by Heba Yosry
Thursday, 3
June 2021
Spotted
11:30

Plato would not have approved of “Platonic marriages”

Framing sexless marriages as progress is not fooling anyone
by Heba Yosry
Janine Guercio (left), and Krystle May Guercio are married and share a bed, but do nothing more

This week a piece in the Guardian asked its readers to share their experiences of platonic marriages. I had not come across this term before, and it struck me as something of an oxymoron.

I know of Platonic love, of course. Most of us do. Although Plato himself never used the term, Platonic love refers to partners who love each other, who are bonded by common interests or some spiritual connection; there is no sexual involvement, though it may be yearned for by each partner. It’s all there in Plato’s Symposium.

The idea has a long reach; in my studies of Arabic literature stories of unrequited love are commonplace, such as the tale of Layla and Al Majnun. Platonic love in these writings are suffused with sexual innuendo that is never consummated with sexual union.

Platonic marriage is different. According to the Guardian, this is a trend where best friends of varied sexual identities are choosing to be legally married, with all the legal ramifications of wedlock — sharing a home, raising children etc — with one catch: no sex. This means that two consenting adults enter into contractual agreement not to have sex with each other, but they can have it with other people if they want. Suffice to say this does not feature in Plato.

But Platonic marriage did pop up in The New York Times, which published an article last month depicting several happy couples who rave about the benefits of marrying their best friends and keeping sex out of the home.

“A platonic marriage is more than a passing year with a roommate who has different ideas about kitchen cleanliness,” one enthusiast told the Times. “A platonic marriage is a deep bond and lifelong commitment to a nesting partner you build a shared life with.”

But what is a marriage in which sex has no part? Platonic marriage splits the mind from the body by outsourcing sexual needs to exterior partners. The mind stays with the ‘nesting partner’ and the body pursues sex mechanically, as if it is errand like cleaning a fridge. The body is reduced to little more than a tool.

Platonic marriage is really another example of the concept of “asexuality”. People are “choosing” to replace established concepts such as marriage or biological sex with what they believe is a more dynamic concept that suits their fluid moods and sexualities. The NYT article mentions “Demisexual” a few times, which it defines as “only being sexually attracted to someone with whom you have an emotional bond” — isn’t that simply being in love?

Ultimately, sexless marriages have always existed, happily or unhappily. Framing them as progress ushered by another wave of the sexual revolution is not fooling anyone. It certainly wouldn’t have fooled Plato.

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Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

It’s years since I read Plato but as I recall he thought that everything we see on Earth is a pale, shadow imitation of the ideal of itself. The ideal tree is more tree-like and uncontaminated by any untree-like properties compared to one we see in the world.
The idea applied to ideas and abstracts as well as tangible things, and was seized upon by Christian thinkers. They couldn’t see how someone pre-Christian but as wise as Plato could be in Hell for failing to be Christian, so they figured this was their out. Plato almost said that there’s a heaven where everything is perfect, thus getting as close as he could have been expected to without the true word of God to get him there.
It’s physically described in The Last Battle, where the characters leave the pale imitation Narnia and end up in the real one.
To describe a sexless marriage of economic convenience as “Platonic” is therefore about as complete a misunderstanding – or misappropriation – of Plato as it’s possible to make. A Platonic marriage would be one that was more intense than the usual pale earthly imitation – including the sex – not even less so than usual.
It seems a classic case of changing the meaning of something through a lazy desire to avoid looking it up and finding what it means, coupled with an inexplicable desire to be written up in the Guardian as the zeitgeist when you’re in fact a pair of empty-headed self-absorbed tedious woke little twits.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon Redman
Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

