Briefly stated, the Bahá’í concept of sex is that it belongs strictly inside a marriage:
The Bahá’í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse . . . The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 344)
Its primary purpose is the procreation of children who will know God and observe His commandments, thereby contributing to an ever-advancing civilization:
For Bahá’u’lláh explicitly reveals in His Book of Laws that the very purpose of marriage is the procreation of children who, when grown up, will be able to know God and to recognize and observe His Commandments and Laws as revealed through His Messengers. Marriage is thus, according to the Bahá’í Teachings, primarily a social and moral act. It has purpose which transcends the immediate personal needs and interests of the parties. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 345)
And the fact that pleasure is derived from it is one of the bounties of God.
The primary purpose of sexual relations is, clearly, to perpetuate the species. The fact that personal pleasure is derived therefrom is one of the bounties of God. (The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05, Homosexuality, p. 11)
It’s only one moment in a longer process:
The sex act is merely one moment in a long process, from courtship through marriage, the procreation of children, their nursing and rearing, and involves the establishment of a mutually sustaining relationship between two souls which will endure beyond life on this earth. (The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05, Homosexuality, p. 11)
With that understanding in mind, someone recently suggested that sex is the most important thing inside a marriage and an important component in finding someone physically and spiritually attractive to you (in that order), because Baha’u’llah lists it first as in this quote:
The true marriage of Bahá’ís is this, that husband and wife should be united both physically and spiritually, that they may ever improve the spiritual life of each other, and may enjoy everlasting unity throughout all the worlds of God. This is Bahá’í marriage. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 118)
Given my understanding of the topic, this didn’t sound quite right to me. The quotes I’m familiar with on the topic of choosing a marriage partner, and getting married include:
As for the question regarding marriage under the Law of God: first thou must choose one who is pleasing to thee, and then the matter is subject to the consent of father and mother. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 118)
Bahá’í marriage is the commitment of the two parties one to the other, and their mutual attachment of mind and heart. Each must, however, exercise the utmost care to become thoroughly acquainted with the character of the other, that the binding covenant between them may be a tie that will endure forever. Their purpose must be this: to become loving companions and comrades and at one with each other for time and eternity. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 118)
He realizes your desire to get married is quite a natural one, and he will pray that God will assist you to find a suitable companion with whom you can be truly happy and united in the service of the Faith. Bahá’u’lláh has urged marriage upon all people as the natural and rightful way of life. He has also, however, placed strong emphasis on its spiritual nature, which, while in no way precluding a normal physical life, is the most essential aspect of marriage. That two people should live their lives in love and harmony is of far greater importance than that they should be consumed with passion for each other. The one is a great rock of strength on which to learn in time of need; the other a purely temporary thing which may at any time die out. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 378-379)
Marriage should lead to a profound friendship of spirit…. (Shoghi Effendi: The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 452)
The Lord, peerless is He, hath made woman and man to abide with each other in the closest companionship, and to be even as a single soul. They are two helpmates, two intimate friends, who should be concerned about the welfare of each other. If they live thus, they will pass through this world with perfect contentment, bliss, and peace of heart, and become the object of divine grace and favour in the Kingdom of heaven. But if they do other than this, they will live out their lives in great bitterness, longing at every moment for death, and will be shamefaced in the heavenly realm. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 122)
I don’t see sex in any of the underlined phrases!
The Faith is clear in how we look at sex.
It’s the natural right of every individual inside a marriage.
The Bahá’í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse, but condemns its illegitimate and improper expressions such as free love, companionate marriage and others, all of which it considers positively harmful to man and to the society in which he lives. The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. The Bahá’ís do not believe in the suppression of the sex impulse but in its regulation and control. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 344)
It’s there for our enjoyment but we can’t get attached to it or put it ahead of spiritual things:
We are not ascetics in any sense of the word. On the contrary, Bahá’u’lláh says God has created all the good things in the world for us to enjoy and partake. But we must not become attached to them and put them before the spiritual things. Chastity in the strict sense means not to have sexual intercourse, or sexual intimacies, before marriage. In the general sense it means not to be licentious. This does not mean we Bahá’ís believe sexual relations to be impure or wrong. On the contrary they are natural and should be considered one of God’s many blessings. (Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance v II, p. 69)
The only reason we give it too much importance is because we’re living in a decadent period of history with an absence of spiritual values:
The world today is submerged, amongst other things, in an over-exaggeration of the importance of physical love, and a dearth of spiritual values. In as far as possible the believers should try to realize this and rise above the level of their fellowmen who are, typical of all decadent periods in history, placing so much overemphasis on the purely physical side of mating. (Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 233)
The spiritual coming together with a physical one is defined as a true relationship, which will endure through all the worlds of God:
When, therefore, the people of Bahá undertake to marry, the union must be a true relationship, a spiritual coming together as well as physical one, so that throughout every phase of life, and in all the worlds of God, their union will endure; for this real oneness is a gleaming out of the love of God. (Selections from the Writings of “‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 117)
In this quote, the spiritual comes before the physical, and again, the physical could refer to some of the underlined phrases.
Having said all that, I think this sums it up best!
The institution of marriage, as established by Bahá’u’lláh, while giving due importance to the physical aspect of marital union considers it as subordinate to the moral and spiritual purposes and functions with which it has been invested by an All-Wise and loving Providence. Only when these different values are given each their due importance, and only on the basis of the subordination of the physical to the moral, and the carnal to the spiritual can such excesses and laxity in marital relations as our decadent age is so sadly witnessing be avoided, and family life be restored to its original purity, and fulfill the true function for which it has been instituted by God. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 226)
How do you understand the place of sex in marriage? Post your comments here: