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



Now we come to a crucial point. What is the magistrate to do in all this? Keep in mind that no magistrate, howsoever wise, can learn and know the private dealings of everyone who comes before the court. The laws must be simple and clear enough for all rational men to be able to conform to them.

Fornication (including adultery) either is or is not against the law, and either it is punished or not. If it is either not against the law, or not punished, no deterrent exists, and the law is a dead letter.

Likewise, if fornication (including adultery) either is or is not rigorously and vigorously penalized by social opprobrium. In this, there is not much latitude for diversity of opinions: the society as a whole is either committed to the proposition, or is not committed. The minority has a veto over the majority. If the majority condemns adultery, but a sizeable minority does not join in that condemnation, the condemnation has no real force or effect. Anyone suffering ostracism or mockery for his adultery can move to the neighborhood where it is not condemned. The society merely polarizes in this case, it does not form an enforceable consensus.

That decision to condemn fornication at law rests with the magistrate, and to condemn with social opprobrium with the common opinion of the consensus of the people. 

Such is the human condition.

Under these facts, the proposition that adultery is licit when all three parties agree and give their consent, and is otherwise illicit, cannot be carried into effect. In a society where the Libertine position is the consensus, If Arthur goes to the magistrate carrying a paper in hand, which purports to be the document where Guinevere vowed eternal fidelity, a contract she breeched, the magistrate cannot condemn or punish her beyond what terms the contract stipulates. The magistrate cannot, in the long run, enforce the contract, because the contract does not follow the values and opinions of the consensus. A society that approved of adultery would be outraged that a mere legality, a flimsy piece of paper, would block her sacred right to commit adultery: the outcry would ring to the sky. But even if the outcry were ignored, and the penalty stipulated in the contract enforced (if there could be such a thing) such contract laws would only penalize the short-sighted, and the social utility of punishing adultery would be lost.

Under any practical consideration, adultery cannot be against the law in a Libertine society, even if the two individuals would have it so. The law reflects the consensus, not the individual will.

Likewise the opposite: in a commonwealth where adultery is illegal, the magistrate has no choice but to punish it, even if the three people involved agreed in writing not to complain, lest the law be no deterrent to others and hence of none effect.

As the magistrate keeps the laws, so too does the consensus of public opinion keep the customs. The laws cannot bind if custom does not: and the keepers of the public opinion operate under the same restriction as restricts the magistrates: public opinion cannot track each individual contract, or carve out exceptions. The society that allows for adultery when a contract stipulating open marriage allows for it, will be at best lukewarm in its condemnation of extra-contractual adultery. It is simply risible to assume that a society could condemn the loss of honor involved in breaking a contract, but embrace the loss of honor involved in breaking a marriage vow. 

(Even on a personal level, we see this: I know of no one who excuses, for example, the adultery of Ayn Rand who does not also excuse the adultery of Bill Clinton, despite that one was performed with the consent of the spouse and the other was not: the libertarians I know who approve of consensual adultery, oddly enough, seem to lack the fire of conviction when it comes to condemning non-consensual adultery.)

Experience, if not logic, shows the choice is a binary one. The consensus of society must adopt one standard or the other: either the Matrimonial Position, or the Libertine Position. If merely half the consensus fallows the Matrimonial Position, there is insufficient social opprobrium to maintain the standards: anyone annoyed with small town enforcement of matrimonial customs will move to the big city, and sleep around.

The examination of the Libertine Position shows that it claims of being harmless are false. All it does is remove the social institutions that otherwise would protect the interests of the women, the children, the fathers of the bride, and the grandparents, all of whom are either aborted or ignored or exploited or unable to help their loved ones while a pack of ravening sexual predators competes for increasingly undefended females.

The best a woman can hope for in a society like ours is to dump the guy before she gets dumped herself.  If she goes from man to man, breaking hearts and hoping her contraception holds out, she can maintain her self-esteem. Or she can be lucky enough to snare the ever-shrinking pool of nice and decent guys who want to settle down and get married early on, before the lifestyle begins to tell on her. You’ve come a long way, baby. You are woman, hear you roar!

Or not. Modern liberated womanhood, hear me. Your boyfriends are playing you for fools and taking advantage of your good nature and feminine instincts.

You are no longer free to be feminine.

Femininity  is weakness.

