Wednesday, January 19, 2005

"Sex" outside marriage

I think it's neat the way some conservative pundits discuss gay "marriage". The idea is that marriage is, by definition, a sacred bond between a man and a women. When people argue that we should have "gay marriage", according to these pundits, we are committing a conceptual confusion. In honor of this insight, I'm going to adopt a stricter meaning of "sex". Sex, by definition, is a sacred, God-sanctioned act between husband and wife, and is by definition aimed at the sacred, God-sanctioned end of procreation. Sure, people sometimes go through physical motions similar to those involved in genuine sex, and they go around saying, "we're having sex", but they're really just deluding themselves into a conceptual confusion. They're not having sex, they're just having "sex". "Gay sex" is as self-contradictory as "gay marriage". So is "pre-marital sex". The most that we unweds can do is to lewdly and lasciviously associate with one another.


  1. Note that it is a corralary that Bill Clinton did *not* have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. I guess he probably had "sexual" relations with her.

  2. There are actually a number of people who would find this view highly intuitive. If they see sex outside a marriage commitment as somehow incomplete, it's not too much beyond that to say that it's not really sex. I doubt most people who take the view you mention about marriage would say this, but some people might just bite the bullet on this and think that's exactly what they should say.

    The other way to go with it is to say that sex makes one married, and then having sex with someone else is tantamount to adultery. This view is actually held by Gordon Hugenberger, pastor of Park Street Church in Boston. He's no loony lone ranger type, either. He's got an adjunct professorship at a major evangelical seminary, and his church has the largest contemporary service (in terms of style) in the Boston area.

    I agree with you entirely that it's pretty dumb to ignore how language is in fact used by insisting that people would not have used language that way 50 years ago. If it's not a misuse of the term to allow a marriage of the minds, why not a marriage of two men or two women? They might be able to argue that the word is being used in a slightly different sense, but that's a very different view from saying it's a misuse of the word altogether to talk about gay marriage.

  3. Actually, I believe the term for what we unweds do is "fornicate". Which is different than sex, by your definition. So I guess I'm still a virgin. Huh.

    Category science would have a lot to say about this. The people who call this a "conceptual confusion" are themselves committing a conceptual confusion. This may explain the dearth of socially conservative cognitive linguists.

    -- Dan