Liberal Sexuality Cannot Work, & So Tends to Traditional Marriage

Traditional sexual morality can be stated in a single sentence, that covers all the wrinkles: any sex whatever outside of marriage is utterly proscribed. Thus the only sort of sex that is traditionally permissible must transpire between man and wife.

Weddings are elaborate affairs, sure; but that is only because traditional marriage is so definite, and so simple. It is easy to know when one is married, and easy to know when one has reneged on the marriage vows, or has otherwise sinned sexually. But it takes a Big Ceremony to nail down the permanent personal and communal commitment to such a sweeping definition.

A wedding is a passage from one order of being to another altogether larger, more difficult, more expansive, glorious, and dangerous than mere individuality. Fitting, then, that it should be so charged, huge, expensive, and total.

In a way, liberal sexual ethics are easily stated, too: under liberal sexual ethics, any sex outside the bounds of mutual consent is utterly proscribed. But here, the simplicity of the statement is achieved by skating past the great complexity of one of its terms: consent.

The difference between the two, that gives rise to the terrific complexity of living according to liberal sexual ethics, is in the form of the consent to agreement to sex that all parties thereto rely upon. The conservative version is traditional marriage, which (among other things) constitutes permanent consent to sex. Under the constraint of the sexual consent entailed in traditional marriage, consent is irrevocable, and constant; and it may therefore be assumed, taken for granted, expected, and obliged. Sex then is the “marriage debt,” that each partner forever owes to the marriage, and so to the spouse. It is a given.

The liberal version of consent per contra is always temporary, evanescent, and must therefore be renewed at each encounter (even within liberal “marriages”). It may never be assumed, or taken for granted, or expected, or obliged. It is not easily ascertained, or verified. It is subject to ex post revocation. It is never a given, but rather is given again with every iteration of the sexual act. Such giving is not thereby rendered ignoble, or less precious. But it is rendered insecure, difficult, chancy – which is to say, risky, costly, worrisome, vexed.

So we see that liberal sexual consent must somehow or other therefore evolve toward explicit and irrevocable ex ante legal agreement, formalized in a written publishable contract that is registered with the public authorities. Only thus might the consent be safely recognized, or therefore effectual in covering the risk of the parties thereto. It must, i.e., tend toward some replication of the public formalized rites of marriage. These are costly to undertake, and it would be tiresome to rehearse them at each sexual encounter. That would tend to frustrate sex (& procreation), by increasing its cost. But avoiding them would increase the legal risk of sex, and thus its cost. That too would tend to frustrate sex (& procreation). So it is that under the prevalent liberal sexual morality of the modern West, reproduction – and marriage, and even sex – have collapsed.

Excursus: Any construction of valid marriage as somehow or other dissoluble undermines its permanence and irrevocability, and so starts society on the slippery slope toward the easy criterion of liberal consent, and so to a failure of society to reproduce itself. If marriage is dissoluble at all, it is dissoluble per se; and is not, therefore, marriage in the first place, but rather only the evanescent unreliable stupid consent of liberal sexual ethics dressed up hypocritically in the skin of tradition, to lend it some specious gravitas, some convenient simulacrum of concrete inarguable reality. Legal or ecclesial recognition of divorce is then the first step toward social and biological extinction.

So traditional indissoluble marriage is inevitable. Societies that use it will outbreed those that do not.

33 thoughts on “Liberal Sexuality Cannot Work, & So Tends to Traditional Marriage

  1. Pingback: Liberal Sexuality Cannot Work, & So Tends to Traditional Marriage | @the_arv

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  3. You’ve shown that there is a natural evolution towards marriage, but liberalism is a revolt against nature. We see this in their proud slogan, “why be normal?” Normal just is the usual expression of human nature. You will find liberals defending casual sex as “natural,” but there is essentially no human society in which promiscuous coupling is condoned. Promiscuous coupling is actually bestial, not human, and it is not natural for humans to behave like beasts.

