Like a rutting buck.

Having shared the arguments of both St. Jerome and St. Augustine on sex in marriage (which again are not RCC doctrine*), I want to look at what the Bible says.  As several readers have noted, Song of Solomon literally sings the praises of the pleasure of marital sex.  But even aside from Song of Solomon, there is also Proverbs 5.  As with 1 Cor 7, the proverb starts by warning against sexual immorality and then exhorts the believer to direct their sexual passion as rightfully designed, into marriage:

15Drink water from your own cistern,
    running water from your own well.
16 Should your springs overflow in the streets,
    your streams of water in the public squares?
17 Let them be yours alone,
    never to be shared with strangers.
18 May your fountain be blessed,
    and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 A loving doe, a graceful deer—
    may her breasts satisfy you always,
    may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
20 Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?
    Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?

This isn’t cold sex only to conceive a child, or mere duty sex.  It also isn’t a picture of sex “purified” by romantic love**.  This is sex with great physical passion.  The proverb exhorts husbands to rejoice in their wives’ bodies:

may her breasts satisfy you always

Contrary to the argument that sexual passion is sinful if it isn’t carefully constrained, husbands are exhorted to be intoxicated with passion for their wives.  The proverb offers the example to follow of a buck in the rut.  For how else can we interpret this exhortation?

A loving doe, a graceful deer

Certainly the proverb isn’t encouraging bestiality, but exhorting husbands to approach their wives with the same kind of passion a rutting buck has for a doe.

Aside from Song of Solomon and Proverbs 5, we also learn from Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 that marital sex, along with food and wine, are gifts from God, as they are our earthly reward:

7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain[b] life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,[c] for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

There is a carnal, matter of fact, feeling to this, since it is associated with enjoying food and drink. This passage is an echo of Ecc 8:15:

15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

This comes from Ecclesiastes, the book that teaches that our earthly lives are vanity.  Yet even while teaching that what matters is the spiritual, it still exhorts us to enjoy the physical pleasures of food, wine, and marital sex.  These are it tells us, God’s portion for us for our earthly toil.

*As a Protestant it is not my intention with these posts to teach or comment on RCC doctrine.  My point is merely that the teachings of St. Augustine and St. Jerome are not themselves RCC doctrine.

**Romantic love is of course a wonderful thing in the context of marriage, and marriage and sex are both more enjoyable with it.  However, the idea that romantic love is purifying is not biblical, and comes from the medieval concept of courtly love, an idolization of adultery.

Posted in Beautiful truth, Marriage, Romantic Love | 207 Comments

St. Augustine on sex and marriage.

As promised, here are some quotes from St. Augustine’s Of the Good of Marriage. New Advent explains that Augustine’s work is in response both to St. Jerome’s writing on the subject, as well as the original piece by Jovinianus that Jerome was responding to:

This treatise, and the following, were written against somewhat that still remained of the heresy of Jovinian. S. Aug. mentions this error in b. ii. c. 23, de Nuptiis et Conc. “Jovinianus,” he says, “who a few years since tried to found a new heresy, said that the Catholics favored the Manichæans, because in opposition to him they preferred holy Virginity to Marriage.” And in his book on Heresies, c. 82. “That heresy took its rise from one Jovinianus, a Monk, in our own time, when we were yet young.” And he adds that it was soon overborne and extinguished, say about A.D. 390, having been condemned first at Rome, then at Milan. There are letters of Pope Siricius on the subject to the Church of Milan, and the answer sent him by the Synod of Milan, at which St. Ambrose presided. Jerome had refuted Jovinian, but was said to have attempted the defense of the excellency of the virgin state, at the expense of condemning marriage. That Augustine might not be subject to any such complaint or calumny, before speaking of the superiority of Virginity, he thought it well to write on the Good of Marriage.

Augustine allows for two ways a person can have sex in marriage without sinning.  The first is if the person is having sex not for pleasure, but to create a child (all emphasis mine):

For intercourse of marriage for the sake of begetting has not fault; but for the satisfying of lust, but yet with husband or wife, by reason of the faith of the bed, it has venial fault: but adultery or fornication has deadly fault, and, through this, continence from all intercourse is indeed better even than the intercourse of marriage itself, which takes place for the sake of begetting.

