Hymenaeus and Eros, or, Natural and Unnatural

A reader with the a deformed and scurrilous yet Homeric name of Thersites writes a well-formed and noble passage:

Oddly enough, the Church’s much-derided teachings on divorce, fornication, and contraception were just about the only Catholic teachings I agreed with back when I was an atheistically-inclined Church-hating agnostic around age twelve. I read a single quote in a secular health book from a man who waited until marriage, and instantly saw the self-evident logic of his position- “That’s what I’m going to do, too. It’s the only path that makes sense“. I had the same reaction in health class when our school nurse (very grudgingly, in retrospect, and probably under some school board mandate she secretly despised) pointed out that only abstinence was 100% effective at preventing conception- my twelve-year-old brain thought “Okay, why do we need to have this stupid and awkward class about condoms, then? I’m pretty sure I can keep it in my pants, thank you.” Even amidst all my blazing hostility to God and His Church, it was obvious to me that condoms were disgusting and unnatural.

My own history shares this feature with yours.

As a vehement and militant atheist boy and man, I was always a creature of unsentimental logic and moral rigor after the fashion of the classic Stoic writers, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and so on.

At the same time, in an unnoticed paradox of psychology, I followed the preaching of Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein and other hedonists, who advocated adultery, fornication, and sexual deviance, on the grounds that no pleasure should be denied provided it harmed no other.

I was an avowed enemy of Christ, contemptuous of and hostile to every manifestation of the Christian worldview, which I took to be an empty-headed tangle of superstition, wishful thinking, gas, fairy-tale, and hypocrisy.

My best friend in the world was a Christian, who had been an atheist in days past. He was handsome and charming, and had always been something of a lady’s man at college, but after graduation, had neither sweetheart nor wife, nor any prospect of one.

A time came when we were discussing love and romance.

At the time, I was an atheist, and he was a Christian. He argued that sex before marriage was licit, on the grounds that it was a harmless pleasure with no negative externalities, no costs, no risks, no drawbacks.

I was arguing, in my typically emotionless and logical way, first, that sex was sex, or, in other words, the act of sexual reproduction was the sexually reproductive act; second, that no act, sexual or not, can be willed without willing the consequences of that act; third, that the natural consequence of sexual reproduction was reproduction; fourth, prudence required no man engage in sexual reproduction until and unless he had made provision for the consequences thereof; fifth, the consequences of sexual reproduction are childrearing; sixth, childrearing is imprudent in conditions of single-parent childrearing, or in loveless “shot-gun” marriages, or where the father is unwilling or unable to provision and feed and educate the child; therefore, seven, prudence only allows for sexual reproduction within marriage.

There are certain objections I was expected him to raise to this line of reasoning, such as, for example, that the willed consequences of an act are not necessarily the natural consequences, nor does one necessarily will a higher rather than a lower cost given the same outcome.

Instead he disagreed with the self evident first axiom. He said sex was not sex. Sexual reproduction was not sexual reproduction, it was the pleasure of sexual reproduction divorced from the act itself.

Contraception, so he argued, was solely the woman’s task and responsibility. It she failed, it was her responsibility to kill any products of conception it in the womb, or, at her option, raise it as a single mother. And about this choice the man had neither responsibility, nor, once he was done ejaculating, any interest.

As the discussion progressed, I found, to my utmost surprise, even shock, that he did not believe in romance at all. He did not think it existed.

It was not any of the steps of logic in my argument that he doubted, where at least some doubt was justified. It was in the axiom, which was self-evident, a matter of the Law of Identity in logic. He doubted that sex was sex.

He said sex was not sex. Sex was only the pleasure that accompanies the sex act, and was not the act itself.

The only thing that made this conclusion so fearsome and tremendous to me, was that I knew his entire generation, his entire world, sided with him. All the Earth said it: A is not A.

A greater shock was to come, once I discovered who sided with me.

He thought fornication was a pleasant but meaningless mutual stimulation of the genitals, a mere sport requiring persons of opposite sexes to play, something like mixed-doubles tennis. And that was all. No more to it.

