John, you asked a very constructive question in regards to marriage and sexuality, let me repeat your question here:
- “If it doesn’t have to do with being turned on, mentally and physically, and acting upon one’s desires, then what does define our sexuality? What defines us being heterosexual?”
Keep in mind that you have caused me to search out better definitions and understandings with respect to our current conversation, so I am starting to build on past knowledge, and may only be able to answer you thoroughly in the future and not at this immediate time.
However, I believe I have come to terms with what it is that we are discussing, and I believe I can define “sexuality” in a way that you can take away from this conversation and say, “So this is where the crux of the debate lay on their side.”
Okay, let me start this long – arduous – definition of heterosexuality. First of all, the claim that the law ought to be morally neutral about marriage or anything else is itself a moral claim. As such, it is not morally neutral, nor can it rest on an appeal to moral neutrality. We are both debating a subject, and as such, both are using reference points, subject/object distinctions, and the like. We are far from being neutral and must admit we are trying to propose one mortal system over another. I am sure we are both agreed on this.
The CORE of the traditional view and understanding of marriage (remember that homosexuality has long been condemned as immoral by the natural law tradition of moral philosophy, as well as by Jewish and Christian teaching, not only that, it may have been recognized by past cultures, but never authorized… as the gay rights movement is asking for today):
Marriage is a two-in-one-flesh communion of persons that is consummated and actualized by acts that are reproductive in type, whether or not they are reproductive in effect (or motivated, even in part, by a desire to reproduce). The bodily union of spouses in marital acts is the biological matrix of their marriage as a multi-level relationship: that is, a relationship that unites persons at the bodily, emotional, dispositional, and spiritual levels of the being.
Marriage, precisely as such a relationship, is naturally ordered to the good of procreation and to the nurturing and education of children) as well as to the good of spousal unity, and these goods are tightly bound together with a healthy society.
The distinctive unity of spouses is possible because human (like other mammalian) males and females, by mating, unite organically – in other words, they become a single reproductive principle. Although reproduction is a single act, in humans (and other mammals) the reproductive act is performed not by individual members of the species, but by a mated pair as an organic unit. Germaine Grisez has made this point:
“Though a male and a female are complete individuals with respect to other functions – for example, nutrition, sensation, and locomotion – with respect to reproduction they are only potential parts of a mated pair, which is the complete organism capable or reproducing sexually. Even if the mated pair is sterile, intercourse, provided it is the reproductive behavior characteristic of the species, makes the copulating male and female one organism. Masturbatory, sodomitical, or other sexual acts that are not reproductive in type cannot unite persons organically: that is, as a single reproductive principle. Therefore, such acts cannot be intelligibly engaged in for the sake of marital (i.e., one-flesh, bodily) unity as such. They cannot be marital acts!”
Rather, persons who perform such acts must be doing so for the sake of ends or goals that are extrinsic (definitions at the end) to themselves as bodily persons: Sexual satisfaction, or (perhaps) mutual sexual satisfaction, is sought as a means of releasing tension, or obtaining (and, sometimes, sharing) pleasure, either as an end in itself, or as a means to some other end, such as expressing affection, esteem, friendliness, etc. In any case, where one-flesh union cannot (or cannot rightly) be sought as an end-in-itself, sexual activity necessarily involves the instrumentalization of the bodies of those participating in such activity to extrinsic ends.
In marital acts, by contrast, the bodies of persons who unite biologically are not reduced to the status of mere instruments. Rather, the end, goal, and intelligible point of sexual union is the good of marriage itself. On this understanding, such union is not a merely instrumental good, i.e., a reason for action whose intelligibility as a reason depends on the other end. The central and justifying point of sex is not pleasure (or even the sharing of pleasure) per se, however much sexual pleasure is sought – rightly sought – as an aspect of the perfection of marital union; the point of sex, rather, is marriage itself. Considered as a bodily (“one-flesh”) union of persons consummated and actualized by acts that are reproductive in type.
Because in marital acts sex is not instrumentalized, such acts are free of the self-alienating and dis-integrating qualities of masturbatory and sodomitical sex.
Unlike these and other nonmarital sex acts, marital acts effect no practical dualism which volitionally and, thus, existentially separates the body from conscious and desiring aspect of the self which inhabits and uses the body as its instrument. (On person-body dualism, its implications for ethics, and its philosophical untenability, see: John Finnis, Joseph M. Boyle, and Germaine Grisez, Nuclear Deterrence, Morality and Realism [Oxford University Press; 1987], pp. 304-309.)
As John Finnis has observed, marital acts are truly unitive, and in no way self-alienating, because the bodily or biological aspect of human beings is “part of, and not merely an instrument of, their personal reality.”
