What is the Purpose of Sex?

There can only be a purpose for sex if there is a purpose for life, which means that sex (or any other activity) can only have ultimate meaning if God exists.  If there is no God, then all of life is ultimately meaningless.

Since God exists, the main purpose of sex is to bond a man and woman together to procreate and raise children.  But isn’t pleasure a purpose for sex?  Certainly the Bible speaks highly of sexual pleasure (see the Song of Solomon).  But the pleasure we experience during sex encourages us to bond with one another and procreate.  In other words, pleasure is more the result than the purpose.  If pleasure is the primary purpose of sex– not bonding or procreating– then we would have to say that pleasure should be pursued even if it harms.  Professor J. Budziszewski explains in this conversation excerpted from his book Ask Me Anything.



“The main point of Christian sexual morality is that human nature is designed. We need to live a certain way because we’re designed to live that way.”

“Then let’s start with the heart. Do you see how every part works together toward its purpose, its function?”

“Sure. You’ve got nerves and valves and pumping chambers, all for moving blood.”

“Right. If you think about the sexual powers instead of the heart, it’s just the same. The key to understanding a design is to recognize its purposes. For the heart, the purpose is pumping blood; for the sexual powers—you tell me.”

“Think about it. Would you say pleasure is the purpose of eating?”

“No, I’d say nourishment is the purpose of eating, and pleasure is just the result.”

“If you thought pleasure was the purpose of eating, what would you do if I offered you pleasant-tasting poison?”

“Eat it.”

“And what would happen?”

“I’d get sick.”

“But if you understood that nourishment is the purpose of eating and pleasure merely the result, then what would you do if I offered you pleasant-tasting poison?”

“Refuse it and ask for food instead.”

“It’s the same with the sexual powers. Pleasure is a result of their use, but it’s not the purpose of their use. The purposes can tell you which kinds of sexual activity are good and which aren’t; by itself, pleasure can’t. The inbuilt purpose of the sexual powers is to bond a man with a woman and the other is to have and raise children.”  (HT: Jim Whiddon)


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8 replies
  1. Alex says:

    The inherent assumption in the argument is that sex exists to bind a man and woman together and not a man/man or woman/woman. While I agree with the assumption, I don’t know that I would be able to support it in an argument. I can’t find the study right off, but I remember hearing a study where sex builds relationship in same-sex couples as well. In order to use this argument you must first successfully argue that same-sex relationship is lacking in some material purpose over that of the heterosexual relationship. The sex isn’t so much the issue as the nature of the relationship in and of itself.

    This is the genius of the women’s lib movement in terms of being able to break down the family. If a woman is equal to a man, their roles are equal, therefore there is no uniqueness to the relationship, therefore there is no need for a heterosexual relationship over a homosexual relationship, except that of procreating. Science (and poor decision making) has solved the procreation problem, thereby eliminating the relational argument.

    The Church needs to define and stand behind the roles necessary in a family for it to succeed; and then live it out. Until we work to eliminate the narcissism in ourselves, the traditional family will not succeed. If Love is the ultimate ethic, and love, by definition is selfless, then we need some guide by which to define what is the selfless act. If I don’t know that sugar is bad for an overweight child, then I think I am loving them by giving them candy all the time, because it makes them feel good; however, I know it is bad for them so I force them to have broccoli because I love them, even though it is unpleasurable. Right and wrong MUST be established and followed before seeking pleasure, or death follows.

    I wish the members of the church who are so concerned about same-sex marriage bans, were as concerned about being the spouse God as called them to be. A personal ethic that seeks the welfare of their spouse above any personal pleasure is the only way to turn this around, and it can only be done one family at a time. Then, it only takes a generation.

  2. Stephen B says:

    “If there is no God, then all of life is ultimately meaningless”

    There’s meaning to my life while I’m alive. Perhaps it has no meaning afterwards (apart from to my surviving loved ones), but that’s fine – I don’t need to have meaning after that!

    If there’s no meaning to your life unless it’s been given one by God, does that mean God’s ‘life’ has no meaning? Is He able to given Himself meaning? If so, then why can’t we do the same?

    “But isn’t pleasure a purpose for sex?”

    One can certainly have sex for pleasure, yes. Or to reinforce the bond between you and your partner. It can reduce stress. It releases testosterone and endorphins. You’re welcome to say these aren’t ‘ultimate purposes’ but so what?

