Conjugal Rights A Christian Perspective
THE CONCEPT OF CONJUGAL RIGHTS
The first thing that comes to the mind of people at the mention of the idea of conjugal right is sex. However, unfortunate this is even among the literate and educated folks. This writer chose to elucidate on this important aspect of family life with a view to helping couples and lover of peaceful homes understand the intricacies of conjugal as human relationship. This article is from Christian world view.
A Definition of Conjugal Rights
There are two words to consider here: “Conjugal” and “Rights” respectively. The word “conjugal”etymologicallyis of Latin origin from the word conjugalis, derived from conjunx a genitive of conjugis meaning "spouse". Conjugis is a derivative of conjugare which is "to join together” and conjugare is from the verb jugum from which English word "yoke" is derived. Yoke as used here defines the nature of relationship existing between couples indicative spouses are product of wedlock. Spouses among Bible practicing Christians (though some are already questioning this position in the name of gay or same sex marriage), are heterogeneous in sexuality-that is man and woman. The bond between man and woman couple is as a yoke, binding or bond together meaning one not free from the other at anytime. This is what the Scripture referred to as “one flesh” a sort of fusion, and being fused together the spouses are inseparable any longer. No wonder the Scripture warns “What God has joined together no man should put asunder (Matt. 19: 6).
Besides, according to Oxford Compact English Dictionary, yoke is something that represents a bond between two parties especially the yoke of marriage (www.askoxford.com). Thus, yoke here is a symbol of cohesion and image of a union which prevents couples from being free from each other. Perhaps this is symbolized in the oath or covenant that couples make in the public. Therefore, the word yoke is not a sign of oppression but a reminder of covenant relationship in Christian marriage. This refers to morally correct modality by which a process or actions in this case marriage, become "just, good, fair, proper and fitting (Online Etymological Dictionary). The idea of yoke in marriage makes marriagemorally acceptable and considered fair by most people (dictionary. cambridge.org). It binds two hitherto different persons into an accord with both legal and moral implications.
Rights on the other handas used in this research work are not “thesocial or political freedom that individuals have as citizen of a country” (Longman Active Dictionary CD Rom), rather are entitlements and privileges (Encarta Dictionary) of spouses one from the other. In the context of this research work, we refer to the claims and entitlements that couples have one from the other. Nuptial ties confers responsibilities on partners to share self, time, pleasure pains et cetera, personally one with another in the expression of mutual love.
Therefore, conjugal rights as used in this research work refer to relationship conferred on spouses within marital bond. They are claims and entitlements in which personal involvement of couples are tested. These claims and entitlements include sharing of time, personal intimacy, pleasure and pain associated with marital relationship and sexual intercourse. Conjugal rights demand a high sense of responsibility and a great level of cooperation of spouses to achieving smooth family living. Conjugal rights as it relates to this research work are limited to heterogeneous marriage only.
The Ethical Basis of Conjugal Rights
The concept of conjugal rights asserts there are moral duties or privileges of marriage couples share. The assumption first is that conjugal rights are moral only in and it is to be expressed within marriage. Second, this research work is not only concerned with coitus or sexual intercourse as only form of mutual expression of intimacy that marriage covenant bestows but sees sexual intercourse as consummation of conjugal relationship. If it consummates marital relationship all the processes to it fulfillment is therefore significant without which sex becomes flash point among couples.
Third, the concept of conjugal right in this research work is limited to heterogeneous marriage only. This researcher wishes to asserts again those issues raised in this work is located in relationship existing between man and woman in marriage. Thus, it is strongly tied to the Christian family, which Scripture locates in God’s creation plans. It involves personal relationship couples share, which is not limited to but includes sex. Talking about conjugal rights as form of relationship in marriage G.C Meilaender describes husband-wife relationship as “a bond and companionship …used in the Scripture as an image of the relationship between God and his people” (73). It is a relationship where couples share intimacy and mutual love. In fact, the level of personal responsibility of individual spouse is measured by couple’s commitment to smooth expression of conjugal rights. This is the interface of spousal relationship. When couples are able to relate well in this area, other forms of relationship fall into place. Thus, spousal relationship supposed to be intact even where there is no offspring (73). Consequently, conjugal rights are not just sexual intercourse.
Biblical Basis of Conjugal Rights
The issues of conjugal rights are located in the creation plans of God premised on human sexuality. Although human sexuality today meant many things to many people and using the word of Gary H. Strass and Mark A. Yarkhouse, as there are many cultures today so also are conceptions of human sexuality (99-100). Nevertheless, God’s plan for creation that includes human sexuality makes heterogeneous marriage possible among others. In fact, this is the only marriage plan the Scripture created and sustains (Meilaender 72-74). The concept of humanity sexuality is therefore rooted in the Scripture, with social and ethical implications. To better our understanding of the biblical basis of conjugal rights, it is important that we look closely at human sexuality and its implication for this research work.
