Is there a purpose to sex?
If sex is just recreation and really has no inherent purpose then there is not much to answer. However, for the majority of people sex has a purpose – it has meaning.
For some, sex or any sexual acts is a way to show affection to another. You allow your body to say I adore you, I am keen on you. This affection for the other is almost always associated with much feeling for the other.
Many will say, “Why would I not be allowed to show the other that I love them through sexual acts? I really do love them!” Although they are really convinced that they love the other and they mean this honestly, the fault lies not in their feeling, but in their misunderstanding of what love is.
What is love? That is a loaded question no one can answer in a paragraph, but one can at least see what love is not. Is love mostly just heavy feelings and affection for another? Obviously you’re not a robot – love is always surrounded with many good feelings, but are feelings the core of love?
For many in our culture, feelings are the core of romantic love. When a couple breaks up and you ask them what went wrong almost always one of them will say, “I just fell out of love with them.” What they really mean is when I am around the other I feel nothing their “love” has run dry.
If the heart of love is good feelings, then love will be a very impermanent reality. Marriage will not be a life-long commitment but a feelings-long commitment.
Also, if sex and sexual acts are the embodiment of your feelings of love for the other, a serious problem will arise. What happens if the romantic feelings you feel for your boyfriend or spouse start to arise for another? If love equals feelings and you have intense sentiments for another, then it makes sense to follow after that feeling.
For a Catholic, love is very sentimental and full of feelings. Without feelings love would be a very dry and bleak experience. Look at the book of the bible, Song of Songs. This is from the opening chapter, “O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth! For your love is better than wine … Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples; for I am sick with love.” Song of Songs was called by Rabbi Aqbad in the second century the “holy of holies of the wisdom literature. Also, St. Thomas Aquinas died reading Song of Songs as he prepared to meet God.
However, even though feelings are held in high regard in the Catholic Tradition, they are not the core of love. What is the heart of love for Catholics? The heart of love is commitment. This is from the Catholic Catechism for wedding vows:
Bride and Groom: I, take you, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.
For Catholics, sex or any sexual acts is THE way to show your commitment to the other. You allow your body to say not only “I adore you, I am keen on you,” but also and more importantly “I desire you alone! I am swearing an oath that everything I do is for you. My new life, all my energy is dedicated to making you and you alone happy. The purpose for my existence is your fulfillment.”
If you perform any sexual act outside of marriage your body is speaking a lie. Your body is saying to the other all these things, yet your heart does not. Then sex, instead of being a tunnel that allows your heart to enter deeply into the other, becomes egotistical and centers primarily around YOUR physical and YOUR emotional experience.
And countless experiences have taught, that the worst sex is selfish sex. Any relationship that continually lies with their bodies will soon have no truth left to tell.