John C. Wright (johncwright) wrote,
John C. Wright



So much for preliminaries. We have not yet reached the meat of the issue. So far, we have only seen a serious of doubts and questions. Is marriage a contract? Is human nature pliant? Is sex entertainment? Are men jerks?

The axioms of the argument I gave above: the necessity of self-command, the objectivity of morality, the nature of virtue, the role of law and custom. We are now discussing where the boundaries fall.

To answer that, we must ask why have boundaries at all? The Libertine answer that the bounds exist to prevent harm can be accepted by both the Libertine and the Matrimonial position, even if the Matrimonial will also ascribe additional reasons for the bounds.

Does the Libertine position concerning the sex act, either in fact, or when contemplated as a thought-experiment, prevent harm?

Judgment on this matter differs. Many might argue that the ability of women to walk away from loveless or abusive marriages in our modern no-fault-divorce culture is so valuable that the negative side effects of the divorce culture are inconsequential.

However, this issue need not be reached. We can narrow our inquiry to merely the question of whether the Libertine Position serves the purposes it pretends to serve, or is destructive of those ends.

5.1.   THE SEX ACT

First, a word of clarification. The sexual passions, base or enlightened, are the passion directed toward the final cause of sex. This is as self-evident a proposition that the subject matter admits of: if the unadorned statement that passion A is the drive toward goal A is unclear, I do not see that using a more obscure or indirect set of words would be clearer.

The sex act is copulation. Since the counterargument when the topic of sexual deviance arises is inevitably to equate sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual masturbation, with copulation with a sterile partner or during a sterile time of the month, we must distinguish the cases. Indeed it is true that all members of this set have in common the fact that they do not, of themselves, produce children, and so are not “sexual reproduction” properly so called. But the difference between acts that stimulate the sex organs and the act of copulation is precisely that the sexual passion aims at the sexual act per se, at copulation, and not at the accidental or non-essential side-effects of sex.

When you are sexually attracted to someone, you want to have sex with him. The non-essentials are non-essential. The distinction is a legal one: in law, if married couple does not consummate their marriage, that is, does not actually copulate, then the marriage can be annulled without any further allegation of cause.

Imagine begin a young bride, wafted off to the Honeymoon, only to hear your loving and devoted young bridegroom, his eyes shining with romance, announce that he will not now and never will consummate the marriage. Instead, you and he will engage in sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, and mutual masturbation. Assume moreover that there is nothing physically or mentally wrong with him: he is not suffering from an old war wound to the thigh. You will never mate with your mate. Does that seem like a proper culmination of romantic love to you, or does there perhaps seem to be something missing, even if you cannot at first put your finger on it?

The Common Law on this point is clear enough: such marriages are not binding, and can be annulled at the request of either partner. Perhaps we can debate later the point whether the law is correct to conclude this, but for the nonce, it is enough to observe a distinction between what is the sex act essentially, and what are the non-essentials that surround it. On the other hand, the sterility of the mating is not a sufficient reason, in and of itself, for annulling a marriage, not under the Common Law or Canon Law—just ask King Henry VIII about that. Copulating between sterile partners is still copulation.

Whether or not this distinction is clear to you, dear modern reader, I will point out that laws written during the ages before political correctness corrupted the language, the difference was clear enough to have it own terminology. Copulation was called the natural sex act, and sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus were called unnatural (and masturbation was referred to as the sin of Onan). It is unfortunate that this terminology both leads to confusion (since some idiots cannot tell the difference between “nature” meaning the essential property of a set of objects, and “nature” meaning the wild and wooly outdoors) and to hostility (since calling a homosexual “unnatural” is sure to offend.)

Some partisans of sexual antinomianism set great store by the fact that some animals in nature engage in sex acts that would be deviant if found in humans, such as one buck in spring mounting another, and they conclude such acts as “natural” that is, found in the outdoors. This is not an argument as much as a play on words. The old-fashioned use of the word “unnatural” referred to human nature, that is, an emotion or a passion alien to the natural affections. When King Lear calls his loveless daughters “unnatural” he means it in just this fashion—against human nature. He does not mean that turtles and snakes in the wild  enjoy filial affection, but that humans whose passions are properly ordered should.