The use of the word “heterogeneous” would not have occurred if not for recent development in the arena of reinterpretation of human sexuality struggling to promote same sex marriage. Nevertheless, there are three broad ways to view human sexuality.
According to, Stephanie Ann Sanders human Sexuality is general term referring to various sexually related aspects of human life, including physical and psychological development, and behaviors, attitudes, and social customs associated with the individual's sense of gender, relationships, sexual activity, mate selection, and reproduction (Microsoft Encarta CD Rom).
Thus in broader term, human sexuality appears to cover a spectrum of human values. However in the specific and as apply to this research work, the word sexuality could mean (1) Gender, (2) erotic capacity of humanity - the attraction to and desire for intimacy with another; (3) it could also mean the functional aspect of sexuality that is activity involving genital organs (David Wenham 140). Thus, human sexuality has to do with gender that is maleness and femaleness including its roles in the sense of unity of humanness (Meilaender 73). This initiates the capacity for attraction to and sharing of intimacy with opposite sex. Hence, as it affects this work sexuality has to do first with state of the sexual person -male and female as created by God (Gen.2:27). Second, the word Eros of Greek origin denoted the process or basis for sexual expression as it create and encourage desire for and intimacy of opposite sexes and third, the functional expression of sexuality, that is use of genitals which is consummation of mutual relations of human sexuality.
The three aspects are important. The idea of gender differences make marriage possible and formed the scriptural foundation of conjugal rights. The Eros or friendship serves as lubricant that promotes intimacy, a vital organic aspect of conjugal rights and the uses of genitals as consummation process where physical personal relationship of opposite genders are shared which is the highest order of involvement of sexual beings. Here we can see sexuality in its nature, purpose and function. According to Stanley J. Grenz,
Through human sexuality we give expression both to our existence as embodied persons. In this way our sexuality calls to move towards completeness…sexuality forms the foundation for the drive which moves male and female to come together to form unity of persons in marriage…although sex and even sexually derived bounding are evident in animal world, in humans sexuality offers potential for forming personal unity that goes beyond that found among animal (166).
By this he meant how proper use of sexuality could synchronize hitherto two different opposite sexual persons in the union of marriage. Of course the reproductive potential of conjugal relationship fulfils God’s command to procreate. In this research work all these meanings are implicative so they are important to us. Being informed of all these connotations are important to good expressions of sexuality. Hence a better understanding of conjugal rights is premised on proper appreciation of the dynamism of the three aspects identified above within the confine of marriage.Let us take a closer look at the human sexuality in the three domains as it affects this research work.
Human Sexuality as Gender
Gender as sexuality is human identity defining how we live. According to John E. Trull and supported by G.C. Meilaender “Human sexuality is more than sex; it is the whole way we live in our world as male and female” (160; 72). Knowing that humanity is created as male and female and understand how this mold human ways of life is vital to understanding the meaning of being in God’s image; which is vital to self actualization in our society. Whereas gender has been interpreted as male having ascendancy over the female (representing chauvinistic perspective) response to which has brought about women liberation and feminism, the Scriptural teaching however is astonishingly rich, taking care of all genders appropriately. Richard J. Forster lends his voice that humanity is sexual person saying, “We are created in the image of God male and female” (159) indicative of differences in gender as deliberate handiwork of God. We are male and female. Although Sigmund Freud chose to call it “…fable of dividing the person into two halves—man and woman” (www.gutenberg.net), to Christians the gender is a deliberate attempt of God and not fable. Gwamna Dogara ‘Adayibe (30) and Ogunkunle C.O. (49-50) are assertive that God created man and woman as sexual beings stressing that they were sex partners with different roles and with sexual needs. Besides, Sigmund Freud’s idea of “…strive to become reunited through love” (www.gutenberg.net), is correct understanding of Biblical understanding of maleness and femaleness as sexual beings and the need for one another. The two genders are deliberate purposive creation of God. As John E. Trull argued “The identity of your sex is the first statement about you after your birth” (160). The sex is first means of identifying a baby one from the other when babies are born with different roles complimenting one another. Every human being must recognize and appreciate male is not complete without the female.
