Is sexual complementarity an argument against same-sex relationships?

same-sex relationships

In addition to being used as an argument against artificial birth control and women’s ordination, sexual complementarity is also put forth as an argument against the goodness of same-sex relationships.

According to this thinking, the procreative compatibility of male and female reproductive organs is a type of microcosm and symbol of the compatibility between man and woman as a whole.

This argument has three general parts:

  1. It is only because men’s and women’s genitalia and reproductive organs are different that they are able to co-operate in the creation of new human life;
  2. This anatomical difference serves as symbol and revelation of the sexual differentiation that extends across the depths and breadths of human personhood—men, as people, are different from women in the way that penises are from vaginas (meaning all men are different from all women in the same uniform and sexually distinctive ways), and
  3. Because only sexually different people can procreate and because this sexual difference symbolizes the difference between men and women as people, only sexually different people (that is, only men and women) are capable of the type of compatibility aka complementarity required to be in a relationship of sexual love and fidelity.

In summary, the argument goes, just as it just “doesn’t work” to have two women or two men try to conceive a child, it is similarly impossible for there to be a relationship of sexual love and fidelity between two men or two women.

Think here of trying to cut meat with a spoon or eat soup with a fork.

A relationship between two men or two women, they argue, is both not really possible and not really able to contribute to the flourishing either of individuals or of society.

If you are thinking that this argument depends on the type of rhetorical sleight-of-hand discussed elsewhere at WIT, you would be right.

Similarly, if you are skeptical about the veracity of sexual complementarity in general, in other words, if you don’t really think that that every man is (and should be) masculine and every woman is (and should be) feminine in the way the magisterium says they are and should be, then I also would agree with you.

However, for the purposes of this piece, let’s grant the existence of sexual complementarity between men and women and that it is a prerequisite for “the flourishing of family life”

I guess this would mean that men would have certain personality traits–assertiveness, leadership, ability to acquire a well-paying job, knowledge of sports, affinity for playful rough-housing–and women another set of traits–deference, kindness, patience, generosity, receptivity, a desire to bear children?)and of course let’s not think too deeply about the centuries-old example of single-sex and sexual non-complementary communities of monks, nuns, and priests whose holiness the church holds in unparalleled esteem.

Even if sexual complementarity were true, it would not be an argument against same-sex relationships.

There are many types of complementarity, which are proper to particular types of relationships. The fact that same-sex couples lack the type of complementarity thought to be proper to heterosexual couples is not an argument against same-sex relationships. Continue reading

  • Katie Grimes proudly hails from the great city of Marion, Ohio. Her favorite theologian is Tupac Shakur, and she currently holds the position of assistant professor of theological ethics at Villanova University.
  • Image: YouTube

 

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: