clandestine circumstances and the apparent guilt of his sex partner.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating child molestation, by any means. It's just that child molesters don't see what they're doing as molestation, especially since--let's face it--there are lots of little Lolitas, male as well as female, out there who are more than willing to try sexual adventures with grownups rather than with each other. And when people disagree with them, they don't do so on any real rational grounds, but on a gut-feeling that this sort of thing should not be done. The psychological traumas of the kids is something that after the fact confirms what they think. I am sure that you can find, if you look, lots and lots of well-adjusted adults who were molested when they were kids; but no one who's against child molestation is going to be moved by having them brought forward as evidence that there's nothing wrong with the act.
But then there's another case where we say that those people who can only be sexually fulfilled by having sex with someone under thirteen have no right to fulfill themselves--whether or not it actually traumatizes the kid.
I just wanted to bring this up to show that the sexual permissiveness that you hear promoted on every side nowadays isn't quite as permissive as it seems; but the restrictions don't have any rational foundation, because once you start saying that there are some things that can't be done, the basis of that is going to force you to say that there are some other things (which you happen to enjoy doing) that can't be done either.
7.2. The sexual faculty
So let's remove the blinders from our eyes and look at the sexual faculty as dispassionately as we looked at the faculty of nutrition in the preceding chapter. After all, what we are after here is being honest and not being hypocritical. In the exercise of your sexual faculty, you want to exercise it in such a way that you're not positively saying that it isn't something which in fact it is. Clearly, from what was said above we can say this:
"Being honest" in sexual matters doesn't mean just (or even primarily) being honest with the way you feel.
If it did, Jeffrey Dahmer should be allowed to cut people up, because he feels that that's so right, and it's not "honest" of him to relate to others without his butcher knife. Being honest means being honest with the way you are and not pretending that your sexual faculty is only partly what it is, or that it does only part of what it does.
So let us look at sex. Sex is obviously a these multi-function faculties; (1) it has a pleasure-aspect; (2) it involves another person, and so must respect the personhood and rights of the other person--this is the aspect of sex that is called "love"; (3) and it is the faculty of reproduction, though humans are not always fertile.
Traditional Scholastic philosophers and especially Catholic Theologians have made a great deal of the three "purposes" of sex, trying to set these purposes in an order of importance. It used to be that the reproductive aspect (which they called the "procreative" to stress that you were putting the conditions for God to create a new human being) was the primary purpose, the love-aspect the second, and the pleasure-aspect (which they sometimes called the "remedy for concupiscence"lust or desire) was third.
Nowadays, of course, people are much more "compassionate," "humane," and less "biological" about the whole thing; and so in those who like hierarchies of purpose, the love-aspect has taken over primacy of position.
The impression was given, and it was sometimes stated, that it was okay to violate one of the "secondary" purposes of sex in order to fulfill the primary one, because the primary one, being primary, superseded the others. Still, I know of no traditional Catholic Theologian who ever held that rape of a woman was all right if you wanted her to bear your child--and that, clearly, would be a violation of a "secondary purpose" of sex for the sake of the fulfillment of the primary one.
Those who hold that love is the primary purpose of sex make no bones about violating the reproductive aspect in order to fulfill the love aspect. And of course, since there's no child yet, then the potential child doesn't have any rights; and so the "denial of the right of expression of love" to the partner is supposed to override the tiny inconsistency in the "merely biological" aspect of the act.
But note that this loving "denial of the right of expression of love" is actually denial of the other's pleasure that you're talking about. So the goal of your love is the other person's emotional satisfaction, not some lofty altruism on the part of the other person. It doesn't sound quite so humane and so on when you look at it this way.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with wanting another person to get as much sexual pleasure as possible. What I'm saying is that there are no objective grounds for saying that sex is "really for" mutual gratification (which is what the love really amounts to in sex) as opposed to that it's for reproduction. If anything, looking at the sexual organs themselves, it seems pretty clear that they are automatically "for" offspring, since if you don't want offspring, you have to be pretty careful that they don't happen in spite of yourself--by the very nature of the act.
But all that business of the "hierarchy of purposes" is of course totally beside the point as far as ethics is concerned. Ethics, remember, says that you must not fulfill any aspect of yourself at the expense of any other, however insignificant. So who cares if the love-aspect of sex is "more important" than the reproductive aspect? You can't violate either of them when you exercise the act. You can't directly contradict any aspect of any faculty you have in the exercise of that faculty.