Although we are different in gender, yet none is independent of the other. This is what Richard J. Forster meant when he said, “we are sexual person …whom we must not reject or ignore” (156). To accept the reality of human sexuality and that human need the opposite sex for conjugal relationship to meaningfully achieve the purpose of God is first step to effective living as sexual beings. Thus, there is association between male and female gender in the economy of God as there is natural desire one of the other among sexual beings. While this association is called, “strive to be reunited with other half…” (Freud www.gutenberg.net ), the tension created by this process is ethical reality making field of ethics and sociology thick. “Sexuality expresses our authentic humanness in relationship; it is also intrinsic to our relationship to God…much more, it involves our capacity for companionship” (John E. Trull161). From the foregoing, scripturally gender has both social and biological implications. Nevertheless, how one responds to it is important and it is highly ethical- involving choice and decision. The concept of love and marriage of which conjugal relationship is a subset, finds it root here. Adam recognized immediately something he needed when he saw Eve (Gen 2:23 ). This understanding leads us to the second item on our outline above.
The Erotic Sexuality
Human gender evolves to attract the opposite sex. Although Richard J. Forster was particularly interested in the singles in his writing “Sexuality and Singleness” his assertion “the person’s sexuality is expressed in his or her capacity to love and beloved” (156) is true of all humanity whether single or married. However, the concept of love is dynamic in its application. Arthur Holmes asserted, “The word love is of course ambiguous, and all the more so on this topic” (112). In the English language the idea is not well differentiated as in the Greek Language. To the Greek in which the New Testament came to us, there are three ways love could be identified based on its operations. First, Agape is specifically sacrificial known with God. Second Eros is selective and human. It could be selfish desiring what it could get in a relationship. Eros exists in marriage and it is dependent on reciprocal (John E Trull). The third one is Philia which describes the relationship existing between a child and a parent (Arthur Holmes 112). Nevertheless at this juncture, we are concerned with Eros.
The erotic love when it gives and does not get in return might wane and probably die. As was earlier mentioned, conjugal relationship entails much more than sexual intercourse. It involves sharing of personal relationship such as time and emotions, pain and pleasure including being financially and materially committed one to the other. It means taking responsibility for and of one another is rights of spouses and sexual intercourse is just one among others ways of expressing these. This is the reason that Christian erotic sexual expression is strongly tied to marriage. Conjugal rights operate on this platform: being responsible to and for one another in marriage. The Biblical marital axiom of ‘leaving and cleaving to become one flesh’ is erotic love in practice in reciprocity. It may raise tension as noted that two personalities with individual tastes, desires, opinions and goals come together in marriage are bound to have some tensions. If this relationship is not well defined, understood, appreciated and approached with caution the said tension could degenerate into deep conflicts. This researcher agrees with Sigmund Freud’s submission that man and woman strive to reunite in love (Freud www. gutenberg.net); the reunion, which Christians must admit, entails responsibility. The tension is no doubt a clear indicator that the sum of conjugal rights is responsibilities that demand knowledge of roles and duties entailed in conjugal relationship. Again, this can only be zeroed on the great institution God created called marriage.
Gender cannot be changed though some are insisting on changing theirs through plastic surgery and gay marriage. From the economy of God gender is to be permanent sort of, and except deliberately mutilated. But erotic relationship is friendship and possibly selfish which must be cultivated. The idea of cultivation here means it should be properly nurture and positively directed. Fortunately, God has created human being with the capacity to learn and grow positively which include this aspect of life also. There appears the major tension in marriage is located in the Eros aspect of human sexuality and as far as conjugal rights is concerned it shows in-balance of its expression among couples. Friendship among couples should be cultivated and nurture daily. The erotic love is a strong bridge between meaningful expression of gender (that is maleness and femaleness) and the use of genital among couples. Importantly, the stronger the erotic expression of the human sexuality is the closer the hitherto two different opposite sex who are married would be. It is a bridge to smooth use of genital among spouses.
Human Sexuality as Use of Genital
Richard J. Forster asserted, “The Bible ban on sexual intercourse for the unmarried is based upon a profound positive insight (157). His argument is premised on the one flesh bond, which comes through sexual intercourse. This researcher strongly agrees to this statement. Besides, this underscore the use of genital is not wrong, for Christian but it must be within marriage between man and woman- a male and a female. Again, it is the creation of God. In marriage therefore, the use of sex organ become rights as well as duty but with conscientiousness. As responsibility is laid upon the singles that sex for Christians is only in marriage, it is imperative for Christian couples to note that celibacy is ruled out of marriage and that couples must drink only from their wells. Adam and Eve were the first to have been written to have engaged in the aspect of human sexual expression (Gen 4:1).
According to G.C. Meilaender use of genital has healing purpose in marriage (75). In another perspective, Arthur Holmes said in the use of genital we join God in the art of creation. He argued for heterogeneous marriage, which is the basis of conjugal right in the first place. He noted that marriage unites two opposite sex and bring about procreation, the intension of God for his creation (109-110) which is only possible with male and female union. Thus, it is important to fulfilling continuity of creation. Besides, responsible use of genital in marriage to this researcher is a good part of sex education at all levels.