    • Yes. Promiscuous coupling seems easy prima facie. I can remember hippies saying, “why go to the trouble of the legal artifices of marriage?” But in fact, promiscuous coupling is incredibly risky, and costly. Because it fails to provide any of the insurance furnished by marriage against the risks of a given sexual act – not just reproductive and medical, but legal – it greatly increases the hazard borne to the primary parties of such acts. Hazards are costs. They increase the cost of sex. And that will tend to depress sex, ergo reproduction.

      Marriage is normal to man because societies that employ it managed the risks of sex better than those that did not, and so reproduced at higher rates. Some even of the beasts have discovered its benefits.

      This is not even to mention the important benefits of the marital bond to children.

      • The illicit use of the words “man” and “woman” subverts the entire intent of the reconstruction.

        Man and woman are the evolved states of the male and female, respectively. To the extent that “they” are written into reality, the implied state of their respective evolutions is subject to a continued barrage of alt-writer regression.

        In “our” liberated sexual marketplace, ACTUAL men and woman are some of the rarest of individuals walking amongst “us.”

        In “our” chaos are dykes and de facto dykes, liberated females, gold-diggers, trans-everything, homos, homodykes, de facto homos, savages, rapists, black widows, pedophiles, pederasts, molesters, serial gropers, murderers, abortionists and general self-annihilators all being authored into the sickNarrative diabolically cloaked as mere “man” and “woman.”

  4. If female hypergamy was less parsimonious, and did not fastidiously limit consent to the top 20% of males, then liberal sexual ethics might be able to skate by. But we know that will never happen.

    • I think liberal consent could not work even in the absence of female hypergamy. It could not work even if eggs/sperm was equal to 1, so that women did not need to be choosier than men. For, even under those two conditions, there would still need to be sexual acts, and communities would still need to be able to determine their justice or injustice clearly, definitively, and easily. Consent can’t work to settle definitively and permanently the question of whether a given sexual act is just unless it is formalized legally ex ante, witnessed by an officer of the court, and then published to the community as irrevocably effectual. Anything less, and all you have is, “he said, she said.” Consent can work, that is to say, only if it is a *lot* like traditional marriage.

      Marriage, then, *just is* the ideal, bulletproof consent to which liberal sexual ethics tends.

  5. Pingback: The Sexual Left’s Ambiguous Definition | Winston Scrooge

  6. “So traditional indissoluble marriage is inevitable. Societies that use it will outbreed those that do not.”

    That is not enough. You also need patriarchy: i.e., no social acceptance of women living on their own.

    • I was not trying to adduce all the sufficient conditions of social health, but rather only one of the necessary conditions.

      Take any two societies that differ only in respect to whether they employ traditional indissoluble marriage (this is a gedanken policy test). The society that does will outbreed the one that does not; and the one that does not will therefore head toward extinction.

      Likewise with patriarchy.

      A society that employs both traditional indissoluble marriage and patriarchy will outbreed otherwise similar societies that employ less than both of them.

      But that’s not what the post was about. No post can cover everything.

  7. In what sense is marriage a “permanent and constant” consent to sex? If I get married can my wife force me to have sex with her at any time, even when I don’t feel like it, because I’ve permanently and constantly consented? Is it impossible to rape someone you’re married to? Please clarify.

    • Marriage is permanent and constant consent in the sense that it obviates the otherwise urgent and important necessity of drafting a new legally defensible contract of consent before every sexual act.

      As to whether you may licitly deny sex to your wife, the passage that gave rise to the notion of the marriage debt is I Corinthians 7:5. The KJV gives the accurate translation:

      Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

      NB: not “deny” or “deprive,” as with many translations, but “defraud.” This is the language of contracts. The Greek word thus variously translated is αποστερέω, apostereo: to despoil, to defraud.

      Now, this is not to suggest that marriage is a contract of sex on demand. On the contrary, the passage makes clear that sex within a marriage may be deferred for a period by mutual agreement. But notice in this respect that such an agreement to defer sex for a time is the reciprocal of the liberal consent: within marriage, consent must be obtained at every *deferral* of sex, whereas under the antimarital dispensation of liberalism, consent must be obtained at every *initiation* of sex.