This was clear in the case of the other faculties. It should be clear in this case also.
7.2.1. The general rule
Immediately, therefore, we can enunciate this general principle with regard to human sexuality:
GENERAL RULE: To exercise the sexual faculty in such a way that one or more of its functions is suppressed or contradicted is morally wrong.
However, this, like the rules governing the exercise of any multi-function faculty also has the qualifications we made in the last chapter:
There is nothing wrong with having sex for some reason that has nothing to do with any of its functions.
That is, as long as your sexual expression doesn't contradict any aspect of your sexual faculty, you don't have to have sex because you want a child, or because you love your partner, or even because it feels good. You and your spouse, say, have made an agreement that, in order to keep your sexual relation vibrant, you will have sex at least once a week, say on Friday. Friday comes around and neither of you feels particularly amorous, but just to keep to the schedule, you go to bed together.
Not the most thrilling of sex lives, you say. Granted. I am certainly not holding up this system as an ideal. But there is nothing wrong with having sex this way, any more than there is anything wrong with eating because it's six thirty and you always eat dinner at six thirty, whether you feel hungry or not.
Similarly, as long as you're not doing anything inconsistent with one of the other aspects of sex, it is perfectly all right to engage in sex just because it feels good. That is, if your partner is willing, though not eager to have sex (and even if you're old enough not to be able to have any children any more), and you want it, it's perfectly okay to have sex just for the pleasure of it--or even for the relief of the tension that tends to build up when you've been without it for a while. Here, there's no question of doing it "for" reproduction, and you're certainly not doing it for love, but because it's a physical need that you want to satisfy, more or less the way you satisfy a need by urinating.
Again, there's nothing noble or uplifting about this. But there's nothing wrong with it, because you haven't contradicted any one of the aspects of the sexual faculty in its exercise.
Keep this in mind, because once I start talking about the things you can't consistently do, people always come back with, "But sex isn't just biological. You're saying you can't have sex unless you want a child." I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that sex is also biological; and if you say that there's nothing reproductive about it, then you're the one who's making it "just" something-or-other, not me.
7.2.2. What you can't do
Let us then look first at the negative side of human sexuality, and discuss those forms of sexual expression that are inconsistent with one or other aspect of the sexual faculty.
First of all, masturbation is wrong, because it is an exercise of the sexual faculty in such a way that it denies that it has anything to do with another person or with reproduction; it pretends that sex is purely for pleasure, nothing else.
Thus, even if masturbation has a good purpose, such as the relief of tension (or even something like freeing oneself from an irresistible urge to commit adultery), it cannot morally be done, because you would have to choose the contradiction of the faculty in order to achieve the purpose.
Note that there is nothing physically harmful in masturbating. When I was a lad priests used to try to motivate us not to masturbate by telling us that it was the equivalent of bleeding yourself. But it's not, of course. In fact, men have a physical need to get rid of sperm, and it will happen by itself (e.g. during sleep) if you don't consciously do something about it.
But this physical need should not blind us to the fact that the end doesn't justify the means; and the massage of the sexual organs to orgasm obviously makes the ejaculation of sperm nothing but a kind of urination, when in fact the sperm are sex cells which are potentially human when brought into union with a human ovum.
Human sperm is not just waste to be got rid of; and that's essentially what masturbation says it is.
In other words, masturbation is essentially a dishonest use of the sexual faculty, because it says that it is only one aspect of what it is. There is more to sex than mere pleasure or relief of tension.
188.8.131.52. Non-human sexual expression
Not too long ago, a middle-aged man was reported to have been shocked while walking down a corridor in a college dorm and seeing a sign extolling the beauty of having sex with horses. He expressed his dismay to a young coed, who replied, "Well, what's wrong with a little bestiality?"
What's wrong with it is the same sort of thing that's wrong with masturbation. To take things in order, having sex with inanimate objects is obviously just a technological form of masturbation; it has nothing to do with reproduction, nor does it have anything to do with love. The same goes for sex with plants; if you think the tree likes it and is asking for it, you've got more than a hole in your trunk. (It's hard to talk about this without making fun of it. But if you think that calling this sort of thing "sexual intercourse" is absurd, then think why. You will find that it's absurd in exactly the same sense as masturbation is absurd. If one is an absurd use of sexuality, then so is the other.
