Religion Does Far More Damage To People’s Sex Lives Than Porn Ever Could

by • October 9, 2019 • Health, Psychology, Society, SpiritualityComments (0)958

Ask anyone who grew up in a conservative Christian or Muslim upbringing and, if they feel vulnerable enough, will confide in you the honest truth–religion destroyed their sex life. In a world filled with headlines of how “damaging” porn is to one’s sexual well-being, it pales in comparison to the damage wrought by growing up under the judgemental gaze of the religious right (i.e. wrong).

“Sexuality is religion’s worst nightmare because it offers the possibility of personal autonomy,” writes Dr. Marty Klein in his book America’s War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust and Liberty. For ages, conservative religions have been censoring what you read, hear, and see; they limit your access to contraception; they falsely brand themselves as the the gatekeepers of moral values; and they hijack the brains of teens by convincing them the Almighty is not a fan of premarital sex. “Anyone can be sexual — rich or poor, old or young, tall or short, educated or not,” adds Klein. “Religion attempts to seize sex as its own domain, claiming a monopoly on morality which primarily is about limiting sexual expression (rather than ethical or rational decision making). Religion’s ideas about sex centre on ‘don’t do this and don’t do that.'”

But when it comes to the religious right’s sexual brainwashing the biggest white elephant in the room is the big ‘G’–guilt. Recently at work my friends and I were having a candid conversation about porn. A colleague of mine, a recently married, young, straight Catholic guy, said he finds it hard to watch porn because it makes him feel guilty. And he’s not alone. Countless other millions of brainwashed folks around the world experience the same feeling when watch porn as well. The whole thing is perfectly ironic–feeling guilty for wanting to watch others experience guilt-free sex.

“Across the country, therapists are now seeing a tide of young people, feeling immense shame and pain about their sexual urges, desires and behaviors, as these young people encounter the wide world of sexuality available outside the confines of these moral fantasies,” writes David J. Ley Ph.D. for Psychology Today in his article entitled Overcoming Religious Sexual Shame. “The youth can use their smartphones to see all the sex they want, or they enter college, where they find that their newfound freedom is exhilarating and intimidating. One young man I saw a few years ago was an 18-year-old college student, deeply afraid that he was addicted to masturbation. He was only masturbating once a week, but because he’d grown up in a family where any sex outside monogamous marriage was sinful and condemned, his quite normal sexual behavior was experienced with deep shame and fear.”

“Tina Schermer Sellers,” adds Ley, “is a Seattle-based marriage and family therapist and sex therapist who has been seeing these purity-movement victims for several years now, and has encountered countless individuals and couples who feel lost and alienated from their sexuality, caught between their desire to be good Christians, and their all-too-human physical needs and reactions. She explores the provocative proposal that the purity movement has actually resulted in sexual trauma, by using shame as a weapon to make young people hate and fear their own bodies and needs. Her new book explores her own journey as a therapist through the narratives of the people who came to her for help:”
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“Sex was a silent, loaded topic in my family while I was growing up.”

“Sex is for marriage and that’s all you need to know.”

“I feel like the church instilled in her [his wife] to be deeply suspicious of me and their sexual drives. Now, that same suspicion is in bed with us every night. I hate it, and I wish we could just enjoy having sex without all the suspicion about who’s thinking what.”

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“Schermer Sellers explores the origins of sexual shame in Christianity, grounding much of it in early religious acceptance of the mind-body split,” adds Ley. “The mind/body split is the notion that our souls and our bodies are two different things, and that our bodies are mired in the evils of the physical world, while our souls can, and should transcend our base desires. This root rejection of our physical experiences, and the perception of sexuality as the most tempting, corrupting aspect of our physical lives, led to millennia of sexual shame, where sexuality is portrayed as a weakness. Those who abstain, who take vows of chastity, are seen as most pure. Sadly, that leaves all the rest of us as tainted.”

