SDG here with some initial thoughts on sex and the marriage debate.
Same-sex "marriage," many urge today, is a matter of civil rights. Two men or two women have the same "right" as a man and a woman to enjoy the legal recognition and privileges that come with civil marriage.
One obvious question raised by this contention is: What is marriage? Why have societies conferred legal recognition and the privileges pertaining thereto to a man and a woman? What is it about this type of relationship that calls for some sort of social recognition? Why is marriage, socio-anthropologically speaking, an essentially universal human institution?
So far, I haven't seen a particularly lucid answer on these questions from advocates of same-sex "marriage." Here is what I take to be some fairly typical thoughts regarding marriage from a non-Catholic friend of mine who advocates same-sex marriage:
"The institution of marriage is always in flux. At times it has been about property, or about forming alliances, or about respectability and appearances (as often is behind when LGBT people enter heterosexual marriages). Currently, I think, society sees it more in terms of companionship, love, mutual attraction, mutual care for one another, and, yes, often procreation."
What is wrong with this accounting? To begin with, it doesn't say what marriage is — only how society "currently" sees it.
For another thing, it doesn't say what business of civil society's it is from whom we seek companionship, love, mutual attraction, mutual care for one another or even procreation.
Thirdly, it doesn't account for the socio-anthropological consistency of marriage as the enduring union of a man and a woman. (Incidentally, marriage is always the union of one man and one woman — even in polygamous societies. Polygamy means multiple marriages, not singular marriage with multiple partners. For instance, Jacob was married to Leah and Jacob was married to Rachel; they were not all three of them married to one another.)
At any rate, I can't see that anything like a sufficient explanation or basis for marriage as a human universal can be found in causes like companionship, love, mutual attraction and mutual care. In fact, it isn't even immediately clear to me that companionship or mutual care have historically been the special provenance of marriage. Husbands and wives as well as the unmarried have always sought these out in larger social contexts, often (not exclusively) men in the context of male society and women in the context of female society. In some societies, husbands and wives haven't particularly looked to one another for companionship at all. And of course mutual attraction neither needs, nor is limited to, marriage — which, again, raises the question why we have marriage, why it takes the shape it does, and what it is for.
Part and parcel with this question of what marriage is is the larger question of what sex is.
You might think that the nature of an activity so universal, not only among humans but throughout the animal kingdom, would seem to be too obvious to require much complicated expounding. On the other hand, we humans are different from other animals, and in our case sex isn't merely about biology or procreation.
However, it is one thing to say that sex isn't merely procreative, and another to say that it need not be in any way about procreation at all, as much modern thought does today. Again, I think my non-Catholic friend is pretty typical in this regard:
"You may not like this phrasing, but we have moved above the biological/procreative aspect of sex. As such we can treat it as something other than procreative … because we are using sex for another purpose that need not include procreation."
What shall we say to this?
Here is one answer: Eating isn't "limited to" nourishment; we can eat food because it tastes good, for various social reasons, out of habit, for comfort, or perhaps in the context of some ritual, such as a seder or the Eucharist, among other possible reasons. In that sense, one might possibly say that we have "moved above the biological/nutritive aspect of eating."
Even so, it remains the case that that, any time one puts nutritive material in one's mouth and chew it up and swallow it, whatever else one may be doing, one are engaging your body's digestive powers. To interfere with the integrity of that process by bingeing and purging is an abuse of the body and of the act of eating. You can't say "Eating isn't limited to the biological — we have moved above the nutritive — so there's no harm actually excluding the nutritive by bingeing and purging." There is.
Something similar can be said about sex.
It is true that sex isn't limited to procreation; people engage in sex because it is pleasurable or fun, out of physical or emotional passion, to express or renew intimacy, to celebrate their marital union, among other possible reasons. In that sense, one might possibly say that we have "moved above the biological/procreative aspect of sex."
Even so, it remains the case that that any time a man engages in behavior that results in emitting seed, whatever else he may be doing, he is engaging his body's procreative powers. No amount of high-minded (or gnostic-verging) emphasis on other factors can justify bracketing and excluding that aspect.
To put it another way: It is true that sex isn't "limited to" procreation in the sense that it can and should be about other things in addition to procreation — but not in the sense that it can be about these other things rather than procreation, and therefore we can deliberately exclude procreation through contraceptive or homoerotic acts.
In that sense, we have "moved above" the biological/procreative aspect only in the sense that a skyscraper building crew "moves above" the foundation as they proceed to build each floor upon the previous one. Each floor nevertheless builds upon and relies directly upon the foundation. The view from the observation deck may be glorious; the foundation remains foundational. Sex is what it is.
More to come.