I also had noticed that, among those old enough to know, the greatest joy, the greatest physical pleasure, to be had from sex comes when accompanied by deep and erotic love, namely, when the wife is in the arms of a husband who has not only vowed to share his life, but daily does so, when they are energetically trying to make a baby. The sex is better.

This act of reproduction, to no one’s surprise, is surrounded by an entire structure of laws and customs, art and ritual, and all civilization erected to support it, everything from St. Valentine’s Day cards to Bridal magazines to the paperback romance story industry to more than half of every poem or song ever written in any language.

All that was gone from my friend. Every love poem, love song, marriage bower, romantic gesture, all the wine and roses of the world, all the tales from Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult, Landfall and the Fairy Queen, Leda and the Swan, Snow White and Prince Charming, the Beauty and the Beast, Paris and Helen of Troy, Mickie and Minnie Mouse, to Popeye and Olive Oyl, all of this and more had been taken away from my friend.

Being color blind or tone deaf would have been as nothing compared to this: an utter inability to see the one passion that stands at the core of human life.

I asked myself who had so cruelly deceived my friend? Who had robbed him of everything best in life?

Who had taken away all the love stories and replaced them with pornography?

Who had taken away all the joy and adventure and erotic passion of the nuptial bower and replaced it with a dull, mechanical process of mutual masturbation?

More to the point, what made him, and nearly everyone I know, unable to tell the difference between sexual reproduction and sexual perversion? I have yet to hear a single argument in favor of legalizing sodomy which did not equate a man suffering from the moral corruption or mental disease of disordered same-sex attraction with a sterile woman.

But if, in the eyes of the severely neurotic, sexual reproduction is not distinguishable from mutual masturbation, then sex and homosex are likewise one and the same, the same rules should apply, and a marriage can consist of two bridegrooms in sodomite union, or a marriage of two lesbian brides.

This is a neurosis, that is, an emotional break with reality, and, if unchecked, would lead to a psychosis, a mental break with reality, where the victim would be unable to distinguish male from female, but would consider them interchangeable, one and the same, or not to exist at all.

But this conversation was years ago. At that time, the idea, or even the imaginary picture, of an entire world embracing a vertiginous psychosis and rejecting the basic reality of bisexual organic life, was beyond even the power of an HP Lovecraft story to encompass.

No horror story writer, no science fiction author, contemplated a world where homo sapiens would have two sexes, but be unable to think, say, or know that fact. Even the imagination of Ursula K. LeGuin, in penning a hermaphroditic human race for her book LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, still kept a biological basis for the sex of her Gethenians.

So, when my friend told me the sex act was a sport like mixed-doubles tennis, requiring two sexes, but otherwise without meaning, and I asked the heavens who had robbed my friend of all that was best in life — albeit, let me emphasize again, I was an enemy of Christ in those days. To me, the heavens were a layer of air molecules, increasingly rarefied to a vacuum filled with radiation, where lifeless rocks called planets and lifeless spheres of atomic fire called stars emitted meaningless roars of radio static into the void. I was not expecting an answer.

Reason (also called Logos) however, answered me nonetheless:

Nothing but the widespread normalization and free use of the artificial sterility called contraception could erect a society where sex was not sex.

Only by such means can the pleasure of sex be presented to the imagination as a separate entity from the act of sex, and the reproductive aspect of sexual reproduction altered from the motive and final cause of the event, to being considered a dangerous and unintentional side-effect, even as the chance of motorcar accidents are a dangerous and unintentional side-effect of motoring.

Only by such means could motherhood, the core institution of mankind from prehistory, be brought into derision and contempt, while virginity, always the glory and perfection of the virtues of maidenhood, become a badge of shame.

Contraception is the cause that robs life of romance, demeans women, degrades society, etiolates the social bonds, upholds barbarism, ushers in sexual deviance, eugenics, child murder.

To such an end my logic forces me, very much against my will and against my inclination.

