Religion and Sexuality Research Paper



When exploring the topic of sexuality, religion plays a large role in the expression of sexuality. The authors of Sexuality and Religion, highlight many of the religious boundaries set on the expression of sexuality along with some of the possible positive aspects that come from the influence of religion on sexuality. When looking at the expression of sexuality in early history in comparison to today, things have changed. The authors discuss different ideas throughout the reading such as how religion plays a role in the sexuality and spirituality of people of different statuses and age groups, different theoretical perspectives of sexuality and religion, social control theory, the sanctification of sexuality, and a topic that has become larger in recent years, the LGBTQ community.

In the text, the authors refer to religion as  “a primary facet of culture” and claim that it “influences sexual beliefs, standards, and conduct” (Hernandez & Pargament, 2014, p. 425). Some religions have controlled people’s views and actions about sexuality since the beginning of time including Christianity and Judaism. These religions highlight the idea that sex is for procreation along with creating bonds in marriage. These religions also address that sex is meant to be between not only married individuals but that sex should be heterosexual. In recent years, although these religions still stand against it, the notion of homosexual sexualities and homosexual marriage is beginning to change as more and more people become more accepting of their sexualities along with other people’s sexualities. In contrast to religions such as Christianity and Judaism, other religions such as Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism view and teach sexuality in an entirely different way. The text explains that these three religions promote sex and how it can positively affect people in a spiritual sense. After discussing the ideas that different religions have towards the expression of sexuality, discussing who these ideas affect is also important. The authors explain in the reading while discussing the sexuality of adolescents along with premarital sexuality that “Research supports that greater religiousness is consistently, but weakly, associated with less sexual behavior among adolescents” (Hernandez & Pargament, 2014, p. 428). Looking at this quote, the reading shows that religiousness may have some positive effects on sexuality, especially for adolescents.

Discussed throughout the paper are two major theoretical perspectives of sexuality, the psychoanalytic and the evolutionary perspective. The reading explains the psychoanalytic perspective by discussing Sigmund Freud. The authors explain how he came up with the idea that “religiousness was rooted in the Oedipus complex and the child’s relation to his or her father. Namely, although infants feared their fathers, they depended on them for protection; as they grew older, a parallel process occurred as they transferred their dependency needs to god(s) as ultimate fatherly figures” (Hernandez & Pargament, 2014, p. 426). This explanation is given by Freud to explain the root of why people follow a religion. After discussing the idea of why people follow a religion, the text then explains how religion and sexuality are connected when talking about Freud’s psychoanalytic perspective. They claim that “religion was believed to control society because it served to regulate individuals’ natural impulses toward sex and aggression. Notions regarding religious guilt about sexuality are rooted in this self-regulatory function of religion and pervade modern society” (Hernandez & Pargament, 2014, p. 426). This quote is explaining the idea that religion and modern society can make people feel guilty if they express their sexuality because they may be looked down upon. LGBTQ is a great example of this guilt, although it is becoming more widely accepted in today’s society, in the past, it was greatly looked down upon. Until recently, and still not completely gone, the LGBTQ community faces discrimination. 

 The second major theoretical perspective is the evolutionary perspective. This perspective describes the basic idea that sex is for procreation. The reading includes “Sex is a basic need, an activity that is necessary to populate the world and provide a sense of connection” (Hernandez & Pargament, 2014, p. 426) when describing the ideas of the evolutionary perspective. This perspective can be viewed as the basic science of sexual reproduction. The authors go on to describe how the evolutionary theory is affected by religion. “Evolutionary theory adopts a narrow stance on religion, seeing it as one means to the end of mate selection” (Hernandez & Pargament, 2014, p. 426). Another idea that people tend to choose partners that have the same religious beliefs as them, but it emphasized that there is no deeper meaning for sex other than for procreation. Stemming off of these two major theoretical perspectives, the authors also mention social control theory. This theory is the idea that one abides by the unwritten rules of a religion or a society set on sexuality in fear of rejection. This theory relates to both perspectives in the sense that no matter what someone believes in, social control theory is in action.

The authors define sanctification “as the psychological process of perceiving an aspect of life as having divine character and significance” (Hernandez & Pargament, 2014, p. 438). The sanctification of sexuality is the act of viewing one’s partner as a divine being. The sanctification of sexuality relates to one’s religion in the way that it connects to one’s spirituality. It may not relate to the “traditional” religious ideas such as the teachings of Christianity, but it is related to one’s beliefs to a higher power. This uses the same structure as other religions, just to a different “divine power”. 

To conclude all of the connections between religion and sexuality, there are various aspects that religion can have on one’s sexuality. As highlighted in this paper, religion affects society, and society affects sexuality. It affects the sexuality of people of different statuses and age groups, there are two major theoretical perspectives that are connected to sexuality, social control theory affects sexuality, the sanctification of sexuality, and lastly the role that religion and society play in the LGBTQ community. 

Work Cited

Hernandez, K. M., Mahoney, A., & Pargament, K. I. (2014). Sexuality and religion. In D. L.

Tolman, L. M. Diamond, J. A. Bauermeister, W. H. George, J. G. Pfaus, & L. M. Ward

(Eds.), APA handbook of sexuality and psychology, Vol. 2: Contextual approaches.

(2013-05867-013; pp. 425–447). American Psychological Association.

https://doi.org/10.1037/14194-013