Monday, July 11, 2005

J. Budziszewski Explains how we're "Designed for Sex"

He makes the best presentation on why traditional teachings on human sexuality matter. My insignificant words have failed to do justice to this important issue confronting our societies. Get the story from Touchstone Magazine's: Designed for Sex He has interesting answers for those that ask, "What's wrong with same-sex marriage?"

Well, for starters, it violates the purpose of sex:
let us return to the question of the purpose or purposes of the sexual powers. Common sense tells us that their main purpose is procreation. Since common sense is no longer trusted these days, I’ll give an explanation too. Forgive me for sounding like a philosopher, but the explanation is clearer if I use letters as placeholders.

Two conditions must be satisfied before you can say that the purpose of P is to bring about Q, and our answer satisfies both of them. First, it must be the case that P actually does bring about Q. This condition is satisfied because the sexual powers actually do bring about procreation; that’s just birds and bees stuff. Second, it must be the case that the fact that P does bring about Q is necessary to explaining why P has come to be—why P exists in the first place. This condition is also satisfied, because the fact that the sexual powers bring about procreation is a necessary part of explaining why we have such powers.

To put this another way, if it weren’t for the birds and bees stuff, then it would be mighty hard to understand why we have sexual powers at all. Even a Darwinist must concede the point. (By the way, if you have been worrying about a population explosion, you can stop. In the developed countries, the net reproduction rate is 0.7 and dropping, which means that the next generation will be only 70 percent as large as this one. Demographers are beginning to realize that the looming threat throughout most of the world is not explosion, but implosion.)
Of course, some might then ask: "OK. Same-sex marriage can never be procreative. But so what? It's still unitive, right?" Well...:
The other common suggestion is that the purpose of the sexual powers is union: the production of an intimate bond between the partners. This is a much more interesting suggestion, but only half-true. What I mean is that it makes an intriguing point, but that it is not correctly put.

Here’s what’s intriguing about it. We aren’t designed like guppies, who cooperate only for a moment. For us, procreation requires an enduring partnership between two beings, the man and the woman, who are different but in complementary ways. But this implies that union isn’t a different purpose, independent of procreation; rather, it arises in the context of procreation and characterizes the way we procreate.

A parent of each sex is necessary to make the child, to raise the child, and to teach the child. To make him, both are needed because the female provides the egg, the male fertilizes it, and the female incubates the resulting zygote. To raise him, both are needed because the male is better designed for protection, the female for nurture. To teach him, both are needed because he needs a model of his own sex, a model of the other, and a model of the relationship between them. Mom and Dad are jointly irreplaceable. Their partnership in procreation continues even after the kids are grown, because then they are needed to help them establish their own new families.
The unitive dimension of sex serves the larger purpose of it: procreation. However, the unitive dimension serves this purpose by providing a life-long context in which procreation and nurturing of children take place. This has an invaluable effect on the man and woman involved; they complete one another in their self-giving relationship with each other:
Let me explain a little more about the nature of spousal union. Unitive intimacy is more than intense sexual desire leading to pleasurable intercourse. The sexes are designed to complement each other. Short of a divine provision for people called to celibacy, there is something missing in the man, which must be provided by the woman, and something missing in the woman, which must be provided by the man. By themselves, each one is incomplete; to be whole, they must be united.

This incompleteness is an incredible blessing because it both makes it possible for them to give themselves to each other, and gives them a motive to do so. The gift of self makes each self to the other self what no other self can be. The fact that they “forsake all others” is not just a sentimental feature of traditional Western marriage vows; it arises from the very nature of the gift. You cannot partly give yourself, because your Self is indivisible; the only way to give yourself is to give yourself entirely. Because the gift is total, it has to exclude all others, and if it doesn’t do that, then it hasn’t taken place.