(Even if this play on words were taken as an argument, it would be dubious: by this definition, a transvestite would be classed as “unnatural” since wild beasts don’t dress in drag.)

Let us leave this old-fashioned language to one side, and merely point out that copulation with a sterile partner, or during a sterile time of the month, is necessarily and legally in the same category as copulation with a fertile partner, whereas sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual masturbation, even if done as preliminaries, or “safer” substitutes, are not only not copulation, in any sense of the word, and they are sexual only in their inessentials, a mockery or substitute for sex, a way to enjoy the sensations without the thing itself, the way vomiting up a meal is an inessential substitute for eating, a way to enjoy the taste of food without the act of really eating and digesting it.

On an emotional level, while the same feelings, base or sublime, lustful or devout, and the same physical sensations which attend the sex act may indeed accompany these surrounding sexual-ish acts, as a matter of biological fact, they are not the same. To confuse the feelings or sensations with the reality is the core the issue: an emotion can be false-to-facts in the same way a statement can be. The thing the emotion represents does not exist; the emotion is false.

In any case, I am not here making the argument that only sex performed in pursuit of  reproduction is licit: I am making the more general case that sex within the bounds described by the Libertine position, that is, harmless and consensual sex outside marriage, upon consideration, is an empty set. 

The argument consists of an examination of the real negative consequences that follow extramarital sex, either inevitably, or as a matter of imprudent likelihood.




If human nature is not pliant beyond a certain range, it behooves us to establish what the general, basic, or ordinary course of human nature implies, and then only to see where and if exceptions apply. In human nature, what are the passions related to the sex act?

The appetites and passions related to the sex act include lust, infatuation, devotion, and love.

Lust is the physical attraction. This lust can either be friendly (as when it is accompanied by infatuation, devotion, or love) or unfriendly (as when it is without anything more.)

Lust without anything more is how we describe the attraction felt toward whores, or, for that matter, airbrushed pictures of Playboy bunnies. Neither respect, nor any tender emotion is necessarily provoked by lust without anything more. Indeed, to judge from locker room conversations, hostility and contempt seem to be the frequent, if not inevitable, by-products of lust without more.

This must be sharply divided from that much more satisfying and friendly, even playful form of lust which accompanies infatuation. Half the poetry of mankind is devoted to describing every aspect of these violent and tender emotions: if you are unfamiliar with them, I have neither time nor patience to describe them. Ladies, if you have ever read a Harlequin Romance, boys, if you have ever written a sonnet to the curve of your beloved’s thigh, then you know whereof I speak. Such emotion is often called love, and as saluted as the noblest and strongest passion in the heart, but of course it is merely a preliminary, an introductory emotion, and not the culmination of love at all. I say again that the hostility that accompanies lust without more is not only absent from infatuation, an opposite passion rages, one which bends every waking thought toward the beloved.

But the sad experience of lovers everywhere is that one partner may suffer mere lust where the other partner suffers infatuation. Mere lust provokes contempt for the partner once one’s organs are sated; infatuation, on the other hand, grows as it is indulged. It is naïve to think that a man in lust will not exploit a woman infatuated with him, and scoff later at her weakness. He will put on the acts and the airs of love, in order to win the use of her body for an evening, and the madness of infatuation will cause her to disregard both the clues from his behavior that he is a false lover, and the warnings of her more open-eyed friends and elders. I use the example of the male being the cheat here, merely because my experience is that this is the more typical case: the roles can be reversed. See any Film Noir movie for details. Prudence, if nothing else, would suggest a social mechanism be developed to weed out false lovers from true ones.