You are now free to be like men.

Men are jerks.

You are free to be jerks.

Our society is your enemy, ladies, and remember you hear it here from me first. They made the baby in your womb your enemy, and handed you a bloody abortionists scalpel and told you it was the very banner of freedom.

That is the outcome of the Libertine Position, broken hearts, wasted lives, dead babies (about 46 million, disproportionately among Blacks), the silence of the fathers and the helplessness of the grandparents, the breakdown of the family, and the erosion of civilization itself. The Libertine position makes insufficient provision for the negative externalities of the sex act. 


Having established that the Libertine position is false, on the grounds that excluding sex acts that do no harm leads to grave and lasting harms to parties outside the agreement, to general society, and to the character of those so engaged, we are left with the Matrimonial position.

The logic of the Matrimonial position applies both to monogamous and polygamous societies, albeit in my personal judgment the monogamous societies are more beneficial to women on other grounds.

The Matrimonial position states that no copulation ought to take place outside of marriage, for the prudential reasons given above. Matrimony, in other words, necessarily involves the condemnation of premarital and extramarital sex, fornication and adultery.

The word for this is chastity.  Chastity is self-command or virtue exercised in the realm of moral quandaries concerning sex just as courage is self-command or virtue exercised in the realm of moral quandaries concerning personal danger.

Self-command is mutually exclusive with self-indulgence. Self-indulgence of the sexual appetite habituates the mind to be unable to exercise self-command when called upon to do so. Self-indulgence of the sexual appetites is called unchastity or vice.  It is the lack of virtue or power. (see 1.3, above).

Matrimony erodes when laws and customs do not support it, because no law can stand except that custom supports it (see 1.4, above).

Chastity and unchastity are mutually exclusive. Chastity is a necessary precondition for Matrimony.

Hence, A society whose laws support matrimony cannot at the same time approve or tolerate fornication and adultery or any form of unchastity. Also, a society whose customs and norms support fornication and adultery or any form of unchastity cannot at the same time support chastity.

Now this statement admits of some qualification: clearly a society can limp along for a number of years if the unchastity is kept out of sight, or confined to certain holidays, red-light districts, or sailor’s taverns, or if the elite feel free to violate the customs binding the common man. But we are talking here about the consensus: the majority and public opinion. The hypocrisy of disobeying a public moral code you uphold certainly CAN exist; but if we also apply a standard of logic or justice to our public morals as well as to our private behavior, we come to an opposite conclusion as to whether social hypocrisy SHOULD exist. Obviously it should not: it offends simple justice and honesty, which we know (see 1.2, above) to be a universal moral imperative.

Indeed, the standard of honesty means that, no matter what society as a whole might say, a single man in his own mind cannot support or maintain the virtues needed to maintain matrimony, while indulging the vices incumbent on unchastity.

All non-essentials forms of sexual gratification are unchaste in essence.  The mock or impersonate the sex act with the same physical sensations as the sex act, but they are sexually by accident, not sexual essentially. This means that a proper concern for virtue (and virtue is based on habit) should permit, if at all, these non-essential sexual acts when and only when they are part of, or leading up to, or added to, the sex act. With apologies to my Christian friends, I see nothing wrong with unnatural sexual acts with your own wife, provided these acts increase the union and love of matrimony.

But care must be taken not to allow non-essentials to drive out essentials. There are people who suffer a neurosis (there are harder words for this, but I will not use them here) where ordinary sexual acts or sexual stimulations will not stimulate them. Their sexual attraction does not attract them to sex, but, rather, away from it. We call this neurosis sexual deviancy.

Here we must make a distinction between sexual deviancy and merely sexual difference. The extreme cases are easy enough to distinguish: a man who prefers redheads to brunettes merely has a difference of taste. He will say Ginger is more attractive then Mary Anne (and, of course, he will be wrong on that point!) but there is no accounting for taste. A man who cannot get an erection unless his love is dressed in a Nazi uniform with stiletto-heeled boots, on the other hand, is neurotic. Likewise for a man attracted sexually to creatures with whom he cannot, biologically speaking, have sex: prepubescent children, dogs or sheep, dead bodies, and so on. There are specific names for each neurosis: pederasty, bestiality, necrophilia.

