The Meaning, and
Essential Ingredients, of Marriage
Joseph BH McMillan
Across the Western world today the entire concept of marriage has become so
diluted that it is now almost meaningless.
The concept of 'family' was the Trojan Horse used to destroy marriage. 'Family'
became the preferred term to describe 'sexual relationships'
of any kind, with marriage
being just one form of 'family' and, moreover, one of no special significance.
So marriage is no different to same-sex 'relationships', or any other kind of
sexual relationship; however casual or temporary it may be.
So now, since marriage in the traditional sense has come to be reduced to
nothing more than one of a number of versions of 'family', those
who have been bent on reducing marriage to nothing more than
a sexual arrangement for the satisfaction of primitive carnal
pleasures insist that all forms of 'family', especially same-sex
'families', should be entitled to the status of 'marriage'.
So it is not surprising that many feel that the institution of marriage is
on the brink of disintegration. And that raises the question of what exactly
does constitute marriage, and does that set it aside from other kinds of relationships.
The most common definition of marriage is that it is a union between a man
and a woman. But that doesn't really tell us anything. Calling marriage a union
between two people, even restricting it to a man and a woman, is really just a
statement that marriage is a kind of joint venture. But a joint venture requires an
objective, or purpose. It is rather pointless to say that the purpose of a
joint venture is a joint venture.
So it is precisely the purpose of marriage that the debate should be focused
on. Because identifying the purpose gives us the content.
And to identify the purpose we need only ask: what is the natural consequence of a man and a woman
joining together in a physical act? And the answer is the creation of a new
But each human life is in itself unique,
exclusive and special.
It is unique in that it has its
own unique DNA which is a fusion of the DNA of the man, and the DNA of the
woman, who engaged in the physical act which gave life to that individual. It is
simply a biological fact.
Each individual is also exclusive
to the man and the woman who engaged in the physical act that created that
unique human being, because it's DNA is exclusive to the DNA of the parents.
That each human being is special
should stand to reason. Each human being is special because every human being
deserves respect for the very reason that it is a human life. But each human
life is also special in the sense that it is unique in itself, it is unique to
the two individuals who created it, and it is exclusive to the man and the
woman who engaged in the physical act which gave that person life.
Now, given that what could
otherwise be regarded as a crude physical act produces a unique, exclusive and special human life, the question must
necessarily arise as to whether any obligations should attach to the two human
beings who engage in the act which creates that life.
There are probably very
few, if any, sane people who would seriously claim that absolutely no
obligations should attach to the two individuals who create a human life. So
given that we all recognise that obligations attach to the creation of a human
life, we have to ask why those obligations should not be determined by the
nature of the life the physical act creates. Most of us recognise that the
quality of outcome in any other human endeavour is entirely dependent on the
quality of the people and process involved. Yet, when it comes to the most
profound of all human endeavours, the creation of human life, we think we can
have a quality outcome without observing the basic principles.
So if we apply the simple
logic that obligations which attach to an action should reflect the nature of
the consequences of that action, we come up with these obligations in respect
of the creation of human life.
Since every human being is
a 'unique, exclusive, and special
individual', every human being deserves to be conceived in a 'unique, exclusive and special act', and
raised in a 'unique, exclusive and
If we then put that simple
logic into the context of marriage, we come up with a definition of marriage as
being a commitment by a man and a woman to join together for life in a unique, exclusive and special relationship,
for the purpose of creating a unique,
exclusive and special human being, in a unique,
exclusive and special act.
Anything less must
necessarily be a betrayal of the human being two free people bring into this
world by their own voluntary act.
At this stage, liberals
would argue that such a definition of marriage, if we leave out the 'for life' part, makes it no different to
reproduction in slugs, rats or apes, because they also share their parents'
DNA. And that would not be a surprising response from liberals who like
scratching around in zoology textbooks to justify primitive carnal behaviour in
humans by citing similar behaviour in animals. The liberal 'mind' specialises
in 'reasoning' itself back into our primitive ancestral past, and resents
the thought that perhaps human beings can elevate otherwise primitive animal
instincts into higher, more noble, and more civilized behaviour.
Kant astutely noted this
tendency in the mentally challenged to apply 'reason' to justify their own
primitive behaviour by citing similar behaviour in animals: 'But [man] is not so completely an animal as
to be indifferent to what reason says on its own account, and use it merely as
an instrument for the satisfaction of his wants as a sensible [sensual] being.
