Religious belief linked to greater sexual satisfaction

When psychologists and therapists offer advice to increase sexual satisfaction, they suggest communicate sexual desirestalking dirty, trying new sex positions, embrace the new, watching porn together, exercising, and introducing sex toys, among many other ideas. Unsurprisingly, given the cultural stereotypes, something they never recommend is “finding a religion.”

But given the results of a study recently published in the Journal of Sex Research, maybe they should. Research suggests that we can learn something from sexually satisfied believers.

holy but sexy

Vegard Skirbekprofessor of population and family health at Columbia University, and Nitzan Peri-Rotem, a social demographer at the University of Exeter, has teamed up to analyze the survey responses of 10,683 heterosexual adults aged 18-60 in the UK collected as part of the National Survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles. They were particularly curious to see how participants’ self-reported religiosity correlated with their frequency of intercourse and overall sexual satisfaction.

“Results indicate generally higher satisfaction with sex life among those who considered religion somewhat or very important compared to those stating that religion was not important at all,” they found.

This is despite the fact that religious men and women reported slightly less frequent sexual activity than their non-religious peers. The disparity was greatest among religious and non-religious single people, but was negligible among cohabiting and married couples. Going through previous research, the authors found evidence that religious individuals derive more meaning from sex and tend to put themselves in situations that lead to more pleasurable encounters.

“Previous studies have shown that increased investments in long-term, exclusive partnerships and more time to develop satisfying, trusting relationships can impact sexual satisfaction, while sex outside of a committed relationship is often linked to lower sexual satisfaction,” they noted.

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Religious people are more likely to limit their sexual activity to relationships based on love and devotion. Sexual satisfaction is consistently higher within these types of dedicated partnerships.

Does secularization lead to worse sex?

Based on the results, the researchers speculate that the increase in secularization associated with delayed marriage in the Western world might decrease overall sexual satisfaction.

“Delaying couple formation is linked to less frequent sex, while increasing exposure to casual sex among people with lower religious orientation. Therefore, declining religiosity and increasing celibate population are likely to exacerbate these trends, which could potentially lead to lower sexual satisfaction,” they wrote.

As the study was conducted on individuals in the UK, it is difficult to say whether the results would translate to Americans. Healthy relationship education is obligatory in UK primary schools for children aged 5-11, and comprehensive sex education is compulsory in secondary schools for children aged 12-16. Within the American educational system, sex education is often below average or even absent between primary and secondary, especially in regions where religion is more important. This could erase the sexual satisfaction benefit observed in the current study, or reverse it altogether.

Yet the current study is interesting because it challenges a common stereotype that religious people have an asexual and generally unexciting erotic life. Although they have a little less sex, it seems that they perceive the quality to be higher and more fulfilling. Isn’t that what really matters?

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