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IN DEFENCE OF MARRIAGE
Marriage - as a well-considered public declaration of life-long loyalty to the other, and as the state accepted by society in which sexual union and child rearing can occur - has many advantages over the alternatives that seem to be assumed as acceptable today. We do not need to engage in a 'preachy morality'; we can employ logic and reason.
Suppose there is no marriage, no loyalty. Then all people are 'fair game'. Those who are 'rich' in charm, eloquence, sexuality, looks, etc. will be able to 'win' partners more easily. In fact they will be able to steal (or 'win') other people's partners. They will gradually have more and more partners, while those who are deficient in charm, eloquence, sexuality, looks, etc. will lose out. It will also mean that those with access to wealth will have an advantage over those who do not.
Marriage ensures that even those who are poorest in charm, eloquence, sexuality, looks, etc. will have the opportunity to intimate, sexual, supportive, loving, partnership and the ability to bear children. And to have this opportunity without fear that some better endowed person will come along and deprive them of it.
The concept of marriage as the proper context for sexual relations provides a clear definition of who can 'have sex' and with whom they can have it. And the definition is not arbitrary.
But when society assumes that anyone can, in principle, 'have sex' with anyone, then we find problems in defining who can have sex with whom.
- One utopian attempt to define this is "if both agree to it". But what is agreement? Very often people find that part of them 'agrees' while another part 'disagrees'. Freud tried to see this in terms of ego, id, etc. but it is nevertheless true that 'agreement' is not easy to determine in the heat of the situation. So the dominant person can often apply pressure to gain a kind of agreement that is not true agreement. This often results in the non-dominant feeling they have been raped.
- A formal attempt to define who can have sex with whom is to fix an age limit. The boundary between those who can have sex is a numerical age. But there is always problems with boundaries based on continuous numeric quantities. In the UK it is OK to have sex with someone 16 years and 1 day old, but not OK to have sex with someone 2 days younger. This seems - and is - arbitrary. In latter case, you are a 'paedophile', and paedophiles are universally hated by the tabloid media. (19 November 2006: It is reported that Terry Grange, a Chief Constable in the UK, spoke out: those who have sex with 13-year-olds should not be labelled paedophiles. The endless argument about the 'right' number has begun.)
- Also it is not sensitive to the differences in 'maturity' between people.
But marriage provides a much better definition.
- It is less susceptible to pressure from a dominant person since it is "not entered into lightly". Marriage contains an element of agreement, and this element is considered and deliberate. While there are, of course, horror stories of people being pressured into marriage, but this is much less common than pressure applied in the situation of a chance meeting or even a 'pleasant evening' with a friend.
- The boundary between those who can have sex and those who cannot is no longer an arbitrary point in a continuous numerical spectrum, but is based on a distinct volitional act: a promise given to the other. There is nothing arbitrary about this.
- Moreover, it can be more sensitive to the differences in maturity between people. As long as a couple enter into marriage with careful deliberation, they can take into account the states of maturity. And if one of the partners is less mature or deficient in certain ways, and yet the other partner agrees to live with this, then the differences in maturity or readiness are handled by the individuals in the situation rather than being submerged into some numeric figure.
We might ponder Guy Brandon's words:
"The media continually takes the line that romance is indispensable
and sex vital to personal fulfilment.
Sex is seen as a safe, low-consequence activity engaged in by just about everyone
- except,oddly, within the context of lasting marriage,
where it can often represent stagnation and freedom-curtailing responsibility.
"In the real world, meanwhile,
friendship runs the risk of being demoted
- still important, perhaps, but a second-best option
without the prospect of upgrading to romance.
"Rootlessness and mobility have encouraged the expectation
that our partners should fulfil the role of every other kind of relationship,
and the same is true in reverse as
friendships have become increasingly sexualised."
Guy Brandon, Spring 2007, Engage, Cambridge, UK: The Jubilee Centre
Almost the whole of the aristocracy of the world - the rich world, including most Westerners - loves to glorify and justify adultery and unfaithfulness, turning a blind eye to the misery that results for many others.
And almost the whole of the artistry of the world - the media, novelists, playwrights, painters, composers - loves to excuse and gratify them. Why cannot this artistry be put at the service of faithfulness? Why cannot it show the glories of faithful, married life? There are many reasons, but Simone Weil has perhaps found one.
This page, "http://abxn.org/marriage.html"
is part of Andrew Basden's abxn.org pages - pages that open up discussion and exploration from a Christian ('xn') perspective. Written on the Amiga with Protext, in the style of classic HTML.
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Copyright (c) Andrew Basden at all dates below. But you may use this material for almost any non-antagonistic purpose (including commercial) subject to certain easy conditions.
Last updated: 7 February 2001 email. 19 November 2006 Terry Grange; unet. 18 April 2007 sex, marriage, friendship. 19 February 2011 aristocracy and artistry at end; link to Weil. 20 July 2018 links to marriage.milton and wab:opinions/marriage, new .end, .nav. 25 July 2021 links, new .nav,.end, bgcolor.