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



The Libertine position utterly ignores third parties to the mating. According to the libertine position, if Arthur, with her consent, copulates with Morgan le Fay, it is no one’s business but their own. However since Mordred, the bastard son of Arthur, has a claim on the throne, the fact that he was born has an influence or an effect on Guinevere, and any children she might produce. To minimize the competition between rival sons of different mothers, the Common Law solution, for better or worse, was to disinherit any bastards. The children of one mother, the lawful wife, received the plume of legitimacy, and all others were held to be strangers to the patrimony. In order to further discourage the practice of fathering bastard children, the act was surrounding by social opprobrium.

(I must say, in one of those acts which condemn mankind, the opprobrium was more often attached to the innocent children rather than to the philandering father. The word ‘bastard’ came to be a swear word, a synonym for a ruthless and heartless grasper, whereas the real swear word should have been attached to the father of the bastard.)

The Libertine position simply ignores the fact that Guinevere’s  interests are being imposed upon by the act of fathering a child on Morgan le Fay. At best, the Libertine position allows that if and only if Arthur and Guinevere so mutually agree, he will keep his royal hotdog in his trousers for such times and places as they mutually see fit. If she does not read the fine print, or overlooks to get him to make such a vow, he is not bound.

5.4.1.    The Father of the Bride

The Libertine position recognizes no interest the father (or mother) of the bride might have in seeing to it that his daughter not be unhappy in marriage. However, since she produces (or abandons) his grandchildren, the question arises whether he has a vested interest in permitting or driving off suitors courting the daughter. The Libertine answer is in the negative: grandparents have no duties to protect and love their grandchildren, and hence no right to meddle with any arrangement the daughter might make or fail to make to provide for any child she might bear.

I speak here of fathers and daughters only because historically this was the most common case: indeed, it is not until relatively recently in history, and only in Christian lands, that a daughter selecting her own mate was the commonplace. While we might look on this type of arranged marriage with distaste, it nonetheless behooves us to note the logic behind the social arrangement: in the modern day, if the father had no role in driving off unworthy suitors, that father is the one most likely to have to bear the expense of raising the grandchild if the daughter returns pregnant and in tears if (as often happens) the unworthy suitor proves to be truly unworthy.

Since matrimony proposes that the daughter not copulate with the unworthy suitor until and unless the suitor publicly vow his eternal support, even in a culture where the father has no veto over his daughter’s choice of mate, the marriage vow if it is strict, inescapable, and permanent, tends to protect the father’s interest. Many an unworthy suitor, many a bridegroom who mistakes his infatuation for true love, will suddenly get cold feet and be confronted by a sober reality when facing the terrors of the rose-covered chapel.

This will act as a filter: in economic terms, the entry cost of copulating with the woman is higher than merely winning her momentary and private consent when she is flown with wine and dazzled with roses. You cannot have her, O unworthy suitor, until and unless you make the public protestation and legally binding vow that your love is eternal and exclusive. If you suddenly sober up at the church steps, and realize you are being stuck for life, your reason, and not merely your sexual appetites, must be consulted before you take the final and irrevocable step, bind yourself as if with chains, and throw away the key.

It is with sorrow and disgust that I note that the modern no-fault divorce culture has undermined whatever utility the strictness of the marriage vow once held. My wife’s best friend and roommate from way back was married to an unworthy suitor, an empty-headed boy who did not take the vows of matrimony seriously, and, as it turns out, did not have to. She was completely loyal to him, and he decided he wanted out, and he dumped her in one of the ugliest divorces I ever sat through. There is no certainty that a stricter law of marriage would have sobered up and deterred this boy; but there is certainty that he would not have been able to victimize my friend with impunity, if he could have found divorce only for cause.

5.4.2.    The Grandparents of the Child

Above I cover the case of the grandparents of the child having an interest in whether and how the mother makes provision for the child’s wellbeing and upbringing.

In the Libertine Position, the grandparents are not parties to whatever contract covers the daughter and her various lovers of either sex and any number. This means that if the daughter’s plan is to rid herself of any pregnancy by prenatal infanticide, what is politely called abortion, the grandparents have no right to interfere, and no right even to be consulted.

And since copulation for entertainment value is the point and purpose of the Libertine position, the specter of an unwanted pregnancy (which is impossible, aside from medical considerations, under the Matrimonial position) is not a rare accident but a commonplace one. In modern society, it is assumed and expected that an unwed mother will kill her child in the womb as an unwelcome byproduct of copulation for pleasure.