      Within traditional marriage, celibacy is the exception to the rule, and calls for specially negotiated consent. Within the liberal dispensation, celibacy is the rule, to which sex is a contractually memorialized exception – ergo, relatively rare.

      This perhaps is why conservatives report more sex and happier sex lives than liberals.

      In logic, rape may occur within marriage when one partner or the other reneges on a mutual agreement to defer sex for a time.

      • Thank you for the reply, Kristor. It sounds like one consequence of this idea of mutual deferral is that if one person doesn’t agree to defer then that person can force their spouse to have sex with them. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding. It’s also doubtful to me whether labeling the “consent at initiation of sex” model as specifically liberal is correct, as I’m sure many precedents for that model could be found existing prior to the modern era (although I haven’t researched that). No doubt, liberals do subscribe to that view, but that doesn’t mean that only liberals do. Similarly, most liberals subscribe to the view that the earth is not flat but that doesn’t make that view specifically liberal. In other words, I agree that there are many differences between the modern-liberal conceptions of sex and traditional conceptions, but I disagree that the concept of consent is the best starting point for defining those differences. We should look elsewhere for a line of demarcation between these respective views, although I’m not certain where. I imagine it would be more along spiritual lines rather than legal/ethical lines since the major divide between the modern and the traditional is their approach to spirituality (not spirituality in the vague, emotional new age sense, but in the traditionalist sense). Perhaps it is even at bottom a metaphysical issue, but to place the crux of the difference on the question of consent seems to reduce the divide to a matter of ethics, which in turn seems unlikely given that the nature of the divide between the traditional world and the modern is essentially spiritual with differences in ethics being a secondary consequence and symptom of this original spiritual divide. I simply don’t see any reason to preclude the possibilty that a traditional society could subscribe to a consent at initiation model provided the couple is already married.

        DrBill, I am not concerned with a legal definition of rape, but whether or not forcing your spouse to have sex with you is actually rape or not. To me it seems to be an obviously cruel thing to do. As for whether legal action should be taken against someone who does do it―that’s another question. I personally believe that to take legal action in such a case would require very strong evidence, of a kind that I imagine would be very difficult to provide. It should not be easy to convict someone of rape (marital or otherwise), but that doesn’t mean it should be impossible. Personally, if I were to find out that my sister’s husband raped her, God forbid, I would want to see retributive justice of some kind. I think that’s quite reasonable, don’t you?

      • It sounds like one consequence of this idea of mutual deferral is that if one person doesn’t agree to defer then that person can force their spouse to have sex with them.

        Not exactly. In the absence of a mutual consent to deferral of sex, it is the spouse who withholds sex who defrauds his counterparty, and so defects from the marriage, ruining it. If you’ve given yourself to your spouse utterly and without reservation – as is entailed in traditional marriage – then there can be no question of refusing sex to that spouse, except insofar as you are repudiating your marriage vows. So in a traditional marriage that has not been ruined in that way, there can arise no occasion of force.

        It’s also doubtful to me whether labeling the “consent at initiation of sex” model as specifically liberal is correct, as I’m sure many precedents for that model could be found existing prior to the modern era (although I haven’t researched that). No doubt, liberals do subscribe to that view, but that doesn’t mean that only liberals do.

        I doubt that there has ever been a society that did not employ something like traditional marriage. If that’s right, then the modern liberal sexual ethic is peculiarly modern and liberal. Nevertheless, sure: maybe the liberal sexual ethic is not exclusively liberal. Likewise, liberals believe in Gnosticism and egalitarianism, as some have done in many eras. And while it is not therefore correct to say that Gnosticism and egalitarianism have only been believed by liberals, even so they are indeed among the characteristically liberal beliefs. So likewise with the modern liberal sexual ethic of consent.

        We should look elsewhere for a line of demarcation between these respective views, although I’m not certain where. I imagine it would be more along spiritual lines rather than legal/ethical lines since the major divide between the modern and the traditional is their approach to spirituality … Perhaps it is even at bottom a metaphysical issue …

        Yes. This was the point of Marriage as an Ontological Real. The consent of traditional marriage is a formal, ex post legal recognition of an ontological reality: the mutual fealty of the spouses and their participation of a being greater than each of them, or than both of them.

