WHAT ARE SPERM FOR? One of the chapters of my book is called �Everything I know, I learned from the Gay Movement,� specifically the turn to a moral argument for gay marriage, a development I applaud and emulate in my own work for women. So I have watched the developments around the Federal Marriage Amendment, up for a vote in the U.S. Senate today, with my usual reaction to the current direction of American politics: fear and loathing.

But I have had the strangest feeling all week that Bush�s Federal Marriage Amendment is going to, pardon the expression, backfire, not just because it�s so transparently strategic and insincere, but because it�s so hilariously stupid. Bob Cesca had a wonderful post on Huffington Post yesterday reminding us that a lot of the prohibition against nonreproductive sex, and therefore homosexual sex, stems from truly imaginative understandings of each sperm as having a little man in it waiting to be born. (Women were just the garden, naturally.)

My personal favorite publicly shareable sperm story actually explains the religious prohibition against sperm spilling better than Cesca�s. Two and a half millenniums ago, which is just about the right time frame for the current wingnuts in Congress, Aristotle speculated that, since everything has a purpose, the purpose of sperm is to become a human. The purpose of having sex is to enable the sperm to become a human, and anything else just wastes sperm by separating it from its natural purpose. The Catholic saint and theologian Thomas Aquinas picked up the sperm theory along with a lot of Aristotle in the thirteenth century. Since Aquinas thought the natural order was the visible manifestation of God�s will, he tied religious approval of sex to the enabling of the sperm to reach their natural purpose. Everything else was not just waste; it was sin. Why do you think it�s called a �crime against nature�? It�s not like global warming, fa Crissake. It�s because Aristotle and Aquinas thought everything had a purpose, nature�s and then God�s, and it was sin to miss the target so to speak. Same analysis applies to birth control, of course.

I suppose since the Aquinas crowd aren�t all that enamored with Darwin anyway, it would not convince them to share the information that concepts of naturally purposive biological entities have sort of fallen out of fashion in light of the evidence of random mutation and natural selection. But maybe the uncontrollable laughter that should follow the invocation in the United States Senate of every precious Aristotelian, purposeful sperm beavering away at its job of producing another human, all under the watchful eye of the United States Constitution, will.

--Linda Hirshman

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