Infatuation again must be sharply distinguished from devotion. Even though is the commonplace, almost universal, for young lovers to vow eternal love to each other when drunk on the wine of infatuation, sad experience says that these vows are shallow and soon to pass until and unless the infatuation turns into devotion. Devotion is not an emotion merely, not an attraction or a lust. Another layer has been added. Devotion begins when your lover also becomes your friend, helpmeet, companion and soul mate, and you hold her in higher esteem than you hold yourself. Devotion is the quieter and longer-lasting passion that follows a successful infatuation. We might even say infatuation has no purpose other than as an introduction to devotion. When devotion occurs, all the previous madness and extravagance, longings and uncertainties and sighs of the infatuation phase have found their object and can be excused. Without devotion, infatuation would merely be a turbulence of the mind, something dismissed with the contempt of a Benedict or a Lucretius.

But the sad experience of lovers everywhere is that one partner may suffer merely infatuation where the other has a heart full of true devotion. Infatuation, common experience knows, comes and goes. Romeo sighs over Roselyn one day and Juliette the next. No matter how firmly the lover vows eternal faithfulness under the madness of infatuation, when the madness passes, the vows are proved empty, and the world laughs at any young lovers still deceived by them. The most obvious and rapid way to extinguish the flame of infatuation is to sate the lusts that underpin it. Coupling with an infatuated lover will soon bring him to his senses: once he had seen you naked, there is neither mystery nor novelty to prey on his imagination. If his infatuation fails, and there is no devotion in his heart, you mean nothing more to him, except perhaps as an object of nostalgia, and he will have proved false. On the other hand, if devotion is present, a whole raft of masculine emotions, protectiveness and sexual pride and tenderness will come to the fore, and he will be a true lover. The same thing is commonplace in women, albeit the emotions are the feminine ones. Prudence, if nothing else, would suggest a social mechanism be developed to weed out false lovers from true ones.

Love is the culmination of devotion. At this point, the lover achieves unselfish love. Even John Galt was willing to sacrifice himself and his monstrous ego for the sake of his beloved Dangy Taggart, as I recall, and this was in the end of a fictional and longwinded paean to pure selfishness. In any case, love is a disposition of the will, not a passion of the heart.

True Love, when it occurs, is the condition that both infatuation and devotion seek to achieve, and which the infatuated and the devout (falsely) think they are in.

Here we see the first limitation of the Libertine Position. This position requires each young lover, alone, and unaided by any laws or customs, to avoid the dangers of deceptive lusts and false lovers: and experience shows that young lovers are (of all people on earth) the ones least likely to heed the voice of prudence voluntarily.


The sex act is the act of sexual reproduction. The common and expected consequence of the act of sexual reproduction is the reproduction of the species. This fact is the elephant in the bathtub the Libertine Position merely overlooks, and the mere fact that the Libertine Position argues as if the pursuit of the sexual appetite had no consequences and no context other than the pursuit of any other athletic bodily pleasure (see above), shows the innate falsehood of the pose.

The question to be raised here is, suppose you get pregnant, ladies, or suppose you get your lover pregnant, gentlemen, what does morality command we do about the baby? What does prudence suggest we do beforehand, so we are not caught unawares or unprepared?

Prudence, of course, is not prognostication. Even if the sex act does not lead in most cases to pregnancy, and even if contraception is licit and is effective nine times out of ten, prudence requires that all cases be treated as if they were the tenth case, for the same reason that prudence requires we buckle our safety belts when entering a car, or don a helmet when mounting a motorcycle, each and every time, not merely the one time in a thousand when we have an accident. Nature does not tell us beforehand when the accident will occur. The reason why accidents are called “accidents” is because they do not necessarily happen.

The choices are to kill the baby in the womb or raise the baby. While prenatal infanticide is a commonplace in our current society, logic suggests that it is not in the best interest either of the child, nor of any parent or grandparent with a vested interest in seeing his bloodline preserved.