I call it impossible because the Marriage ceremony is obviously a fertility ceremony: the meaning of the rite cannot possibly (except by committed Leftists) be misconstrued or misunderstood. You might not want to have children when you first get married, but you cannot think the marriage ceremony is a celebration of the fact that you will not be having children: no one can confuse wedding vows with the vows of a nun to maintain perpetual virginity. In any case, even if the point of the mating ritual is lost on you, in the eyes of the law, no additional ceremony or contract or vow is needed to make all the obligations legally enforceable to raise and care for the child once born.

 A bachelor who seduces a foolish girl and leaves her pregnant can argue, and with a surface appearance of justice, that he neither expected nor intended to father a child. He can claim he was relying on the girl to use birth control, or, if he is either a modern man or a Spartan, he can say he was expecting the girl to dispose of the baby either by a visit to the abortion provider or the pit called Apothetae, where newborns were thrown.  For all we know, she may have told him that was the plan.

But no married man can make this claim, not without sounding an utter fool. No man of ordinary prudence gets married without knowing he is henceforth bound to the obligations of fatherhood when and if his bride bears children.

What else can he say? “I was not expecting to be a father! I thought marriage was so that I could treat my sex partner as an unpaid maid and housekeeper!”

Good grief. Any man who makes or even thinks that this is what marriage is about should be taken outside the city walls and stoned by angry women for the crime of being a pinhead.

In reality, no additional legal or customary contract or obligation is necessary: once married to a woman, her children, in the eyes of the law, are yours, and the obligation to love and raise them is not one you can shirk without legal and social penalties.

Nonetheless, if the daughter finds she cannot raise the child on her own, it would be unnatural, a violation of the unspoken obligations of parent and child, to turn the pregnant daughter away from her home. Note the lack of symmetry. In order to be logically consistent, the Libertine position would have to hold that the grandparents of a bastard child or abandoned child, once the deadbeat Dad has flown, or gone back to his wife, have no duty whatsoever to support and cherish their daughter and her child, or to raise or to support them, aside, of course from whatever contract they signed.

It is, of course, impossible, even for the most intrusive and meddling parents, to appear in the bedroom of their adult daughter while she is readying herself for the pleasures of a one-night stand with some empty-headed beefcake she picked up at the local biker bar, question the fellow, and discover his prospects. If the Libertine position allows for any copulation within the bounds of adult consent, then the interest of the grandparents are sacrificed.

On the other hand, in the matrimonial position, since a public and legally-binding ceremony must take place before the mating takes place, the grandparents not only can investigate the prospective father of their grandchildren, the ceremony itself makes the provision that the father of the child, if any child is born, is already obligated to raise and love the child, even before the child is conceived. The main interest of the grandparents finds some protection in this provision.


We have seen above that the Matrimonial position grants to the parties involved in marriage an expectation that the other partner come a virgin to the marriage bed. This, for several reasons: first, it hinders the spread of venereal disease; second, it deters the birth of bastards; third (and related) it deters the pursuit of the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy by the unscrupulous; fourth, it hinders the competition for resources and affection incumbent upon either polygamy (many mates at once) or serial polygamy (many mates one at a time): fourth (and for similar reasons) it diminishes sexual competition among rivals.

Is this expectation a right? Does the one marriage partner have a right to be offended with the other if the other turns out to be not a virgin? Is there any interest being violated? If there is a right, when does it attach?

Please note that while it is my habit to speak of men as the jerks and women as the victims in most matrimonial conflict, because I think the women suffer more and are exploited more, in this case I keep my language carefully unisex: because historically virginity in women has been praised higher than in men (and this, perhaps, for Darwinian reasons, or due to the ruthlessness and power of men over women throughout history), in this case the women has as much right or more to be offended by the lack of virginity in her mate as the man. I want to emphasize this because it is often overlooked.

5.5.1.    Economic and Prudential Considerations

The main point here is that marriage is both an emotional and a legal relationship. Marriage is not merely a contract for the providence of sexual services: this would equate wives and whores. Marriage is not merely a prudential arrangement for the protection and rearing of the young, even thought I have spoken mainly of that aspect of it. Marriage is for love.

If you fornicate with another before marriage then you bring to your marriage partner a diminished capacity for love. Merely on economic terms, your marriage partner now knows you have shared the most intimate moments known to you with another, and so the intimacy you have remaining has less value.

This means that your ability to restrain your sexual impulses has been tested and found wanting: she knows, gentlemen, that you were willing to break the laws common sense and common prudence provide for the restriction of sexual appetites in the past: while past behavior does not predict the future, she had a reason to suspect you have less ability to withstand the temptations of adultery, should those arise in the future, than perhaps other potential suitors for her hand.