        … to place the crux of the difference on the question of consent seems to reduce the divide to a matter of ethics, which in turn seems unlikely given that the nature of the divide between the traditional world and the modern is essentially spiritual with differences in ethics being a secondary consequence and symptom of this original spiritual divide.

        Amen. Compared with the traditional emphasis on marriage as an entity in its own right, the liberal emphasis on consent is ontologically obtuse.

        I simply don’t see any reason to preclude the possibility that a traditional society could subscribe to a consent at initiation model provided the couple is already married.

        Given the permanent consent of traditional marriage, consent at initiation is superfluous. It is an unnecessary expense. It reduces the benefits of marriage without decreasing the cost of marriage. So is it, not necessarily doomed, but certainly at a great disadvantage, compared to traditional marriage.

      • I’ve been looking through some old law books to see if I could find the impossibility of marital rape explicitly stated. I didn’t find anything explicit, but what I did find strongly suggested that the impossibility of marital rape was obvious to everyone until not so long ago. In any case, the Common Law did not allow a woman to bring an appeal of rape without the consent of her husband, and it seems unlikely he would consent to being charged with a hanging offense.

        “By the Common Law, any virgin, wife or widow might bring an appeal of rape, against anyone who had ravished here, tho’ she were his nief [serf]; and, as some say, tho’ she had consented after the rape: but a lawful wife could never bring such appeal without her husband.”

        I believe the line about consenting after the rape means “declined to press charges.” In another place, I read that, among women, only a “virgin” (actually quondam virgin) could decline to press charges, and that only by demanding and receiving an offer of marriage.

        One source said that some believed a man could not rape his “concubine,” which would put rape of a wife out of the question. One source said a man could rape (not meaning was allowed to rape) a “strumpet,” but another said a “common whore” had placed herself outside the protection of the law.

        Here’s another interesting line:

        “The husband may prosecute for a rape on his wife, tho’ she be dead, or tho’ divorced causa frigiditatis” (1717).

        The last clause is interesting because marriage was annulled when one party was unable to perform their marriage duties, so a woman might seek her freedom by feigned frigidity. But the crafty lawyers anticipated these womanly wiles and wrote a “Law Against Post-Divorce Thaw.”

        I don’t think your special case of mutual renunciation would be “rape,” although it would promise breaking. If I loan a fellow my car for a week, and then take it from his driveway after only four days, I’ve broken my promise but have not stollen my car.

      • Wow indeed. That’s great stuff, prof. Smith! I’ll be sure to bookmark the comment for future reference/use. Speaking of which, …

        I’m sure you gentlemen know of the recent allegation against a star OU Sooner of “rape by instrumentation.” A few of us sports fans got into a discussion concerning the matter and someone mentioned that drunkenness involves certain symptoms the young woman (the accuser) apparently experienced the night of alleged rape. I pointed out in a later post that another symptom of excessive drink is often a reduction of psychological and/or moral inhibitions, sometimes resulting in increased desire for sex in that moment. Then went on to point out that after lust, disgust and that lust has a headlong fury. Complete with links to the posts in question. One person later wrote that I had “hit a three run homer” with that post. But I think it’s more like prof. Smith hit the homer, and I merely reported on it.

    • Is it impossible to rape someone you’re married to?

      In the law, marital rape is a novelty. There was no such thing prior to WWII.

      It’s interesting to think about how powerful status quo bias is. Five minutes ago, there was no such thing as marital rape, and, yet, it is hard now to imagine getting rid of it again.

      • The recent discovery of marital rape is due to the liberalization of marriage that, while underway for a couple hundred years, really got going seriously with the Pill. No fault, easy divorce – and then the whole panoply of the modern divorce racket – became the norm only a few years after the Pill hit the market. And the legal promulgation of no fault, easy divorce was a formal recognition that the marriage bond in its pre-legal, actual form had become so vitiated as to have become for marital relations the legal equivalent of a shell corporation, with no employees, no sales of its own, etc. Marriage was criticized by the Boomers as a mere legal fiction, that had no true pertinence to facts or therefore much suasive grasp on people, precisely because that is what it had by their youth become.