But even an unnatural monster willing to kill her own child in the womb should be prompted by prudence to consider and make provision for that bloody necessity should it arise. If nothing else, she should discuss the matter with the father of the baby—who, in the eyes of any rational law, has a vested interest in the wellbeing of the child—or with the grandparents of the child—who, in the Darwinian scheme of things, even ignoring any moral considerations, would find it in their genetic advantage to make provisions to preserve the child once he exists even in his fetus-stage. The Selfish Gene, after all, does not care what stage the child is in when the child is killed, since any stage before the child reproduces is a failure from the Darwinian viewpoint.

Now, without making a comment on the morality of prenatal infanticide, let us restrict ourselves to the observation that it places the interests of the mother at odds with the natural course of love, romance, and marriage. Instead of a joyous event, the pregnancy is a horror, something a medical technician must be summoned to halt, and the mother has to have her child scraped free from the walls of her womb like as if he were a tumor, rather than a miracle and a blessing.

In contemplating the wisdom of prenatal infanticide, any young lady about to copulate with a handsome young lover should therefore contemplate the grim necessity which may arise. In my own experience, one young lady I know told me of the time she drove her best friend at midnight to the abortion clinic, and had to comfort and support her, because the father of the baby was nowhere to be found.

Ladies, whether you think abortion is a sacred and private woman’s right, or you think it is the crime of Medea, prudence suggest you make provision for this eventuality before it arises. Will you need comfort and support at that difficult time? Has he agreed to provide such comfort? Or does he assume that all the risks and expense and heartache are on your side, and on his side he gets the benefit of the pleasures of your body, and then he wants you to get up in the morning and make him an egg while he lies in the rumpled bed smoking a cigarette?

Does this scenario seem unrealistic or absurd? It happened in real life. I am not talking about a hypothetical.

Here is the question: what is there in the Libertine Position that makes the behavior of this indifferent father worthy of condemnation, criticism, or comment? The Libertine position is that the sex act is licit, provided both parties are adult and consent, and no harm follows. Did the father of the child agree to raise the child or pay the abortionist to kill the child? Did the father agree to support you emotionally and financially through your difficult time? According to the Libertine position, if he did not agree, then he is not bound either in law or morality.

My observation is that of the couples I know who engaged in casual liaisons, the woman assumed that the man had made an unspoken commitment, and had an obligation to support her and, yes, even to love her, and the man had no such idea in mind, and did not feel himself so bound. Your observations in your life may differ—I can only go by what I see.

Again, I am using man and woman here because that men are more often the betrayers, but the shoe can fit on the other foot as easily. The man was delighted, honored, and overjoyed to be a father, and he did what he thought was the honorable thing and asked to marry the woman: and she went out instead and had the baby killed in the womb. This was after he had bought some baby toys and clothes and so on in preparation for the blessed event.

This is what a lawyer would call an ambiguity. Two people have differing notions of their mutual obligations. They both think there is an unspoken contract or an unspoken natural set of mutual obligations, but they each separately come to separate conclusions as to what those obligations are.

The only way to solve an ambiguity is to make the matter unambiguous: a ceremony, a contract, a formality. The ceremony has to be strictly binary, so the gray areas and uncertainties are minimized: either you are bound by the obligations or you are not, and the obligations need to be spelled out. The ceremony has to be public even if the mating act is private, so that multiple witnesses can confirm or deny whether the formalities are carried out.

The more difficult question is to define what those natural obligations are. The Libertine position is that there are none whatsoever: only what the parties have mutually agreed bind them. There are certain difficulties with this position.

5.3.1.      Humans are Altricial

The first difficulty is that humans have altricial offspring, that is, our children cannot be left to fend for themselves like the eggs of turtles abandoned in the sand. It is in the economic best interest of the mother, not to mention in the best interest of the emotional wellbeing of the child, to have the father of the child obligated to raise the child.

I have heard of no feminists or sexual revolutionaries so extreme that they wish to do away with child support; but neither have I heard of any family law court so persistent and efficient (and foolish) as to make the claim that garnishing the absent father’s paycheck is a substitute for a loving and supportive and present father.