For the possession of reason would not raise his worth above that of the
brutes, if it is to serve him only for the same purpose that instinct serves in
The simple fact, and even
writing this piece is evidence of that fact, is that human beings, or at least
some human beings, do have the ability to classify behaviour in such a way as
to identify the beneficial elements of that behaviour, and promote those
elements, while also identifying the destructive elements of that same
behaviour, and discouraging them. Call it a 'knowledge of good and evil', if you like - that anathema to the
It is a sad reflection of
the state of the human condition today that so many look back into our
primitive ancestral past to justify what is in essence primitive animal-like
behaviour, rather than recognising that human beings can, and must, transform
otherwise instinctive animal behaviour into something more noble and sacred.
That is what gives the human species some 'worth
above that of the brutes'.
Obligations attaching to Marriage
Now that definition of
marriage gives rise to a multitude of obligations
on the parties who enter into it. Among those are fundamentally important pre-conditions, or obligations, that
each party must fulfil. And the most important pre-condition is the obligation to
abstain from sex before marriage, even sexual acts short of intercourse - the
sort of things that the likes of Bill Clinton claimed do not amount to sexual relations, like mutual
masturbation and oral sex.
Apart from those committed
to one or other faith that prohibits or discourages pre-marital sex, there are
very few today who have the intelligence
to recognise the importance of sexual abstinence before marriage, and the courage to resist the temptations and
pressures to indulge their primitive carnal urges before marriage. Nietzsche once
predicted that a time would come when 'a woman
who had turned out well - and such women are always prudent [virgins] - would
have to be thoroughly ashamed.' Regrettably, that time came several decades
ago, so women today who have 'turned out
well' are made to feel 'thoroughly
ashamed' through scorn and ridicule. But those who resist and hold to their
convictions are to be utterly admired, and held in the highest esteem.
So apart from those few,
the general consensus today, and few question it, is that pre-marital sex is
somehow an important ingredient necessary for a stable and secure marriage.
Arguments for Pre-Marital Sex
The arguments for this view
are not seriously sustainable. They are really just feeble excuses to avoid the
obligations that attach to those who create new human life, and a 'license' for
people to indulge their primitive carnal instincts.
These arguments fall into
two broad categories.
First, there are those who
suggest that pre-marital sex, as long as it is limited to the intended marriage
partner, is important to ensure sexual compatibility in the marriage. That is
fallacious on several counts. First, it puts sexual gratification at the centre
of the marriage. That relegates children to a sort of by-product of sexual gratification.
It also implies that if one or both parties feel sexually 'unfulfilled', they can look elsewhere for a more sexually 'compatible'
partner. They then end up with the more promiscuous version of pre-marital sex.
This version of the argument also puts 'self-fulfilment'
of the parents as the purpose and object of marriage, not children.
The second argument is that
pre-marital sexual 'experimentation' with several partners brings sexual
'experience' to a marriage which, in this view, acts as a sort of 'bonding
agent', thus increasing the chances of a sexually 'fulfilling' and stable marriage. This argument is flawed on too
many counts to enumerate, so I shall identify only a few of the more common
First, those who have 'experimented'
with sex with other partners prior to marriage bring expectations and demands
to the relationship based on previous sexual encounters. And they are impatient
for instant gratification of the sort experienced in their previous sexual
encounters. They expect the other party to the marriage to be a kind of
surrogate for previous partners.
They also bring to the
relationship assumptions as to the expectations of the other party to the
relationship. They impute the sexual preferences of one or more previous
partners into all other members of the same sex. That is, a woman, for example,
may assume that what gave one or more of her previous male partners pleasure
and enjoyment, must necessarily give all men the same pleasure and enjoyment,
including the other party to the marriage.
Even more destructive to a
relationship is one of the parties feeling compelled to describe how previous
partners gave them sexual gratification, and implicitly, or even expressly,
suggesting that the other party to the marriage re-enact such previous
experiences. Rather than 'motivating' the other party to adopt the same sexual
practices, it is more likely, or even guaranteed, that the other party will
avoid similar practices for the obvious reason that he, or she, will feel that
they are simply being used as an animated mannequin to re-live sexual
experiences with previous partners. It
causes resentment, frustration, and even anger.