While the Guardian appears not to have fulfilled their inexplicable desire, that infamous bastion of cultural marxist critical theory the Daily Mail has devoted an entire article to the pair of empty-headed self-absorbed tedious woke little twits in the photograph.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Wonderfully written, Jon. Like most of today’s intentional differing from the traditional there is a degree of psychosis, a degree of self-harm, and a large degree of being successfully manipulated by the MSM/Social Media. Stalin, Mao, Big Brother; their goal was to destroy the family, to dissociate people from forming primary bonds to each other so all just be adrift in a hostile and lonely world, and thus can be manipulated fully by the State; that they have no loyalties to cause them to deviate from the group think they are conditioned to.
It is all there in the Wiemar, intellectual, academic, Marxist, ‘Frankfurt School’, as well, as part of a plan to destroy Capitalism, summed up in the 11 Points. Destroy bonds of family, community, culture, religion, and nation and the people are helpless. You are all sheep herded by elites out to destroy you.

So far the Liberal/Marxist memes released and taught by the education industry, propagandized by the Entertainment industry, and drummed into you by the MSM, is destroying the family at a furious rate, the West will die out essentially in a couple more generations.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Diogenes of Sinope who as you must recall, Plato described as “Socrates gone mad” would have been a better choice for this essay.

Even today his attitude to sex seems shocking to many, yet when Alexander the Great* famously met him he said “Had I not been Alexander I would have like to have been Diogenes!”

(* Or the Homicidal Macedonian Pygmy known as Alexander.)

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Dionysian, but without the fertility.

Peter LR
Peter LR
1 year ago

I imagine this is only the beginning of the weird ideas that will evolve now that marriage has been divorced from primarily being the stable foundation of procreative family life which tends to stability in societies. Viewing everything through the prism of self-interest is always subtly corrupting and in the end incoherent.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

So how does that work when you become infatuated with the outsourced sexual partner?
I have memories of sex (there is nothing wrong with my long term memory) and IIRC good sex is liable to leave one wanting more of the same. A lot more. And not just at designated intervals, but at 3am, or any other time of the day and night.

Ah, sex. It is massively under-rated.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kremlington Swan
Bertie B
Bertie B
1 year ago

Or alternativly
Ah, sex. It is massivley over-rated.
Name one thing that man kind has achieved (other than procreation*) that was dependent upon sex.
*Procreation is not an achievement to be applauded. Some peole define it as their greatest achievement – but that puts their greatest achievement on a par with a Sheep.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Well, emptying my tanks for one. Never underestimate the benefit of walking around with properly emptied tanks – like walking on air.

Also, I do tend to think all great art depends on sex. You can’t really separate out the sex drive from artistic creation. Even with someone like Leonardo his high octane fuel was probably sublimated sex drive.

Well, it’s a hypothesis, nothing more.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Most things good involved sex as it is the primary function. Chivalry is one example, the idea of nobility of spirit to protect innocence and and purity. Sex lays at the core of every family, and the family is why men will pick up arms and go to war, to die even. Family is why women will give up their wishes to serve the members, as it is the greatest good. Sex is supposed to be that exceptional special thing that it is only done by man and wife (I know, youthful flings, but we are supposed to grow out of them, or homosexuals who also are driven by this drive to couple with sex exclusivity)) and so makes their partnership exclusively theirs. Sexual Faithfulness in marriage is the greatest bond of trust, and breaking it is the greatest betrayal.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Bertie B

You malign the Sheep Sir.
Sheep and their magnificent wool* were the economic lifeblood of Medieval and early Tudor England .
Firstly as a raw material, then as manufactured cloth.

The East Anglian, Cotswold, and West Country churches are the visible record of those predictably greedy wool merchants, seeking pardon through religious patronage.

Even the Speaker of the House of Commons sits on the Woolsack, and stealing a Sheep was a Capital offence.

(* ‘Leominster Gold’ apparently being the finest.)

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

Was it really a Capital offence. They didn’t mess about in those days, did they?

I suppose you could say it all started to go wrong about the time they started making acrylic jumpers.

Hang on, I think I am on the cusp of an insight.

