Final Thoughts

Throughout my blog I have examined why it makes sense that religion exerts control over most aspects of sex in people’s lives. These ideas of control could be understood when looking back at the history of religious texts and stories.

I thought that to finish off my blog I would let people talk about their experiences and ideas about religion! Enjoy!

 

18 year old male. Wheaton College student from Ghana

Q: Do you feel any kind of pressure to be a certain way when it comes to sex?

A: I felt pressure to be a player, sort of, and I didn’t want to be like that..

Q: Do you think that religion is important?

A: The way I was raised, religion was defined differently…Christianity in the United States, I mean the way it seems is not how I was brought up in Ghana. Period. Here it disgusts me, the way the Republicans use the name of God…It disgusts me.” “I think its weird how over here religion is quite a distasteful word, they just give a bad name to it period. I feel like I consider it a belief more…I would call my practice a belief rather than a religion. Religion has a bad connotation to it, at least over here that’s how is seems, but where I come from its just important to love someone. We were taught that church is the perfect place for imperfect people.

 

18 year old female. Wheaton College student from China

 

Q: Do you consider yourself to be religious?

A: …Yes

Q: What Religion?

A: Buddhist

Q: Do you feel any kind of pressure to be a certain way when it comes to sex?

A: Yes…I feel uncomfortable when it comes to sexuality

Q: Do you feel that is because of how you grew up?

A: I think it definitely has to do with the cultural context I have always been exposed to

Q: Do you feel any kind of pressure to be a certain way when it comes to your gender?

A: Yes. As a woman I feel my appearance is always being judged.

Q: Do you think that religion is important?

A: It is most important when people consider it as a way of life…and in a certain way it is also an actual existence…a belief system that supports us and explains the way we do things.

 

18 year old female. Wheaton College student from Connecticut

 

Q: Do you consider yourself to be religious?

A: I consider myself to be spiritual, not so much religious. I believe in a higher power but I don’t like the religious rules and aspects that can constrain someone’s thoughts and spirituality.

Q: Do you feel any kind of pressure to be a certain way when it comes to sex?

A: Yes. I feel like there is certain ages where it is socially inacceptable to have sex and certain ages where if you haven’t had sex yet it is also socially unacceptable…its usually somewhere is their teenage years is when that grey forms. Also, as a gay woman, its also less socially acceptable for me to like, be as open about my sexuality, and just because my sexuality is already taboo enough, there are a lot of regulations on how we have sex…people don’t see our sex as normal already, we are definitely not allowed to have sex in church.

Q: Do you feel any kind of pressure to be a certain way when it comes to your gender?

A: I definitely feel those gender roles and I try not to define them but I always see myself falling into them…I am a major feminist, like I am against gender roles and stuff like that, but then at thanksgiving I still found myself cooking the meals, setting the table, asking the men if they wanted anything. It was just sort of a natural thing I fell into while the men were watching football and I do feel like there are gender roles and things that we all have to fall into. But I really try not to fall into them and I feel I have defied them as much as I can.

Q: Do you think that religion is important?

A: I believe that it is important in some people lives, I know plenty of people where religion was a really good thing for them. They were in a bad place in their lives and they were just looking for something to grasp onto and religion gave them that little boost and got them out of a situation and changed their whole life around, they had something to live for, something to get out of prison and addiction…but I also know that religion can be damaging on many gay youth, and a lot of that, so its not so much important to society as it is for individuals and it should not be pushed on individuals by society and it also should not dictate peoples sexuality, peoples individual rights…

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Marriage Quote

“There is a certain relationship between love and the Divine: love promises infinity, eternity-a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence… It is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves. Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature… The love of man and woman tends to rise ‘in ecstasy’ towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.” (DCE 5)

Pope Benedict XVI writes about love, unity and ecstasy.