More than a mere legal obligation of child support payments would be prudent in order to protect the wellbeing of the child. The goal must be to have the father devoted, sworn, committed and obligated by the strongest bonds of public and private fealty to the raising of the child. Child abandonment should be punished both by social opprobrium and legal sanction, since it is an act that mars a human life, or ruins it entirely.

The father will not raise the child unless he is bound to it by love. Sad experience shows that merely relying on natural affection is insufficient. The family bond must be memorialized by a formality, and all the pressure religion, law, and peer pressure can bring to bear is needed to enforce that bond.

The easiest way (although it is not successful in all cases) to have a father love the child is to have him love the woman who is her mother beforehand.

Because humans are altricial and because men are jerks, natural prudence suggest no woman copulate with a man until and unless his devotion to raise any possible offspring that might arise is already committed. Such commitment is difficult or impossible to enforce merely by child support payment and wage garnishments: it is more prudent to restrict the possible fathers of one’s children to men in love.

This means, for reasons of mere prudence, aside from any considerations of honor or morality, that no woman should copulate with a man unless he is both devout and in love with her, and committed to a long term (or, better yet, a permanent) relationship.

In other words a mating ceremony, backed by social and legal sanctions, must be unambiguously and publically imposed before the mating act.

The rule must apply even if the mating act is not meant to result in mating (as, for example, with a sterile partner or through the use of contraception) merely because otherwise the mating ceremony is without legal or social effect.

Since every society in history and prehistory has had such a mating ceremony, called marriage, experience suggests that everyone, everywhere, facing a similar problem, found a similar solution: the institution called marriage. Within the variations of monogamy and polygamy and concubinage and so on, the general social purpose of father identification was carried out, and child abandonment was minimized. This does not prove everyone is right, but it does shift the burden of proof onto the sexual revolutionaries and reformers to prove their case that the weakening or abolition of those institution will not result in the problems the institution cures.  

5.3.2.      Bastards and Cuckoos

Now, game theory would suggest that it is in the Darwinian best interest of any man to father as many children as possible, and leave other men to raise the children, preferably one who does not know that child is not his.

Prudence, without any consideration of morality, might indeed suggest that adultery is better than fornication, since the child not only has a couple in a position to raise it, but at Common Law the cuckolded father does not have the legal right to question the paternity of his wife’s children (I should mention that in many jurisdictions this Common Law principle is being overturned (unwisely, in my opinion) by statute.) Getting some other dupe to shoulder the burden and expense of raising your children was can call the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy.

In order to circumvent what this Cuckoo’s Egg strategy, and to minimize the risks of venereal disease, prudence suggest bridegrooms take only virgins as brides. In such cases (unless you are St. Joseph, I suppose) the chance of being victimized by the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy is minimized.

For a similar reason, chastity within marriage, that is, preventing the woman from seeking other mates once the marriage is solemnized, must be strictly enforced.

Note please that so far we have established nothing about the virginity and chastity of the male. By the grim logic of the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy, he should insist on chastity in his wife and yet he should desire and pursue unchastity in the wive’s and daughters of other men, so as to impregnate as many as possible, and sow his wild oats.

However, we already addressed this issue. Not only is it imprudent for any woman to mate with a married man, the aversion other men, brothers and fathers of the seduced virgins might feel, to deter the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy makes it in their best interest to retaliate disproportionately against anyone attempting this strategy. Both social opprobrium and legal sanction must deter it, merely for reasons of prudence, and independently of whether or not the young virgin being seduced welcomed the mating.

So far we have only discussed game theory, and we have analyzed bastardy in terms of Darwinian advantages. However, if game theory is not the correct model of the behavior, and if Darwinian advantage is indifferent to the moral calculus involved, then this conclusion, while true, is irrelevant. Let us turn next to those more difficult questions.