What is the key characteristic of an acrylic jumper (apart from the fact that it is horrible)? Static electricity.
Every time someone pulled on or pulled off an acrylic jumper he or she would have been supercharged with static electricity. Twice a day for weeks or months on end – that is bound to have an effect on the brain.

Some of the people wearing those jumpers will have been judges, politicians, members of think tanks.

You see where I am going with this, of course. It will not have been long before all those softened brains began producing touchy-feely legislation.
One day you could be surgically castrated for spitting, the next you were getting a week’s holiday in Benidorm for breaking and entering.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kremlington Swan
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Hence the expression “you might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb”.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

There you go. I have lived, today, and I have learned.
Would that it had always been thus.

(Is that right? I am worried that’s not right).

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
1 year ago

I suspect that it was a capital offense, as before a 19th century reform reduced it to 3, there were over a hundred capital crimes on the books in England.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
1 year ago

Left-wing publications like the Guardian, and other such institutions are hell-bent on circumscribing male sexuality. I can’t think of a more hellish existence for men than being married to a woman you don’t love and raising her babies.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

Oh, it’s not the Guardian. How could it be when the average commentator of any, many or no gender at that organ makes Larry Grayson look like Dirk Diggler?
No. As men we are destined to suffer one way or another for the privilege of f()king. We suffer if we do, and we suffer if we don’t.
No way out, and no way through.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kremlington Swan
kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

Apparently Vita Sackville-West & her husband were happily married with children but mostly had sex with their own sex so that sort of marriage suited them. Don’t the wealthier ‘continentals’ like in Colette divide between wife & mistress-so an update of that. Strange the Guardian going in for that old fashioned structure marriage-do all these ‘friends and lovers’ live in the same house?.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
1 year ago

You want me to pay to read this tripe?

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

No. They want you to pay to be in a position to ask them if they want you to pay to read this tripe. And to read replies to your question to them, and then reply to those.

They do reckon you be an addict, like. Probably find some hellish company of behavioural psychologists has advised them that the unrestrained ego of the average below the line commentator will keep him (and it’s more often he then she) pounding out the commentary even if he has to pay for the privilege.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

As Unherd steadfastly refuses to EVER discuss the Post Covid economic situation and world; they have to come up with something. This is NOT a news site – just look at their lineup of contributors, ex-Guardian, lifestyle gurus. What a terrible waste though – the BTL posters are the most educated and intelligent of anywhere, just waiting for Unherd to begin writing actual Journalism (that dead art), but I very much doubt they ever will.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Facts are expensive, opinions are cheap. I think I will subscribe, despite the blackmail. The quality of contribution above the line is better than I have encountered elsewhere and who knows, perhaps if there is enough in the kitty Unherd will one day fund a proper investigative news team to look deeply into a few things that really matter.
Unherd can’t really compete with rolling news coverage. We can get that anywhere. Go sign up to Reuters if you want something approximating unbiased reporting.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

A lot of sites have stopped comments. Unherd say they have to charge to pay moderators-so all this holding up comments was them. If you sign up they know your identity & way things are going not wise to be on a list might be considered anti anything. Wish I could think I was just being paranoid but this last year definitely happened.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
1 year ago

I immediately thought of the Suffragists in America whose slogan was “Votes for Women, Chastity for Men”!
They wanted marriage to continue to exist as a way of transferring resources from men to women, and for men to be beholden to their whims and wants. But without any expectation of intimacy.

These days, when marriage isn’t an automatic assumption, there is no reason why people, regardless of their sex or inclinations, can’t live their lives together on whatever terms suits them best. But making it a legal arrangement makes me think that one of the partners has their eye on the other’s stuff! Or at least is being mindful of that as an option.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
1 year ago

I thought Plato was all for boys being separated from their mothers at an early age, and educated by men who would have sex with them – putting a different slant to usual on the notion of platonic love or relationships.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

No, that was Cardinal O’Malley.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

He got the idea from the Spartans.