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Religion’s Effect on Sex

by Iovanna Borjas

Throughout history, religion has played an important role in the development and evolution of society. Humans have had a tendency of following such traditions since “the emergence of modern humans, about 200 thousand years ago,” according to BBC Future. 

Even though there has been a decline in the number of people affiliated with a religion, data shows that 31.4% of the world population is Christian, 23.2% is Muslim and the rest is either unaffiliated or practice Hinduism, Buddhism or other religions, according to Pew Research Center. 

Most world religions are structured and often rule people’s lives by giving them ethical and moral codes to follow. In most cases, sex and sexuality are mentioned within these traditions as they often indicate the guidelines people should follow in order to be in a rightful path. 

Steven Geisz, University of Tampa philosophy professor, said that religious traditions are complicated and that this makes them different from each other. 

“Many world religious traditions see sex as being antithetical to spiritual being,” said Geisz. “There is a lot of diversity of belief within them.”

Geisz teaches Philosophy of Sex (PHL 399), which will be available in the spring of 2020. 

UT has students from 132 countries who make 20% of the student population. This has created a diverse environment on-campus where people can practice their religions and cultures freely. 

Students sharing their experiences regarding religion and sex asked The Minaret to remain anonymous.

An anonymous junior international business major, grew up in a household where his whole family practices Islam. Growing up a muslim, he was often reminded that he should not have sex before marriage. However, he does not believe or follow this rule. 

“I think we should decide what to do with our bodies; sex is something that helps us connect with people,” said the anonymous student. “Knowing it was wrong made it even more desirable; when you can’t have something you want it more.” 

According to Muslims For Progressive Values, sex is seen as a positive thing in Islam. For example, in “early Islamic history, sex was seen as a positive part of human life” and sex can be used for more than just procreation, as long as the couple is married. 

While living with his parents, the anonymous student had to think of creative ways to have sexual relations without being caught. 

“I used to pay my girlfriend’s chauffeur to leave us alone for 30 minutes to have sex in the car,” said the student. “Religion didn’t really stop us but it is embedded in our heads since we were children.”

Another anonymous source – a junior at UT – grew up in a family who practices Hinduism. Even though he doesn’t know the especific guidelines for sex in Hinduism, he said that it is normal to have arranged marriages between families. 

“In the culture [sex] is frowned upon,” said the anonymous student. “But we also wrote the book on sex so it’s kind of confusing.” 

Geisz said that, depending on the Indian tradition, sex is viewed differently. 

“In some parts of the Indian traditions, brahmacharya [celibacy] is thought to be a requirement for spiritual practice,” said Geisz. “However, in other parts of Indian tradition the body and bodily desires are seen as tools one can use for spiritual growth as one seeks to escape from samsara [cycle of life].”

The anonymous student does not practice Hinduism anymore, which has allowed him to have sexual freedoms and to do what he wants. This has brought differences with his family. 

“When my mom found out I was having sex she freaked out but my dad didn’t care,” said the student. “I started to think for myself. Now, I don’t really believe in anything.”

Another anonymous who is a junior accounting major, said religion changed her perspective on sex and stopped her from doing sexual things for the majority of her life. She grew up in a Catholic family and attended a Catholic high school until she moved to Tampa to start college. 

“Moving to the United States opened my eyes in many ways,” she said. “What if you don’t like how your partner is in bed? I could not marry someone without knowing their sexual skills.”

In Christianity and, therefore, Catholicism, it is a sin to have sex before marriage. Geisz said that sex is a subject discussed by Apostoles in the Bible. 

“[In Christianity], if one is capable of being celibate and dedicating one’s life fully to God without having sexual activity in it, then that is idea,” said Geisz. “If one is not capable of or willing to do that, then one should confine one’s expression of sexual desire to a relationship that is sanctified by the institution of marriage.”

The anonymous student said that she thinks religion has changed the way men and women are viewed by society. 

“It makes me mad when people praise guys for having sex with a lot of girls but discrimate on girls for having sex with a lot of guys,” she said. “It should be the same for both of them and discrimination should stop.”

Geisz said that the relationship between religion and society might be different.

“There is often a big difference between the ‘official’ line of a religion as put forward by its leaders and its sacred texts,” said Geisz. “Religious traditions are wildly complex things.”

Iovanna Borjas can be reached at iovanna.borjas@theminaretonline.com

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