Animals can, of course, feel, and some of them seem to like having sex with humans. They say that dolphins want to have sexual play with the people that are swimming nearby. But clearly,
Sex with animals, even if they do not resist or are eager to engage in it, cannot be construed to have anything to do with reproduction, and so is positively inconsistent with one aspect of sexuality.
And so that's "what's wrong with a little bestiality." Of course, it's only by a stretch of semantics that you can call it an act of love to have sex with Flipper or Dobbin. You haven't got a person there who can have a meaningful personal relationship with you; and while you might feel affection for an animal, love is a good deal more than that: it is the willingness to be used by another person. You don't subordinate yourself to your dog's wishes; and it's only when some such subordination occurs that love is more than just liking.
184.108.40.206 Homosexual sex
We get into a slightly different area when we talk about homosexual sexual activity. First of all, I am talking here right now about the act of homosexual sex, not the homosexual orientation of the person. You can be attracted to someone of the same sex without doing anything about it (just as you don't have to have sex with every person of the opposite sex you are attracted to).
But homosexual orientation is apt to muddy the waters here. The homosexual is only or mainly attracted to those of the same sex and either can't perform or feels unnatural performing sex with a person of the opposite sex. He (or she, of course, but let's stick with a single pronoun here) actually does feel love for the other person, and love for the person as a person, being willing to do things for the other's sake and so on.
So homosexual sex is not the same as bestiality. There can be, and often is, real love expressed in the sexual act--certainly the act could be said to be an expression of love as often as heterosexual sex is an expression of love. We mustn't blind ourselves to all the times heterosexuals have sex just because they want the pleasure and be damned to the other person.
But homosexual acts are morally wrong, because the kind of exercise of the sexual faculty which occurs between two people of the same sex, even if they love each other, cannot be construed as having anything to do with reproduction.
There is nothing morally wrong with being homosexual; i.e. being sexually attracted to someone of the same sex. In general, it would be wrong deliberately to get yourself into this state, since it would tend to lead to homosexual acts; but deliberately becoming homosexual almost never happens--especially in our culture, where, for all the talk about "gay rights" and so on, homosexuals are despised and hated, and even beaten just for being homosexual. No, one finds out that he is homosexual; and the discovery is usually rather traumatic.
Whether this orientation is innate or acquired (e.g. by being abused as a child) is irrelevant. Almost universally, as I said, it was not deliberately acquired, and by the time the person has any moral qualms about it, he has the orientation, and by and large can't do anything about it.
Nor is there anything wrong with loving another member of the same sex, whether you are homosexual or not; and the only thing wrong with expressing this love by caresses and so on is the danger that these acts may lead to homosexual use of the sex faculties. Insofar as that danger is remote, then the acts of showing affection for another of the same sex are not morally wrong. There is, of course, not only the danger to yourself, but to the other person to consider. You may be under complete control; but he might not be.
A homosexual might object to all this that his nature is homosexual, and therefore, why is it a contradiction of his nature to express it? As I said above, it is not a contradiction of the homosexual nature to express affection for others of the same sex; but to use the sexual faculty in doing so contradicts the faculty as reproductive; the homosexual is denying that the exercise of the faculty has anything to do with reproduction. So it is not his nature as attracted to other persons that is contradicted; it is his nature as reproductive that is contradicted by homosexual exercise of the sexual organs.
Note that even if homosexuality is genetic, this does not mean that one has permission to exercise his faculty according to its genetic tendency. Remember, people are born with all sorts of defective organs, such as eyes that cannot see or see in distorted ways, club feet, cleft palates, and so on. The fact that you were born this way says nothing about your being normal.
People also have tendencies that could be innate and certainly weren't deliberately sought, such as sadistic urges to torture others. But no one would say that, just because you have such a tendency, it is all right to gratify it. Of course, homosexual acts do no harm to others, in general; the point is that "natural" does not automatically mean "able to be fulfilled." And the fact is that, even if a person is born homosexual, this particular innate disposition cannot fulfill itself without contradicting the faculty it is using while it is using the faculty. Hence, even if it is an innate disposition, it is a defective one ("defective," not "evil" or "perverted," which have moral overtones; but it can't fulfill itself without contradiction); it is not just a "different state" like left-handedness. Just remember, Jeffrey Dahmer might have been "born that way" and so might child molesters, but that fact doesn't make what they do "right" or "natural for them."
Homosexual orientation is a sexual handicap because the homosexual cannot fulfill himself without either (a) acting inconsistently with the sexual faculty, or (b) feeling unnatural.
