Posted by: dacalu | 21 May 2014

Children as a Reason for Sex?


This post continues a series on ethics, which began here. My goal is to work my way through an Anglican process for developing sexual ethics.

In my last post, I addressed the question “Why Have Sex?” My friend Josh pointed out that I left children off of the list. Aren’t children a reason to have sex?

Sex can and does produce children, and while that can be a good reason to have sex, it is my sincere hope that almost everyone choosing to do so is also in the process of forming a strong relationship with their partner. The bar should be ever so much higher for choosing to have children with someone than choosing to have sex with someone, so by and large, I will assume people make the sex decision first.

The more I think about it, the more I feel that the scheme presented applies perfectly to the question “Why Have Children?” As I pointed out in a recent post, I do not think there is inherent virtue in reproduction. There is inherent virtue in forming relationships.

1) Desire for a deeper relationship with partner AND discovering a relationship with the child. Note that the relationship with the partner may not be one of marriage, but it is nonetheless life-long when a child is involved. Compassionate communication is necessary to make that work healthily in any case.

2 through 6 also represent common reasons to have a child. They become deeply, deeply dysfunctional when not informed by compassionate communication. Because every person should be treated as an end in themselves – and not as a means to an end – the less pure motivations for having sex become positively unethical when applied to having a child, or to having sex in the hopes of producing a child.

2 an 3) Pleasure and Comfort. Children can be a blessing to parents and grandparents, but they must be viewed as ends in themselves and not as an asset or client to the family.

4) Control. Children are frequently used, either as an object of control or as a lever by which to move a partner. The classic trope is of an opportunistic woman having sex with a man, so that she will become pregnant and he will have to support her. Alternately, we have stories of men seducing women so that they will become pregnant and be brought into the wife’s family. At a less drastic level, we can see cases of men and women using the possibility of children to keep their partner off balance emotionally.

5) Self-medication. Many people believe that children will solve personal or relational problems simply by coming into being. While children can provide common purpose and common identity to a couple, they can also exacerbate already existing emotional problems. I cannot recommend having children in the belief that it will fix a troubled life. I am under the impression that it fails to solve the problems and is cruel to the child.

6) Social expectations. There is straightforward social pressure to have children, often from parents wishing to be grandparents. As with the other reasons, this one is not enough, in itself. You have to want a relationship with the child and be willing to enter into shared responsibility with your partner.

Most of the time, I don’t think the hope of having children alone is a good enough reason to have sex. You need to want children with someone. Within the context of a relationship, I think the list of reasons works.

In rare cases, I do think we are called by God to have offspring and raise them as a single parent. I do not mean to dismiss those who have children by in-vitro fertilization or surrogacy and raise them without a partner. Those involve their own ethical issues to be dealt with later; meanwhile, they don’t involve having sex, so I’m off the hook for now (whew!). I am unconvinced that there is a low tech equivalent: if you are considering someone as a biological co-parent and are thinking of having sex with them, it will be important to view it as a profound relationship with long-term consequences for both of you. The rules of relationship still apply, so the ethics of having sex with them still apply.




  1. Dear lucas,

    Hmmm I have to say that i do respect many of the points you’ve made and thank you so much for sharing your point. but you must hear brother that this is a very narrow point of view on this particular subject as many people who are not in the same life position or class that you are in, cant relate to what you are saying. Would you have the same view or rather would you state the same view to a woman or man facing many of the social determinates to health, family and community on and indian reservation? in an african village? in a ghetto? in any type of poverty situation? from a much different cultural or ethinic situation? because if you have experienced these types of environments, and not attended them with your own agenda, but really gained a clear understanding of those climates and their joys & sorrows, as creator intended us to see each other, then i doubt you would say many of the things you have. if it was your intent to speak only to a group of people, say middle class christian americans then im sure it is relatable, to that group, but honestly brother outside of that particular group, much of this doesnt apply. So I must ask myself the obvious question, if a man of god is only, or is only capable of reaching only one particular group, what does he think gods view is on the other groups? This is the problem Ive always had with the church and honestly with white christian america, its not for me, i cant see myself in the stories and teachings, the lessons of morality like sex & children or as a equal in gods eyes because of the views of his representatives. I am very interested to know you opinions on this. These words were spoken in respect and i hope they were heard that way

    Your friend

    Whiley EagleSpeaker

    • Dear Whiley,
      It is wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for writing. I would start with an admission that I am deeply set within my context as a middle-class university-educated Anglo. I have no doubt that my advice is most useful to those in a similar place. It is harder for me to speak to the context of village, ghetto, reservation, but I would like to learn more. Can you tell me more about what sounds alien to you and where our perspectives depart? I have a deep belief that doctrines of God have a very narrow scope, but people of God can reach out to anyone. That reaching out is always a form of prayer, for God already abides with everyone, when we know how to look. I value your respect and would be honored to hear from you.
      God is with you.

