For our cultural contraceptive mentality, where fertility is divorced from sex and no longer seen as an essential aspect of it, sex ends after intercourse ends.
But in reality, the nature and significance of sex reaches far beyond the individual act of intercourse. And only by seeing it in relation to everything it affects as a whole, does one really see what its true nature is.
We might say, then, that sex ends with the conception of a child. This brings fertility back in the picture, making an essential connection between sex and children. And this is correct, but we can go further.
Perhaps sex is really complete after the newly conceived baby is born. And there is some truth to this as well. Nothing shatters the myth of casual sex then holding a newborn infant in your arms. It’s in that moment, holding tiny new life in your hands after the ordeal of labor, that one knows that sex is definitely not casual. On the contrary, it is the stuff of life and death.
And still we could keep going. For now the love of a man and a woman has a face in a third person. Now a family exists. The child will now learn what it means to love and forgive and be human primarily from his parents, whose love conceived him and now nourishes and educates him (could it really mean nothing that a child is raised by a man and woman, as opposed to two men or two women?).
The child will grow up and perhaps have children of his own, teaching them in turn what it means to love and forgive and be human, perpetuating goodness, virtue and human dignity to new generations.
Does sex ever really end? It seamlessly opens out into the future, bearing fruit long after two intentional lovers collapse in each others arms.
If we respect its nature, sex moves like a spiral galaxy; its arms slowly opening up, unfolding and embracing the universe. Now the idea of sex being something that only affects the people who play with it looks to be as much a myth as the idea of casual sex. Our culture’s sterile sexuality is more like a black hole, that collapses into itself, taking everything—even light itself—with it. The cult of sterile sex begins and ends with “me”. It is anti-social, anti-relational, and anti-future.
But the spiral galaxy grows out, not in; it unfolds, not collapses; it holds countless young stars within its arms, not sucking all light into its darkness; it is generous, not selfish; it is birth and growth, not death.