        The liberalized marriage that has survived that gantlet is a shadow of its former traditional self. Thanks to easy no fault divorce, marriage is no longer an indissoluble bond. It has therefore only the binding force of any other temporary contract, such as the contract in which you and the local grocer engage when you exchange some currency for some of his oranges, and then each go your own ways, until the next time you meet to enact a new contract of commercial engagement.

        That marriage is no longer marriage, strictly speaking, but rather only an agreement that lasts so long as neither spouse has anything better to do, means that while permanent consent is still formally present in most wedding vows – albeit not usually, of course, in such vows as the betrothed more and more often invent for themselves – it is not intended by the ministers of the rite. They almost none of them intend to give themselves to each other utterly, forever, and without reserve, as true marriage would require. On the contrary. They give themselves to each other provisionally, and conditionally, and temporarily, and always under threat of termination of contract for nonperformance of this or that sort.

        This is why gay “marriage” had a snowball’s chance. Liberal “marriage” was already nothing but a fiction. Why not traduce it?

        Anyway: so it is that the newly negotiated contract of consent at the initiation of each sexual act that is more and more urgently required in the extramarital sexual market now makes its necessity felt within liberal “marriage.” In liberal “marriage,” consent is given only for a time, and must thenceforth be earned all over again. So you get marital rape.

        NB that, in logic, rape can occur within a traditional marriage only when the spouses have agreed to defer sex for a time, and one of them subsequently reneges on that agreement. Such agreements to defer sex almost never happen, in any latter day marriage. So therefore must frauds upon such agreements be vanishingly rare.

  8. A natural law understanding which denies the legitimacy of Eros in marriage is a flawed understanding of natural law and of marriage. While it may perplex the unlearned it’s easy to see how a theologian could argue that there can be no rape in marriage if Eros has no rights.

    • Who denied the legitimacy of eros in marriage? That isn’t anywhere in the post or the comments.

      Consent to sex is not the only dimension of the marriage vow. To love, honor and cherish one’s spouse forecloses engaging in any cruelty, tyranny, or violence.

      • Who denied the legitimacy of eros in marriage? That isn’t anywhere in the post or the comments.

        That’s the problem, there’s never an acknowledgement of it.

        To love, honor and cherish one’s spouse forecloses engaging in any cruelty, tyranny, or violence.

        That’s subtlety reframing the argument. This issue here is not about ideal spousal behaviour but the understanding of marriage, especially as it pertains to the idea of spousal rape.

        Quote:

        The recent discovery of marital rape is due to the liberalization of marriage………. in other words, prior to the “liberalization” of marriage the idea that there could be rape in it was unknown.

        And how can forced sex within marriage be considered “cruelty, tyranny or violence” when the concept of spousal rape is considered invalid? i.e how can you be “violent” when that mode of violence simply can’t be expressed within the marital setting, especially as understood by individuals prior to the “liberalisation of marriage”.

        Inquiring minds would like to know.

        The problem with the “pre-liberalisation” view of marriage is that it simply did not recognise erotic desire as a legitimate and necessary component of the conjugal act. Sex was simply seen as a duty or a right, and the legitimacy of sexual expression with marriage was evaluated accordingly. You cannot rape someone when the presence of spousal desire or repulsion are irrelevant to the question.

        Contemporary conceptions of sexuality are serious flawed but is some ways so was the “pre-liberal” notion. The whole traditional conception of sex within marriage gives justification to Neitzsche’s charge that Christianity gave Eros a poison to drink.

      • And how can forced sex within marriage be considered “cruelty, tyranny or violence” when the concept of spousal rape is considered invalid?

        One doesn’t need the word rape to disapprove of, or even to punish, forced sex within marriage. Laws against rape were originally meant to protect single females against involuntary impregnation and/or radical reduction in their marriage market value. They protected married men against raising bastard children, and against trespass on what was frankly regarded as his property. These harms can only occur if the intercourse is extramarital. A married man cannot sire a bastard on his own wife, and he cannot trespass on his own property.