Note this, by the way:
There is nothing wrong with a homosexual's having heterosexual sex, even though it feels unnatural.
Feelings, as we said in the section on emotions in Part One, are not necessarily a guide to what the truth is. It's all right to sit in the dentist's chair and have him drill your teeth, even though it feels terrible. The point is that in the case of the homosexual, the sexual feelings lead him to perform an act that (in one respect) contradicts itself; and therefore, it's the feelings that are out of whack. Hence, if he performs an act which is consistent with itself in every respect except the way it feels, then there is nothing wrong with his performing the act.
So homosexuals are not necessarily in the condition of someone like Jeffrey Dahmer. They can have (heterosexual) sex, and at least get relief from the tension involved in sexual abstinence.
220.127.116.11. Child molestation
As a kind of footnote to this section of sex with a person of the same sex, let me add this:
Sex with a child is morally wrong.
This is true even if the child wants sex, or even if the child aggressively is seeking sex. Interestingly, however, sex with a child is wrong for the same reason, and only for the same reason, that homosexual sex is wrong. And this, of course, is true whether the child is of the same sex or of an opposite sex. It can be a loving act. Those who say it can't say this from their emotions, not their reason.
But, of course, you can't say that this kind of sexual activity has anything to do with reproduction. The child is not physically capable of either conceiving or begetting; but more than that, the child is not in a mental (or physical) position of being capable of caring for a child if the child should result (as has sometimes happened. Ripley in Believe it or Not mentions a seven-year-old mother).
But since any child who is born has a right to a decent upbringing and a child-parent is simply not capable of giving his or her offspring a decent upbringing, then it is not only the case that sex with a child is very unlikely to be reproductive, it must have nothing to do with reproduction.
But of course, that means that sex with a child contradicts the reproductive nature of sex, whether it is gentle and loving or harsh and violent.
If we now turn to sex between a man and a woman, the first thing we can say is this:
Rape is morally wrong, even if it is for the purpose of having a child.
DEFINITION: Rape is the sexual use of another person against that other person's will.
It is either having sex with another when the other doesn't want to, or having sex in such a way that the other person is repelled and unwilling.
Even if a certain type of sexual activity is legitimate in itself, it is still rape if the other person does not like it and (though willing to have sex) is unwilling to engage in sex in this way.
The reason, of course, why this is wrong is wrong because it denies the self-determination of the other person. It deprives the other person of the right to choose whether to have sex, or how to have it. It does not recognize the other person as anything more than a tool to be used for one's own purposes. And since solitary sex is morally wrong, it follows that sex involves another person; and therefore, the denial of the self-determining aspect of the other person (his very personhood itself) is a denial of this aspect of sexuality. The other person is, as it were, part of the act.
Note that this also applies to one's marriage partner. If you enjoy some particular type of sexual activity and your partner doesn't and positively doesn't want to engage in sex in that way, then to force it on your partner is morally wrong. You can't hide behind the fact that marriage gives you the right to sex with that person. It only gives the right to consistent sex with that person, not to every conceivable kind of sexual activity.
18.104.22.168. Inconsistent heterosexual acts
Homosexuals cannot exercise their sexual faculties consistently with one another. But many of the acts homosexuals perform (such as oral sex or anal sex) are also performed by heterosexuals. Does the fact that the partners are of different sexes make these acts legitimate, or are they "perverted" in every case?
The answer is that there is a sense in which they are morally wrong, and another in which they are not wrong.
Mutual masturbation, sex in the mouth or other parts of the body to orgasm are morally wrong, whether the partners are of the same sex or opposite sexes.
This sort of thing is wrong, of course, for the same reason that homosexual sex or sex with a child is wrong. To make the complete act an act which cannot have anything to do with reproduction is obviously a contradiction of the fact that sex is, in one aspect of itself, reproductive.
Nevertheless, many of the acts that are called "perverted" and are done between homosexuals are all right by way of foreplay between marriage partners; as long as they don't constitute the whole act and it can reach its completion in a way that does not deny its reproductive character. That is, there is nothing in the sexual activity of a person that says that at every moment it has to be reproductive; and therefore, actions taken with the sexual organs which are not reproductive but are sexually exciting to at least one of the parties and at least not unpleasant to the other--and which are leading up to an expression of sexuality which at least can be reproductive--are perfectly legitimate.
