Sex before marriage

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Bundokji
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Re: Sex before marriage

Post by Bundokji » Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:47 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:05 am
Yes, I think sex is an issue which tends to evade a comprehensive intellectual understanding. Without getting too Freudian about it, there is a tendency for our rationalisations and theories about it to be coloured by our hormones and unresolved issues in a way that is quite unique. As Camille Paglia said, it's the place where nature and culture intersect, so we need to be well-informed about both.

I don't think that marriage is a solution to the "problem of lust". I think it is worth being clear with ourselves why we think that sexual desire is a problem at all - especially within the context of Buddhism. On the one hand, the wariness might stem from the damage to others that unrestrained sexual activity leaves in its wake; a kind of consequentialist ethic which would point to the betrayals, loss of confidence, feelings of being used, trashed reputations, etc. which can occur. DooDoot makes this point very clearly above. Our sexual expressions harm other people because we are using them.

On the other hand, the wariness might focus on the damage to ourselves which occurs when we follow our impulses and become preoccupied with a source of pleasure. The kammic damage here is the more immediately obvious one of being trapped in samsara, being unable to pull oneself out of the cycle of excitement, discharge, and ennui. This applies to our sexual fantasies and also masturbation. Our sexual expressions harm us, because those expressions are using us.

Depending on which of these two aspects of sexual desire we are concerned with, there might be answers to the question of whether marital sex is in any sense morally superior.
You raised a lot of important issues, none if them is easy to answer.

I, as an unenlightened human, almost always act with mixed intentions. The question you raised "why sexual desire is a problem at all" is not too different from the question "why do we want to get enlightened" in the sense that both questions can be used to reveal unpleasant truths about us.

While hedonism and enlightenment are perceived as the opposite of each other, both seem to be an outcome/reaction to living in impermanent world. I don't think hedonism can be truthfully and easily dismissed by an unenlightened beings. If sensuality is what i want, then why one partner? my natural tendency is wanting more.

Why marriage is better than prostitution for instance? at least, in prostitution, using each other is the obvious (hence no false expectations is built on it), while in marriage, much of this is disguised under shiny slogans such as love and romance ...etc.

If you extend the argument of harm and using each other, is not our existence and livelihood depend on both? why sex is different?

There are no clear intellectual answers.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Sex before marriage

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Jul 20, 2018 11:17 am

Bundokji wrote:
Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:47 am
I don't think hedonism can be truthfully and easily dismissed by an unenlightened beings. If sensuality is what i want, then why one partner? my natural tendency is wanting more.

Why marriage is better than prostitution for instance? at least, in prostitution, using each other is the obvious (hence no false expectations is built on it), while in marriage, much of this is disguised under shiny slogans such as love and romance ...etc.

If you extend the argument of harm and using each other, is not our existence and livelihood depend on both? why sex is different?

There are no clear intellectual answers.
Yes, I agree that this is not something that can be decided by intellectual debate. However, there might be some pointers to more wholesome behaviour, based on our understanding of the Buddha's teachings.

If we give in to sensuality, then it might nevertheless be a good idea to put some limits on the extent of that sexuality. For example, if it is addiction to the pleasure that I am concerned about, I might want to limit that pleasure to just one person who also fulfills other roles for me. This would be a form of self-denial (i.e. forgoing the pleasures of unrestrained promiscuity) akin to satisfying one's gustatory appetite with one portion of food, rather than eating one's way through the fridge. Conversely, if it is damage to other sentient beings that I am concerned with, then I might think that the damage is alleviated or even eradicated by having sex only with someone I know very well. They are less likely to lie about their motivation; less likely to involve us in activity which they later regret. If one's spouse asks for sex, one is much more likely to know that they are not just asking for affirmation, status, a cuddle, comfort, or revenge upon a cheating partner.

Similarly, I think there are few false expectations and shiny slogans involved in an actual marriage (as opposed to an outsider's view of marriage). The reality of living with someone and knowing them tends to put paid to that. And again, one is more likely to know that one's spouse is a free agent, and not constrained by economic circumstance, pimps, addiction, or mental illness.

Certainly, all existence depends on feeding, and this frequently harms others. (Ajahn Thanissaro is particularly good on this "feeding" aspect). And certainly, sex is a good example of this. A case might be made for less harm being done when two people are in agreement as to what they are doing, rather than relying on lust-fuelled guesswork; and that marriage largely eliminates the guesswork without condemning the lust.

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