Further, once sex has been 'experienced',
and 'experimented with', prior to marriage, it leaves nothing between the
parties which can be used to build a special relationship of which sex is an
One of the more ridiculous implications of the argument for
promiscuous pre-marital sex is that sexual
'experimentation' somehow can't take place with the other party to a marriage,
within the marriage, whereas that is precisely what is required for a stable,
secure, loving and special
relationship to develop.
And these objections don't
even touch on the more obvious objections to pre-marital sex. There is always
the danger that one of the partners has unknowingly contracted a sexually
transmitted disease from a previous partner which infects the other party to
the marriage, or a child. There is also the hideous possibility of a child to a
marriage not being the biological child of the 'father'. With the advent of DNA
testing, this is being revealed as far more common than was imagined. The fact
that one party to a marriage could so callously deceive the other party, and
her own child, is a product of the casual attitude to sex that accompanies
But before men start
banging on the table about the immorality of women today, they should remember
that such children are not the result of 'immaculate conception'. For every
child born into a marriage who is not the biological offspring of the man to
that marriage, another man was complicit in that deception - often a good
'friend', neighbour or work colleague of the family. And often such men are
themselves married with children who they in turn have deceived. It is a sordid
business, and too common to be comfortable.
So it should be patently
obvious that previous 'sexual experience' is most likely to undermine, if not
doom, a marriage from the start. To save a marriage inflicted with such a
disability requires herculean effort that few can muster, because all their
sexual energies, and most even of their other energies, have been exhausted in their quest for 'sexual
experience' - in the delusional belief that previous sexual 'experience' can be
some kind of blueprint for a sexually
It is simply a fact of
human nature that each human being feels, or at least would like to feel, that
they are special, and not just an
inadequate stand-in, or substitute, for someone else. Therefore, if for that
reason alone, each party to a marriage has an obligation to make the other
party feel special, especially in
respect to their sexual relationship. And that requires that the sexual
relationship in a marriage must be unique
and exclusive to the parties to the
marriage. That is an essential element for a stable and secure relationship
into which they bring a new human life. Previous sexual encounters and
relationships are entirely incompatible with that obligation.
But this is not a question
of personal preferences or choices. It is a fundamental part of human nature
which manifests itself in just about every other aspect of life. People want
their own home, a refuge from the world - somewhere exclusive to them, and
special. They want to have their own reserve of money, if they can, which is
exclusively theirs. It gives them a sense of security. Human beings need a core
sanctuary where they feel special, which is unique, and exclusively theirs. And
there is nothing that can fill that need better than a unique, exclusive and
special relationship with another human being. Bricks, mortar and money are a
pale substitute for a special relationship with another human being. And a
relationship is simply incapable of being special
when at its core is a sexual relationship which is nothing more than another 'recreational'
activity shared with a multitude of previous sexual partners.
But there are two caveats
to the obligation of sexual abstinence before marriage.
First, it does not mean
that the parties to a marriage should not derive any enjoyment from their
sexual relationship. On the contrary, each party has an obligation to make
every effort to ensure that the other party derives maximum enjoyment from
their physical relationship, because that creates a more contented and
harmonious environment for the life they create.
Secondly, it cannot
preclude the use of contraception during marriage. The reason is simple. The
parties have an important obligation to the life they create to provide it with
a secure home, and financial stability. If they need to delay creating a life
to do so, contraception is a sensible way to achieve that. The same applies if
they want to delay the creation of a life to establish a more sexually
enjoyable and secure relationship before the child is born. Likewise, there can
be no objection to the use of contraception during marriage where the parents
consider that further children would put pressure on the resources of the
marriage, which would be detrimental to already existing children. Such matters
are entirely for the parties to the marriage.
However, those with liberal
inclinations claim that there is a way round all this - liberals always have
some hair-brain scheme which they think can act as a kind of anti-gravity
device to neutralise the law of cause and effect. They advocate a don't ask, don't tell' policy to get
around the effects of promiscuous sexual behaviour before marriage. But, of
course, it is of no effect. It simply amounts to pretending that none of these
things is going on under the surface. But, more often than not, actions speak
louder than words, and sexual actions more than most. So it is inevitable that
actions will speak for themselves, and the result will be the same.
Essentially, it simply advocates living a lie. Not the best way to start any
kind of venture.
Another liberal argument is
that children themselves make a marriage 'special'. That is a grotesque
argument, because it shifts the obligation to make a marriage special from the parents onto the
children. The children become sacrificial lambs for the sins of the parents.