Expanding on Ideas of Marriage

For some people when they get married it is for one purpose and that purpose only: to be joined forever. Religion itself deals with the idea of marriage in a much more complicated manor. When getting married you are not only promising yourself to the person you are standing next to during the ceremony. The book of Catechism of the Catholic Church describes marriage as a bond, connection and sign of love between humanity and God. The reason that sex and marriage can get confusing in religion is because you should love and you should make love to your spouse, but you should always love God the most.

In the bible stories, scriptures and the Old Testament, there are stories that encourage us to love and have sex, but then there are ones that condemn humans to death and hell if we do. This is all because there is a perfect balance. In my previous blog I talked about the idea of marriage as a preventive measure for certain human urges. If one does not marry they are also being sinful in a sense, because marriage proves that you have at least taken all the proper steps in securing your heavenly destiny.  John Paul II discusses the elements of married relationship that are most important. Although there should be elements of romantic love that both people succumb to, without necessarily making a conscious choice to do so, it is essential that the relationship be based on a deep friendship. With friendship as the source of your love you secure your love to God as well as your partner. Marriage between a man and a woman is meant to “complete the image of God.

Works Cited:

http://www.maritalhealing.com/conflicts/selfgiving.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_and_sexuality#Catholic

Changing Ideals Pertaining to Sex

1 Cor. 7:2. … each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. Heb. 13:4. Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure …

 In the bible there are clearly many sexual references that encourage sex…between a man and a woman that is, but also references that seem to discourage it. That can set up all kinds of confusions and insecurities in lives of people that are striving to adhere to their religions code.  In this quote from the book of Corinthians, sex between a man and woman is described as a precautionary measure, a way to keep men from committing the sin of being with the same sex or members of his own family. Pretty romantic right? In this quote they also describe the act of sex as being a situation in which the man and woman both belong to each other and that is something that should be done often in order to ensure that men will not be tempted to turn to other forms of satisfaction that are considered sinful and unpure. Later on they say, “…it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (Coranthians 7:9) The excerpt above, as well as the short quote I just cited, make it clear that marriage is a tool used to keep one free of sin and thoughts that are considered to be unnatural.

Although this quote describes the relationship of marriage as a distraction from sin, it is important to have a healthy sex life and there are many other instances of this shown in the bible. In one of my interviews I spoke with an 18 year old male that has been raised catholic and considers himself to be religious. He described religion as being useful to people because it provides hope, as well as something to look forward to when your life comes to end. Worshipping God brings people together and provides a framework for life that is up to ones personal interpretation. When I asked whether or not he felt any religious pressure when it came to sex he explained that he did not feel pressure and did not feel guilty about sex.

Many students that I spoke with, both men and women answered that question the same way. When hearing this I started to notice that out of the people that considered themselves religious, many of them choose to focus on aspects of the religion that are important to them. People choose to include and accept religion in their life for different reasons, for some it may be to overcome an addiction, because it is tradition in their family, or because great friends and long-lasting connections were made. We sometimes forget that religion is not supposed to pressure us to think a certain way, but is an individual experience, both unique and important.

Gender Roles

The fact that God is a male instantly supports the idea that man rules over woman. God is “a ruling man within a patriarchal system” and because of his gender and his intrinsic power, patriarchy is legitimized (Cartledge). This also secures the idea that men have superiority over women and that they are inferior in comparison to all men.

Religion, in general, is not at all accommodating when it comes to connecting and including people that are unsure about their gender. I was very excited when I got a chance to speak with a gender queer about their experiences with religion and relationships with both friends and partners. They had tried to hide parts of the body that were obviously female and when partners became aware of that there was immense pressure to stop binding their chest because those part had become so “idolized” in a sexual relationship. They explained that when they came out as a gender queer they were told that they were “disgusting” and that “…if [they] had a sex change opperation [they] would wake up alone in the hospital.” Despite the challenges that arose with being a gender queer, they claim “…Im happy being in the grey area…”

Ellen Keim writes in her blog that gender roles can be an “important in part [in ones] maturing process.”Gender roles can be comforting to people when they are feeling doubtful of their duty or purpose in life. When one is experiencing these feelings, religion is able to offer up the idea of “Gods plan” which can be seen as gender roles! They are a set of social and behavioral norms that make one feel accepted and recognized by others. The only problem is that these gender roles cannot be used to help guide you if your gender is not accepted. Problems arise when people discover that they do not fit into the category of man or woman. If someone does not feel like a man or woman, and may desire to be both or neither, it is difficult to feel fully accepted in American society.