Such preliminaries obviously aren't a pretense that sex is only part of itself; in fact they lead sex beyond the minimum that it can be; and hence are not only not wrong, but good.
But, especially when these acts are "kinky," care must be taken (a) that no physical damage is done to anyone, and (b) that both parties are actually willing (or at least not reluctant) to engage in this type of act, or the act is an act of rape.
Note that one's partner need not particularly enjoy having sex at a given time or in a given way; it is that the partner must not be positively unwilling to do it. You do not have to assert any particular function of an act; you must simply not deny any of its aspects when exercising the faculty. This, then, is the equivalent, with respect to the love-aspect of sex, of drinking coffee (which is not nourishing) or eating diet food. There's nothing morally wrong with it, though obviously sex is that much more its true self when both partners are eager.
Keep this in mind.
There is no moral requirement for sex to be thrilling. It is not morally wrong if it is engaged in perfunctorily or routinely.
It is even permissible not to especially like sex. You do not necessarily have some kind of mental problem if you feel this way. Do not be deluded by our culture of sex; it does not have to be the be-all and end-all of a relationship of love between two people. The way some sex manuals talk, it is almost as if you not rising three feet off the bed every night makes you immoral. This is nonsense.
Remember, "good" and "bad" and "pleasure"and "pain" are subjectively determined, as are all evaluations. It happens that our culture is propagandizing people to think that sex is the great pleasure of all pleasures, and that if you don't like it, it's not sex's fault but yours.
Don't misunderstand me. It is perfectly all right to like sex and find it pleasurable. I am saying only that the opposite attitude is not "objectively mistaken or wrong" because there can be no mistake about evaluations, since each of us creates the standard for evaluating for himself. In the Victorian era, in fact, many women looked on sex as an unpleasant chore to get through because it was what you did if you got married and wanted to keep your husband from frustration. After all, sex is a pretty violent sensation; and so if you want to regard it as a pain, it's quite possible to do so.
By this time, I have telegraphed the punch that is coming so blatantly that it should come as no surprise when I say that
contraception is morally wrong, no matter how it is accomplished.
A great deal is often made about the "artificiality" of contraception, as if that was what made it wrong. But if what is "artificial" is wrong, then the way I am communicating with you is wrong, because it's pretty hard to be more artificial about transmitting ideas than what's going on between us. So whether contraception uses technology or whether it's just withdrawing the penis at the moment of ejaculation is completely beside the point.
So let us be clear what contraception is:
DEFINITION: Contraception is taking a reproductive act when it is reproductive and doing something to suppress its reproductiveness with the intention of exercising the faculty as if it weren't reproductive when it is.
That's a long definition. The point is that the woman is not always fertile, and therefore sex, in itself, is not always reproductive, even though it is always a reproductive kind of activity. That is, sex (and only sex) is the kind of activity which can reproduce; and so it is always a reproductive kind of activity. It is this, actually, which is denied by masturbation or homosexual sex.
But not every act of this type is in fact reproductive. Thus, one need not intend that there be children every time one exercises the sexual faculty. There is a difference, in other words, between performing an act which is non-conceptive and an act which is contraceptive. When I say "non-conceptive" here, I don't mean an act like oral or anal sex, because these are acts which can't be construed in any sense to have anything to do with a child. What I mean is this:
DEFINITION: A sex act is non-conceptive if it is (a) the kind of act which could in itself result in a child, and (b) it does not result in a child because one or the other partner is infertile, either permanently or temporarily.
It is a calumny to assert that those who hold that contraception is wrong say that "the" purpose of sex is to have children. That would make sex after menopause morally wrong (since the woman can't have children then), and there are precious few ethicians who have ever held this. Sex after menopause is always non-conceptive.
It is simple dishonesty to take the act of sex when it is reproductive and prevent it from doing part of what it does. And that is what contraception does. No one would use a contraceptive during times when it was known that the woman was infertile, and that no child could result from the act. Why would one? No, the only reason that the "pill" is taken during infertile times of the month is that if it isn't, then it won't make the person infertile during the times when she is by nature fertile; and the person wants to be infertile during the times when she is fertile.
Is this a contradiction or is it a contradiction?
But first, we can say this:
Since a woman is not always fertile, there is nothing wrong or inconsistent with having sex at the time when she is not fertile.
The act is still a reproductive kind of activity if you engage in it after menopause, say, or during the infertile time of a woman's menstrual cycle. The only reason a child does not result from such an act is not because of anything in the act, but because the woman does not happen to have an egg ready to be fertilized.