But, one might ask, what about procreation? On the traditional view, isn’t sexual union of spouses instrumentalized to the goal of having children? It is true that Augustine was an influential proponent of something like this view, and there has always been a certain following for it among Christians. The strict Augustinian position was rejected, however, by the mainstream of philosophical and theological reflection from the late Middle Ages forward, and the understanding of sex and marriage that came to be embodied in the civil law of matrimony does not treat marriage as a merely instrumental good. Matrimonial law has traditionally understood marriage as consummated by, and only by, the reproductive-type acts of spouses; by contrast, the sterility of spouses – so long as they are capable of consummating their marriage by a reproductive-type act (and, thus, of achieving bodily – organic unity! This is why court annul a marriage that hasn’t reached this unity) – has never been treated as an impediment to marriage, even where sterility is certain and even certain to be permanent (as in the case of the marriage of a woman who has been through menopause or has undergone a hysterectomy).
According to the traditional understanding of marriage, then, it is the nature of marital acts as reproductive in type that makes it possible for such acts to be unitive in the distinctively marital way (“one-flesh”). And this type of unity is intrinsic, and not merely instrumental, value.
Thus, the unitive good of marriage provides a noninstrumental (and thus sufficient) reason for spouses to perform sexual acts of a type that consummates and actualizes their marriage. In performing marital acts, the spouses do not reduce themselves as bodily persons (or their marriage) to the status of means or instruments.
At the same time, where marriage is understood as a one-flesh union of persons, children who may be conceived in marital acts are understood not as an ends which are extrinsic to marriage (either in the strict Augustinian sense, or the modern liberal one), but, rather, as gifts which supervene on acts whose central justifying point is precisely the marital unity of the spouses. Such acts have unique meaning, value, and significance, as I have already suggested in this post, because they belong to the class of acts by which children come into being – what I have called “reproductive-type acts.” More precisely, these acts have their unique meaning, value, and significance because they belong to the only class of acts by which children can come into being, not as “products” which their parents choose to “make,” but, rather, as perfective participants in the organic community (i.e., the family) that is established by their parents’ marriage. It is thus that children are properly understood and treated – even in their conception – not as objects of the desire or will of their parents, but as subjects of justice (and inviolable human rights); not as property, but as persons.
Excerpts from Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis.
Extrinsic (Random House Webster CD-Rom) – all are relevant.
1. Not essential or inherent; not a basic part or quality; extraneous: facts that are extrinsic to the matter under discussion.
2. Being outside a thing; outward or external; operating or coming from without: extrinsic influences.
3. Anatomy. (of certain muscles, nerves, etc.) originating outside the anatomical limits of a part.
Intrinsic (Random House Webster CD-Rom) – all are relevant.
1. Belonging to a thing by its very nature: the intrinsic value of a gold ring.
2. Anatomy. (of certain muscles, nerves, etc.) Belonging to or lying within a given part.
A question posed to me years ago by one of my son’s friends:
I have written heavily on this subject, both papers are on my blog at:
The homosexual man or woman is just as much a sinner as you or me. We all need Christ. To touch on the hell issue first, I believe hell is a testament to free-will, and dignity as well. C.S. Lewis mentioned that hell is locked from the inside. The only thing separating mankind from God is a belief in the finished work on the Cross. By choice people reject their Creator, they choose their path, God never imposes it. Many who are saved are not immediately pure in action, nor will they ever be. Sometimes people take decades to work through their faults (counseling, prayer, reading God’s Word, etc), so just like the person who may cheat on his wife regularly, when he comes to a saving knowledge of God, he will be challenged to change his ways and seek counseling and prayer and reference from God’s Word. The same with a gay man or woman. If they truly have a saving knowledge of God, they will be challenged by the Holy Spirit to seek biblical guidance in their life, and like many others, they will turn away from their homosexual lifestyles.
However, there is a “created order,” or, even a natural order (if you do not believe in God). My argument for heterosexual (between a man and a woman) unions is usable both by the atheist (non believer in God) and the theist (a believer in God – in the Judeo-Christian sense). Here is the crux of the matter in regards to “nature’s order:”
“…take gold as an example, it has inherent in its nature intrinsic qualities that make it expensive: good conductor of electricity, rare, never tarnishes, and the like. The male and female have the potential to become a single biological organism, or single organic unit, or principle. Two essentially becoming one. The male and female, then, have inherent to their nature intrinsic qualities that two mated males or two mated females never actualize in their courtship… nor can they ever. The potential stays just that, potential, never being realized…..
“….Think of a being that reproduces, not by mating, but by some act performed by individuals. Imagine that for these same beings, movement and digestion is performed not by individuals, but only by the complementary pairs that unite for this purpose. Would anyone acquainted with such beings have difficulty understanding that in respect to movement and digestion, the organism is a united pair, or an organic unity?”