We can say even more about this gift, because the union of the spouses’ bodies has a more-than-bodily significance; the body emblematizes the person, and the joining of bodies emblematizes the joining of the persons. It is a symbol that participates in, and duplicates the pattern of, the very thing that it symbolizes; one-flesh unity is the body’s language for one-life unity.
And, lest any one argue that such cold logic lacks compassion for those couples that are infertile:
Let no one think that I am referring to couples who are childless through no fault of their own. For them, too, childlessness is a loss, but the decisive factor is not sterility, but deliberate sterility. In the natural course of things, if we willfully refuse the procreative meaning of union, then union is stunted. We are changed merely from a pair of selfish me’s to a single selfish us.
Professor Budzisewski sums up his argument with the following:
I’ve developed just four themes in this article; allow me to review them. The first is that we ought to respect the principles of our sexual design. Just as those ways of living that flout the bodily aspects of our design sicken and kill us, so those ways of living that flout the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of our design ruin us and empty life of meaning.

The second theme is that the human sexual powers have a purpose. As the purpose of the visual powers is to see and the purpose of the ingestive powers is to take in nourishment, so the purpose of the sexual powers is to procreate. This purpose is not in the eye of the beholder; apart from this purpose, we would have no way to explain why we have them. Moreover, if we try to make use of the sexual powers in ways that thwart and violate this purpose, we thwart and violate ourselves.

The third theme is that the human design for procreation requires marital and family life. For guppies, it doesn’t; they manage to procreate without them. For us, however, it does. To put this another way, we are made with a view to marriage and family, and fitness for them is one of our design criteria. No one invented them, no one is indifferent to them, and there was never a time in human history when they did not exist...

The final theme is that the spousal bond has its own structure, which both nourishes and is nourished by these institutions. Because it has its own structure, it has its own principles. Among these principles are the following: Happiness cannot be heightened by sexually using the Other; conjugal joy requires a mutual and total gift of Self. Feelings of union are no substitute for union; their purpose is to encourage the reality of which they are merely a foretaste. The procreative and unitive meanings of sexuality are joined by nature; they cannot be severed without distorting or diminishing them both.

These principles are the real reason for the commands and prohibitions contained in traditional sexual morality. Honor your parents. Care for your children. Save sex for marriage. Make marriage fruitful. Be faithful to your spouse.
For those that doubt his argument because of it's roots in Natural law, see his defense at the beginning of the article. Those with intellectual honesty should be satisfied.

The problem with Western Sexuality in the 21st century is not limited to "Gay marriage" of course. In fact, he does not even mention same-sex relationships at all. However, "Gay marriage" as a manifestation of the sexual revolution surely follows from the misuse of the gift of sex that has been all too fashionable since the 1960s. The professor clearly demonstrates why such libertine behavior violates the design of sex for humanity. He comments on the consequences that some of his students have experienced. I'm sure many of us are all too familiar with other consequences of this behavior.

The irony is that many Reasonable people have constructed their worship of the One Thing That Matters on a foundation that defies reason. As the Professor said:
Mutual and total self-giving, strong feelings of attachment, intense pleasure, and the procreation of new life are linked by human nature in a single complex of purpose. If it is true that they are linked by human nature, then if we try to split them apart, we split ourselves. Failure to grasp this fact is more ruinous to our lives, and more difficult to correct, than any amount of ignorance about genital warts. It ought to be taught, but it isn’t.

The problem is that we don’t want to believe that these things are really joined; we don’t want the package deal that they represent. We want to transcend our own nature, like gods. We want to pick and choose among the elements of our sexual design, enjoying just the pieces that we want and not the others. Some people pick and choose one element, others pick and choose another, but they share the illusion that they can pick and choose.
Thus, society once again builds a Tower of Babel. Our new results will not exceed the fruits of our previous effort. Scarred young men and women divorced from their own identities testify to that.

The precious gift of ourselves to another that results in life deserves our full appreciation. We must not allow our temptation to be like God to once again put this precious garden of Eden out of reach. May the Reasonable become the Fools that one day join us in this understanding. May that day come soon.