So a couple does not have to wait until the fertile moments to have sex.
The following is also the case:
It is not morally wrong, using the Double Effect, to have sex only during infertile times; and even to take steps to discover when these infertile times are.
Remember, the problem with contraception is not "not having children"; it is the contradiction in performing a reproductive act which is not reproductive. It can be, as I said earlier, good and even morally necessary not to have any more children, if they can't be brought up decently.
So the question is not a question of the purpose; it is one of the nature of the act as an exercise of a faculty. And since the faculty is not always reproductive, then it may be exercised when it is not reproductive, if the five rules of the Double Effect are met:
1) The act of having sex at a time when the woman is not fertile is consistent with the nature of sex; 2) the act has a good effect: one avoids children who cannot be decently brought up; but it also has a bad effect, because to exercise the act only during these times makes the whole series of acts not reproductive, and thus the sexual activity of the couple as a whole not reproductive--more or less analogously to homosexual sex.
The act is still the kind of act that is a reproductive kind of activity; but the deliberate exercise of it only when not reproductive, has the effect of denying that one's sexual activity as such has anything to do with reproduction.
But since this is the effect of a whole series of acts, and is not in any one of them, this bad effect may be an unchosen side-effect of the acts of sex.
To continue with the rules: 3) the non-reproductiveness of all of one's sexual activity must not be the means toward the good effect. And it is not, in general; what is desired is that this act not result in a child one cannot support, not that, should conditions change, one never have a child. 4) The non-reproductiveness of the whole of one's sexuality cannot be what is wanted; it is just unfortunate that now one cannot afford a child. And 5) the bad effect of possible non-reproductiveness of sexual activity as a whole must not be worse than what would happen if one refrained from sex altogether.
Thus, the "rhythm" or "sympto-thermal" method of family planning cannot be engaged in lightly, because there is a bad effect of this kind of thing. It must be a method of family planning, not of family avoidance altogether. Sex in general is reproductive; and so results in "family."
22.214.171.124. Artificial insemination
I intend to say more about sexuality in discussing marriage in the chapter on the "natural societies." There I will point out why extramarital sex is wrong; but obviously, one needs to talk about what marriage is before one can do even minimal justice to the subject. But let me finish off this section of "don't's" by talking about a use of the sexual organs that is purely reproductive, and is for that reason wrong.
Artificial insemination, even with the husband's sperm, is morally wrong.
Why is this? This is a use of the woman's sexual organs purely for reproduction. It must have nothing to do with sexual arousal or with love of the person using the organs, because this person is generally a physician. Consider what is happening. The man who impregnates the woman is not her husband, and he is not impregnating her with his sperm, but someone else's. He must not arouse her when he uses her sexual organs, because he doesn't want her to love him; this is just a business deal with him, or a favor to the couple. She must try not to feel pleasure at what he is doing, or she might be aroused toward him. The husband just stands aside, even if it is his sperm that the woman is being impregnated with; and of course if it isn't, then her doing this "out of love for him" so that "they" can have a child is a farce; he has nothing whatever to do with the whole procedure.
You can see what a mockery this makes out of sex.
In fact, it is even worse than it appears when you realize that a child, as a helpless being, has a right to be brought up decently. And since that right is a right, as we will see, "against" some specific person, obviously in the child's case the right is against the people who caused him to begin to exist. Therefore, the child has a right to be brought up by his biological parents, and it is only by using the Double Effect after the child exists that anything but this is morally permissible.
But artificial insemination (and also things like surrogate motherhood) confuse the issue horribly. Who is the father of the child, in the sense of the person the child has rights against? The one whose sperm it is (who may not even know that the sperm he left in a bank is being used)? The one who impregnated the mother (the doctor)? The husband of the woman at the time (who may have nothing biologically to do with the pregnancyand might even not have been informed about it by the wife)? Who is responsible for there being a child, and who therefore has to face the consequences of the act he caused?
Actually, the ones who are suffering most, even more than women, from the sexual revolution, are the children.
7.3. Some positive remarks
This book on ethics deals with enumerating what is wrong, because the area of what to do with your life, and how high to set your goals, is up to each individual. But I think a few things should be said on the subject of what sex is in addition to what it isn't.
Everybody knows all about sex nowadays. All about it except the important things.