Are parent obligated to care for their offspring? Since we live in a society where a father can be punished at law merely for failing to provide his child with an education, let us take this (unless someone wishes to argue otherwise) that both the Libertine and the Matrimonial position answer in the affirmative. Are parents obligated to love their children? While the human heart cannot be governed by moral duties, if we answer this question in the affirmative, prudence would at least suggest removing as many of those barriers as possible to such love: such as, for example, the suspicions that one’s wife love’s another, or has in the past, or shall in the future, or that one’s child is another’s. That the Matrimonial position supports these policies and the Libertine does not is clear enough. The Matrimonial position has these duties vest from before the two partners even meet: the Libertine position has these duties vest, if at all, when and only when both parties mutually agree. Under the Libertine calculus, the father of the child is under no duty to raise it at all, unless he agreed, and the mother can kill the baby in the womb without even telling the father his child exists. The Matrimonial position assumes these duties as an absolute, and so the mere lack of forethought or lack of consent is not a barrier to their enforcement. 

5.3.3.      Permanence

Human offspring are not merely altricial, the childhood has one of the longest periods in nature compared to other animals. The commitment of raising a child from birth to majority is at least 18 years, with is a fifth of the average human lifespan. Obviously, if a couple has more than one child, the span in increased.

While marriage serves the purpose of a public mating ceremony in order to identify paternity, once marriage exists, it becomes the cornerstone of civilization. Without marital and familial bonds, the individual is naked and alone against the power of the state and the mob. With those bonds, the bonds of civilization arise naturally: what, for example, is kingship except for fatherhood writ large? What is democracy except for brotherhood writ large? As a practical matter, you cannot have such noble sentiments as the brotherhood of man if you are creatures who live without family bonds, without brothers and sisters or a sense of mutual love and obligation between them.

Hence, no matter what is primary purpose, marriage also serves vital and prudential purposes that are essential. To dissolve marriage merely for personal convenience, or to escape a boring relationship, has negative consequences which extend far past the original couple.

I spoke above about the phenomenon of “trophy wives” where some successful male, once his mate is past her prime breeding years and no longer useful to him, dumping her on the ashheap and seducing some younger and prettier bit of eye-candy to ride his arm, exciting the admiration of other bulls in his tribe. Here let us leave logic aside for a moment and indulge in emotion: I cannot but express hatred for such men, and wish the fire would fall from the sky and consume them.

But even without this emotion, cold logic would suggest that it is not in the prudent self-interest of a woman to agree to be the wife on a temporary or conditional basis.

Let me dwell on this point for a moment. Ladies, if you are young now, you will be old and gray in time. Despite the best efforts of the feminists, your income simply do not match those of your husbands, not in the majority of cases (there are exceptions). If you take time out from a career to bear and raise children, your income slips below that of a man equally qualified who does not. Life is not fair.

Now, keep that in mind. Suppose a man, your prospective mate,  let us call him Rhett, put a piece of paper in your hand on your wedding day, and you have a contract that you could sign, and the contract said your man would kick you out once you were old and gray, but until that time, he would love, honor, and cherish you. It’s a twenty year contract. After you bear his kids, he kicks you in your now-overlarge and liver-spotted buttocks down the stairs, and he cleaves to Anna Nicole Smith. When you ask him in tears what you shall do and what shall become of you, he tells you he frankly does not give  a damn

What bride in her right mind would sign such a stupid contract? But according to the Libertine position, he has not nothing that can be condemned, nor even criticized.

Let us suppose further that a second man, another prospective mate, let us call him Ashley, were willing to put a contract in your hand without that provision in it. It vowed to love and honor and cherish until death. It was permanent. It was until eternity calls.

Independent of any consideration of morality or honor, is not the second marriage contract clearly in your best long-term interests?

I submit to you that the unwritten marriage contract which our society now enforced is one of the first time, a Rhett contract, rather than one of the second type, an Ashley contract. The legal mechanism to make marriage permanent no longer exists in our society.  No man, under our laws, can offer you that second contract, because the laws of no-fault divorce have held that no bridegroom will be held to his word.

