Getting down to the meaning of sex
This column is the second in a series on the function and purpose of sex.
A pen can be used for many different things — a writing utensil, a bookmark, a straight edge, to bite on, even to annoy others with clicking.
But if I took the inner tube of ink out of the pen would you keep it for these other means, or would you throw it away because it lost its function?
The function of something stands independent from what my mind may conceive as its purpose.
When we study what the function of something is, there we find its purpose, and it is good to unite the two in our minds.
J. Budziszewski points out: “The purposes in our bodies and the purposes in our minds must harmonize, because we are composite beings…What sense would it make for my mind and my body to be at war? Should I pluck out my eyes, crying, ‘seeing is not my purpose, seeing is just a function, it has nothing to do with the real me?’”
If we know the function and therefore purpose, and we still say there is no need to live according to the purpose, then we say “the actual purpose of the eyes does not have to be pursued.”
The function (purpose) of the eyes is to see, and if I have poor eyesight, then what if I said there was no need to improve my eyes.
Just because the purpose of the eye is sight does not mean the eye ought to be functioning accordingly. Or does it? Budziszewski reasons this mind set as viewing the field of medicine unnecessary.
“Eyes that see well are good eyes, and eyes that see poorly are poor ones. Given their purpose, this is what it means for eyes to be good. Moreover, good is to be pursued.” In other words, invest in glasses or eye surgery.
We must first understand function and purpose in order to know what the good to strive for is. The glue sniffer’s purpose of the lungs is to destruct his body. He is not using his lungs to their purpose, and therefore not striving for the good. We have health education to advise him of why his choice is a poor one, because we believe “an is should be an ought,” or “the actual purpose of the lungs ought to be pursued.”
It is because we understand the purpose of the lungs that we can conclude why the negative consequences are what they are. Therefore, before discussing the consequences of sex when used against its purpose, we must explore what the purpose of sex is.
Why is pleasure not the purpose of sex?
“Certainly sex is pleasurable, but there is nothing distinctive about that. In various ways and degrees, the exercise of every voluntary power is pleasurable. [For example] It is pleasurable to eat… [but] it is pleasurable even when I am eating too much,” while no longer concerned with nutrition’s purpose.
“For a criterion of when it is good to enjoy each pleasure, one must look beyond the fact that it is a pleasure.”
Are we glad sex is pleasurable? Yes we are. But that still does not answer my question. What is the purpose of sex?
I propose there are two purposes of sex, not just one. Most people understand one purpose as procreation, as there is no other function the sexual organs present us besides making babies. But there is also another purpose.
Why two? When we think about the functions that exist to a human person such as breathing, digesting food and walking, we can marvel at the fact that while these functions only take one person to do, sexual intercourse involves two people.
We can speculate into the occurrence between the two people, as a uniting experience unique to human beings. We are not guppies that reproduce and continue on in their journey separately.
Casey Dail can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org