First of all, the act of sex is a means of communication between two people. It is a communication that doesn't use words, but things like body temperature, breathing, tactile sensations, and so on. It is also a private language, a language in which each partner reads the body signs of the other partner to find out what that other partner likes, and experiments with ways of performing the sex act so as to give satisfaction to the other partner.
Sex in its emotional dimension (in case you didn't know it) is an extremely strong sensation; and so in itself it seeks its own gratification, using the other to obtain one's own maximum pleasure. In this, sex is the very opposite of love, which gives itself less for the greater good of the other.
Sex becomes an act of love when one person so respects the other that in the exercise of an act so self-centered, one foregoes one's own maximum gratification for the sake of the greater gratification of one's partner. In the best of all possible worlds, of course, what gives you the greatest pleasure also will give your partner the greatest pleasure, and there will be mutual total orgasm. This almost never happens, because people are so different.
It is by no means a disaster when it doesn't. And when it doesn't, to give up something against the undertow of this very strong emotion is to give the other a present surpassing rubies.
But there is a greater gift than this that one can give to one's partner. The awkwardness of inexperience on the wedding night.
Why is that? Because the clumsiness and the not knowing what to do says to the partner, "You see. I have refused to learn this language from someone else, because I wanted to learn it only from that very special person you are. You can teach me all that I am to know about this communication which is sex, because it is to be between you and me alone: it is to be our personal, special, private language that we speak only to one another. I have saved myself and I have remained silent so that I might speak to you and only you, my beloved."
What greater gift can you give your beloved? Can sexual prowess and "knowing the technique" come within miles of the gift of virginity? Any other gift can be bought. This alone is priceless, because it is given only by having been kept without use, in spite of the pressure to use it.
No, ladies and gentlemen, sex is not "the most friendly thing two people can do." It is far, far greater than that. It is something two people can do that belongs to them alone and to no one else in the whole universe, however similar it might be to what other couples do.
This is not to say that if you are not a virgin when you marry, the world of your sexuality is ruined. It can still be beautiful; what I am saying is just that you don't have the most precious gift you can give your partner. But in addition to this, if you are not a virgin, you must also be careful that your experienced sexuality does not make your partner timid, because she (I speak, of course, from the man's point of view, but it applies to both) knows you know so much more about giving pleasure, and she is afraid she is inadequate.
Sex is a very delicate thing, because it says, "In spite of the selfishness of the emotions here and their power, I love you and I am more interested in your pleasure than in mine." Otherwise, sex verges on rape; and so the exercise of sex as a kind of athletic event which we seem to see praised as "real, ultimate sex" misses the whole point of sex as loveand if sex isn't love, it's animal rutting, however Olympic that rutting might be.
One other thing. Don't get married before you can have a child. So many couples postpone having a child, because they can't afford one yet; and so, even when they do this legitimately (by periodic abstinence), they miss a whole dimension of what sex is about.
The great tragedy of the contraceptive mentality is that it considers sex as "really" just the language, and thinks of the child as a kind of side-effect that you can turn on and off as you please, the way you turn water on in a faucet. But if you are open to conceiving a child right from the honeymoon, you discover something much more wonderful than I have said so far.
If the two people are virgins, each finds how very much pleasure the act gives. Not only that, but the act which gives so much pleasure to me is an act which gives the greatest of pleasures to you. I can give without losing anything, really; I give in gaining and gain in giving. In what other act is there so much gain in giving upand not only in giving up, but in giving up to the person I would give my life for?
But then when the woman discovers she is pregnant, the husband sees her blossom. She thinks she is ugly, but he sees the radiance that emanates from her--the I-don't-know-what that makes her so much more beautiful than before, but in a totally different way: not attractively beautiful but deeply, invisibly beautiful, with a beauty of spirit that suffuses itself through her body.
And the man says, "I did this to her, with that act that was so satisfying to both of us." And he marvels. And he marvels still more when she holds his hand to her abdomen and says, "Look; there's his leg. Do you feel it? See, he kicked you!" And at the same time, she is aware that she is not one now, but two, and that the child within her has a mind of its own, and is totally under her protection. Would you "postpone" this?
And then finally when the child is born and each person looks into a face which is partly his and partly hers, and partly the grandmother of one or the other and partly Uncle David: into that face which is the literal physical union of the two of you and all your ancestorsthen when that happens, each partner can say, "This act is totally good. It is good in itself, it is good for my beloved, and it is surpassing good in its effect. A new human being has come into the world. Praise God who made all things to be very good!" It is here that "the two become one flesh." Literally.