The other time Augustine explains one can have sex in marriage without sinning is if they are only having sex out of duty.  Specifically, he is talking about a scenario where one spouse wants to have sex not specifically to have a child, but out of sexual desire.  The spouse who wants sex in that scenario is sinning, but this is a minor sin.  The spouse who only has duty sex however is not sinning.  Given that Augustine says it is better to abstain even from pro-creative sex, unwanted sex for the sake of the marital debt is the only time a married person can not only not sin by having sex, but can also be doing what is best:

But because that Continence is of larger desert, but to pay the due of marriage is no crime, but to demand it beyond the necessity of begetting is a venial fault, but to commit fornication or adultery is a crime to be punished…

Augustine explains that an unmarried woman who has sex not for pleasure, but only to become pregnant with an illegitimate child, is more worthy than a married woman who has sex with her husband out of sexual desire:

But further, if from that intercourse, so far as pertains to herself, she has no wish but for sons, and suffers unwilling whatever she suffers beyond the cause of begetting; there are many matrons to whom she is to be preferred; who, although they are not adulteresses, yet force their husbands, for the most part also wishing to exercise continence, to pay the due of the flesh, not through desire of children, but through glow of lust making an intemperate use of their very right…

Augustine extends this comparison to a husband who has sex with his wife while she is pregnant.  A woman who fornicates but doesn’t like it is better than a man who has sex with his wife for pleasure:

For, although it be shameful to wish to use a husband for purposes of lust, yet it is honorable to be unwilling to have intercourse save with an husband, and not to give birth to children save from a husband. There are also men incontinent to that degree, that they spare not their wives even when pregnant.

He also argues that certain sexual sins are less sinful if combined with other sexual sins.  Therefore it is less sinful to have “unnatural” sex with a harlot (combining unnatural sex with fornication) than with your wife:

12. For, whereas that natural use, when it pass beyond the compact of marriage, that is, beyond the necessity of begetting, is pardonable in the case of a wife, damnable in the case of an harlot; that which is against nature is execrable when done in the case of an harlot, but more execrable in the case of a wife. Of so great power is the ordinance of the Creator, and the order of Creation, that, in matters allowed us to use, even when the due measure is exceeded, it is far more tolerable, than, in what are not allowed, either a single, or rare excess. And, therefore, in a matter allowed, want of moderation, in a husband or wife, is to be borne with, in order that lust break not forth into a matter that is not allowed. Hence is it also that he sins far less, who is ever so unceasing in approaches to his wife, than he who approaches ever so seldom to commit fornication. But, when the man shall wish to use the member of the wife not allowed for this purpose, the wife is more shameful, if she suffer it to take place in her own case, than if in the case of another woman.

Note that there is also the message that the wife should be in control*.

Augustine’s permission even for natural sex is given grudgingly.  He urges married couples to stop having sex at as young an age as possible:

But now in good, although aged, marriage, albeit there has withered away the glow of full age between male and female, yet there lives in full vigor the order of charity between husband and wife: because, the better they are, the earlier they have begun by mutual consent to contain from sexual intercourse with each other: not that it should be matter of necessity afterwards not to have power to do what they would, but that it should be matter of praise to have been unwilling at the first, to do what they had power to do.

At the center of the controversy for both Augustine and Jerome is Jovinian’s claim that:

virgins, widows, and married women, who have been once passed through the laver of Christ, if they are on a par in other respects, are of equal merit.

Having explained that marriage is not intrinsically sinful, Augustine gets on with the business of explaining that men and women today who marry are less holy than men and women who married in the times of the Old Testament:

19. Therefore as many women as there are now, unto whom it is said, if they contain not, let them be married, are not to be compared to the holy women then, even when they married. Marriage itself indeed in all nations is for the same cause of begetting sons, and of what character soever these may be afterward, yet was marriage for this purpose instituted, that they may be born in due and honest order. But men, who contain not, as it were ascend unto marriage by a step of honesty: but they, who without doubt would contain, if the purpose of that time had allowed this, in a certain measure descended unto marriage by a step of piety. And, on this account, although the marriages of both, so far as they are marriages, in that they are for the sake of begetting, are equally good, yet these men when married are not to be compared with those men as married. For these have, what is allowed them by the way of leave, on account of the honesty of marriage, although it pertain not to marriage; that is, the advance which goes beyond the necessity of begetting, which they had not. But neither can these, if haply there be now any found, who neither seek, nor desire, in marriage any thing, save that wherefore marriage was instituted, be made equal to those men. For in these the very desire of sons is carnal, but in those it was spiritual, in that it was suited to the sacrament of that time. Forsooth now no one who is made perfect in piety seeks to have sons, save after a spiritual sense; but then it was the work of piety itself to beget sons even after a carnal sense: in that the begetting of that people was fraught with tidings of things to come, and pertained unto the prophetic dispensation.