So you see, the two heterosexual organisms that join in a sexual union cease being two separate organisms for a short time and become one organism capable of reproduction. This is what the state and the church are sealing in a marriage, this intrinsic union. The homosexual couple can never achieve this union, so “natures order” has endowed the heterosexual union with an intrinsic quality that other relationships do not have or could never attain. Both the atheist and theist can argue from this point, because either we were created this way or we evolved this way. Either way, nature has imposed on the sexual union being discussed.
Also, I do not think it is wholly genetic. I believe choice is involved as well as violence. For instance, take this thought from a pro-choice, lesbian woman, Tammy Bruce:
“ . . . . and now all manner of sexual perversion enjoys the protection and support of once what was a legitimate civil-rights effort for decent people. The real slippery slope has been the one leading into the Left’s moral vacuum. It is a singular attitude that prohibits any judgment about obvious moral decay because of the paranoid belief that judgment of any sort would destroy the gay lifestyle, whatever that is…. I believe this grab for children by the sexually confused adults of the Gay Elite represents the most serious problem facing our culture today…. Here come the elephant again: Almost without exception, the gay men I know (and that’s too many to count) have a story of some kind of sexual trauma or abuse in their childhood — molestation by a parent or an authority figure, or seduction as an adolescent at the hands of an adult. The gay community must face the truth and see sexual molestation of an adolescent for the abuse it is,* instead of the ‘coming-of-age’ experience many [gays] regard it as being. Until then, the Gay Elite will continue to promote a culture of alcohol and drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, and suicide by AIDS.”
* By the age of 18 or 19 years, three quarters of American youth, regardless of their sexual orientation, have had sexual relations with another person. Gay males are more likely than heterosexual males to become sexually active at a younger age (12.7 vs. 15.7 years) and to have had multiple sexual partners. The ages at the time of the first sexual experience with another person are closer for lesbians and heterosexual females (15.4 vs. 16.2 years).
What she is basically saying is that there are emotional reasons, usually trauma, or circumstances that push these young boys into the choices they make in regards to their sexuality. For instance, one of my co-workers is a homosexual man. He is a wonderful guy; I would invite him to my wedding if I could go back in time. He is very open about his past, he was “initiated” into the homosexual lifestyle by a grown black man when he was 14. In other words, he was raped. Whether he feels now that he consented, or the person was a family friend or complete stranger. This act of sex with a minor by a grown man is rape. And this rape, at an age where boys are having surges of hormones and confused about a lot of things is what Tammy Bruce was speaking to. It is a psychological trauma that if not dealt with has traumatic results in one’s life. This sometimes works its way into sexual matters. There are many homosexual people, Al Rantel (790am 6pm to 9pm), to name a more popular one, that believe marriage should be kept between a man and a woman. Tammy Bruce wants it, but she, like most Republicans, want the states to decide, and not the Supreme Court.
Also, in 1993, the biggest march by the “gay” community (Elite gay community) on Washington was held, and they had this as part of their platform:
- The implications of homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered curriculum at all levels of education.
- The lowering of the age [12 years old to be exact] of consent for homosexual and heterosexual sex.
- The legalization of homosexual marriages.
- Custody, adoption, and foster-care rights for homosexuals, lesbians, and transgendered people.
- the redefinition of the family to include the full diversity of all family structures.
- The access to all programs of the Boy Scouts of America.
- Affirmative action for homosexuals.
- The inclusion of sex-change operations under a universal health-care plan.
Obviously the Elite gay community Tammy Bruce spoke of [made up of Leftist Progressives] knows which age is best for “recruiting,” e.g., traumatizing.More can be said on all the above issues, but my book is not yet written. I will post three quotes from Tammy Bruce (a pro-choice lesbian):
Even if one does not necessarily accept the institutional structure of “organized religion,” the “Judeo-Christian ethic and the personal standards it encourages do not impinge on the quality of life, but enhance it. They also give one a basic moral template that is not relative,” which is why the legal positivists of the Left are so threatened by the Natural Law aspect of the Judeo-Christian ethic. (Tammy Bruce, The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left’s Assault on Our Culture and Values [Roseville: Prima, 2003], 35.)
…these problems don’t remain personal and private. The drive, especially since this issue is associated with the word “gay rights,” is to make sure your worldview reflects theirs. To counter this effort, we must demand that the medical and psychiatric community take off their PC blinders and treat these people responsibly. If we don’t, the next thing you know, your child will be taking a “tolerance” class explaining how “transexuality” is just another “lifestyle choice”…. After all, it is the only way malignant narcissists will ever feel normal, healthy, and acceptable: by remaking society – children – in their image (Ibid., 92, 206)