Links: Marriage and Sex

What Sex Can Be: Self-Alienation, Illusion, or One-Flesh Unity

by Robert P. George and Patrick Lee

This article focuses on the reasoning behind the position that sex acts are only morally permissible within the context of marriage. George and Lee argue that this is due to an understanding of marriage as a multi-level commitment – emotional, physical, social, etc. This is an extremely strong article that provides clear and coherent arguments suitable for an academic setting.

The Good of Marriage and the Morality of Sexual Relations: Some Philosophical and Historical Observations“(pdf file)

by John Finnis Finnis examines Aquinas’ claim that “sex acts are immoral when they go ‘against the good of marriage.'” This article is less comprehensive than the George and Lee article and more technical, but a helpful understanding of sex from the perspective of natural law philosophy.

Designed for Sex

by J. Budziszewski

The article explains the notion of design and how it fits into natural law notions of sex. Complex information is presented in a simple, easy-to-read manner.

What is Marriage For? The Public Purposes of Marriage Law“(pdf file)

by Maggie Gallagher, Louisiana Law Review

Gallagher provides insight as to the range of evaluative approaches available when considering marriage, and concludes that marriage is necessary for the successful reproduction of society, which has implications in the legal realm.

Marriage and Caste

by Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal

This is a clear article that addresses the idea that there is a great disparity between educated and uneducated women in the number of children raised outside of marriage, and that this phenomenon is leading to two very different Americas.

The Ring Thing

by W. Bradford Wilcox, National Review Online

Wilcox argues that lower crime rates and better parental relationships exist in two parent homes where mothers are married to the father of their children.

The Tragedy of America’s Disappearing Fathers

by Juan Willliams, The Wall Street Journal

In this article Williams follows the trend of missing fathers, particularly in urban areas. One way to combat child poverty and increase the well-being of children, Williams argues, is by reaffirming the importance of fathers in the family.

The Top Ten Myths of Divorce

by David Popenoe

Popenoe dismantles common misconceptions about several different aspects of divorce, in each case providing references to the article, study, or book supporting his claim. This could be an excellent tool for finding sources on the ways divorce is harmful to society.

More Evidence: Cohabitation is Poor Training for Marriage

by Heide Seward

Seward summarizes the findings of studies that indicate that cohabitation is poor training for marriage. Some of the reasons for this finding include that men “can get sex without marriage more easily than in the past,” and they can also “enjoy the benefits of having a wife by cohabiting rather than marrying.”

Valentines Day

by Dawn Eden, National Review Online

Eden describes two constants of Valentines Day: her father sending her chocolate and her remaining single. She discusses how her willingness in the past to give herself physically to men would often come with the cost of her remaining emotionally detached in relationships, and she discusses her own transition to a chaste lifestyle.

Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles

Scholars from history, economics, philosophy, psychiatry, law, and sociology come together to discuss the reasons why marriage is in the public interest. They discuss the challenges marriage is facing in today’s world, set forth grounding principles on the value of marriage, and suggest ways forward.

The Virtuous Life: Chastity

This is one of few articles addressing this issue and aimed specifically at men. It identifies the problems with casual sex–that it is degrading to women and poor preparation for marriage–in a concise and easy-to-read way.

Marriage still the best way to play happy, healthy families, says study

by Polly Curtis, The Guardian

Although studies have shown that marriage is associated with better health and that children do best in a number of different categories when raised in households with two married parents, the number of such households is decreasing rapidly–cohabitation rates have increased 65% in the last decade in the UK. Although all the statistics in the article are specific to the UK, this article could still be useful in responding to those who say that what is most important in a household is that parents love each other/their children, and not whether or not they are married.

Dare We Get Real About Sex?

by Carson Holloway, Touchstone Magazine

Formerly, US sexual morals were stricter than in Europe and this strict sexual morality continued until the 1960s, but since then sexual moral standards have loosened considerably. This change came because of general acceptance of the notion that anything done by consensual adults is acceptable–no sexual act is objectively morally wrong. Holloway argues that this means that it is inevitable that pedophilia will eventually be recognized as legitimate. Holloway offers a response to the type of reasoning that would legitimate pedophilia, however, this argument assumes that sex has a moral dimension, which is denied by many. It is difficult to offer an explanation of the moral nature of sex that both invalidates pedophilia and avoids condemning a majority of Americans for their sexual practices. Holloway finishes his article with a call for conservatives to think through their definition of sexual ethics in an attempt to come up with a position that does not allow a travesty such as pedophilia to be practiced.

