Asexuals and Marriage

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David Velleman at Left2Right raises some worthwhile questions about asexuality and marriage. His argument is that some people don't have sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex not because they have it to people of the same sex but because they don't have it at all. They're asexual. Yet we allow these people to marry, and we allow them to marry each other. We just don't let two asexual men or two asexual women marry each other. On this one I don't agree with him fully, but it's the kind of question worth asking.

I agree that those who think homosexuality is unnatural should think asexuality is unnatural. I think even those who don't think homosexuality is unnatural should think asexuality is unnatural. On the other hand, its being unnatural might not be of the same sort. What I'm worried about is the connection between being unnatural and being immoral. The Christian view of why homosexual relationships are unnatural is that it violates God's purposes for sex and marriage. Being asexual may be unnatural, but I'm not sure being a practicing asexual could violate God's purposes, since Christians believe some people are set apart for singleness and celibacy.

Now it's a separate question whether asexuals should marry, and I suppose part of that might relate to what their purpose for marrying is and whether they intend to have sex once they're married. The Christian view on marriage is not as simple as saying it's for kids or to limit sex to those who want kids, as David puts it. The Christian view of marriage is more about God than about us. Marriage represents the relationship between God and Christ and the relationship between Christ and the church. Sexual union is supposed to be part of that representation, and Paul does say that a husband or wife who denies a spouse sex is doing something wrong, but he also tolerates those who think they need to abstain from sex to have a more devoted time of prayer.

What would he say about those who simply don't want sex? Their marriage would certainly be inferior unless they choose to have sex anyway, but is it just inferior or is it contrary to what marriage is supposed to be the way homosexuality must be if male and female represent the unity and diversity in the Trinity, the submission yet equality of Christ to God the Father, and the roles of Christ and the church. Those can be represented in all parts but the way sex was intended to represent intimacy with God in an asexual marriage. Therefore it's just incomplete. A gay marriage flies in the face of many of those things and therefore is not just incomplete but contrary to the male-female role differentiation that's part of God's plan.

I'm not sure all those who oppose gay marriage will agree with all this, but I think it's the most likely reconstruction of what Paul would say on this, given what he said on other things. Since many of the people who oppose gay marriage are Christians, even if most of them aren't thinking in as detailed a way about the justifications for their views as what I've just gone through requires, I'm not sure David's conclusions will follow.

The moral questions alone aren't parallel, never mind the legal ones. What Christians believe is wrong about homosexuality and asexuality is similar. Something has gone wrong to make someone the way they are, whether caused by biology, social forces, or most likely some combination of both. What would be morally wrong to do, however, doesn't seem parallel at all. If homosexual relationships are wrong to pursue, and homosexual sex acts are wrong to engage in, then that's what someone does on top of being gay. Would it be morally wrong for an asexual to fail to engage in sex acts? I don't know how any Christian would say such a thing.

As for the legal issues, those who oppose gay marriage may well not oppose asexual marriage and be fully consistent if their reasons for opposing gay marriage have to do with marriage's purposes not being limited to what David says those against homosexuality limit them to, and I've explained at least one view according to which that's not the case. So allowing asexuals to marry does not implicitly requiring gay people to marry other gay people of the same sex.

I don't agree with his assumption anyway. Allowing asexual marriage doesn't constitute an endorsement of asexuality. Of course, allowing gay marriage doesn't constitute endorsing homosexuality. Not everyone who opposes gay marriage thinks it does, either. Those who do think it does will need to think about whether we should disallow asexual marriage (but how?) or whether they should stop thinking this is a good argument for opposing gay marriage. On that count, I think David has pointed out something that might influence the discussion in an interesting way.

14 Comments

By reading your words:

The Christian view of marriage is more about God than about us. Marriage represents the relationship between God and Christ and the relationship between Christ and the church.

One would honestly take you for a Catholic in defence of priests' celebacy. It is just one step to argue that therefore priests are married to the Church and cannot have more than one wife. This is another evidence of how Roman Catholic Protestant theology is.

Nevertheless, it is clear in Paul's epistoles that when says that a bishop or a presbyter should be married and married to one wife only, he meant a human female and not the Church. Comaprisons between Christ's covenant and marriage are for mere explanatory purposes. In no way the relationship between men and women can de facto and ipsis litteris be like the relationship between mankind and God in Christianism. It would be the same as if we thought that breakfast is eucaristic because people eat bread.

