Sexual Union and Democritus, Pt. II

The first time any one told me about the necessity of consummation for marriage (in seventh grade), I was struck by an amazement that has yet to wholly wear off. Why, I thought, is there no marriage before that? Other sorts of union are necessary for marriage too (the unity of consent, for example), but sexual union is tied up with marriage in a much more obvious and inveterate way. Whole cultures and societies have allowed for marriage without consent, but none have allowed for marriage without consummation.

But since sexual union and the unity of consent are two totally different things, and it frequently happens that one exists without the other, we need to be clear on the kind of union that is sexual as opposed to consensual or voluntary. Sexual union is the most certain cause of marriage, even though there is no marriage without consent either. Debates about marriage, IMO, are continually muddled by confusing sexual union with other kinds of union- some of which are necessary to a marriage (consent, shared life) and others which are necessary in a different sense of “necessary” (love, affection, friendship, emotional or psychological satisfaction etc.)
Sexual activity is physical- even if it is not only this- and so the unity of sexual activity is a physical union. But physical union requires forming one physical thing. Sexual activity was named from the way in which it made a single reproductive organism. Here again, there is a continual confusion about what it means to form such a thing. The formation of any organism is what constitutes it in its nature, not in its operation. Making the organism called a “rational animal” does not mean to make an organism that is actually reasoning; making a burrowing organism is not the same as making an organism that is actually burrowing; making a hammer isn’t the same thing as making a something that is hammering. The casuistry of figuring out what relation there needs to be between operation and nature is interesting, but it is sophistry to claim that the failure to form an actually operating principle means that one need not or has not formed the operating principle. So Please, no more sophistries about “But we let infertile couples marry!” The coitus of infertile men and women still constitutes sexual union, for the same reason that carrots and worms are asexual beings, irrespective of whether any one of them can or will make another carrot or worm. The same thing that is unified in one worm or carrot must be unified in sexual beings. Indeed, the union is precisely what constitutes the beings as an actually sexual being. The activity that forms this being is well known to all and descriptions are superfluous.

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1 Comment

  1. Martin T. said,

    September 16, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Thank you. excellent reply.


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