I hate the phrase “sex life” and all the modern assumptions that lie behind it. Such a phrase elevates sex and sexual urges to a higher dignity than they deserves; the phrase reflects sexolatry. Some people act as if sexual urges were like hunger or thirst and thus need to be satisfied ASAP or else they will die or be miserable.
A person who overvalues sex will never be a truly happy person. Sex is an activity, not a “life,” and an activity that is not essential to human happiness and fulfillment. Happiness and fulfillment come from love, not regularly indulging sexual urges. Only to the extent that sex is loving does it contribute to true happiness and fulfillment. And sex is absolutely not the only form and manifestation of love.
A person may have a spiritual life, a work life, a social life, a married life (if called to marriage), and even a political life perhaps. For religion, work, society, marriage, and politics are no mere activities but very important elements of human life in general. It is natural and right that these aspects of life should require most of our personal time, attention, energy, and resources.
But for a person to have a “sex life” seems necessarily to imply lust and disorder. For sexual activity should be engaged in only within marriage, and sex, though an essential and the climactic element of married life, is still only one element of married life. For I would say that a marriage in which sex is the most dominant concern and feature of the relationship, to the point where the couple has a “sex life,” could not be a truly loving Christian marriage. It seems impossible to love your spouse when virtually your only or primary concern is when and how the next occasion for sex will be. I would also suspect that any such “sex life” would be short-lived, for an absence of love in a marriage will only lead to very painful suffering and heartache and thus to a situation in which neither wants to have sex with the other again.
Moreover, while sex within marriage can be loving, it isn’t necessarily loving just because the man and woman are married. Though sex is the ultimate act of marital love, it cannot be loving if the rest of married life, the non-sexual majority of married life, is unloving.
Thus, the phrase “sex life” is rarely used within the context of marriage for a variety of reasons. Rather, it is commonly used among young singles who have no moral qualms about premarital sex and some of whom will even engage in sexual activity on a weekly basis if not more often, whether casually or with a regular partner(s).
But to treat sex in this way, rather than as the fruit of married love, is actually to harm and degrade oneself and the other person. Paradoxically to some perhaps, the chaste who abstain from sex know the true value of sex and achieve the value it offers in only married life. For outside of marriage, sex is inherently unloving. Outside of the permanent commitment and union of marriage, sex is inherently an act of using the other person rather than an act of sacrifice, of truly giving oneself to the other person.
The purpose of the sexual act is to be an expression of Christ-like love toward one’s spouse. The love of Christ is fruitful, sacrificial, and joyful. That means the sexual act must be open to procreation, to the creation of a new human life, the primary fruit of marriage. And to deliberarely bring a child into the world is indeed to make a sacrifice of future time, attention, energy, and resources for the sake of the child and the spouse. Lastly, the sexual act should be one of joyful celebration. It should celebrate (and consummate) the love that should already exist between husband and wife. Yes, sex should be pleasurable (otherwise, you’re doing something wrong, haha). But love is a cause for joy, not mere pleasure. The natural physical pleasure of sex should complement the joyful celebration of marital love. But to have pleasure without joy is worse than pain itself. And to take joy in the wrong things is to be a miserable creature.
The truth that sex has specific divinely-sanctioned purposes and yet at the same time is completely unessential to human fulfillment is a truly Christian insight, one that is most firmly upheld and defended in Catholicism with its strict doctrines with regard to sex. Virginity and celibacy are given their due honor only in the Catholic Church, which alone has eunuchs who purposefully embrace celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God. Sex too is given its due honor only in the Catholic Church because of its steadfast prohibition of contraception.