From John C. Wright:
I have been asked what the vice might be in a man and woman, both adults, and unmarried, fornicating. The question is not rare in the modern day, where we have all been taught, and are continually reminded, that fire does not burn and water is not wet.
It is only after we are burnt or drenched that we begin to wonder if the modern Epicureans are all so very wise.
I used to be a loyal partisan of the sexual revolution: firmly libertarian, and firmly committed to the principle that whatever harmed no other did no wrong. Then I became a father, and I realized that I did not want my sons to be raised to believe this empty doctrine. Pleasures have consequences, not the least of which is, the pursuit of false and temporary pleasures hinders the discovery of true and lasting pleasures.
When Hugh Hefner, a man every partisan of the sexual revolution must admire, got married, and then divorced, I realized that he is a sad and lonely man. A big loser.
No matter how successful in pelf or worldly praise, no matter how admired by every horny schoolboy on Earth, his life is not worth living. He should hang himself from a oak tree branch.
In contrast, I have found true love, with a woman to whom I am and shall always be faithful, and I was a virgin before I met her. I live in the suburbs with my three and a half children, and work nine-to-five. I am everything the Playboy philosophy disdains: but I am as happy as the shining gods who dance on Olympus, far above the storms and stinks of earth, compared to him.
My joy is like strong sunlight, shining: his pleasure is like a wine-cup, drained to dregs. My joy grew a garden for me, my plowing and planting has produced fruit, which will give me further joys in the winter-tide of life: I mean my family, my children. He has the filthy dregs of an empty cup, and a headache. Who was wiser?
You see; my view of human nature is different from the Playboy view. Hefner says we can disport ourselves like minxes and stags in heat, coupling like satyrs and nymphs, without commitment and without consequence.
Satyrs do not marry, and nymphs are not given in marriage. Perhaps they can fall in love, true love, for an afternoon.
Humans are nobler creatures. An afternoon is not enough: we seek immortal love. We seek true love, a love true as a sharp sword, that will not shatter in the hand, a weapon equal to the task of keeping all life’s rude attacks at bay.
If you have the Hefner view of human nature, dear reader, nothing I say can make sense to you. Read no further.
I say that there is a terrible consequence to unchaste sex, one of three: corruption, or heartbreak, or callousness.
In unchaste fornication, there are only three possibilities. First, both love the other. Second, one loves and the other merely exploits that love to get sex. Third, neither love, but both merely want cheap sex.
If the two lovers are true in love, it is no burden to confirm the same by an oath and ceremony. Human nature is such that we are creatures who fall in love, and so deeply that it ennobles our every aspect, makes gold out of dross. The experience of mankind in all aeons and among all races has created a marriage custom. Marriage sanctifies sex and provides for its natural outcome or offspring, by excluding and deterring unchaste sex.
Unchastity renders marriage pointless. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk free? Marriage serves more purposes than merely to provide a convenient sex partner: corrupting it would have far-reaching and very dreadful consequences. In effect, once marriage was de-ceremonialized, all that would happen would be that the self-same habits would have to be re-invented under other names (cf. “paternity” rather than “fatherhood”), and family duties would have to be enforced by courts of law rather than voluntary submission to a consensus of morals, and the acts needed to avoid or to assume the duties would become unclear. No man would know if he were married, and required (by law) to act as a married man, or merely living with his girl friend, and free of those requirements.
Second, if one loves and the other merely craves sex, this is a recipe for heartbreak.
While it is possible that a devoted man might be being toyed with by a jaded woman, I have never seen it. But I have seen the other case often enough, even among close friends of mine: the woman loves and gives herself to a cad in the vain hope that her physical charms will enflame his higher and nobler passions.
Often it happens that a man who sleeps with an unchaste woman feels revulsion toward her the next morning. His instincts are telling him that she has sold her dearest treasures cheaply. His instinctive sense of self-worth tells him she is too cheap to be a worthy mate, and his instincts militate against a long-lasting desire to mate with unfit mates.
After he dumps her, the next man is not unreasonable to wonder whether she has enough self-control to be a proper wife. No one wants to marry and be betrayed; the most obvious advertisement of an ability to control the passions within a lawful scope, is to show that one can.
The third case seems to be the one about which I was asked specifically: where the man is already a cad, and the woman is already a demimonde, and neither has any illusions about it.
Well, the only way to indulge in love-play without love is to grow a callus on the heart. This callus renders one blind to the finest and noblest possibility of the human spirit, which is true love. For these sad and deluded souls, sex is nothing more than an entertainment, a past-time, and they seek a sex partner the way a virtuous seeks a tennis partner.
They pay Alberich’s price, and foreswear true love forever.
Alberich, however, gained the Ring of the Nibelungs, which allowed him to conquer hell, heaven and earth: a fine ambition. What does the cad get? What joy does the slut enjoy? Something only as entertaining as a tennis game.
And by the time their physical charms fade, there is not one with whom they have the ability to form a permanent spiritual relationship. All the wise brides sought out men who knew how to make a commitment; all the wise bridegrooms sought out women who knew how to make good and faithful wives.