Sexual attraction to members of one’s own family is also a neurosis. This is because erotic love is exclusive and familial love is inclusive: human nature is not pliant and cannot change the nature of love. You cannot fulfill the proper obligations or have the proper emotional relations running to daughter, sister, or mother, if she is also your lover. While the Libertine position would allow for incest between adult siblings, the Matrimonial position must forbid it, if for no other reason than that the prudent magistrate cannot carve out an exception which leaves the negative externalities in place: if your elder and adult brother and sister are married while you are still below the age of majority, this distorts your emotional and ethical relations with your sisters, for example.

There is a gray area where certain things that seem like mere differences of taste might be neuroses, or things that seem like neuroses are mere differences of taste. The touchstone for making the distinction is whether or not it adds to or subtracts from normal and healthy lusts for normal and healthy copulation.

If it is neurotic, the lust for the non-essential will grow over time, and drive out the appetite for the normal. It will be a substitute rather than an adjunct. Ladies, if your man looks at a racy magazine rather than at you before the loveplay so to encourage an erection, that is odd, but not unhealthy. If he cannot get an erection at all without the magazine, he is addicted to porn, and that is unhealthy. Such a man is powerless, addicted to vice.

His erotic emotions and appetites and passions not longer serve the purpose of erotic love. This is not a matter of taste. If I prefer beer to wine, that is a matter of taste. If I drink urine and it tastes like wine to me on my tastebuds, there is something objectively wrong with my tastebuds. My appetite for wine is objectively disordered: it no longer reflects reality; it is as illogical as a statement that is false.

From this we can conclude that while customs and manners therefore can tolerate non-sexual or non-essential forms of sexual gratification only to the degree and in the ways that these do not erode matrimony: they are allowable between man and wife in the privacy of the bedroom (or the kitchen floor, depending on how impatient you are.)

A virtuous society cannot hold up sexual non-essentials as a norm, or as a substitute or equal version of copulation, nor can a virtuous man allow his tastes, if his tastes run to that, to devolve into a neurosis or an obsession.

I do not see that this standard is difference from a common sense standard which might apply to drinking alcohol or gambling for money. If done in moderation, in certain times and settings, no opprobrium attached. When they become addictive, obsession, or neurotic, they become vices, and must be deterred. 

Customs and manners therefore cannot support non-copulation forms of neurotic sexual deviance without eroding matrimony. The two are mutually exclusive.

Unfortunately, while practitioners of incest and bestiality can copulate, at least somewhat, practitioners of homosexuality are limited to sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual masturbation. Whether we think homosexuality is nobler than incest of not, or no matter what status we give it, it still cannot escape the general prohibition against non-essential forms of sexual gratification neither leading to nor supporting copulation. The erotic love between Alcibiades and Socrates, no matter how otherwise noble and admirable, cannot be consummated.

While homosexuality in and of itself may or may not erode matrimony (the debate on that point is ongoing) the prudent magistrate when protecting matrimony must forbid not merely some, but all forms of extramarital, premarital and unchaste sex. If so, the Lawrence decision was incorrectly decided, on the grounds that even private sexual relations between consenting adults may have wider social consequences which it falls within the ambit of the state to regulation.

By this line of reasoning, non-essential forms of sexual gratification, when pursued outside marriage, constitute vice, and a chaste man would eschew it even if he lived in a society that approved and allowed for them.

Of course, homosexuality is not the main issue; it is barely even a side issue. The main issue is between the Libertine Position, which is the mainstream consensus of the modern West, and the Matrimonial Position, which within living memory had been.

The Libertine position you should all recognize as the rallying cry of the Sexual Revolution. The Sexual Revolutionaries (as we might call the partisans thereof) currently support homosexuals because they have a harmony of interests, in the same way they supported women, or pretended to, as if it were in the best interests of women to be unprotected by marital laws and norms. The general disregard of the Sexual Revolutionaries for women I have outlined above, and at some length. My fear is that those prone to the vice of homosexuality will fall under the same dismissive disregard by the Revolutionaries once their object is achieved, and the Revolution will move on to some other target, perhaps supporting polygamy, or lowering the age of consent: rumbling and foreshadowing of that are already present.  

So you will forgive me if I do not acknowledge the idea that by taking the Sexual Revolutionaries as my enemies, I necessarily must offend either women or homosexual men or even practitioners of other sexual abnormalities and peccadilloes.


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