Young lovers are naturally extravagant and willing to vow eternal and permanent fidelity. A girl would be stupid and myopic to settle for anything less. Our society, by allowing for no fault divorce, makes it so that no such vow can be enforced, and therefore no such vow can be believed.

Independently of what the laws allow, and even leaving aside considerations of morality and justice, simple prudence would suggest that no woman copulate with a man until and unless he is willing to vow lifelong rather than simply temporary fidelity.

5.3.4.      Exclusivity

 A similar consideration governs the exclusivity of the contract. The Libertine position would allow for open marriages, orgies, three-way, four-ways, n-ways, temporary or permanent alliances and liaisons, but such things are evidently not in the best interest of the parties involved, for reasons covered above: neither the paternity of the children is clear, nor the obligation as to who is to raise them, nor is the affection of the father engaged, nor is the marriage as a cornerstone of civilization safe, nor is the woman wise to let herself be exploited by the fly-by-night lovers.            Polygamy

The institution of polygamy can be touched on briefly here: Christianity forbids it, but Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism allow for it, and to my knowledge, the writings of Confucius or other sages of the East do not condemn the practice.  Independent of religion, however, the argument can be made that the competition for the scarce resources (not to mention the limited love and attention) of the father is and must be naturally divided among the several wives in a harem. Even if the women are (as only happens in male fantasies) perfectly content and harmonious with each other, a natural competition of interests exists or may grow up between them, for Darwinian reasons if nothing else, forcing the wives to take any steps they may to remove the father’s love and attention away from the children of rivals to her own. The only way to establish peace is to have the husband also be the master rather than a partner of the wives, or establish an internal regimentation, as having the eldest wife command the lesser wives, and so on.

To give credit to the Mormons, it is on record that when the United States forced the Utah territory for forbid polygamy before Utah could enter the Union, some of the Mormon wives supported the institution, protested, wrote letters to the editor, and so on. They say polygamy did not disadvantage them. I find that slightly creepy myself, so I will merely leave that point as to the discretion and judgment of the reader. While I can imagine a masochistic woman agreeing to such an arrangement, I cannot imagine a feminist agreeing to such a relationship.

In any case, I need only make a smaller point. If you, dear reader, for any reason disapprove of polygamy, or think it is exploitive of women, or think it imprudent or unjust, I submit to you that many of the same objections I raise here above to polygamy can be raised with equal force against that form of serial polygamy we call no-fault divorce.

I know a woman, personally who has had as many husbands as Draupadi in the Mahabharata: five. She merely had them one at a time, like Elizabeth Taylor, rather than all at once. The competition for the love and resources to the shared by overlapping mates was more or less the same.            Violence between Sexual Rivals

We cannot leave this topic without emphasizing the main point for the exclusivity of marriage. The Matrimonial position differs from the Libertine position primarily in that it not only defines who may mate, but also who may not mate. The moment a bride is wed, she is offlimits to further propositions, and may not entertain seducers; she may not be courted nor even receive romantic gifts. The same applies to the Bridegroom. In Common Law, even if true love binds Guinevere and Lancelot, it is illegal for him to court her or to urge her to leave her husband for him: the crime is called alienation of affection.  This law has been undermined in recent years, but the principle still remains in effect as a moral principle: under the Matrimonial position, is it morally wrong to ask a woman to divorce her husband and marry you, even if you are in love with her and her husband is not, because the bond of matrimony is (in the matrimonial position) exclusive and lifelong.

In the Libertine position, those who may not mate is defined only by those who cannot legally grant consent: children, drunks, and rape victims. Hence even if Guinevere is married, she is not offlimits for Lancelot to court her, since the Libertine position both allows for the possibility of a three-way orgy, pending Arthur’s consent, and allows for the possibility of an open marriage, if Arthur is as stupid as Ayn Rand’s husband, and can be browbeaten into believing that adultery is meaningless.