        None of this is to say that he cannot be a complete pig, only that his being a pig requires a different name and laws.

        If society thinks it is necessary to write laws governing spousal relations, those laws should be tailored to the unique character of the spousal relation. A brutal husband should no doubt be punished, but not with the same instrument as the man who rapes a stranger.

      • Who denied the legitimacy of eros in marriage? That isn’t anywhere in the post or the comments.

        That’s the problem, there’s never an acknowledgement of it.

        There’s never an acknowledgement of the Trinity either, but that does not mean that anything so far here said – or not said – constitutes a denial of the Trinity. That I don’t mention the things you’d like me to mention in a given post does not indicate that I deny them. I could respond in like fashion that you have not mentioned either fidelity or adultery in your comments, and that you therefore implicitly deny them. But that would be an absurd thing to say, wouldn’t it? Honestly; don’t be so silly.

        This issue here is not about ideal spousal behaviour but the understanding of marriage, especially as it pertains to the idea of spousal rape.

        I take the emphatic presence in the rubric of the wedding vows of a promise to love, honor and cherish unto death as the dogmatic liturgical expression by the Church of a crucially important aspect of her doctrine of the essential nature of marriage.

        Ideally, spouses always love, honor and cherish each other, and never deny each other sex (except by mutual consent for a time), but rather always open themselves to each other in such manner that they find their erotic desire for each other ever reciprocated, so that forcing themselves upon each other is simply inconceivable. A properly loving husband would never force himself upon his wife, and a properly loving wife would never provide him an occasion to do so.

        Do spouses often fail to meet the marital ideal? Of course. All of us fall short; none of us is worthy, no not one. Insofar as we do, we wound our marriage – and each other. Whenever that happens, all sorts of other sins creep in and work their evil.

        In other words, prior to the “liberalization” of marriage the idea that there could be rape in it was unknown.

        That does indeed seem to be what actually happened, yeah.

        And how can forced sex within marriage be considered “cruelty, tyranny or violence” when the concept of spousal rape is considered invalid? I.e., how can you be “violent” when that mode of violence simply can’t be expressed within the marital setting, especially as understood by individuals prior to the “liberalisation of marriage”?

        A husband who forces his wife to do *anything at all* under threat of violence thereby traduces his wedding vows, whether or not the thing he forces her to do is licit. If he thus forces her to give him some of their money, e.g., he is guilty of tyranny, but not of theft. It isn’t the taking of the money that ruins the marriage, for that is licit, but rather the tyranny of the taking. Likewise with forcing sex within marriage. It’s evil (and as frustrating true erotic satisfaction by contravening the unitive essence of sex, is both ugly and stupid), and it ruins the marital bond. But it isn’t rape (except, again, where it violates a prior mutual agreement to defer sex for a time). Again, it isn’t the sexual nature of the act that ruins the marriage, but rather its tyranny.

        The problem with the “pre-liberalisation” view of marriage is that it simply did not recognise erotic desire as a legitimate and necessary component of the conjugal act.

        No. Sorry, but this is completely ahistorical, and ignorant of Church doctrine. The whole point of the traditional wedding was to formalize and publish and sanction and consecrate the erotic desire of husband for wife and of wife for husband.

        From the very beginning, the wedding vows were not consummated, nor was there yet therefore a marriage in the first place, until the husband and wife succeeded in completing together freely and consensually the conjugal act. And where erotic desire of either spouse for the other was missing, there could not be a free consent to the utmost love promised in the wedding vows. A wedding that took place in the absence of that sexual desire would be pointless, and stupid; and, what is more to the point, would not confect a marriage.

        Consensual sex then is the sine qua non of traditional marriage, and completes its constitution. No consensual sex, no marriage, at all. It’s right there, in the Catechism (1625 – 1629):

        1625 The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; “to be free” means: not being under constraint; not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.

        1626 The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that “makes the marriage.” If consent is lacking there is no marriage.

        1627 The consent consists in a “human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other”: “I take you to be my wife” – “I take you to be my husband.” This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfillment in the two “becoming one flesh.”