First, it should be noted that there is no superiority, either of roles or position in sexuality for all humanity is created in God’s image. This is an important factor in conjugal harmony. This however, does not rule out recognizing the differences in maleness and femaleness as function of God’s assigned roles with duties and sense of responsibility with a view to complementing one another as desired by God in his purpose. Second, celibacy is ruled out in marriage, couples need to know that sexual intercourse in marriage is of duty as well as rights but sex is not the only rights or duty among spouses. Thus, what goes on between couple before bedtime is as important as the bedtime itself.
Meanwhile certain issues can be raised from the discourse so far. First, difference in gender is God’s handiwork with definite purpose. Second, the difference is deliberate and that human has capacity to bring unity in diversity. The primary medium of the blending process is through erotic and genital capability of humanity. Thus, humans have capacity to desire the opposite sex and express this deeply. This is first to be seen in deep friendship. The need to actualize passion for the opposite sex is usually culminate in the use of genitals. However, humanity is moral being as such he/she is to keep sanctity of human sexuality in all its dimensions and this is the reason God created social institution called marriage. Marriage is the basis of conjugal rights among Christian. Thus, in marriage the three dimensions of human sexuality should be freely explored and utilized fully. Third, how to manage attraction and desire for intimacy is not only an issue for the singles alone but also the married. Marriage is creation of God, which requires a great sense of accountability. Conjugal rights are product of marriage covenant relationship. For conjugal rights expression not to be exploitative, it must balance expression of Eros and use of genital. Where conjugal rights expression is not tilted to the use of genital organ alone that is where couples do recognize and practice friendship on daily basis, marriage would be heaven on earth. As Christians, we should note that marital relationship is important to us and to God.
To close this aspect of our discussion, it must be mentioned again that the three love mentioned above are implicative. According to Arthur Holmes,
Erotic love (responsible for friendship and sexual desire) is possible independent of philia and agape it even create romantic. But by itself it is possessive and it tends to be hedonistic; it is not a whole-person attachment…but philia combined with eros moves the relationship in holistic direction and makes possible a lasting and satisfying marriage. A spouse then is also a best friend, and a good marriage enjoy reciprocal benefits of good friendship….however, agape combined with eros and philia leads beyond the confines of mutual benefit into self giving concern for others. Agape transforms eros from self-indulgence to tender care, and it changes marriage from a relationship focused on just itself into a powerful means of unselfish service to others (112).
This researcher thinks successful Christian home is dependent on the couples’ understanding of the mix operation of the word love as noted by Arthur Holmes above. Here is the dynamism of conjugal rights moving from self indulgence to selfless lifestyle among couples. The question of balancing forms of conjugal expression is predicated on capacity to move from selfishness to selflessness relationship necessary to successful Christian homes.
Other Bases of Conjugal Rights
Humanity is naturally created to relate. Of course, this draws people together into social relations. The smallest unit of the social relationship is two people becoming friends. At a deeper level of friendship are spousal relationships often referred to as marriage. As has been noted earlier, Eros is selfish. Yet social responsibility places demand on individual to put others interest above personal interest. In marriage, this is important. The importance of this position is that what makes conjugal relationship effective is not really on bed but all that happens far before and out the bed. Conjugal right is a means of defining spousal relationship. As social animals, human beings must always relate with other. Of course, family is the smallest social unit. That couples comes together first before having children means there is relationship between them, which may bring about other forms of relationship from their union. Thus conjugal rights has social basis as it defines responsibilities of couples one to the other in social relationship called marriage.
Marriage brings two opposite sexes together for permanent union. Marital relationship as seen by M.O. Oladeji reduces other forms of relationship the couples may have whether as individual or together into second-class relationship. Thus, couples must share between themselves as social beings. The Scripture has affirmed the need for man and woman in marriage to leave other relationship and cleave to one another. Thus, what each spouse would miss personally from severing other relationship by coming together should be provided for by the other spouse and even more.
To this researcher the social basis of conjugal right is closely linked with the dimension of human sexuality earlier noted. The interpersonal relationship of couples must be generated by mutual respect for one another created and nurtured daily. Therefore, social basis of conjugal rights is the social interaction that exists between couples, which places couple’s interpersonal relationship, above all other relationships. This must not be only sexually or coitus confined.