  2. Yes lucas it is nice to hear from you as well. I sincerely hope that what i have said doesnt in anyway sound mean or from anger, and i am first to admit that because of my perspective and experiences maybe it is unavoidable to speak about subjects like this without that pain coming through. and i happy that you would freely admit the narrowness of your own personal experiences, that really puts us on an even ground, speaking to a stubborn person who is incapable of seeing their own faults or the faults in their own beliefs is often why we never speak and this leads to misunderstanding, and the loss of the ability to learn from each other. I am also university educated, from the same place you are, but our lives have taken much different turns. Even as children i could feel that difference though i couldnt voice it and i felt it more deeply than those of you who were only witness to it, i say this because this inherent difference is applicable to this conversation as it becomes the root of our world views. as for where our perspectives part of this subject, i will state a few. In the comment “Desire for a deeper relationship with partner AND discovering a relationship with the child. Note that the relationship with the partner may not be one of marriage, but it is nonetheless life-long when a child is involved. Compassionate communication is necessary to make that work healthily in any case” I for one think you are right, and this is the view i take with my own family and all the children of my family. but my life expereince and professional expereience tell me that far too many partnerships are not afforded the luxury of this statement as so many people are stuck in survival mode and often a child is the result of misusing escapes from this survival, sex being one of them, so the partnership is dysfunctional from the beginning. so is this the fault of the partners? or the situation they are forced to survive in. and are these people less in the eyes of god becuase they can not live up to a statement like this. I think of a girl in edmonton who is pregnant by a man she had relations with outside of her partnership, she became pregnant by a gangster drug addict who last week was put into prison, so she went back to her original partner who now beats her and he has a serious alcohol addiction. this situation which is common to varing degrees in many communities in many parts of the world, pared next to your statement, the statment implies that the girl in that situation is somehow wrong, i dont believe she is, i believe she is a victim of her world, her ethnicity and environment that honestly is mostly created by the narrow points of views in our world. she isnt capable to desire for a deeper relationship, she isnt capable of a life long positive relationship with the babies father, and im sure she is too stressed out for any kind of compasionate communication. I do have a few other points but this is getting a bit long, so i will save those for further communications. I am a very religious person, though not in any form you would recognize, my teachings tell me that a persons job is understand all of the creators wonderments, i take this to mean everything in his earth, including his children, so i have become a student of all types of man, successful, middle class and our impoverished.

    • Dear Whiley,
      It is hard sometimes to figure out the best thing to say. There is much to ponder in your message and I can only speak from where I am and what I hear, which is undoubtedly shaped by my own insecurities. That said, here are my first thoughts.
      I am sorry to hear that you felt an outsider in school. Many of us did, for many reasons. I forget, did you know Mishna? She wrote a quite amusing memoir that nonetheless gives some insight into our cohort. I’m down: A Memoir by Mishna Wolff. Online is not the place to tell tales, but perhaps we can sit together one day and share horror stories.
      Perhaps I should begin with a general statement about how I view ethics. Ethics always looks forward, never back. I don’t think it’s up to me to decide if anyone is right or wrong; I can only love people no matter what situation they are in, give them the best advice I have to offer, and respect their ability to choose for themselves. I believe nothing can make you less in the eyes of God and I strive for the type of love that means nothing can make you less in my eyes.
      I think it is worth aiming for the types of relationships that bring health, happiness, and fulfillment. We never live up to our own highest aspirations, but I still think it is worth trying. We all find ourselves shaped and constrained by our environment and, for me, it is worth fighting to overcome those powers that hold us down, those circumstances that push into places we don’t want to be. I don’t care whose fault it is. I care whether I can do something to make the situation better. Is a dysfunctional relationship the fault of the partners? I don’t know. If I knew them, and if they asked, I would say that staying in a dysfunctional relationship is an option, and maybe not the best one – only maybe. These are always complicated situations.
      Does that make sense?

      God is with you.

  3. […] Children As A Reason For Sex? May 21st, 2014 — “ This post continues a series on ethics, which began here. My goal is to work my way through an Anglican process for developing sexual ethics. In my last post, I addressed the question Why Have Sex? My friend Josh pointed out that I left children off of the list. Arent children a reason to […]” 3 Comments […]

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