Marriage & Fiction

Keith:

My impression of Instone-Brewer’s arguments and motivations are that, by using the term “emotional neglect”, he is summarizing the Exodus laws and 1 Cor 7 which speak of conjugal activities being a right for both partners. At the same time, he wants a) to prevent abuse (e.g. from an abusive husband who demands sex from his wife), and b) get at the underlying principle (i.e., why is sex a debt each partner owes to the other?). His answer to b) seems to be something like: because spouses need affection. There’s not much distance between “a right to affection” and his term of “emotional neglect”. For what it’s worth, I think he’s on to something with this. The only other “underlying principle” I could see behind the Exodus law would be a need for women to have children, but if we take Paul as alluding to this law in Exodus in 1 Cor. 7, then it seems more likely that pleasure, and not giving offspring, is the principle behind this law. How would you summarize a “right to sexual pleasure” for legal purposes, and not give reign to the abusive husband scenario?

Dan:

It occurred to me, after seeing Keith’s point, that perhaps the reason Davies’ comment seems to persuade us is because we share a moral culture in which talking about morality explicitly is taboo (you know, “never talk religion and politics with strangers”, etc.). So, when writers preach at us we tend not to like it; it seems abrasive to us.

On the other hand, I loved being preached at by Zosima and Alyosha in Brother’s K. But perhaps that is because I already agreed with their advice, and the characters were presented as though they could actually have gained this knowledge from experience, not as pretentious people.