That is what the act is in its totality. That is what it really is. And it is only if you have a child right away that you see the act in its true reality. Then, because you can't afford to inundate the world with your offspring, you can permit the act to be not its full self, realizing what its full self really is, and with the attitude, "Well, we know what sex is really all about; and if now we must for practical reasons put up with less than the fullness of the act, we have lived it in its fullness, and no one can take that away from us, because its fullness is growing up beside the two of us, reminding us at every moment of beauty that comes as close to the Beatific Vision as anything on this planet can do."
Don't ruin it. It's too wonderful to ruin. Don't settle for just a part of what sex is; preserve it in its majesty and mystery.
Summary of Chapter 7
We seem to be being told that there should be no barriers to fulfillment of sexual urges, but no one really believes this. Sadists, rapists, and child molesters are regarded even by our permissive society as people who should not be allowed sexual fulfillment. So it is worth investigating what the real limits are to sex. "Being honest" sexually does not mean being honest only with the way you feel.
Sex has three functions: pleasure, involvement with another person, and reproduction, though sex by nature does not always reproduce. It is a waste of time to discuss which is the "primary" function and which the "secondary" ones, because the moral obligation commands that we are not to violate any aspect of ourselves for the fulfillment of any other.
Hence, to exercise sex in such a way that one or more of its functions is suppressed is morally wrong. But this does not mean that you have to actively want or intend any of the functions in the exercise of the act.
Masturbation is morally wrong, because it denies that sex has anything to do with another person or with reproduction. Sex with inanimate objects or plants or animals is wrong for the same reason. Homosexual acts are wrong, because this kind of sexual activity denies that sex can have anything to do with reproduction. It is not wrong to be a homosexual, or even to love others of the same sex; what is wrong is the expression of this love using the sexual organs. Homosexuals may morally have heterosexual intercourse, even though this may feel unnatural to them. Child molestation is wrong for the same reason homosexual sex is.
Rape is morally wrong, because it uses another person while denying the self-determination of the other. It includes having sex in a manner which is repugnant to the other person. Acts like oral sex are wrong if carried to orgasm; but they are legitimate as foreplay if both partners are willing. There is, however, nothing wrong with having sex when the other is merely willing to do so, but not eager. It is to be noted that it there is nothing wrong with a person who does not especially enjoy sex.
Contraception is wrong (whatever the method used) because it suppresses the reproductiveness of the act when it is reproductive. Contraception is different from non-conception, which is having sex that in itself could be reproductive, but which is not in fact reproductive due to infertility. Non-conceptive sex is not wrong. Nor is it wrong, using the Double Effect, to have sex only at the times when it is not reproductive, as long as the bad effect of denying the reproductiveness of sexual activity as a whole is overbalanced by avoiding the bad effect of having a child one cannot support.
Artificial insemination is wrong, because this use of the woman's sexual organs is purely for reproduction and denies the other two functions (pleasure and love for the one using the organs) of the faculty. Artificial insemination show up perhaps most clearly that the worst victims of the sexual revolution are the children.
But the sexual revolution has also blinded people to the positive side of sex. Sex is a private language not using words between two people; it is most itself when it is learned by the couple itself; then it says, "I love you" much more truly than the athletic sex learned from manuals or previous experience. Sex, which is in itself selfish, becomes love when one partner lets his own greater gratification yield to the gratification of the other.
When sex is open from the beginning to children, the couple learns from the start the beauty of the act in its complete reality. It is extremely gratifying; in gratifying oneself one is also gratifying the person one loves above all others. Pregnancy makes the woman blossom like a flower, and become aware that she is not one person, but two people in one body; and when the child is born, he is the union of the couple in one flesh.
This is far too beautiful and mysterious a thing to squander on casual encounters.
Exercises and questions for discussion
1. What would be wrong (if anything) with orgies: having sex with many partners at the same time?
2. Can you think of any rational grounds for deciding whether incest is morally right or wrong?
3. Extra-marital sex was not discussed in this chapter. Do you think sex belongs only in marriage, or do you think it can be exercised consistently outside of marriage?
4. Would it be morally wrong for a doctor who wants to help a woman get pregnant to take the sperm deposited in her by her husband, and with a syringe, propel it farther into her so that it could be more likely to fertilize an ovum?
5. Is surrogate motherhood a contradiction of some aspect of sexuality? If so what?Next