In her feature written for VICE entitled How Evangelical Purity Culture Can Lead to a Lifetime of Sexual Shame, former born-again Christian Linda Kay Klein lays out the long-lasting damage of the ‘purity movement’ which emerged out of white evangelicalism in the early 1990s. “Eventually, though, Klein realized that she wasn’t nearly alone. In 2006, she began compiling dozens of testimonies from childhood friends involved in the purity movement and found that they were all experiencing similar feelings of fear, shame, and anxiety in relationship to sex. ‘Based on our nightmares, panic attacks, and paranoia, one might think that my childhood friends and I had been to war,’ writes Klein. ‘And in fact, we had. We went to war with ourselves, our own bodies, and our own sexual natures, all under the strict commandment of the church.'”

In her article Spirituality and Sexuality—When Religious Clients Present for Sex Therapy, Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D. writes, “Religious faiths have a wide variety of beliefs and proscriptions around sexual interactions. Although discourses of the conservative Christian denominations in the United States are often sex negative, that is not true for all religions. Judaism is historically a sex-positive religion. Sexual pleasure is seen as a mitzvah, a blessing from God, and sex within the context of marriage is supposed to be pleasurable for both husband and wife. It is a private pleasure, one that may be seen as difficult or inappropriate to discuss outside the confines of the marital relationship, family home, or religious school, but it is a pleasure that is highly valued in religious teachings. In fact, sexual pleasure is seen as so critical to the success of a marriage that husbands swear to provide sexual pleasure to their wives as part of the wedding ceremony (D. Ribner & Kleinplatz, 2007), and lack of marital satisfaction is one of the few acceptable grounds for divorce among religious Jews (D. S. Ribner, 2004).”

“Islam, like Judaism, has historically had somewhat complex regulations around sex; however, unlike in Judaism, these regulations do not start from a fundamental religious acceptance of the role of sex in relationships,” adds Boskey. “Instead, they are highly culturally dependent. Dr. Sara Nasserzadeh, a psychosexual therapist in private practice, explains that “In Islam, we argue over everything. People from [various countries] can be practicing under the same name of Islam, but be totally different because of the cultural context. Therapists need to know the cultural context first, then the religion. Culture is everything.” As such, even therapists who have worked with Muslim clients from one culture should be careful not to assume they know the beliefs other Muslim clients hold about sex. For example, a Shiite Muslim from Egypt might believe that a nikah mut’ah, or temporary marriage, could be a good way to explore a commitment to a partner, while a Sunni Muslim or a Shiite Muslim from a different cultural background would find such a notion heretical (Inhorn, 2006; Mahmood & Nye, 2013). That said, according to Nasserzadeh, therapists can safely work from the assumption that Islamic faith puts a high value on marital success and that, in treatment, saving the marriage comes first. She explains that, ‘in Buddhism, they say [sex] is a part of the natural cycle of life but, in Islam, sex is very practical, very functional, because Islam is a very practical religion.'”

In another feature written for Psychology Today, David J. Ley Ph.D. writes, “That religious, conservative background leads people to overestimate the harm and shame attached to pornography use, and to experience greater distress related to porn use, which they label as an “addiction.” One study at a Christian college found that 60 percent of Christian males seeking help for porn-related problems viewed themselves as addicted to pornography, although only 5 percent of those men met any of the criteria related to addictive disorders. Recent research has found that belief in oneself as a pornography addict is predicted by religious values, and not by porn use, and that this perception of oneself as addicted predicts negative emotional outcomes, while actual porn use does not.”

Ley’s research indicates that if your brain is wired for religion then your experience with porn will tend to lean towards guilt. Ley argues the more you use it that guilt will recede and porn use can actually become a tool to benefit your relationship and help undo the years of brainwashing you experienced associated with all things sex.

Religion does infinitely far more damage to your sex life than porn. Is a hard-wired conservative brain ideal for sex? No. Is a dependency on porn ideal for sex? No. A craving for porn is merely a craving to find a healthy balance somewhere in between those two extremes. Your interest in porn is less so an interest in what you see in those videos, and moreso an interest in trying to correct your pendulum that’s swung way too far to the right.

SEE ALSO: How North American Evangelical Leadership Is Fueling Thousands Of LGBT Murders & Attacks Globally




Photo by Hutomo Abrianto

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