So to recap very briefly what I’ve more or less claimed over the last couple of blogs;
- Aquinas’ ordering of the purpose for sexual activity (procreation, unity, pleasure) does not account for the rightful place of motivation (love) preceding act (creation).
- I argue a revised order considerate of sterility, sexual identity, etc.
- Unifying intimacy – essential to morally responsible sexual activity (not restricted to actual intercourse, but a wide array of physical expression of mutual love between equals)
- Procreative interest – constitutive to sexual intercourse, what naturally happens in the absence of prohibitive obstructions. NOT essential, since it does not occur each and every time couples engage in intercourse (something essential is always true of something; a triangle always has three points, a bicycle always has two wheels, etc.)
- Pleasure – accidental to sex, never a guarantee. As God delighted in total response (not premeditated or determined), our own delight is a enjoyable byproduct of an otherwise autonomous act (sex can occur without orgasm if it is done in unifying intimacy and with an interest in procreativity).
I have saved pleasure for last for a variety of reasons, but most importantly I think the end is its rightful place. By emphasizing that pleasure is accidental, I hope to keep the carriage behind the horse and drivers. Too often, pleasure takes center stage in our consideration of sexual encounters. We orient ourselves toward the most attractive person to whom we believe we have access. We trade procreativity and intimacy for self-gratification and exploitation. This is what happens when we allow ourselves to operate under the assumption that pleasure is more central to sex that it should be.
This is the main reason I have a huge distrust in anything called “protected sex.” Against whom (or what) is one defending against? We can only answer by saying pregnancy or disease after we have thrown intimacy and procreativity out the window. At that point it really is about our own interests. Sex becomes exploitative of your partner, they have been objectified by your own lust. Instead of being equal partners, you each have become merely an instrument for the others’ orgasm. You to theirs and they to yours. To predetermine sexual encounters by whether and to what intensity they will produce orgasm is inexcusable.
However, pleasure is not inherently bad. It has simply been corrupted by the pursuit of self-interest. By insisting on the accidentality of pleasure, we are, like God, not putting ourselves in the place of expecting something that is not a guarantee. After all, God did not go about creating for the purpose of being pleased. No, the motivation was love, to be one with the creation that was observed good after having been conceived.
However, creation was good regardless of it having been named as such, just as sex is good even without having to experience orgasm. In this construction, if sex has been engaged by mutually loving and intimate partners, it is not dependent upon physical conception to be considered good. What makes sex good is it’s capacity to bring to alien beings together in a way made possible only by and through a love more endearing than mere attraction or self-interest.