Furthermore, a child cannot, in any way whatsoever, transform what is in
reality just another in a series of routine sexual relationships into a unique, exclusive and special
But there is another utterly
unfathomable stupidity in the argument that children themselves make a marriage
'special'. Any woman can give a man
children, and any man can give a woman children. So why bother spending any time
finding the 'right' person if children have this magical formula for making
marriage special? But the facts fly in the face of such nonsense. If children
did have some magical power to make marriage 'special', why is there such a
high divorce rate? I suppose we should blame the children? The fact is, the
divorce rate is so high because of the casual, recreational attitude to sex which
infests Western society. People sleep around, then decide to 'settle down' and
have children, expecting children to create some 'blissful marriage'. Instead
they discover that they have nothing with which to build anything even remotely
special, and the whole sorry mess ends in utter disaster. And the children are
left to pay the price.
And this casual, recreational
attitude to sex is a product of the liberal/feminist movement who have for far
too long peddled the ridiculous fiction that 'men prefer sexually experienced women'. As Nietzsche said, 'there is a stupidity in this movement, an
almost masculine stupidity', which would suggest that even if a man could
afford it, he would prefer a used, second-hand car, to a new, unused car. Only
a clown would rather risk a used, second-hand car which is likely to break down
and cause untold problems, to a new car with a guarantee. If that is true for
such an insignificant, inanimate machine whose only purpose is getting us from
A to B, why should it not apply to another human being who is going to bear
your children, and share your life, home and finances? There are plenty of men,
however, who will happily exploit such female stupidity by feigning support for
such nonsense, and, of course, most women are happy to be deceived by such men. As
the Preacher said, 'vanity of vanity, all
All these arguments also
reveal a fundamental displacement of the purpose and obligations of marriage.
They put the 'self-fulfilment' of the
parents at the centre of the marriage, with the primary obligation of the
parents being the satisfaction of their own wants and 'needs'. In short,
children are perceived as being there to serve the parents, not the other way
round. And so children grow up with the perception that their only 'obligation' in life is also to serve their own wants
and 'needs', irrespective of the effect on others. We see this mentality
underlying the economic crisis, political and financial corruption and
scandals, and the fact that today deception, betrayal and dishonesty are worn
as 'badges of honour', not symbols of shame.
But the most compelling
evidence of the destructive effect pre-marital sex has on marriage is to be
seen all around us - children living without fathers, juvenile delinquency and
crime, drug abuse, casual violence, the high divorce rate, and the rise of what
someone once called 'blended families'.
The Marriage Ceremony (Wedding)
Before concluding, it would be
instructive to consider the nature of the marriage ceremony itself.
The ceremony should be a public
statement that the two parties satisfy the conditions that attach to the union
of a man and a woman who join together for the purpose of creating a new human
life. Those conditions include the important pre-condition that neither party
has had sexual relations with any other person, or each other, before making
the commitment. It is also a public statement that they will meet the other
obligations which attach to the creation of human life. And those obligations
relate to both the life they intend to create together, and to the other party
to the union. It is also a statement that each party has and will make those
sacrifices that such a commitment requires.
It is also a public statement that
each party is satisfied that the other
party meets the essential conditions and obligations such a commitment demands.
And that relates to the pre-marriage relationship between the parties. The
reason that pre-marital sex is not conducive to a unique, exclusive and special relationship is that the parties to
the intended union have an obligation to satisfy themselves that the other party
is someone who understands the obligations such a union requires, and that they
have and will make the sacrifices necessary to make the relationship unique, exclusive and special. All this
requires time for the parties to fully get to know each other without being
diverted by sexual passions. If both parties are satisfied that they are
compatible in every other respect, and share the same vision of a future
together, the sexual aspects of the relationship will fall into place. Most
importantly, it ensures that love is not confused with sexual gratification.
Now what is curious is that the vast
majority of weddings do display elements of precisely such public statements, but
are mostly a sad charade. Apart from a few 'celebrities' seeking publicity for
themselves, most women insist on wearing white for their weddings, even if they
have had previous sexual relationships with other people. Of course, everyone
knows that white signifies purity,
meaning virginity. So one wonders who exactly such women are trying to deceive.