The idea that any person is married to Christ is thoroughly unbiblical. Christ's bride is the church. Thus the analogy can only be merely an analogy, just as it doesn't mean Christ is married to the Father. Marriage is a lesser thing symbolic of those greater things. That, in fact, is why it's so not Catholic.

I would think that as long as an asexual man and an asexual woman agreed that any sex that would ever be had would be between them alone, that it would constitute a valid marriage before God.

Many marriages that don't start out asexual end up that way for a variety of reasons and I don't think that those type of asexual marriages should be considered anything less than a marriage legally and morally.

In this way, a man and woman who may not have the physical capacity for sex may be united in marriage in Christ and live together in a God-glorifying way.

How exactly this may relate to arguments for or against gay marriage I am really unclear.

Asexual marriage should be fine morally. It's just like any other marriage in the sense that two people have a relationship and decide to take the commitment one more step, then if they choose to do so they can have sex whenever. An azexual marriage just wouldn't have that need, that "whenever you feel like it".
I don't see anything WRONG, personally, that could offend God. The planet is overpopulated anyway.

If God created marriage to represent something more fundamental, as I believe the Bible teaches, and that something more fundamental is not represented as God wishes except through sexual union, then it does follow that asexual marriage is immoral. Even if you don't follow that argument regarding the theoretical basis for Paul's command in I Corinthians 7, the command remains. Any Christian who takes the New Testament as authoritative can't get around that. Paul commands husbands and wives not to deprive each other of sexual union except in the case of a very limited time and only for the sake of prayer during that very limited time. I've tried to give an account of why Paul would make such a command, but the command is there whether my account is correct or not, and whatever other possible theological basis might stand behind the command it will still end up in that exact command.

I believe that I am an asexual, but am still considering what that means in light of my faith, as such I have a question about your comments. I agree with pretty much everything you wrote about an asexual and a sexual being married, but you are making an assumption that adds a whole different dynamic to the problem. You are assuming that the asexual person knows they are asexual before they get married. My wife is a very sexual person and I love her dearly, but I had no idea I was asexual before we got married, if I did I would not have put her through what I have. We both believe that sex outside of marriage is not God's plan, so how is a person to realize they are asexual prior to marriage. I was/am a shy person and was concerned that I would have problems with intimacy, but my wife and I just assumed that it was nervousness and would not be an issue once we were married. I guess I am wondering if anyone has suggestions not only on how to prevent this from happening to others but also what I might be able to do to fill my wife's Spiritual (i.e. sexual) needs.

Brian, I have reflected a little bit on issues relevant to your comment. See this post. I do say a few things there about married people with no sex drive, and I think it might be relevant to your situation, but I don't know if it's exactly what you're looking for.

Jeremy is it possible for you to restore the link to the article you mention in your original post, or let me know where I can find it at? I appreciate you words and look forward to speaking with you further here and in other locations on this site.

The post doesn't seem to be on their server anymore. I wonder if Velleman took it down for some reason. This site produces the text of it. I don't know if that's the whole post, but I think it might be.

An aesxual marriage would NOT be considered wrong or immoral as long as it was still a union between a man and a woman. If BOTH parties had no interest in sex yet still wanted the commitment, companionship and emotional comfort of marriage it would not break God's law of man and woman. Any gay union however would break God's law of man and woman and would be immoral.

I wouldn't say the marriage would be wrong, but on the face of it there does seem to be an argument that a deliberately asexual marriage is lacking in something that Paul commands married couples to do. So there'd need to be at least a strong enough argument not to have sex in order to overcome the pretty strong argument to do so.

Paul only says that a couple not defraud each other if they BOTH have sexual needs. If there is no sexual need then there is no defraudment. Not everyone has sexual needs but most people still desire love and commitment. Granted, without sex there is no moral need to get married but many people would enjoy the relationship of marriage anyway. Marriage is not just about sex and children. The love can be apparent and enjoyed with or without sex as long as both partners agree.

What is someone knew they were asexual and their future wife was sexual. They purposely did not devulge that information to his wife before marriage, but it was a big issue after they married to the point that he really does not want to have sex at all, but chooses his own time to fulfil his duty. Would that be considered defrauding that person that did not have a clue?

Given ordinary conceptions about what's involved in a marriage relationship, I would say that it's immorally deceptive. For a Christian, it's even worse, because it's quite clearly a violation of biblical commands. Taking a brief time to focus on prayer is the only biblical reason for abstinence in marriage, and any others that anyone would want to add would have the burden of proof to show that they really are morally legitimate exceptions.

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