Marital Sexual Ethics: post-coital unnatural sexual acts

After an act of natural intercourse, if the wife has not reached sexual climax, is it moral for her husband to bring her to climax with his hand or mouth?

No, it is not moral; it is a grave sin. The act in question is a completed unnatural sexual act, which lacks both the unitive and procreative meanings. In order to be moral, a sexual act must be marital and unitive and procreative. The lack of any one or more of these three meanings is a deprivation in the moral object, making the moral object evil and the act intrinsically evil.

The sexual faculty is naturally ordered toward procreation, and naturally reaches toward procreation by means if the unitive sexual act (natural intercourse). Natural law is a promulgation of the eternal moral law within created things, especially created persons and the relationship between created persons within the plan of God. Natural law reveals that God intends the sexual faculty to be used only in such a way that each sexual act retains its inherent ordering toward the unitive and procreative meanings. Every sexual act that is non-procreative and non-unitive is an intrinsically evil and gravely immoral unnatural sexual act.

Neither is the unitive meaning found in mere climax, nor in the apparent ‘union’ of non-genital body parts with genital body parts (as occurs in unnatural sexual acts). For this is not union as God intends for the sexual faculty. It is contrary to natural law, and therefore contrary to the eternal moral law, to make a deliberate use of the sexual faculty other than in natural marital relations open to life.

The three meanings that must be found in each and every moral sexual act are the marital, unitive, and procreative meanings. Every moral sexual act is inherently ordered toward these three ends. But there is also an order within these three ends, such that marriage is ordered toward union and procreation, and union itself is ordered toward procreation. And this is why procreation is the primary end and highest good of marriage.

Unnatural sexual acts are neither unitive nor procreative, and so all such acts are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral, even within marriage.

Augustine and Aquinas

Saint Augustine condemned unnatural sexual acts within marriage. In his moral treatise ‘On the Good of Marriage,’ commenting on Romans 1:26, he writes:

“…nor be changed into that use which is against nature, on which the Apostle could not be silent, when speaking of the excessive corruptions of unclean and impious men…. by changing the natural use into that which is against nature, which is more damnable when it is done in the case of husband or wife.” (Augustine, On the Good of Marriage, section 11).

The expression ‘that use which is against nature’ refers to unnatural sexual acts, such as oral sex, anal sex, or manual sex. Saint Augustine condemns such acts unequivocally. He even states that such unnatural sexual acts are even more damnable (i.e. even more serious mortal sins) when these take place within marriage. For God is even more offended by a sexual mortal sin that takes place within the Sacrament of Marriage, since this offense is not only against nature, but also against a Holy Sacrament.

“But, when the man shall wish to use the member [body part] 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.” (Augustine, On the Good of Marriage, section 12).

The expression to use the member of the wife not allowed for this purpose refers to the use of non-genital body parts for sexual acts (e.g. oral, anal, or manipulative sex). Here St. Augustine condemns unnatural sexual acts within marriage. He even asserts that such acts are more gravely immoral within marriage. For these acts offend not only against nature, but against the Sacrament of holy Matrimony.

Saint Aquinas also condemns unnatural sexual acts within marriage:

“Lastly comes the sin of not observing the right manner of copulation, which is more grievous if the abuse regards the ‘vas’ than if it affects the manner of copulation in respect of other circumstances.” (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 154, article 12).

First, the word ‘vas’ is Latin for vessel, referring to the use of other bodily orifices for sexual acts. If a husband treats his wife lustfully during natural marital relations, he sins. But he commits a more grievous offense, which is called by St. Thomas an abuse, if he sins by committing unnatural sexual acts (i.e. using an unnatural part of the body as a ‘vessel’ for sexual intercourse). Here St. Thomas explicitly (but in discrete language) condemns the sin of unnatural sexual acts within marriage.

The relationship between climax and procreation

Now some persons claim that the wife is permitted to engage in any type of sexual act at all, before or after natural intercourse, because, they say, her climax is not related to procreation. This claim in effect exempts the wife from the eternal moral law. The proof that this position is false is found in Sacred Scripture.

{1:26} Because of this, God handed them over to shameful passions. For example, their females have exchanged the natural use of the body for a use which is against nature.
{1:27} And similarly, the males also, abandoning the natural use of females, have burned in their desires for one another: males doing with males what is disgraceful, and receiving within themselves the recompense that necessarily results from their error.
{1:28} And since they did not prove to have God by knowledge, God handed them over to a morally depraved way of thinking, so that they might do those things which are not fitting:

Unnatural sexual acts by females are condemned just as strongly as unnatural sexual acts by males. This passage explicitly condemns all homosexual sexual acts, but it also implies a condemnation of all unnatural sexual acts, including those between a man and woman who are married. For the type of the act (the moral species) is essentially the same; the act is a sexual act, a deliberate use of the sexual faculty, that is unnatural because it is neither procreative nor truly unitive. These acts are gravely immoral because they are sexual acts lacking in the unitive and procreative meanings, not merely because the male ‘spills his seed’. The deprivation of these two meanings is found in unnatural sexual acts by a woman as much as by a man, and so the acts remain intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral, for the wife as much as for the husband.

Separate Acts

Other persons have attempted to justify unnatural sexual acts after natural intercourse by claiming that the post-coital unnatural sexual act is part of the same act of natural intercourse. This idea is absurd. First, it is obvious that the couple are able to choose to perform either act by itself, or both acts in either order, or both acts separated by any arbitrary length of time. Therefore, these are separate acts. Second, moral theology defines an act as a knowing choice by the intellect and free will. These two sexual acts, natural intercourse and an unnatural sexual act, are separate knowing choices, therefore morally they are separate acts. Third, if the unnatural sexual act is done by itself, it is not moral. To claim that it is moral if it is done within a limited period of time after natural intercourse is to exempt that period of time from the moral law. The very same act is said to be moral if done at one point in time, and gravely immoral if done at another point in time. Fourth, the effect of this approach is to use the three fonts of morality from one act in order to justify a subsequent act. This approach is never valid. Each act has all three fonts, and no act is moral unless the three fonts that spring up from that same act are each good. Fifth, this type of approach to the justification of acts is never used in any other area of morality. It is not valid to invent a new set of basic principles of ethics solely for the marital bedroom. Sixth, unnatural sexual acts are intrinsically evil, and intrinsically evil acts are always immoral, regardless of intention or circumstances or other acts.

This entry was posted in ethics, theology of the body. Bookmark the permalink.