As many a young man, I too wished a life amid a harem of curvaceous beauties, with whom to couple without thought or prudence, decency or honor, with all the bounding energy of youth and folly. But the other half of my hedonistic soul, my stoic half, now checked me as if with a whip of iron, cold as ice.

By what right could I, if I lived by duty, expose any unborn child I might engender to the strong possibility of bloodthirsty murder at the hands of any paramour I might bed, and she not even be required, at law or custom, to inform me?

If I had a duty to rear a child, that meant I had to take prudent precaution the child not be killed.

The laws of the surrounding society would not aid me in my duty, indeed, would aid the mother, even if I wedded her, to kill the unborn, thwarting my duty. The laws already made me unable to carry out the duty in any certain way: for nine months, the laws allowed any mother of my children, wedded or not, to murder them without consequence. She needed neither permission from me, nor even do me the courtesy of informing me, according to the law, up to the very moment of birth, and, according to common practice, thereafter.

Again, I asked the empty heavens how I could be placed under a paternal duty which the laws and customs of my civilization actively attempted to thwart, and the blood of my little ones be spilled without any retribution, nay, to the sound of applause and cheering, as women madder than bacchants boasted of their aborticides.

Again, the answer was the same: an abortion based society is impossible without a contraception based society, and, with contraception, becomes inevitable.

Again, he who honestly wills the event wills the consequences. No one can honestly wish for the orgies of Heinlein nor the adulteries of Ayn Rand without wishing for widespread contraception; and no one can honestly wish for contraception without wishing for the Carthaginian practice of prenatal infanticide, which is euphemistically called abortion.

So, logic forced me to the conclusion that, in the same way pederasty or sodomy was unnatural, contraception was unnatural, and was a grave moral evil.

History shocked me again, once I discovered the real story beneath the lies I had been told in school, by teachers, I assume to have been nearly as unwary and ignorant as I.

History said every Christian denomination before 1930s held to the ancient Christian teaching that contraception was illicit. Of course it was the Anglicans, the heretics who first made the oath-breaking treason to one’s spouse called divorce licit, who made the unnatural practice of artificial sterility licit.

History said the spread of the Pill in America was done by the Rockefeller family, and other monied powers, for money.

The so-called liberation of women from their high and cherished position of privilege as virgins, wives, and mothers, into their current position as a race of infanticidal and suicidal selfish whores, was rhetoric unrelated to the true motive of the widespread effort to legalize contraception.

Ladies, you have been gulled.

Normalizing the Pill was done for money, to erode family life, break up cohesive communities, and to lure women into the workforce, so that they would become tax-cattle.

Legalizing the Pill was not done for any so called right to privacy, which, by the bye, exists nowhere in the Constitution, and cannot be deduced from any emanation of any penumbra of any natural right. Honest folk wishing to amend the Constitution to grant the protection to such a right would have done so, and persuaded the majority of their fellow voters, rather than imposing on them the unlawful fiat of an unelected cabal of judges.

No other product, despite the scientifically confirmed deleterious effects on female physiognomy, and despite the suspected deleterious effects on female psychology, and despite the obvious social pathologies springing from the erosion of the nuclear family with contraception as its root cause, would have been permitted by the lawsuit-happy ecological crusaders and social crusaders of the Left, were it not for their firewall of perfect hypocrisy allowing the infinite flexibility of whatever double standards expediency requires.

The eco-concerned social justice crusaders wish to outlaw disease-resistant genetically modified foods, but no discussion is permitted on the topic of widespread use of a drug that alters female biochemistry from that of a fertile adult to that of a preadolescent.

My final shock was this: no one agreed with me except for my hated enemies the Christians, and, indeed, not all of them, but only the one beleaguered and unconquerable fortress of isolated arch-conservative, refractory and reactionary Christians, most superstitious of all that superstitious lot, who, in popular imagination, and especially in mine, represented everything repressive, wrongheaded, hypocritical, backward, low, and doubleplusungood about Christianity, namely, the dread and dreaded Roman Catholic Church.

