Following on from my husband’s purpose of marriage post, I felt another rant looming about sex within marriage. It is this: that laying down the prerequisitive of marriage before sex, reduces marriages to nothing more than a tickbox for sex.
That is, marriage is for sex.
Nothing about true love, the rest of your lives, commitment and working together.
Just, “I wanna do you.”
It’s harsh, but it’s true, and it would be the same for another principle. After all, don’t many stoic religions try extremely hard to reduce sex to reproduction? And yet, advising use of contraceptives is commonplace (luckily). And the consequences – whether it be pregnancy or STIs, is well known and incorporated into that explanation.
After all, education is the best tool for encouraging sensible decisions about sex – and doesn’t disarm the decision maker!
In the same way, I have no problem with a person who says you should only sleep with someone you are in love with, trust, or feel comfortable with. These are all pieces of advise. These people say: try it my way and it will probably go better for you. Sex within marriage advocates say: if you have sex outside marriage you are dirty, bad, marked, doomed to eternal torment in the fires of hell.
That is just not the same.
So why do I say that sex within marriage reduces marriage to sex?
Most people who say you must get married before having sex do not mean “marriage is a hoop towards sex” – they mean you must be in love with your partner, committed to spending the rest of your life with them and willing to formalise that promise ceremonially before god.
But they still insist on the paperwork. Meaning it isn’t enough: you have to do the wedding. And yet the wedding proves nothing. It’s like playing chicken with god.
He says, “I don’t think you’re ready for this, you’re just overtaken by the passions of the moment.”
And you say, “No, I’m ready! I am! I am! I’ll prove it to you! You just watch.”
And he says, “Okay, then, pay all this money for a ceremony, get all your family and friends to watch, convince these officials, and go out there and tell them that you mean it, if you dare.”
But I’m pretty sure an omnipotent being could’ve come up with a better way of inducing sincerity… Lots of people get married because of pressure – romantic, social, religious – all sorts. And lots of people get divorced or live miserably not because of newly developed problems, but because the union was a mistake in the first place.
So the meaning is the important bit, right, not the legality?
You can pretend it, but you still don’t really mean it.
Let me use a classical example. William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”.
For those who do not know the plot, Angelo, the deputy duke, decides to execute Claudio as an example, a man who has impregnated his fiancée Juliet, whom he is unable to marry because of the expense.
Now Shakespeare’s Italian dukedom may not be a good model for modern society, and Claudio and Juliet might have thought about the financial strain of producing children whilst they were trying to save for a wedding, but the example remains very human.
Are Claudio and Juliet in love? They say so. Do they mean to live together for the rest of their lives and commit themselves to their future? Undoubtedly, for they are engaged.
But they are not actually married, and this is a hanging technicality.
Being on the wrong side of the paperwork is the ‘wrong side of morality’ – and leads to death.