Works Cited:

Boteach, Shmuley . “Religious Sexual Repression and the Responsibilities of the New Pope.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 11 Mar. 2013. Web. 5 Dec. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-shmuley-boteach/religious-sexual-repressi_b_2852384.html&gt;.

Cartledge, Mark J. “God, Gender, And Social Roles: A Study In Relation To Emperical-Theological Models Of The Trinity.” Journal Of Empirical Theology 22.2 (2009): 117-141. ATLA Religion Database. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.

Ellen Keim’s Blog: http://www.femagination.com

A Short History of Masturbation

Masturbation, anal and oral sex, bestiality and homosexuality were all acts that were thought to “threaten the possibility of conception.” (Patton) Masturbation has remained the most “harshly” criticized by medicine, society and religion. “The Catholic Church condemned masturbation during the medieval and renaissance eras..” and after the Swiss Catholic neurologist Samuel Tissot proved a link between masturbation and insanity hundreds of years later, the church felt even stronger on the issue. Religious beliefs do not require any kind of scientific proof, but when Tissot began to study the connection between masturbation and insanity, the hostility strengthened after the Catholic Church now had a scientific basis to validate their beliefs and claims. Tissot’s idea of “masturbatory insanity” lasted until 1885, when a group of scientists began working on another hypothesis known as “ masturbatory neurosis” that claimed to cause epilepsy and other nervous disorders in the masturbator. These ideas were first challenged in the 1950’s.

In 19th century Victorian society masturbation was seen as “a natural sexual outlet” and even “essential” for males. (Patton) Women and children were not seen as sexual beings and were therefore told that masturbation was something that would cause homosexuality, fetishism (sexual arousal from an object) and more. Children grow up being told that their soul is good but that the body is evil. Both Catholicism and Judaism brought up the story of Onan from Genesis 38:7-10. In Catholic religion it is referred as the “Sin of Onan.” The Bible explains that Judah orders Onan to sleep with his sister’s wife in order to do right by her and provide the couple with children. When he is in the act he realizes that he does not want to give his seed to his brother, so he decides to “spill his seed” on the ground. Because he did not provide her with the ability to bare a child, his actions were seen to be that of masturbation. The idea of masturbation is a difficult topic because in some circumstances it is considered acceptable, but at other times a grave sin. In Reform Judaism it is “not evil, nor a threat..” but the same does not apply for Orthodox Judaism. When doing my research I found that female masturbation is not discussed as much as the topic of male masturbation. This symbolizes to me that only men are held accountable for the producing children. In my next blog entry I will discuss current gender roles in relationship to religion.

Works Cited:

Patton, Michael S.. “Twentieth-century Attitudes Toward Masturbation.” Journal of Religion & Health 25.4 (1986): 291-302. Print.

Bennett, A., “Jewish Views of Sexuality.” In Religion and Sexuality: Judaic-Christian Viewpoints in the USA, op. cit.

Do we need religion?

This is an interesting debate on whether or not we need religion in order to produce moral beings and a moral society. Religion is dealt with as a starting point for conversation about what is moral and what should be moral among people.

Religion, Gender and Sexuality

Both empirical research and theories of religious action show that women are more religiously committed in comparison to men. This idea actually has to do with risk taking! Research shows that men are naturally more willing to take risks, meaning that they are more willing to test the supernatural. Catholicism explains that if you grow up without religion, and have not been offered to accept it or not, then that person would remain naïve and pure. If, on the other hand, someone is offered to be part of Catholicism but refuses, that person has chosen to reject God, and therefore is subject to an alternative afterlife. In general women are more weary of these ideas, and sometimes subconsciously choose religion because they are not willing to risk the possibility of a terrible future.