As often as not, there will even be previous sexual partners among the guests -
known or unbeknown to the other party. Then there is the symbolism of the ring,
and the honeymoon which should signify the start of the couple's sexual relationship
- the final element of the union between the parties. In short, such ridiculous
charades are used as rather pathetic substitutes for the obligations the
parties are unable to fulfil. They are a ritual pretence holding out the parties to
something they are not. The parties delude themselves that
the symbolism of the union being unique, exclusive and special can
somehow make up for the fact that it is just another in a series of casual,
routine and recreational sexual relationships that is as far from a unique, exclusive and special
relationship as is possible to get. And it cannot bode well for any type of enterprise
that it starts with a deception, even if it is a self-deception - because, most
likely, everyone witnessing the charade will know better.
And since most of these charades are
played out in a church, it is worthwhile considering one very important aspect
of the Christian religion precisely in respect to the creation of life - and it
matters not whether the events are understood literally or figuratively. It
relates to the Virgin Mary.
The Scriptures portray God as being
all knowing and all powerful. However, even with such reputed power to render clean that which is unclean, He
still required a virgin to conceive and carry His son Jesus. If that is not a
powerful statement of the importance of purity
for the creation of human life, then I don't what is.
Then there is also the birth of
Jesus. Like the wedding charade being used as a device to give a marriage
something it does not have, we find the same with the birth of a child. The
parents want the best new clothes, cots and prams they can possibly afford for
their new arrival. No second-hand sheets and pillows. The parents will even
spend vast sums of money making baby's new room 'special'. But is it not odd
that where baby is going to sleep once born has to be so 'special', whereas
where baby is conceived is unimportant? Again, it is simply another rather
pathetic indulgence in self-delusion.
Contrast that to the Biblical
account of the conception and birth of Jesus. Where Jesus was conceived was of
the utmost importance, it had to be a virgin.
But a trough (manger) for a bed was fine
once He was born. The symbolism is that a woman's womb is the 'Temple of God', and the 'Cradle of Life'. Because, as the great Jewish
philosopher, Philo Judaeus, said, 'The
nature of one's parents appears to be something on the confines between
immortal and mortal essences. Of mortal essence, on account of their
relationship to men and also to other animals, and likewise of the perishable
nature of the body. And of immortal essence, by reason of the similarity of the
act of generation to God the Father of the universe.'
It is irrelevant whether one
believes in a God or not. The fact is, when a man and a woman join together in a
physical act the natural consequence of which is the creation of a new life,
they are acting in a god-like capacity. They create a new unique human being.
And in that sense they are acting in an 'immortal' capacity by perpetuating
human life - human life, moreover, that is in their own image.
And there is another rather ugly
element to those marriage ceremonies that take place in Christian churches
where the parties are faking 'purity'.
A majority want a reading from those verses that most reflect what Nietzsche
described (a view I don't necessarily share) as the 'tender, musty true-believer and small-soul smell' of the New
Testament, I Corinthians 13. All that 'mushy' stuff about love not being 'jealous'; that it 'suffereth long', and 'beareth
all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things'
and, of course, 'thinketh no evil'.
It is like a sort of statement of intention by one of the parties to the
marriage that the other party is going to be deceived, but should not get 'jealous', and should simply 'believe' everything they are told and 'hope' it is true, 'endure' and 'suffer long'
any and all indiscretions, and 'think no
evil' is going on. In short, 'trust me
and don't ask too many questions about what I've been up to'. And, of
course, all this believing and trusting stuff should apply retrospectively.
So the marriage ceremony itself
should be a reflection of the conditions and sacrifices necessary to make a
marriage unique, exclusive and special.
It should be what it is held out to be, and not a ridiculous charade pandering
to the vanity of those taking part in it.
Until the true meaning, and
essential ingredients, of marriage are recognised and promoted, we should not
expect any change to the relentless disintegration of society, with the
attendant social and financial consequences.
Fortunately, there is a
glimmer of hope out there. Some judges in a few states of America have started
linking marriage to 'procreation'. That is a welcome development. If state
legislatures followed suite, that would be a further positive development. But
there should be a note of caution here: government should not seek to oversee
the minutia of human relationships. A change in the way marriage is perceived
has to come from a reflective awakening among people themselves. As a strong
advocate of individual freedom, I believe that human beings are also free to
make a mess of their lives by modelling their behaviour on the primitive carnal
behaviour of 'brutes' - but that
freedom does not extend to demanding that someone else pay to clean up the
a final note, I should make clear that I do not write this as one committed to
one or other of the faiths which prohibit pre-marital sex. This should all be