        1628 The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid.

        1629 For this reason (or for other reasons that render the marriage null and void) the Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed.

        When we marry, we effectually and irrevocably proclaim (among other things) that we want this person, and only this person, always and until death, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness (that could for a time prevent sex) and in health.

        Sex was simply seen as a duty or a right, and the legitimacy of sexual expression with marriage was evaluated accordingly.

        That spouses are obliged to each other duteously does not rule out their lust for each other. I have a duty to serve my country, if need be at the sacrifice of my life. That does not mean that my service can’t be undertaken gladly, willingly, even joyfully. Indeed, if I love my country, that’s just how I’ll feel about serving her. Likewise with my duty to respond in love and joy to the sexual overtures of my wife. That I have a duty thus to respond does not mean I will do so unenthusiastically; does not mean I will not want to do so.

        Marriage is the first criterion of licit sex, but not the last. As the wedding vows have it, sex within marriage must also be loving, cherishing, and honoring. Men who force their wives to do this or that under threat of violence are abusive, and criminals under the law. They are guilty of extortion.

      • Ideally, spouses always love, honor and cherish each other, and never deny each other sex (except by mutual consent for a time), but rather always open themselves to each other in such manner that they find their erotic desire for each other ever reciprocated, so that forcing themselves upon each other is simply inconceivable. A properly loving husband would never force himself upon his wife, and a properly loving wife would never provide him an occasion to do so.

        Amen, brother. Well said.

        If a woman is withholding sex from her husband as an instrument to bludgeon him into doing something he would otherwise not do, she is utterly in the wrong, and as you say wounds the marriage. But the proper response from the husband is *never* to force her to have sex with him. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and all that.

        It’s interesting that many women will indeed use sex as a weapon against their husbands to force them to do things they would not do of their own volition. E.g., buying her a new car when they really can’t afford it, etc. It’s also interesting that the man will capitulate to her demands *for sex*. This is equally destructive of the marriage bond, if not more so. You might appease her for a time, and enjoy the benefit of sex with her … until she has some other thing she is after and believes (why wouldn’t she if you’ve capitulated before?) that withholding sex is the best, most effective tool she has in her arsenal of obtaining it.

        Best (for everyone’s sakes) to deprive her of that weapon very early on. It’s not a licit weapon to use in a marriage to start with, as is clearly spelled out in the forgoing posts; never, therefore, treat it as though it is.

    • No. The wedding ring, e.g., signifying as it does the wearer’s continued commitment to his marriage vows, and publicly testifying to that commitment, is one such acknowledgement.

    • Perhaps we should distinguish between Consent and consent. Consent with a capital C indicates a general willingness, even to some degree of personal inconvenience; but it does not mean running to the bedroom the instant the horny husband snaps his fingers. Consent with a lower case c indicates acceding to intercourse here and now. I’d say that most healthy marital relations recognize this distinction. When my wife and I were wed, I Consented to listen to her troubles and dreams, but this does’t mean that I must consent to her waking me from a sound sleep or interrupting my reading of a book. I Consented to help with things such as painting the window sashes, but this doesn’t mean I must grab the paintbrush the instant she gives the command.

      What Consent means in marriage is that consent will be given regularly, and that it cannot be withdrawn permanently. If marital Consent is treated just like extramarital consent, a wife could end or attenuate sexual relations in exactly the same way as a single woman; and if a wife’s relation to her husband is indistinguishable from the relation of a single woman and her boyfriend, the man and wife are really just boyfriend and girlfriend. A boyfriend can permanently withdraw his consent to listen to his girlfriend’s dreams and troubles. It’s called breaking up. But this is something a husband cannot do and remain a husband. In Consenting to listen to his wife’s dreams and troubles, he is agreeing to consent (i.e. actually listen) pretty often. And the frequency of his actually listening will come closer to her ideal than his. In Consenting to have sexual intercourse with her husband, she is agreeing to consent (i.e. actually have intercourse) pretty often, and with a frequency closer to his ideal than hers.