Instant Sex

by David Gelernter, Weekly Standard

Gelernter writes about the lack of understanding of and belief in romantic love in today’s culture, and blames it on the preponderance of casual “instant” sex. Gelernter further turns to some of Shakespeare’s plays as evidence and examples of true romantic love. His use of literature (he refers to the Bible and Jane Austen as well) is interesting, but didn’t really support the anti-instant sex portion of his argument.

Not out of Lust, but in Accordance with the Truth

by Alexander Pruss

Pruss provides insight into the Judeo-Christian moral framework, with a particular focus on Catholicism, and explains why sex is appropriate only within the context of marriage. He takes a theological/philosophical approach and also addresses issues such as contraception and lust. The article is well-written, with lucidly explained arguments.

Christian Sexual Ethics

by Alexander Pruss

Pruss emphasizes the importance of examining the sexual act and its meaning simultaneously. He discusses arguments on contraception, natural family planning, and organicity. A helpful article that defines the one body, one flesh component of marriage and also makes clear the implications of such a view of marriage.

Shameless and Loveless

by Roger Scruton, The Spectator

Scruton describes how some level of sexual shame is necessary. It is only when we regard something as sacred or holy that we understand how it can be defamed.

A Basic Theology of Marriage

by Christopher West

West examines the issue of marriage from a Catholic perspective, defining marriage in terms of a communion of two persons, and describes the implications of his view on the issues of divorce and sex.

What Is the Theology of the Body and Why Is It Changing People’s Lives

by Christopher West

A helpful introduction to the theology of the body that provides insight into the collection of Pope John Paul II’s 129 short talks on sexuality.

But I’m Just Not Ready

This article suggests that defending chastity based on personal feelings becomes difficult when someone else asserts that they feel that sex is perfectly acceptable. The article instead proposes defending chastity with reasoned arguments related to the facts of marriage, pregnancy, and one’s relationship with God.

Sex in the Body of Christ

by Lauren Winner, Christianity Today

Winner starts her article with an examination of the lack of chastity in today’s American culture, and specifically within the Church. Studies have found that two thirds of Christian singles have had sex before marriage. And while there are pro-chastity movements within the Church such as the True Love Waits movement, those who signed the True Love Waits pledge typically only delayed sex before marriage, and then only under certain conditions. Winner defines chastity as “sex within the body of Christ,” which means having sex only within the boundaries of marriage. Chastity is not only a rule, but a spiritual discipline, or exercise–something you deliberately practice, not merely a state of being.

Deeper Into Chastity

by Lauren Winner, Christianity Today

Winner describes her journey to Christianity and how it eventually pointed her toward chastity.

Bodies of Evidence

by Frederica Mathewes-Green, Touchstone Magazine

Mathewes-Green discusses the meaning of sex–its purpose and proper sphere. Looking at sex from a natural point of view, she concludes that the meaning of sex for humans is broader than reproduction. The fact that humans can have sex face to face suggests that sex is also about connection. Part of the reason that sex is for the long-run is that human newborns are much less self-sufficient than those of other animals, and need both parents to care for them. The reason that sex is not just till children reach self-sufficiency, but for a lifetime, is that human beings seek love, not just the physical pleasure that sex can bring. It is a sign of Christ’s relationship to the world–unconditional love makes both the giver and receiver more like God.

A Theological Reflection on the Human Body

by John Joseph Myers, Archbishop of Newark

This pastoral letter sets out Catholic teaching on the human body. The Bible emphasizes that human beings are both body and soul. The body points to the doctrines of creation and incarnation and redemption through Christ’s physical suffering. Sexual intercourse is a type of communication–a giving and receiving. Therefore “intercourse outside marriage and contraceptive intercourse both are lies told with bodies; the two parties do not truly give and receive openly and unconditionally but only use each other for pleasure.” Just as denying the significance of the body is problematic, so is glorifying it in excess.

Marriage and the Complementarity of Male and Female

by William E. May

May begins by examining passages from Genesis 1 and 2, and derives some important truths from them: As the author of marriage, God set out the defining characteristics of marriage: it is to be between one man and one woman, it is for the procreation of children. The complementarity of men and women is apparent in sexual intercourse–both the man and the woman are active, and both give and receive. Men are inclined toward giving in a receiving way, while women are structured so as to be inclined to receive in a giving way. Complementarity is also demonstrated in men’s and women’s roles in parenting. May also comments on Genesis 3 and Ephesians 5, which indicate that marriage is “a holy sign of the life-giving, love-giving union between Christ and his bride the Church.”

The Communion of Persons in Marriage and the Conjugal Act

by William E. May

One of the defining characteristics of marriage, instituted by God, is that a husband and wife, in marrying, form a communion of persons, just as God is a communion of persons. Human marriage is merely an anticipation of Christ’s marriage to His bride, the Church, in heaven. The conjugal act is the way a husband and wife actualize the communion of persons.