Learn About Sexuality

The influence of religious beliefs on sexuality

Each culture has its own set of values. Some people consider these beliefs to be more important than others. While we are children, our parents make choices for us in the belief that they are for our benefit. Once we are adult, we can decide on our own values. It is likely that the way we express our sexuality is influenced by the cultural and religious beliefs we hold.

Before the availability of reliable contraception, intercourse inevitably led to pregnancy. Marriage is a legal contract aimed at ensuring that men pay for the families that result from the regular sex they want. Women hope for love, respectability and support for their family goals. Although a woman tries to attract a man, she waits for him to propose marriage before considering the attention he pays her to be a sign of love rather than lust.

Once reliable contraceptive became available it was proposed that women would instantly behave as men do. This has not happened. In general men still have to date women before there is likely to be any sexual activity. Men still ask women to marry them. The issue of consent is alive and well. Women primarily agree to sex in combination with a loving relationship.

Traditional moral standards condone promiscuity in men but insist that a woman must be a virgin on her wedding night. Women are easier to control than men. If a son makes a girl pregnant, he can escape responsibility. Families have much more to lose if a daughter becomes pregnant. Marriage traditionally involved a man paying for an unsullied (chaste) sexual asset.

The words monogamy, bigamy and polygamy all refer to how many wives a man has. In some religions and societies a man is allowed to have many wives. There are very few instances of women having more than one lover on a long term basis. Even rich and powerful women generally have a relationship with only one man (if any). It is much more difficult for a woman to control a man than it is for a man to control a woman. It is embarrassing for women to be viewed as such an obvious sexual asset.

Men can volunteer to be ‘sperm donors’ and their semen is offered to women who cannot (or don’t want to) conceive by natural means. Test-tube babies are conceived in an artificial environment. But the developing embryo must then be implanted into a woman’s womb. We can replace the male role in reproduction but not the female role. Test-tube babies must develop in the womb and are born like other babies. Women, called ‘surrogate’ mothers, volunteer their wombs in return for payment. New groups, such as gay men, can have a baby using one of the partner’s sperm.

Women, more than men, look for spiritual justifications for sex. The modern tantra movement is an example of this. But orgasm relies on enjoying eroticism. There is nothing spiritual about it! A positive response to eroticism occurs naturally when a person is responsive (capable of orgasm). We respond positively to eroticism because we are aroused by sources of eroticism. To a man such urges are natural and pleasurable.

Anyone who lacks a response to erotic stimuli cannot appreciate the mental turn-on of sex. They question the purpose of sexual activity and seek a moral or a spiritual justification for sex. Women associate sex with a loving relationship and family. They don’t understand the sexual urges that men experience. So women are often offended by genitals and fantasies.

A person who doesn’t enjoy eroticism is not consciously choosing to be ‘inhibited’. It’s just the way they are and most likely they are happy to be that way. They simply don’t have the benefit of enjoying the pleasure of responding positively to eroticism. People who object to suggestions for enjoying sexual pleasure have rarely experimented themselves to explore outside intercourse. They simply cannot imagine that they would ever enjoy more adventurous sex and so they believe that no one else should.

Anyone who engages in activities outside the socially acceptable is described as perverted or deviant. Anyone, even a woman, who talks about sex in public is suspected of having sexual or political motives. Women tend to avoid sexual discussions. Men don’t want to be labelled as perverted. Most people want to be seen to conform to the social norm.

Men who are practicing members of a religion tend to engage in sexual activity (of any kind) less frequently than others. Inevitably the concepts of celibacy and abstinence are much more appealing to those with low responsiveness. Once someone has experience, such as masturbation, there is little difference between those who are religious and those who are not. So religious beliefs deter people from gaining experience in the first place.

It is easier to abstain from sin when one is not physically or psychologically endowed with the capacity – or with much capacity – to sin. (Alfred Kinsey 1953)

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