Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gay sex and the unnatural

The only compelling line of reasoning I know of for the conclusion that gay sex is immoral is one drawn from natural law morality: gay sex is in a critical way contrary to the naturally proper use of the sex organs, and for this reason it is immoral. The problem comes in when specifying why it is unnatural. The only obvious possible answer for this question, of course, is that it is in principle impossible to procreate during gay sex.

The reasoning, then, is like this: it is immoral to use the sex organs in a manner that goes contrary to nature; it is the natural function of the sex organs to procreate; it is impossible to procreate having gay sex; hence, etc.

The kicker is that the premises of this argument would likewise make sex with the use of contraceptives, as well as masturbation or anal or oral sex which terminates in ejaculation outside of the vagina, all likewise immoral -- a conclusion that many Protestants are not ready to accept. The problem for the Protestant, then, is to understand how to argue for the immorality of gay sex from its unnaturalness without likewise excluding sexual activity she may want to retain and permit.

Suppose someone argues that the sex organs have further functions beyond the capacity for procreation, and we may still engage in sex in such a manner as to allow for the realization of those functions. Now, however, if it is not immoral or unnatural for straight persons to have protected sex which fulfills these other functions, why would it be immoral or unnatural for gay persons to have sex which may likewise fulfill these other functions? Why is gay sex unnatural but straight protected sex natural, if both could fulfill these other functions beyond procreation?

Or suppose someone says that it may not be immoral occasionally to engage in sex acts which make procreation impossible (e.g., masturbation, terminal non-PIV sex), though it would be immoral and unnatural exclusively to engage in such sex acts. But then this would allow for the morality of occasional gay sex. The rejoinder may be: No, sex should only be had in the context of a committed straight marriage. But the obvious question to ask is: Why think that, unless sex were fundamentally and essentially about procreation and marriage it is the natural context in which children are to be raised up? Why else would you not allow sex outside of marriage, if not because sex is supposed to be had in such a way as produces children and marriage is the social context in which children can be safely reared?

Someone may attempt to avoid these problems by simply being a voluntarist about it: God has disallowed gay sex, but he has allowed straight sex, and that's that. But this is eminently unconvincing. Presumably we can ask why God has disallowed one and not the other; presumably God does things for reasons. And more than that, this kind of thinking requires that we abandon the argument from unnaturalness: if God simply declares gay sex immoral, then we can't argue it's immoral because it's unnatural; rather it's just the will of God. But I've concerned myself here with the argument from unnaturalness.