49 Am. J. Juris. 63 (2004)
What's Sex Got to Do With It - Marriage, Morality, and Rationality

handle is hein.journals/ajj49 and id is 67 raw text is: WHAT'S SEX GOT TO DO WITH IT? MARRIAGE,
The eminent political scientist James Q. Wilson has examined the institu-
tion of marriage over time and across cultures in developing an analysis and
explanation of the distressing state of contemporary marital and sexual
practices. He has done so, thoroughly and convincingly, in his book, The
Marriage Problem,' and in an earlier lecture titled Marriage, Evolution, and
the Enlightenment.2 Professor Wilson observed that, as a plain matter of
social fact, marriage is culturally universal, and monogamous marriage is by
far the dominant form. Nevertheless, he remarked, what is hard to understand
is why marriage occurs at all.3 Professor Wilson's exploration of the question
of marriage proceeded from a social scientific point of view and deployed, in
an astute and sophisticated way, the methods and resources of contemporary
social science. I propose to explore the question from a different viewpoint,
a practical philosophical one.
After exploring some of the difficulties of explaining marriage and its
universality in evolutionary biological terms, Wilson concluded that the
reason [marriage] endures is not that it is about sex but that it is about children
and property.4 What ultimately explains marriage, according to Wilson, is
that it is a reproductive alliance.5 Individual men and women enter into
marriages, and the larger social groups of which they are members promote
and protect marriage as a valued and, indeed, privileged institution, because
experience teaches that the marriage relationship is indispensable to the
* The author would like to thank the Earhart Foundation for its generous support and
Leah Silver for excellent research assistance. Parts of this article are drawn from an essay by the
author originally published under the title Marriage and the Illusion of Moral Neutrality, in
T. William Boxx and Gary Quinlivan (eds.), Political Orderand Culture (Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), pp. 114-27, and reprinted elsewhere.
1. James Q. Wilson, The Marriage Problem: How Culture Has Weakened Families (New
York: (HarperCollins Publishers, 2002).
2. James Q. Wilson, Marriage, Evolution, and the Enlightenment (lecture, American
Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C., May 3, 1999), http://www.aei.orglnews/newslD. 10370/
newsdetail.asp (accessed August 11, 2004).
3. Wilson, The Marriage Problem, 19.
4. Wilson, Marriage, Evolution, and the Enlightenment, para. 11. Wilson develops this
idea in chapter 2 of The Marriage Problem.
5. Ibid.

What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing nearly 3,000 academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.

Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline with pricing starting as low as $29.95

Contact us for annual subscription options:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?