Besides, it must be reiterated that sexual intercourse is not just coitus as an element of conjugal rights expression. Thus understanding the process of sexual intercourse brings out clearly the need for existing responsive relationship between sexual objects. Sexual intercourse process reenacts the question of conjugal rights for sexual intercourse must be between spouses who are opposite sex. Sexual intercourse fulfils biological function earlier indicated as use of genital. It is means of biological communication unequally by any other means. To be able to appreciate this better it is pertinent to see sexual intercourse in broader perspective. For instance, Jim and Carol Britten noted five steps to making couple have a fulfilled intercourse. They called it sexual technique and being a technique, it must be learnt. To this researcher the sexual techniques reinforces social basis of conjugal rights and as well as emphasizes the biological communions of couples. The list includes “preparation, love play, entry, orgasm, and relaxing afterwards (Britten 46-54). To them preparation is so important that it does not begin on bed. This asserts the importance of mutual relationship among couples as social beings. Thus, couples relationship as social being must be cordial for there to be mutual sexual expression.
Sexual relationship is a form of communication the elements of which are a “hole” in woman and a “rod” in the man, which are biological fixations. The use of theses elements result in a fusion where intimacy unequal in any other way is shared between two opposite sex marriage. In the word of Henlee H. Barnette in his work Introducing Christian Ethics quoting Elton Trueblood says, “Sexual intercourse…provides husband and wife a language which cannot be matched by words or by any other act whatsoever. Love needs language for its adequate expression and sex has its own language.” (117). Thus, sex communicates. It is imperative to understand what sex says in marriage relationship. Although there are divergent view as to “the nature, purpose and function of sex” (117), in the opinion of this researcher sex fulfills social as well as biological functions of mutual love expression.
The Jim and Carroll Britten encouraged foreplay to be as long as to make couple get lost into themselves. Here all forms exploration of each other’s body takes place. Of course only couple, who have good relationship will be able to initiate and promote fulfilling sexual relationship. Particularly important is that even the most frigid woman (which is biological) when this stage is well responded to would be aroused. In fact, the success of this stage would determine largely the sexual fulfillment of the couple at anytime of sex. This is vital test of spouses’ relationship. Its fulfillment depends on the commitment of the spouses to each other. In addition, failure of marital lives is quick to be noticed in how couples handle the two stages above. A couple who short-circuit the two stages to participate in the third would have cut themselves of vital instrument of fulfilled affection.
The Brittens admonished that the third stage-stage, the entry should not be rough or else the couple would be physically and emotionally affected, negatively. Male movement should be to make his wife reach orgasm before he finally ejaculates which often comes earlier for men than women. This talks of interdependency and cooperation that makes social relationship possible. This is the reason that sex is best expressed in marriage for it create best atmosphere for its fulfillment. This is the reason this researcher has kept on emphasizing that sexual intercourse is the ultimate expression of conjugal rights, which cannot succeed on its own.
Apart from the Biblical, social and social basis of conjugal rights, other positions can be traduced. Mammal developmental psychology shows opposite sex are particularly drawn to each other whether human or animals. Particularly among animal heat period, naturally come upon various sexual animals, which naturally draw opposite sex to each other. Where this is also true of humanity, sense of security from a partner is both social as well as psychological. Although Wilbur O’Donovan noted that probably, “no desirer that is stronger for most people than the desire for the opposite sex” (74) does not confine sex to only for humanity. There is logic of social as well as psychological security for married couples. For instance, the positioning and shapes of both male and female organs at the center of human anatomy though biological is not accidental. This researcher thinks it affirms the central place of sexual intercourse among humanity. This is the wisdom, when couple regularly serves themselves effective in all aspect of conjugal expression there peace and tranquility within persons in marital relationship.
More so couples who experience this among themselves develop confidence in themselves which translate to other areas of relationship even outside their homes. You will need to see how unhappy are those who are of age and are not married and it’s not their choice not married. It is not limited to any gender. There is therefore some psychological fulfillment derived from belonging to one another among spouses. This again is evident in cases of divorce. Couples are disillusioned afterward meaning such attachment however, they may want to threat it when challenged, has psychological implications. In fact, what may lead to divorce is not only sexual failure because sexual conflict itself may indicate that other aspect of conjugal rights is being neglected. Conjugal rights functions biologically to fulfilling the suitability and complementarities of genders of which sexual intercourse is only a factor. Of sex Feutch said,
“Biologically it releases tensions through ecstatic pleasures and satisfaction. Socially, it is the indispensable part of the full commitment of two whole personalities in an intimate relationship. Psychologically, it provides a sense of fulfillment and security and of interdependence as love and understanding are reciprocated (Feutch 218).
From the above, it means every part of human beings is involved during sexual acts. Nevertheless, this researcher wishes to emphasizes the smooth relationship among couples that will promote fulfilled sexual union is not negotiable.