*The full scope of this problem is visible when you consider the potentially expansive meaning of “unnatural” given that according to Augustine the only truly sinless reason for marital sex is out of a desire to have children (otherwise at least one spouse is sinning).  Under that constraint, anything which goes beyond P in V sex for the purpose of achieving ejaculation inside the vagina could rightly be considered unnatural.  While RCC Doctrine (HT ACThinker) includes both procreation and unitive purposes as valid reasons for marital sex, there are some even today who make this very argument:

So, for example, a husband cannot deliberately stimulate the genital organs of his wife in order to give her sexual pleasure, for such an action is defined within the Catechism as a type of sexual act which is “intrinsically and gravely disordered.”

Posted in Marriage, St. Augustine | 32 Comments

St. Jerome on marriage

The other day ConantheContrarian asked for a source for the idea that it is shameful for a man to have passion for his wife.  I offered the example of St. Jerome in Against Jovinianus (Book I), written in AD 393:

Hence Xystus in his Sentences tells us that “He who too ardently loves his own wife is an adulterer.” It is disgraceful to love another man’s wife at all, or one’s own too much. A wise man ought to love his wife with judgment, not with passion. Let a man govern his voluptuous impulses, and not rush headlong into intercourse. There is nothing blacker than to love a wife as if she were an adulteress.

As foreign as this concept may seem today, for significant periods in Christian history this has been a widely held view.  Jerome held extreme anti marriage views, but the quote above is a sentiment you will see as well from the much more moderate St. Augustine, and even fits fairly well with this argument by Pope John Paul II*.

Having shared Jerome’s more tame arguments on marriage in Against Jovinianus, I thought I would share some of his more extreme arguments in the same piece.  Time permitting I’ll do a follow up post with some of Augustine’s more moderate arguments.

I’ll start with Jerome’s striking interpretation of 1 Cor 7:1, explaining that Paul is saying sex in marriage is evil, albeit a lesser evil (all emphasis mine).

“It is good,” he says, “for a man not to touch a woman.” If it is good not to touch a woman, it is bad to touch one: for there is no opposite to goodness but badness. But if it be bad and the evil is pardoned, the reason for the concession is to prevent worse evil. But surely a thing which is only allowed because there may be something worse has only a slight degree of goodness.

Jerome continues to 1 Cor 7:2, explaining that Paul was referring to Christians who were married before becoming Christians, and encouraging married Christians to not have sex unless they felt that they could not otherwise contain themselves:

But, because of fornications let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. He did not say, because of fornication let each man marry a wife: otherwise by this excuse he would have thrown the reins to lust, and whenever a man’s wife died, he would have to marry another to prevent fornication, but have his own wife. Let him he says have and use his own wife, whom he had before he became a believer, and whom it would have been good not to touch, and, when once he became a follower of Christ, to know only as a sister, not as a wife unless fornication should make it excusable to touch her.

Next he explains that 1 Cor 7:3-5 is saying that while it would be better for a married Christian to abstain from sex, they are duty bound to do so if their spouse wishes, even though married sex is bad because it is incontinence that hinders prayer:

But inasmuch as he who is once married has no power to abstain except by mutual consent, and may not reject an unoffending partner, let the husband render unto the wife her due. He bound himself voluntarily that he might be under compulsion to render it. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be by consent for a season, that you may give yourselves unto prayer. What, I pray you, is the quality of that good thing which hinders prayer? Which does not allow the body of Christ to be received? So long as I do the husband’s part, I fail in continency. The same Apostle in another place commands us to pray always. If we are to pray always, it follows that we must never be in the bondage of wedlock, for as often as I render my wife her due, I cannot pray.