Not even the Orthodox, a denomination equally as apostolic and venerable, could claim this lonely glory: only one institution in all the human world kept the reason and wisdom once known to all the western world intact, protected, jealously guarded.

The Catholics, the hated Catholics, with their hateful Papally Infallible Pope, the ghostly Church no worldly power, from Nero to Napoleon, could destroy, my most deeply avowed enemies, the sum total of all the world’s evils and, to hear my fellow atheists tell the tale, the cause of all wars — they were right.

The Catholics were right.

They had always been right, even while the fashions of the world changed and changed again. This doctrine was one maintained since the days before my nation, my native language, or the New World, was known.

The Catholic moreover were right about the rationality of the created order, right about the sacredness of human life, right about the sacredness of marriage, right about morality in general and sexual morality in particular, which meant that they were right that divorce was impermissible, sodomy was unnatural, and contraception was a grave moral evil.

From my atheist viewpoint, beholding the Catholic Church, terrible as a Dark Tower thick was spearmen and bright with banners, was the very seat stronghold of absolute illogic and unquenchable superstitious evil.

And they were right about every major ethical and political question of the Twentieth Century, and, or so it seemed, all centuries prior. How could this be?

In the meanwhile, I noticed that my fellow atheists, we who had a hammerlock of logic, we children of Prometheus and vanguardians of all future progress, my fellow atheists were as wrong as wrong could be, not only about most major ethical and political issues, but nearly all, and even where they were right, we could give no coherent answer regarding the foundations of why we were right.

One cannot ascribe moral authority to natural rights, if nature is blind, only expediency. And if expediency justifies protecting natural rights, expediency can equally justify their violation. Only if one sovereign creator created both man and nature, can man possess sovereign natural rights sacrosanct hence superior to the sovereignty of Caesar, and justifying rebellion against him. Absent this, no law is above human law, and no law, howsoever unjust, justifies rebellion, or even disobedience. If the Supreme Court, rather than Supreme Being declares an unborn child, or, for that matter, a Jew, not to be a human being, then he is not. Or if an invented right to privacy allows for morally degenerate and illicit acts, why, so, it is licit.

All this was as as shocking as Copernicus to me, as revolutionary as Einstein. What I thought was the center was now a spinning dustmote whirling at the verge, far from the real center of the universe. Like Newton, I had thought that the material universe was fixed and absolute. But no, only the Light is absolute, and is the standard and sovereign in reference to which all motion in time and space is measured. Swift as angels, timeless, eternal, Light is older than matter and created it.

And, in this case, the most faithful torch of that light is the Roman Catholic Church.

I suppose, upon reflection, it should not have been a shock. I am by nature and conviction conservative in outlook, which means, I am aware of golden chains of love and duty binding us to ancestors and to posterity. Progressives, by outlook, regard the past not merely as dead, but as inferior in the near past, subhuman in the far.

To me, each nugget of hard won wisdom that passes the test of being found worthy to pass from grandfather to father to me is not to be dismissed except in cases both extreme and grave. I am willing to consider the abolition of slavery, for example, despite that all the generations of all prior lands had such an institution, on the grounds that the Eternal Word of God implicitly condemns the practice. (Those yammerheads who argue that the Bible supports slavery had best pray they do not prove their case, for, if there is no Supreme Being in whose image and likeness all men are made, then there is no justification in law or logic for abolition.)

Had I been raised in the Church, or even raised among agnostics who implicitly adhered to the conclusions of Christian teachings without accepting Christian assumptions beneath, to learn that basic truths known to all generations of Christendom since Constantine, and to all Christians since Christ, retained their basic truth, should have been no shock at all.

Had my view of the world been rightside-up rather than upside-down, the greater shock would be any time anything, from a teaching of economics to a finding of physics, unknown to my ancestors, turned out to be correct. That is the far more unlikely event.

The American revolution is the sole example in history of revolutionaries doing more good than harm, and, even then, the cost in blood and treasure was terrible. Revolutionary thinking, in the vast majority of cases, does not revolve the world to bring a new dawn, but rather, revolves like the desert dervishes, inducing hallucinations.