  3. James Lex says:

    Yes, sex is important for procreation and connecting two people heart and soul as well. Additionally, I see it as a form of worship that honors and pleases God. As the worship songs says, “thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure, they are created, . . . ” It is taken from the scripture. If God created all things including men, women, and sex inside marriage, then it logically pleases Him to see his creation utilizing what was created for their pleasure, procreation, oneness, etc.

    Finally, we are spiritual beings as well and are enriched by the sexual experiences as a husband and wife in marriage.

  4. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek said: “If there is no God, then all of life is ultimately meaningless”

    Stephen said:“There’s meaning to my life while I’m alive. Perhaps it has no meaning afterwards (apart from to my surviving loved ones), but that’s fine – I don’t need to have meaning after that!”

    I think you can go beyond this. Let’s say you made someone happy in the moment in time we call 17:45 on August 22, 2014. It’s always true that you made someone happy in that moment. If the universe ceases to exist. It’s still true.

    I just don’t get this.

    I think we can say that if G-d does not exist, it has no ultimate meaning to G-d.

    Dr Turek said: “There can only be a purpose for sex if there is a purpose for life.”

    Can someone help me out with the logic of this?

    Can there be no purpose for a toilet if there is no purpose to life?
    (I honestly don’t know what the answer is within this framework.)

    Sure one could say the toilet was designed with a purpose, but that runs into the functional fixedness problem. We use things all the time outside of their intended design, and those things then serve another purpose. So we can’t say purpose is limited to that which is designed. (Think of the mount these candles to the wall with these thumbtacks problem.)

    Stephen quoted the trick in this article. Dr. Turek said: ” But isn’t pleasure a purpose for sex?”

    Notice that sometimes the article talks of “the” purpose, but here, it’s just “a” purpose. That’s actually a big difference. If you mention pleasure as “a” purpose of eating, rather than “the” purpose of eating, everything changes. An “a” in that instance makes it easy to understand why one wouldn’t eat the poison, but pleasure can remain as a useful purpose of eating.

    Anyway, I don’t think the bonding can be separated from the pleasure, for example. People often bond at movies (ah, the classic first date), but is that the purpose of the movies? Or is the purpose to provide the viewers pleasure? Maybe experiencing pleasure together leads to bonding.



  5. Tammy says:

    I would suggest that food analogy is flawed because it presumes only two possible options, nutrition or poison. This is a illogical. It is certainly possible to consume something which is tasty yet likes nutritious value. In fact some would argue that the majority of that which is consumed by mouth in the United States is just that. Without that false dichotomy the analogy quickly falls apart. In like manner, unless one first demonstrate that ANY sexual act which does not serve the purpose of procreation (the matter of bonding was addressed in the first reply to this post, in that sex serves to bond same sex couple as well as opposite sex couples) is in every instance harmful before the argument behind the analogy can be made.

  6. Cody says:

    Well if sex was meant for pleasure and not procreation, then infidelity would not be a problem.
    Also u do not need to have sex to love someone.

  7. tomvonbudden says:

    Sex is not a form of bonding or an expression of love. It is Eros which must always be sub-ordinate to sacrificial, covenant love, Agape. Eros, if trusted as a form of bonding, is fatal and that relationship is simply one of lust. So if we were to intentionally have sex in marriage apart from lust for a fleeting pleasure based on infatuation, then I’d say let’s respect God’s design for sex and take it seriously. Do it only when in your conscience you know with full certainty that that act like will bring glory to God. I’d say, the closest thing that we know to purposeful sex for the purpose that God designed it is with the intention of bearing a child. God might grant that it will be a bonding experience to purposefully concieve a child. If it so happens to bring you together and bond then praise the Lord. When God gets the glory in our lives then we can enjoy everything to its fullest. The only time that you will be able to be satisfied in Christ while having sexual interactions with your husband/wife is to know that you are acting as God created you to act. So either you have sex within marriage and for children or no sex at all. Imagine we ate for pleasure. That would be stealing from God. Imagine we did anything for pleasure sake and not for God’s sake. That’s sorcery.

    To me this is not difficult to work out at all. The only thing preventing people from seeing it is that they love carnal pleasures too much and don’t want to leave their comfort zone for Jesus sake.


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