This means also that you lack virtue. I hate to say so baldly, but it means that your sexual appetites and your reason have been habituated to the reflex of regarding sex as inconsequential –or (let us be precise) less consequential than someone who kept himself pure until the wedding night. He, your theoretical rival, can claim his physical affections are and always will be an outpouring of his noblest affections. He has never made love except when he has been in love, and he has been in love only with one bride. No matter what else the bride thinks of him, in purely economic terms, this make the faithful lover a more valuable commodity than he would be in the absence of this trait.

There is also the possibility that an old rival, either pregnant with your child or merely enflamed with a renewed ardor, will return to compete with her for your time and affection, or lower the cost to you should you contemplate divorce, in that you may have a fall-back.

You, on the other hand, have two choices.

One: you can say that those other girls really meant nothing to me, baby. I was thinking of you when I was ejaculating into her! Or I would have been had I known you! That was before I met you baby, and my standards were lower back then!

Again, on purely economic terms, all this makes your protestation of true love less valuable (and less persuasive) then someone with no history of taking love to be a casual matter.

Two: you can say that you loved Rosalind (or whoever) with your whole heart and soul, and deep as the sea and as high as your heart could reach, BUT, that you did not love that other girl enough to marry her. This signals to your prospective bride that your capacity for love is limited, and, yes, self-centered, and that your prudence is wanting.

In the modern day, now that there is little or no legal or social sanction against men treating their lovers with self-centered indifference, this lowering of standards may have little or no effect.  In economic terms, it is a buyer’s market.

Women are cheap these days, thanks to the sexual revolution, and I doubt that this props up their self esteem. By cheap, I mean that they do not ask for much before they yield to their suitors: instead of a lifelong vow of faithfulness accompanied by a gold ring, a modern woman can be won over with an evening or two of dinner, dancing, and show. Some hold out until they have known the fellow for a month or two.

Under the Matrimonial position, he offers everything he has, all he owns, all his loyalty, all his love, for all his life. Under the Libertine Position, he need only offer her a minimum of friendship and affection, should he find her in a moment of weakness, boredom, or mutual lust, he need not even offer that. There is not social consensus to prompt him to place any higher a value on her, or on sex with her, than whatever she can be persuaded (or fooled, or pressured) to lower herself to.

A modern woman is in a position of weakness: if she demanded more, her suitors would scorn her and drop away.

(Here again, I speak from experience. I know what a friend of mine said about the Christian women they wanted to seduce in College; the one woman who resisted, I mean, and employed what I here call the Matrimonial standard. Just from a pragmatic standpoint, even though I hated the religion at that time and everything associated with it, I saw this Christian woman was not being treated with the unceremonious contempt my Lothario friends displayed toward their bedmates in the morning.)

I hear sad stories about a girl sleeping with her boyfriend not because he loves her but merely because she hopes that the sexual congress will win his affection and constancy. Here sex is being used not as the reward of faithfulness, but as the lure. (Ironically, a truly faithful lover would not yield to the lure. This method is self-defeating because it habituates boys to expect the rewards of matrimonial faithfulness without suffering the difficulty or commitment of matrimony.) 

Being cheap, the modern women are not in a position to demand their menfolk take love and romance and devotion very seriously at all, much less fatherhood. The decision to be cheap or dear is not one an individual can make, any more than one individual can set the height of wages and prices: if all the women around you are willing to sleep with men without demanding of them the honors and obligations of matrimony, then if you hold out, rival women will undercut your price. Previously, the social consensus enforced something like a monopoly: men who wanted sexual congress either had to pay the price all the women demanded, which was marriage, or the man had to seek his pleasures outside polite society, in the cathouses.

 (Note that the Matrimonial position condemns the exploitation of whores, whereas in the Libertine position, whoring is an honest profession. The Libertine position is not girl-friendly, my dears.)

So then: even if we cannot say that your prospective bride has a right to your virginity, we certainly can conclude that she is prudent to insist on this when selecting between suitors. While the modern sexual competition has cheapened women, there is still an advantage to holding out for the higher price and greater value of mutual virginity.

5.5.2.    Considerations of Duty

So from a pragmatic standpoint. From a moral standpoint, does she have a right to expect virtuous behavior from you? If you are caught in a lie, or being a coward, or a drunkard or a gambler or in any other habituation to self-indulgence, her conscience is right to condemn the behavior. But when you enter an intimate relationship, more is involved. Her self-interest, not to mention her emotional wellbeing, is now tied to yours: such is the nature of devotion and love.

The Libertine makes no account for this commingling of self-interest, except, unless, to regard it as something like an alliance between suspicious nations, who treat with each other at arm’s length. This posture is called individualism or atomism. This posture need not detain us; those who adopt it foreswear the sorrows, but also the pleasure and glory, of intimacy. Even a cursory inspection of the human condition reveals that that falling in love with a girl imposes upon a boy the duty to better himself, and to guard her best interests: and, logically, if the love is returned, the duty is mutual. If each is obligated to better and serve the other, any vices or shortcomings of the one is an offense against the other.

