More about this poem
It is widely believed that Robert Burns first came under the censure of the church in 1784-1785 owing to his affair with a servant girl Elizabeth Paton. This resulted in the birth of his first child, Elizabeth or rather 'dear bought bess'.
The session books of Tarbolton Kirk for the period of Burns's attendance there are unfortunately no longer extant, and so there is no formal record of the young couple having been publicly rebuked on this occasion, yet Burns alludes to the Kirk's disapproval in the bawdy song 'The Fornicator', probably written in 1785 in response to this incident, and later included in The Merry Muses of Caledonia (1799).
In 'The Fornicator' we acknowledge Burns's inability, or rather his unwillingness, to take seriously the punishment imposed by the Kirk for fornication, which Burns describes as 'the blissful joy of lovers'.
Here we see the triumph of sexuality over religious orthodoxy. Burns and his lover stand side by side on the cutty stool. Instead of attentively receiving his rebuke, Burns is rather distracted by the 'bare-legs' of his 'handsome Betsey'.
The poet does not seem ashamed to be standing on the cutty stool - at this point in time it seems of little consequence to him. Rather, he is preoccupied with thoughts of what caused him to be there in the first place - sex.
The poet pays the monetary fine for fornication which he caustically terms 'buttock-hire', with feigned 'rueful face and signs of grace' only for the couple to re-offend as soon as they leave church, and so this song is not remorseful in the least.
'The Fornicator' is a defiant and unashamed assertion of Burns's belief that sex conquers all. And so, Burns's declaration that he is indeed a 'Fornicator' becomes a defiant affirmation of his sexuality as opposed to a label of debauchery and impiety.