Wed | Jul 24, 2019

Garth Rattray | What’s wrong with ‘sex’?

Published:Monday | December 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Some esteemed biblical characters have been with prostitutes, used maids/slaves to bear children, offered virgin daughters to assuage the lustful rage of lascivious bisexual villagers, got drunk and committed incest, had concubines, womanised, committed adultery, and even murdered because of sex.

Some practices were the accepted cultural norm for that era. Not all illicit sex was punished, and good came out of some of them. Yet, the Bible frowns upon fornication and adultery, among other sexually related activities. So, is sex good, evil or something that needs to be put into perspective?

God's 'chosen people' were instructed to be fruitful and multiply, yet there were instances where God orders His chosen people to slay all those from other tribes that did just that! Was sex a good thing for the chosen people and a bad thing for others?

Then there's 'wedlock'. During biblical times, marriages were usually arranged and possessions were used as dowry. Marrying solely for love was rare. People often married to produce progeny, for convenience, perhaps to increase power, acquire land and augment wealth and/or influence. Ostensibly, therefore, intimacy ('sex') within such a marriage was devoid of love.


Expression of love


Since 'sex' is supposed to be the greatest expression of physical affection/love, did that make it wrong in marriages of convenience, or for wealth/power?

Were most wives having sex out of fear and/or under duress? In today's world, that would be considered marital rape.

On the flip side of the coin are situations where people experience strong affection, perhaps even love, for one another and engage in sexual intercourse even though they are not married. The Church forbids fornication, yet the same Church instructs wives and husbands to submit to one another's sexual desires (even when there's no love or fondness within the relationship). Which is worse?

If all extramarital sex is so wrong, it begs the question, is it a 'sin' against Almighty God or is there another explanation for it being taboo? Could a little mutual gratification, the reciprocal stimulation of sensitive body parts, hanky-panky, really invoke the wrath of the God of everything and of eternity?

I once heard a Jewish rabbi explain the perceived basis for nixing fornication and adultery. I was surprised to hear his opinion that they were societal sins and not necessarily spiritual sins.

If someone of the Jewish faith wants to know your lineage, you are asked about your mother's side of the family. Because, whereas maternity is certain, paternity is conjecture without DNA evidence. Therefore, if people commit to one another (avoid non-committal fornication and eschew adultery), the progeny will be unquestionable, there'll be no chaos, and inheritance will be orderly.

Essentially, hanky-panky could potentially disrupt order within societies. But it is unlikely to darken your soul unless you cause others emotional pain, hurt, destroy families/children or use it to control, subjugate or assault someone.

Another important reason for committing to one another (faithfulness) is the avoidance of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A rather humorous yet informative speaker once said, "If there were no STIs, we would mate like dogs in the streets." I know that not everyone is that hot to trot, but the basis of his postulation has merit. Because the sin in, and immorality of, 'sex' are not obvious, STIs are more powerful deterrents to casual sex than 'sinfulness'.

There's nothing inherently wrong with 'sex'; it is a natural/good thing. But, it can hurt, and is sometimes used criminally, punitively, to dominate and can cause infections/disease, acrimony, jealousy, hate, violence and even murder.

Perhaps therefore, the power and far-reaching ramifications of 'sex' demand maturity, affection/love, responsibility and the care to avoid hurting others, because therein lies the real 'sin' of 'sex'.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and