Since both these possibilities are not open to criticism or condemnation, efforts to persuade the interested parties are likewise not open to criticism.

This means that all the extravagant and even violent things men do to win the attention of potential mates are not closed when a Libertine marriage contract is signed. I know of cases where a young man climbed a roof at night and jimmied a window to break into a girl’s bedroom just to get a chance to speak with her, and this was when the girl was dating someone else; I know guys who broke into girl’s dorm rooms at college. We are not talking about rape attempts here, just desperation brought on by sexual attraction.

Now, here is where my experience may differ from yours, dear reader. There is a man I know—I have stayed at his house—whose brother is serving a life sentence in jail for murder. The murder was prompted by a woman, and she seduced this brother into murdering her husband. I have never met the brother myself, but I have heard tell of him.

I do not think this type of behavior is all that odd or unusual among human beings: just read a newspaper, or go down to your local court house and read the docket, and see what types of crimes are being committed and why.

Are such crimes commonplace? Maybe they are not as common as car accidents. Let me say rather, sexual completion among males leads to violence often enough that prudent provision must be made to minimize it.

I hope you know a better class of guys than I do, but if you do not, the people who act this way exist. We are not even talking about stalkers and obsessives and nutjobs. Just among ordinary young men of ordinary upbringing, getting into a fistfight over a girl, to drive away rivals, is natural.

The violence surrounding mating rivalry is widespread enough and commonplace enough, that a distinction is made at Common Law between murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree. In theory, murder in the second degree is murder without malice aforethought, in the heat of passion, and the penalty is meant to be less severe than premeditated murder. In practice, murder in the second degree was meant to cover cases where a husband found his wife in the arms of her lover and killed him on the spot: juries would not convict such men of murder in the first degree, because the crime was so natural (if I may use that word) to their own passions and sympathies, the jurors could not bring themselves to condemn it. The law was therefore sculpted to fit the shape of the real human passions that really exist in human beings, rather than an intellectual constructed unrelated to reality. I offer no comment as to whether the law is or is not wise or just in creating this exception: I offer this only as evidence that violence between sexual rivals is a common enough problem that prudent steps must be taken to forestall it.

One way of minimizing violence between rivals is to establish clearly defined markers and boundaries. A wedding band on the finger of a matron is one such means. In older and saner times, married women wore different forms of hair and dress to distinguish them at a glance from maidens and girls. She changed her name partly to show the depth and permanent nature of the commitment: so that even if you wrote her a letter, you knew better than to add any courtship-type words. 

Prudence suggest that even these days married men should wear wedding bands for the same reason, and if it were up to me, some honorific would be attached to their names to make it clear that they were no longer allowed to participate in the gallantries of courtship. If nothing else, if all married men had to be shaved bald or tattooed purple something, lonely women in bars could tell at the glance if the guy buying her a drink was a would-be adulterer (i.e. a creep) even before he opened his mouth.

At the risk of offending my Christian readers, I must point out that logic says this same argument applies to homosexual civil unions as well as to marriage. A homosexual betrayed by a faithless catamite does not necessarily feel an emotion gentler than what Arthur felt when Guinevere betrayed him. If the sexual competition for partners among gays is a violent and unruly as among libertine heterosexuals, the need exists for some sign of exclusivity: two men making a permanent vow of loyalty either have to wear rings, or make some other obvious and legally binding sign that they will forsake all others. Independent of any consideration of morality or law, simple prudence dictates that competition between sexual rivals must be minimized by a public ceremony and by legal sanctions. If a Socrates is already claimed and in a committed homosexual relationship, it is morally wrong for Alcibiades to try to seduce him away from his partner: simple prudence would suggest that this moral rule be buttressed by a legal sanction. We are talking here just about a practical measure to keep the public peace.

Now, the question becomes more complicated if Xantippe is trying to seduce Socrates away from Alcibiades, because then we have a competition between a rightly-ordered sexual drive and a wrongly-ordered one: but that question is beyond the scope of this present inquiry.


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