      (Feel free to reverse the sexes and think of an undersexed but talkative man.)

      • My internet has been down and wasn’t able to reply earlier.

        Perhaps we should distinguish between Consent and consent.

        I think that there is some merit in recognising the distinction between rape within marriage and rape out of it, in the same way we make the distinction between adultery and fornication, yet the context does not invalidate what is the essential quiditty of the malice, which is the coerced nature of the sexual act.

        The issue at stake is the matter of coercion being licit when the partner denies the other sex, even after extended periods. Traditionally, the unilateral denial of sex (by either party) was always seen in a negative light and combined with the notion that once married, partners had given their bodily rights over to the other, led to the legalistic notion that a spouse could not rape the other. i.e. rape was a legal impossibility. The whole matter of sex was viewed legalistically and was devoid of any erotic analysis.

        As Kristor noted, the idea that there could be rape within marriage is a modern ‘liberal” notion.

        There’s never an acknowledgement of the Trinity either

        Yeah, that’s because notions of the Trinity are usually furthest from the minds of people contemplating sex while Erotic contemplations are foremost.

        The whole point of the traditional wedding was to formalize and publish and sanction and consecrate the erotic desire of husband for wife and of wife for husband.

        This is for your perusal Kristor and it makes for depressing reading.

        https://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/The-Conjugal-Debt-and-Medieval-Canon-Law.pdf

        Men who force their wives to do this or that under threat of violence are abusive, and criminals under the law. They are guilty of extortion.

        Nope, they are guilty of rape.

      • The issue at stake is the matter of coercion being licit when the partner denies the other sex, even after extended periods. Traditionally, the unilateral denial of sex (by either party) was always seen in a negative light and combined with the notion that once married, partners had given their bodily rights over to the other, led to the legalistic notion that [one] spouse could not rape the other. I.e., rape was a legal impossibility. The whole matter of sex was viewed legalistically and was devoid of any erotic analysis.

        But an erotic analysis of a given conjugal act between man and wife is not necessary to determine whether that act was licit. If no coercion was involved, then obviously it was licit, whether or not either partner was erotically aroused. If coercion was involved, then the spouse that forced the encounter is certainly guilty of sin, to be sure, but – technically speaking – not of the sin of rape, but rather of extortion in the case of threatened violence, and assault in the case of actual violence.

        Men who force their wives to do this or that under threat of violence are abusive, and criminals under the law. They are guilty of extortion.

        Nope, they are guilty of rape.

        A man who forces his wife under threat of violence to fork over money from their community property is not guilty of theft – for, the money in question was already properly his – but of extortion. I hope I don’t need to spell out the analogy any further.

        There’s never an acknowledgement of the Trinity either …

        Yeah, that’s because notions of the Trinity are usually furthest from the minds of people contemplating sex while Erotic contemplations are foremost.

        You’ve missed the point. That a post is silent respecting *any* x does not imply anything about x. From the fact that I did not mention eros in the post, it *simply does not follow* that I reject eros. To repeat:

        I could respond in like fashion that you have not mentioned either fidelity or adultery in your comments, and that you therefore implicitly deny them. But that would be an absurd thing to say, wouldn’t it?

        No post about marriage could hope to express all the important and interesting things there are to say about it.

        The essay you linked is interesting. I’m no lawyer, nor a canon lawyer, nor yet a scholar of medieval canon law, so I can’t comment on it capably, except to say that it admirably adumbrates the radical insistence of the medieval canon lawyers on the marital debt as a legally enforceable obligation.

        Augustine’s rigor regarding erotic love was doubtless informed by his own experience as a recovered sex addict. In its light, he could see the abyss that yawned between mere selfish lust that sought what amounted to onanistic relief through the instrument of a spousal body, and the selfless love governed by the intellect and interested in the happiness of another that characterizes unitive sex.

        It is that difference that seems to have informed the medieval canon lawyers, who treated the selfish exaction of satisfaction of the marriage debt as venially sinful, and its essentially charitable satisfaction as licit. So far are the canon lawyers from approval of *forcing* satisfaction of the marriage debt, that they reprove *even its invocation.*

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