Jerome moves on to interpreting 1 Pet 3:

When he says likewise, he challenges the husbands to imitate their wives, because he has already given them commandment: 1 Peter 3:2-3 beholding your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on apparel: but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. You see what kind of wedlock he enjoins. Husbands and wives are to dwell together according to knowledge, so that they may know what God wishes and desires, and give honour to the weak vessel, woman. If we abstain from intercourse, we give honour to our wives: if we do not abstain, it is clear that insult is the opposite of honour. He also tells the wives to let their husbands see their chaste behaviour, and the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit. Words truly worthy of an apostle, and of Christ’s rock! He lays down the law for husbands and wives, condemns outward ornament, while he praises continence, which is the ornament of the inner man, as seen in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit. In effect he says this: Since your outer man is corrupt, and you have ceased to possess the blessing of incorruption characteristic of virgins, at least imitate the incorruption of the spirit by subsequent abstinence

To Jerome, it seems that any piece of Scripture can be read as a condemnation of marriage:

Proverbs 30:15-16 The horseleech had three daughters, dearly loved, but they satisfied her not, and a fourth is not satisfied when you say Enough; the grave, and woman’s love, and the earth that is not satisfied with water, and the fire that says not, Enough. The horse-leech is the devil, the daughters of the devil are dearly loved, and they cannot be satisfied with the blood of the slain: the grave, and woman’s love, and the earth dry and scorched with heat. It is not the harlot, or the adulteress who is spoken of; but woman’s love in general is accused of ever being insatiable; put it out, it bursts into flame; give it plenty, it is again in need; it enervates a man’s mind, and engrosses all thought except for the passion which it feeds. What we read in the parable which follows is to the same effect: For three things the earth does tremble, and for four which it cannot bear: for a servant when he is king: and a fool when he is filled with meat: for an odious woman when she is married to a good husband: and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress. See how a wife is classed with the greatest evils. But if you reply that it is an odious wife, I will give you the same answer as before— the mere possibility of such danger is in itself no light matter. For he who marries a wife is uncertain whether he is marrying an odious woman or one worthy of his love. If she be odious, she is intolerable. If worthy of love, her love is compared to the grave, to the parched earth, and to fire.

*To my knowledge none of these arguments represent Catholic doctrine.

Posted in Marriage, St. Jerome | 120 Comments

Courtly love is always sexual, even when non physical.

Red Pill Latecomer noted that courtly love is considered pure, in part because it doesn’t involve sex:

But as I learned it, the highest form of Courtly Love was chaste. No adultery involved. The Knight would have a pure love for his Lady, never to be consummated. Serving her without expectation of reward, other than maybe her handkerchief or nod of approval.

This is why a man could not love his wife. Because their relationship was polluted with sex.

The idea that romantic love is pure is certainly something we hold to be true without really even considering the source.  This is why modern Christian leaders believe that sex in marriage requires romantic love to purify it.  And we also just know that pursuing a woman romantically without expecting anything in return (beta orbiters) is the purest and noblest form of love a man can express.  These ideas have profoundly warped our thinking away from the biblical view of sex and sexual passion, and it isn’t something we generally even know to question.

There is also the fully intended confusion around whether courtly love is sexual in nature and/or involves physical sexual contact.  As Roissy would say, it’s complicated.  Just like with the modern term hooking up, the degree of sex involved is deliberately vague.  If the lady who is the object of courtly love wants to have sex with her lover, she is free to do so.  We see this in the story of Lancelot and Guinevere (King Arthur’s wife) as told by Chrétien de Troyes.  Not only is physical adultery present, but Lancelot is compelled to defend Guinevere’s honor after she is rightly accused of adultery:

They spend a passionate night together after Lancelot breaks into her tower. He injures his hand during his break-in, and leaves blood all over Guinevere’s sheets. Lancelot sneaks out of the tower before sunrise, and Meleagant accuses Guinevere of committing adultery with Kay, who is the only wounded knight nearby. Lancelot challenges Meleagant to a fight to defend Guinevere’s honor.

The rule in courtly love isn’t that the lady and her lover can’t have sex, it is that her lover can’t expect sex.  It is fully at the discretion of the lady to decide if she wants this ambiguous relationship to include physical adultery, and it is the duty of her lover to keep her confidence in this regard.

Moreover, even when the physical act is never performed, the nature of the relationship is still sexual.  It is always adultery, either physical or in the heart.  Courtly love (romantic love) is not brotherly love, nor the kind of love you would have for your sister.  It is in fact forbidden in the rules of courtly love for a brother to be his sister’s lover.  CS Lewis explains, citing the rules provided by Andreas Capellanus:

What is the courtly law in the case of two lovers who find out that they are related within the degrees which would have forbidden their union by marriage? They must part at once. The table of kindred and affinity which applies to marriage applies also to loving par amours.77

It is also impossible for a blind man to feel this form of love for a woman, because it is rooted in her physical beauty.  If you’ve never seen her, you can’t love her in this way:

The aim of love, for Andreas, is actual fruition, and its source is visible beauty: so much so, that the blind are declared incapable of love, or, at least, of entering upon love after they have become blind.68