We would not doubt this in regard to other close relationships. When a son lies, is his mother not shamed? When a soldier flees, are his brothers-in-arms not disgraced? Has not your vice hurt them? If you answer in the negative, the conclusion would be, not that your vice does not offend your loved ones and hurt their interests, but rather that the natural affections and bonds which ought to be present in that relation were absent. If you commit some shameful act, and you express surprise that your mother would know or care, or if you tell her it is none of her business, then your mother is right to condemn you as unnatural. Likewise, if your mother learns of some shameful act in you, but shrugs nonchalantly, her affections are unnatural: you are a stranger to her, not a son.

There is no particular reason to carve out an exception for romantic love over other types of love. The mere fact that the beloved is loved creates a duty in you not to disappoint her by the discovery of vice in you. If the love is merely infatuation, and not true love, a different consideration applies, an economic rather than a consideration of duty. Prudence will foresee the heartache to which she is prone should she consummate her infatuation by falling in love with a vicious man: rivals for her affection displaying no such vices are the wiser alternative.  Hence, both the love of the lover who lives for another, and the selfishness of a suitor who has not yet found love, conspire, for opposite reasons, to place a value on virtue.

If there is no special exception separating romantic love from the duties love generally imposes, then likewise there is no special exception separating vices of lust from vices springing from other causes. If your beloved has a right not to be lied to, she also has a right that you remain chaste for her.

5.5.3.    When Does the Duty Attach?

This being the case, when does attachment take place? When can she expect or demand that you come to her marriage bed a virgin?

Unfortunately, this is a binary quality. Either you have it or you don’t. If you don’t have it, you do not have it to offer to your true love once she arises.

By this logic, even from before you meet her, even from before you know her or can imagine her, you are under a prudential if not a moral obligation to preserve your virginity intact for her—because once it is gone, you have nothing to offer her, aside from your lame explanation that those other women really meant nothing to me baby: a protestation that is hardly the exemplar of romance.

Women have never been so plentiful, so easy to seduce, so unprotected, and so vulnerable to exploitation as these modern days. Even a science fiction fan, with his ungainly looks and pungent odor and awkward social mannerisms, yes, even such gargoyles as you or me can find ourselves alone with a female of the opposite sex in a state or partial or total dishabille. It is comical to assume that any young man in such a situation with a willing partner will forego the immediate pleasures of the flesh for some highly theoretical as-yet unmet future bride, not if the girl in your room is already taking off her bra. And, hey, for all you know, this girl in your room might be your future bride, in which case this will be (retroactively speaking, of course) not extramarital sex but merely premarital sex.

The weakness of the male of the species requires that there be a social and legal sanction keeping his virginity intact for his bride, because the value of it is otherwise lost.

The same logic applies to women, I suppose, except with the added layer of risk arising from the possibility of pregnancy.    A Digression on Duties Running to Persons Unknown

A possible objection to be raised here is that no duty can attach that runs to a non-existent or unknown person. While a strict libertarian might agree, for the purposes of this argument, I need only point out that the principle of duties running to parties unknown is an established legal principle.

Suppose, for example, that I am a life tenant on an estate, and I wish to cut all the lumber within the metes and bounds, nor ever to replant? The heirs one day to inherit may not have been born as yet, but under Common Law, I am legally bound not to act in disregard of their interests, and can be sued for wastage.

Again, while a strict Libertarian would scoff at honesty in labeling laws, at present, the law holds a manufacturer who puts an article into the stream of commerce to be under a duty honestly and correctly to label his product. If I sold baby shampoo in A.D. 2000, and failed to mention that it contained peanut oil, and a mother used it on a one-year old child in A.D. 2002, and the child had an allergic reaction to peanuts, it would be no bar to her lawsuit to claim the baby harmed had not existed in A.D. 2000 when I manufactured the article: I nonetheless have a duty, legal if not moral, to tell my customers the truth about my products, and not to defraud nor deceive. This duty runs to persons unknown.

In any case, anyone who believes in duties running to generations unborn, such as environmentalists fretting over the ultimate destiny of the planet, or believes in duties running to unidentified heirs, or running to unidentified customers, cannot without somehow distinguishing the cases hold that a duty to chastity does not exist on the grounds that the ultimate bride or bridegroom to whom that value is owed (if it is owed) at any given point in time is indeterminate or unidentified.

Of course, prudence suggests that someone legally bound never to be wed, such as a priest under a vow, is not under a duty to remain chaste: but the paradox involved in that will excuse us from examining that chain of reasoning further.  


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