Can Believing in God Kill Your Sex Life?

Judging by the sheer number of children being popped out by deeply religious couples – “19 Kids and Counting,” anyone? – I would have assumed that many believers have pretty rocking sex lives.

But according to a recent study reported by Tracy Clark-Flory over at Salon.com (“Do atheists have better sex?”), non-believers are having more fun between the sheets. And their happier hanky-panky is thanks not to superior skills (so stop gloating, godless heathens) but due to less guilt surrounding sex.

The study, titled “Sex and Secularism: When Happens When You Leave Religion?,” found that those actively engaged in some religious belief were less likely to report satisfaction with their sex lives, and were also less likely to indulge their sexual fantasies with a partner. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the more religious the household they were raised in, the more guilt they reported feeling surrounding sex. Also, when people ditched their religious beliefs, they reported that their sex lives improved.

Writes Clark-Flory: “Roughly 55 percent said sex ‘greatly improved’ after losing their religion, compared to 2.2 percent who said it got worse.” (Note, though, that this could be an example of exaggerated self-reporting).

One of the more surprising tidbits is that despite much higher rates of self-reported sexual guilt among believers, their sexual behaviour is not notably different from that of non-believers. It seems we all masturbate, watch porn, engage in oral sex and have pre-marital sex at similar rates. The authors summarize: “Guilt is a key component of religious attitudes about sex but actual behaviour[s] … do not change appreciably with religiosity.” It’s just that non-believers have less fun and more guilt while doing it.

So do you think that religious beliefs can have an impact on the quality of someone’s sex life? It makes sense to me – I’ve heard as much from friends who spent their childhood Sunday mornings in Catholic churches. However, I imagine the type of faith matters significantly, and whether the respondents in the survey were single or married.

But if you spent a big chunk of your formative years being told that sex is dirty and you deserve to be punished, I can see how that might put a kibosh on your adult sex life – unless, of course, you’re really into that.

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