Lastly, we can see another twisted (but cherished) idea that we commonly hold today that has its roots to courtly love:

Even a young unmarried woman should have a lover. It is true that her husband, when she marries, is bound to discover it, but if he is a wise man he will know that a woman who had not followed the ‘commands of love’ would necessarily have less probitas.74

None of these things should surprise us given what we know about the nature of men and women.  Women are strongly tempted to elevate themselves to a god like position, and men are strongly tempted to go along with this and worship women.  This didn’t start with courtly love, but instead goes all the way back to the fall.  And the specific details should also be familiar to anyone with a basic understanding of female sexual nature.  Women see their own sexual motives as pure, even purifying.  At the same time, while seeking the formal status conferred with marriage, they have a very strong tendency to cloak their sexual choices and motives in ambiguity.

Posted in C.S. Lewis, Chivalry, Feral Females, New Morality, Rationalization Hamster, Romantic Love, Turning a blind eye, Wife worship | 157 Comments

Courtly Love: The origins of cuckchivalry.

I’ve been reading The Allegory of Love by C.S. Lewis, about the medieval idea of “courtly love”.  Lewis sums up the concept as (emphasis mine):

The sentiment, of course, is love, but love of a highly specialized sort, whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, Adultery, and the Religion of Love. The lover is always abject. Obedience to his lady’s lightest wish, however whimsical, and silent acquiescence in her rebukes, however unjust, are the only virtues he dares to claim.

This topic is important because it fundamentally transformed the way we view the world:

They effected a change which has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched, and they erected impassable barriers between us and the classical past or the Oriental present. Compared with this revolution the Renaissance is a mere ripple on the surface of literature. There can be no mistake about the novelty of romantic love: our only difficulty is to imagine in all its bareness the mental world that existed before its coming…

This includes not only our idolization of romantic love, but also what we commonly call chivalry*:

Even our code of etiquette, with its rule that women always have precedence, is a legacy from courtly love

In this regard I learned I was incorrect in assuming that there had at one point been something noble to the idea of chivalry.  Chivalry (as we know it*) has always been an expression of abject groveling. This is one of the reasons that adultery was a core component:

The love which is to be the source of all that is beautiful in life and manners must be the reward freely given by the lady, and only our superiors can reward. But a wife is not a superior.81 As the wife of another, above all as the wife of a great lord, she may be queen of beauty and of love, the distributor of favours, the inspiration of all knightly virtues, and the bridle of ‘villany’;82 but as your own wife, for whom you have bargained with her father, she sinks at once from lady into mere woman. How can a woman, whose duty is to obey you, be the midons whose grace is the goal of all striving and whose displeasure is the restraining influence upon all uncourtly vices?

Lewis describes the groveling and humiliation involved in the poetry of courtly love and it is truly astounding.  Gladly bearing the deepest humiliation at the hands of the woman was seen as the greatest virtue.

The other reason courtly love had to be adulterous is because it was considered shameful for a man to have passion for his own wife:

…the impropriety (from the courtly point of view) of loving his own wife. Such a man is in propria uxore adulter. His sin is heavier than that of the unmarried lover, for he has abused the sacrament of marriage.

Lastly, it is fair to say that medieval fans of courtly love are the original cuckservatives.  Chivalry and a quasi religious view of romantic love are conservative ideals today because they are seen as harkening back to a more virtuous time, the time of courtly love.  Yet chivalry and courtly love has always been a longing for fictional values of the past:

What is new usually wins its way by disguising itself as the old.

What was theory for his own age had been practice for the knights of Britain. For it is interesting to notice that he places his ideal in the past. For him already ‘the age of chivalry is dead’.40 It always was: let no one think the worse of it on that account.

The concept of courtly love was a cuckold fetish from the start, and it has always been a longing for bygone days.  The only difference between now and the medieval age of courtly love is that we now have a cross-dressing model of husband and wife, freeing cuckold fetishists to finally reverse the position of the husband and the interloper.

But some modern day chivalrous men still prefer the old school model, albeit modified for our age of technology:

*Edit: Oscar pointed out that there was an earlier form of chivalry prior to the concept of courtly love. This didn’t have the groveling to women and was a martial/Christian code. But the code we know today is really the courtly love version, the version that as Lewis explains includes putting women first.

Posted in C.S. Lewis, Crossdressing Theology, New Morality, Romantic Love, Traditional Conservatives, Wife worship | 191 Comments