Furthermore, a casual observation of coital positions show that even for procreation to take place in most cases, coitus has to be face to face. It means both must agree and being intimate (and not rape) brings the emotional release mentioned above. Odunze has mentioned “male pointed instrument and hidden hole in the woman” (110) shows these shapes were natural or biological fixing. And that the demand for coupling which is called sexual drive is innate making satisfying it naturally by coitus. To this researcher, that these organs were located at the center of human anatomy shows also how their functions are central to humanity. Both human and animals are known to exhibit some form of sexual activities, which are innate. Thus, sexual drives are natural fulfilling certain biological and/or psychological functions.
Thus far the researcher has shown that sex and sexuality is a gift from God to his creation. Consequently, this researcher establishes the background for its expression within the confine of marriage. It must be repeated here that spouses as sexual beings fulfill a good part of human sexuality in conjugal rights expression. It must be reiterated; God expected humanity to express conjugal rights and for Christians they are to be expressed in marriage of man and woman only. Furthermore, it must be restated that Biblical marriage is between man and woman. Accordingly, this research work, understanding of conjugal rights by implication is a question about interpersonal relationship existing between man and woman who are married.
Moreover, Christians must not deny their sexuality. We are male and female, a creation of God with capacity to love and beloved. This of course when defined by marriage makes opposite sex sexual objects one of the other in the home. However, how individual couple manages the erotic aspect of human sexuality will determine how successful their relationship will be. In fact, the pulse of the couple’s relations should first be felt from here. Smooth conjugal relationship is the sum of the influence the couples have one for another as expressed in blending their individuality (genders) as bridged by Eros as well as agape love which to a large extent determines the sexual consummation in the physical the use of genitals.
Besides, it must be restated that conjugal relationship is not just sex as well as sexual intercourse itself is more than coitus. A couple that defines conjugal rights mainly by sex neglecting interpersonal relationship one of the other thereby ruins sound friendship; runs the risk of conflict as it were. When the individuality (gender) is not neutralized properly the dynamism which day today living together of couple generates cannot be managed properly. Thus when we seek understanding of conjugal rights among couples we are concerned with how couples interpret their interpersonal relationship and cope with its challenges. Since conjugal rights is strongly tied to marriage how couples understand marriage is important variable. To this end, Gwamna Dogara ‘Adayibe submission is illuminating. He said,
Marriage is by nature was meant to achieve among other things:
i Companionship (Gen.2:18; cf. Matt. 19:3-6; Rom7:2)
ii Sexual pleasure (Eccl.9:9; Gen. 2:24; !Cor.7:3; Deut24:5)
iii Procréation (Gen1:28, Ex23:26; Deut.7:14, Ps.128:3)
iv Expression of love and security (Song 4:10 , 7, 11:112) (30).
Thus, successful marriage is one that reels out these aspects conveniently.
Ethical Issues in Conjugal Relationship
Meanwhile understanding of conjugal rights as moral issue is located within Christian moral reasoning. Moral reasoning is the consideration of the general norms or principles with which Christian behavior should conform and their application (Mortimer 398). Moral reasoning has two important spheres: reflection and deliberation. Reflection is thought about while the deliberation is thought towards action (O.M. To’d 122). The difference is in what question is asked. For instance, the question what is good is a reflection question, but when it is asked what shall be done to be good, is to seek deliberative thinking.
O.M. To’d, describes moral reasoning as the elements of teleological order which simply refers to purpose when he compared the two saying, reflection is ‘turning back’ on something and deliberation is weighing up’ alternative courses of action (122). By this he refers to the human thinking process. Nonetheless, both thinking process are important to Christian moral reasoning and especially this research work now. Reflection provides basis for deliberation for it describe the elements of teleological order, which makes deliberation intelligible and necessary. According to O. M. To’d, teleology means the rational account of purpose although purpose could be objective or subjective. Thus, teleology becomes anchor upon which human thinking process ought to hinge. He clarified that subjective purpose has to do with reflection in an agent’s mind, which links with ‘will’ that is capable of directing human action. On the other hand, objective reflection refers to the implicit purpose in the world, which is so ordered as to make our active purposing intelligible (123). Thus, objective reflection is patterned to guide human judgment.
The above statement means there is guiding principle for human purposing. To Christians, objective moral reasoning is normative because Christian Ethics is located in God’s revelation and commands. The purposes of God disclosed by revelation are the final measure against which to prove human claims to purposive order in the world. Of course, Scripture is standard here. He stated however that this should not be taken to mean God just handed down rules, which humans must obey. He admitted that we might have to obey God sometime not because we fully understand it but God has not robbed humanity of free will and capacity to choose. This position affirms the free will of humans and responsibility that follows human actions. Where there are standard for choice and decisions known to all, there is likely to be less conflicts under normal circumstances.
