Home > Death of the West, Marriage, The Fruit of the Womb is a Reward > The Log in the Eye of American Christians About Marriage, Sex, and Babies

The Log in the Eye of American Christians About Marriage, Sex, and Babies

be fruitfulBelow is an excerpt from a Wikipedia article on Jonathan Ned Katz, an “LGBT historian” who argues that “heterosexuality” and “homosexuality” are categories invented in the 19th century.  Prior to that, the “traditional” view was to see sex as primarily for the purpose of procreation, rather than pleasure.  As a result, according Katz (or at least according to the Wikipedia article’s reading of Katz), the tendency was to see all sexual expression that was not aimed at procreation as deviant or immoral.  There was no need for terms like “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” because heterosexual sex apart from marriage and the possibility of creating human life was considered perverse or immoral.

However when sex came to be seen as a means primarily of receiving pleasure (towards the end of the 19th century), “normal” and “deviant” sexuality were redefined and the terms “heterosexual” and “homosexual” arose.

Also according to this reading of Katz it is inappropriate to try to read into forms of human sexuality in earlier eras of history our contemporary categories “hetero” and “homosexual”.

           The Invention of Heterosexuality

            “The Invention of Heterosexuality was first published as an essay in 1990 and then expanded into a larger book. In it, Katz traces the       development of heterosexual and homosexual and all the ideology, social and economic relations, gender expectations that were packed into it. He notes the radical change, in the late nineteenth century, from a sexual ethic of procreation to one based on erotic pleasure and sexual object choice. Noting the distinction that a procreation-based ethic condemns all non-procreative sex, categorizing sexual relations based primarily on this point. A gender-based sexual ethic is concerned with procreative sex on a secondary level, if at all.”

“Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, published in 1889, and then in English in 1892, marked the clear turning point from a procreation-based sexuality to a pleasure-based ethic which focused on gender to define the normal and the abnormal. Krafft-Ebing did not, however, make a clean break from the old procreative standards. In much of the discourse of the time, the heterosexual was still a deviant figure, since it signified a person unconcerned with the old sexual norms.”

“For a variety of economic and social reasons, Katz argues, during the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, this new norm became more firmly established and naturalized, marking out new gender and sexual norms, new social and family arrangements, and new deviants and perverts. One of the important consequences of this line of thought which Katz notes in “Homosexual” and “Heterosexual”: Questioning the Terms, is that we can only generalize sexual identities onto the past with a limited degree of accuracy: “So profound is the historically specific character of sexual behavior that only with the loosest accuracy can we speak of sodomy in the early colonies and ‘sodomy’ in present-day New York as ‘the same thing.’ In another example, to speak of ‘heterosexual behavior’ as occurring universally is to apply one term to a great variety of activities produced within a great variety of sexual and gender systems.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Ned_Katz    (emphases mine)


If this article is right in its reading of Katz, I think it puts its finger on the problem in the gay marriage debate.

Christianity’s problem with homosexual marriage is not that it’s wrong to have sexual pleasure with someone of the same sex but okay with someone of the opposite sex.  It’s that Christianity looks at sexual pleasure, the lifelong bond of marriage, and the procreation of children (when God wills) as all of a piece.  At least it did up until around 1930.

If Christians accept the premise that sex is primarily about personal satisfaction and pleasure (and most do), no wonder we have such difficulty sustaining our own marriages or being credible in the public square.  Of course sex is pleasurable, but if that’s it’s primary purpose it does seem a little ridiculous to say that two people of the same sex can’t engage in it.  Why not?  If they are able to have pleasure, and that’s the point of it, it’s unjust to refuse it to them.

Pleasure is a result of sex, but its “chief end” is children.  Reason teaches us this.  If sex only resulted in pleasure and not in children, both sex and sexual pleasure would cease to exist in short order.  Procreation of children has to be the chief purpose of sex; without that there would be no people of any “sexual orientation” to enjoy the pleasure of whatever sexual acts appeal to them.

But since Christians have essentially agreed that the overriding concern in sex and marriage is pleasure (i.e. falling in love, finding your soul mate, finding a person with physical characteristics as close as possible to your ideal)—we lose the argument.

Christians: marriage is not primarily about finding what you like and living happily ever after.  It’s a calling from God where you are united to another person as one flesh and are called to love them and serve them “for better or for worse”…a calling that God blesses with children (according to His will).  “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them…” (Psalm 127)

This applies to us with regards to abortion, too, probably.  It’s not that we shouldn’t have said abortion was wrong.  But being anti-abortion is not yet being pro-life.  If Christians had lots of kids in their marriages they could show by example that having a child when it doesn’t seem like an ideal time is possible and that God can sustain and bless us through these children we fear will be an unbearable burden.

But that’s for another day.

  1. June 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Well said!

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