But the conjugal view, in distinguishing several axes of union, would allow for different types of love and sharing, each with its own scale of depth. Indeed, it is a point lost on many in this debate that the more the conjugal view prevails, the easier it will be on the unmarried, who will be less susceptible to thinking that what they lack is the most valuable kind of relationship, or the only opportunity for deep intimacy. Yes, only marriage unites both minds and bodies and inherently requires some sharing in most areas of life, since such cooperation would foster the good of children, to which marriage is oriented. But precisely because it sees marriage as oriented to procreation and true bodily union, and not simply to shared experience, the conjugal view leaves plenty of room for other types of bonds to have their own depth, passion, and constancy of presence and mutual care.
THE HUMAN PERSON
Steorts might object that he does meaningfully distinguish the type of love and sharing specific to marriage, by agreeing with the conjugal view that marital union must include bodily union, which he simply sees differently than do George, Anderson, and I. Or he might reply that our view proves too much — for example, by implying that infertile couples cannot unite bodily. But such replies reflect an error about the makeup of the human person — one so implausible on inspection that Steorts himself professes to reject it, even though it is essential to his theory. Sometimes called “body-self dualism,” it sees human persons as mere minds or consciousnesses that inhabit and use their bodies as vehicles or extrinsic instruments. Against this view, Steorts claims to agree with my co-authors and me that the human body is an integral part of the human person. But it does not take much analysis to see that despite his protestations, Steorts fails to take the body seriously — to see the moral significance of the fact that the body is no mere instrument for producing desirable feelings, but a real part of one’s person.
Why should full personal union require sexual activity? Having turned to the question, Steorts merely points out that sexual desire is desire for a person. No doubt. But desire is a psychological state. If Steorts requires sexual intimacy just as a way of fostering and expressing certain emotions, which form the real “maximal union” of persons, then he hasn’t really understood bodily union and its centrality to marriage, or escaped body-self dualism, after all. Indeed, Steorts justifies his conclusion that any sexual activity can unite just as well as coitus on the ground that same-sex partners’ sexual activity is no different “in experience” — that is, psychologically — from a husband and wife’s conjugal acts. He thinks that both couples have the same basic attitude toward their respective acts, and that this is all that matters. So it really is just the mental experience or sense of unity that matters. But this is obviously false, for it implies that people’s hallucinating or fantasizing about each other could unite them bodily.
Nor does it help Steorts to insist, as he does, that maximal experiential union should occur only between “peers whose bodies . . . are complementary rather than overlapping.” Set aside the inapt metaphor of “overlapping” bodies, by which Steorts presumably means similar ones. If “complementary” does not mean “sexually complementary,” what does it mean? Should sprinters seek marital union only with distance-runners? Does that matter more for the possibility of bodily union than sexual difference? Here as elsewhere, Steorts’s argument is so confused and implausible that it is difficult to rephrase without seeming to ridicule. Perhaps Steorts means just that a couple should be “compatible” in the bedroom. But then personal union seems again to be about psychological or emotional realities, presumably because persons are essentially centers of consciousness and feeling. But this is precisely the dualism that Steorts claims to reject.