Since moral reasoning involves thinking to solving problem arising from making choice and taking decisions and conjugal rights as a form of relationship is a function of decision and choice, objective reflection and deliberation appeals to this research topic. Although reflection may not lead to deliberation but there cannot have been deliberation without reflection (124) which justifies moral reasoning as standard of Christian social ethics in which conjugal rights belongs. Thus, if what is to be done negates acceptable human proposition, the agent must have purposed wrongly. He put it clearly when he said, “If what I purpose for myself does not correspond to what we human beings faced with such questions ought to propose, then I have proposed wrongly”(125). Therefore, there is and should be Christian standard behavior, which modifies one’s personal behavior, and emphasis is on love for neighbors as yourself. The above under scored the understanding of Christian perspective of moral reasoning that God’s purpose is normative and should modify humans’ responses.
The implication of the above for this research work is enormous. First, poor understanding of conjugal rights break relationship of spouses. And since the focus of this research is enhancement of spouse’s relationship, how couples reason and decide concerning personal claims and entitlements in marriage is important. The premise is that God institutes marriage so he purposed conjugal rights. Consequently among Christians, God has a normative rule for marriage in which couple’s personal claims and entitlements are located. This is evident in the Scripture (Gen2:18, 21-25, 1Cor 7, 1Tm 3, etc). Accordingly, God’s purpose for marriage is expressed in part, in the claims and entitlements of conjugal rights.
The purpose of God for marriage includes the creative, psychological and spiritual purposes (M.O. Oladeji 4-16). The creative meaning of marriage is to continue the creation God started, the psychological aspect of marriage he noted connects with complimentary role of partners in marriage as sexual beings and by spiritual purpose he admitted it represents the relationship God intended between the church and himself as Christ espoused the Christian to God through his sacrificial death. The three dimensions could be summed up in the word relationship. Marriage is therefore relational not only among couple but that God is involved. Thus, conjugal rights are duties and responsibilities of spouses one to the other under the auspice of God. Hence, no one should take advantage of the other.
Second, for freewill humans could choose and do decide to or not to conform to God’s standard behavior expected in marriage as free moral beings. While this does not change, the purpose of God but the individual involved should expect strain and drain in their relationship as a result. For this reason, when marital relationship is challenged by the choices of the couples, it should be seen as deviation from the purpose of God for marriage. Third, a partner’s decisions do affect the other whether he/she likes it or not. Therefore, every spouse should beware of implications of their action on the purpose of marriage. As moral beings, the source of choice may or may not be God. God’s commands when obeyed and things are handled according to his plans; there will be orderliness and harmony.
Conjugal rights are social issues with serious ethical implications where couples share intimate concern as social beings. However, the couple’s cooperative capacity to contain the demand of duties and responsibilities of conjugal relationship placed on them personally becomes important. Consequently, couples’ understanding of marital claims and entitlements of one another as paramount privileges to achieving the purpose of God marriage is imperative. This is the reason this researcher is considering setting standard for Christian moral choice and decision with a view to understanding conjugal rights as marital claims and entitlements within the confine of Christian faith and practice.
Fourth, in view of the above there is the need to dialogue and communicate regularly in the home as in any social unit. This should be consistent with moral reasoning such that couples could solve and resolve issues emanating from their relationship. The issue of rights in marital relationship for Christian though a fiat is not arbitrary command for squabble. According to Funk and Wagnall Standard Dictionary, rights are described as devotion to the interest of others (44). This corresponds with the concept of altruism. As a premise of action, altruism says, “people do, at least sometimes, appear to act in other than self-regarding ways or it can be a normative position about how people ought to behave that is; at least sometimes people should act in non-self-regarding ways” (Reid Cushman Internet). This is probably reiterating Kantian categorical imperative as opposed to ethical egoism where it is normative to act for self regardless of others. Egoisms are the stance that all human choices do or should involve self-promotion as their sole objective. However, a strong version of the theory would contend that human psychologically could not ever act voluntarily against what we believe to be our own best interest (Reid Cushman Internet). With this understanding, one would least expect expression of conjugal rights in any Christian family would be a problem.
This principle argues that any apparently altruistic act stems from a belief that the conduct promotes the individual’s long-run self-interest though individuals may have inadequate or inaccurate information and so may make mistakes (Reid Cushman Internet). The above says egoistic tendency permeate every decision which tends to encourage suspicion of every move of an individual in relationship. It is important to ask now, how couples will get their claims and entitlements without being egoistic. How could resilience in the name of altruism not misinterpreted? In view of the above, you will agree with this researcher that some of the most difficult questions of ethics in the homes over how to specify and prioritize interest among the relevant options among couples lies in conjugal rights expression. There arises the question of a balance between altruism and ethical egoism to maintaining peaceful relationship among couples in the process of realizing conjugal claims and entitlements. The issue constantly requesting answer in conjugal relationship therefore is how to find common ground where couples may stand to make decision to realizing conjugal claims and entitlements with minimal conflicts. Answer to the question the researcher thinks reside in couples understanding of the dynamics of conjugal rights.
Meanwhile, it is important to note that while every other aspects of marital life may be expressed without much involvement of physical body and emotion, sexual intercourse is not. Although sex can take place outside marriage, it is outside God’s purpose and permission and cannot effectively take place. The meaning of effectiveness as used here connotes responsibilities. Being responsible to one’s spouse which marriage covenant/vow confers can only be realized among spouses. Smooth conjugal rights expression to this researcher therefore is an indicator of how couples have grown in their understanding of the intricacies of Scriptural human sexuality in marriage, much which we have discussed above
Besides, as human sexuality is not incidental it also means it is consequential. There are aspects of human sexual expression are culturally and scripturally confined to marriage. Sexual activities appear to be prominent. Ogunkunle C.O. commends sexual act as the ultimate expression of conjugal relationship when he asserted that “the sex act within marital bound is sacrament of the marriage covenant (55). This researcher sees the concept of duty embedded in this submission. He further argued, “It is an outward act which signifies an inward commitment” (55). This researcher agrees with this statement, however, we have shown earlier that sexual intercourse is more than coitus. Thus, to go with a man or woman in the sexual activities is a fellowship as enumerated by the Brittens above, which must be height of commitment. Thus to keep ones commitment to one’s spouse, sexual intercourse would have to be complimented by promoting spousal friendship regularly. How to secure the consent of a partner on each occasion is therefore an issue. Perhaps this makes sexual intercourse among spouses a duty.
More so, God is seen to have placed the onus of rising next generation of humanity on the successive generation which compels couples to have sexual intercourse. According to Ogunkunle C.O. God created the man and woman for the purpose of reproduction (54). Anthony Ojo asserted reproductive aspect of sexual relationship and tied its fulfillment to cooperative capacity of male and female (71). However, in this view, for procreation to take place sexual intercourse is vital. Apart from fulfilling procreation command, sexual intercourse according to Drakeford forges unity of two separate persons who become “one flesh” physically as well as emotionally and religiously (75). To this researcher the concept of “forge” indicates the capacity of mutual sexual relationship to synchronize hitherto two different persons. But we have seen sex cannot achieve this in isolation. Although, Paul was more assertive in emphasizing sexual relationship as duty for couples in the New Testament sexual activities among married persons is highly encouraged but with responsibility. The oneness and mutual ownership or togetherness of married persons is brought out concisely when he admonished, “The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife” (1Cor.74). Paul appears to have employed spiritual, biological and psychological knowledge. Thus, how couples will promote personal relationship that will keep them together is an issue that must be properly addressed by them.
According to Goodie Samuel Waje Kunhugop in his book African Christian Ethics calls attention to the cooperative efforts that should characterize family relationships where each respects the other and give to the need of each other (288). Conjugal rights expression is therefore an ethical issue. First, it involves two human beings who are one by marriage and yet are different in many respects. We have seen how genders differ. The male-female issue has social as well as biological implications. Of course, erotic aspect of sexuality may also be seen differently. The question of human relationship is dynamic such that it is difficult to predict. Should claiming conjugal rights be strictly legal since concept of rights connote entitlements? Rights among others and especially in our context have to do with “due, license, privilege or legality” (Collins Shorter Dictionary and Thesaurus 639). How can conjugal rights be realized within marriage covenant with great responsibility more so that conjugal is simply referred to as “relating to marriage or between married persons” (Collins Shorter Dictionary and Thesaurus 147)?
More so, to what extent should marriage privileges, due or mutual interest that exist among married persons be demanded without infringing upon the fundamental human rights of another? At what point would share and care become obligatory to partners even where there are evidences that it is difficult to do so? How would one not take advantage of the other? What makes conjugal expression and/or claims rights in marriage? At what point should a partner say no to his/her spouse on certain claims and entitlements and still not lose moral ground? The couples are intended to complement each other. Is this true only in sexual intercourse? Biological make up of male and female necessitated “complimentary need” Drakeford 50), the ultimate expression of which is “coitus or lovemaking often referred to as divine gift” (Oyemamilara 12), how is this well understood among Christian couples is perhaps best tested with your family.
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