In my first blog I discussed a woman who is considered to be “the perfect woman” in the Catholic religion because she honored the meaning of marriage above the violation of her own body. According to the bible, men and women were created for the purpose of procreation and solely this reason. When a man and woman are joined together in marriage “the two shall become one” – meaning that the couple forms a single entity. Turkish Villagers look at marriage as a “contractual relationship for economic and sexual benefits.” (Delaney, Kaspin) Regardless of where one is located on earth it is common for women of the Catholic religion to believe marriage as being a strict contract, such as the woman who remained in an unhealthy relationship. To her, there was no question of whether she would remove herself from this union, because by remaining in that marriage she was able to further show her commitment to God and to the rest of the Catholic society. Although most Americans do not fully commit to the part of their vows that state “until death do us part,” some people still take this VERY SERIOUSLY, so seriously that no matter the difficulties in the marriage, the contract that they made under God’s watchful eye is much more important than any pain he/she would have to endure in that marriage.

Cited:

1. Delaney, Carol Lowery. “Relatives and Relations.” Investigating culture: an experiential introduction to anthropology. 2nd ed. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. 164. Print.

2. Sherkat, Darren E.. “Sexuality And Religious Commitment In The United States: An Empirical Examination.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41.2 (2002): 313-323. Print.

The “seed-soil” theory

The “seed-soil” theory is inscribed in the bible as well as in the work of Plato and Aristotle. The male is the one who “plants” the seed and the woman is therefore considered to nurturer, but could merely be considered “barren soil.” This metaphor is often seen as a “naturalizing power” because it renders men with creativity and the engendering. Instead of the woman being “co-creator” she is simply seen as the bearer. This theory “allies men with the creative, life-giving ability of God” and only by God were women created.

In Catholic religion there is a major document, the Humanae Vitae, that lays out what is acceptable in human sexuality. It stated that each sexual act in marriage “must be open to the transmission of life.” They believe that life is not transmitted biochemically, but is rather when sperm and ovum merge. Because masturbation, “spill the seed” and homosexuality cannot create life, they are seen as wasting life, and therefore seen as being sinful.

Because of the development of different religions, rules and myths were made up for each one. This was to provide people, with again, some sort of meaning, a place in their society. Although there are aspects of religion, or maybe only specific ideas in certain religions that make people feel uncomfortable and/or forced to live in a way that they may not want to, there are reasons that societies function in this way. Where there is religion there is some sort of power. Everyone knows how they must behave in order to have a chance at being accepted and respected by their community. In theory a woman can do whatever she would like, but how will her life be if she does value the norms of those around her?

Cited:

1. Delaney, Carol Lowery. “Language: We Are What We Speak.” Investigating culture: an experiential introduction to anthropology. 2nd ed. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. 130 131. Print.

Religious Expectations

Masturbation is only one of dozens of things that women are not permitted to do in many religions. In Catholicism women are not allowed to be priests and bishops because they physically do not resemble Jesus, but they are expected to uphold the “appropriate models of female thought and behavior.” (Frances Kissling) A women that is thought to be an image of perfection in “Christian Womanhood” (Kissling) remained in an abusive marriage because she felt honor and respect toward the sacrament of matrimony.

Upon first reading about the many women who made tremendous sacrifices in order to be part of a certain religion, I was amazed and could not understand why anyone would subject themselves to such a stressful and unpleasant way of living, but these women did not sacrifice for nothing. Why did she choose to stay in a marriage in which he was being abused? What makes religion the most important thing in some people’s lives? Why is it ok for religion to preside over some of our basic human rights? These are just a few questions I will discuss!

Religion affects people’s self-control. Those who have grown up “religiously primed” (Herbert) will most likely have more self-control. This could be because they are “mindful of an ever watchful God,” (Herbert) or because of the idea of supernatural punishment. People are continuously forming their own identity over time. What one likes, what one doesn’t like, what one experiences, what one learns, etc… Religion allows people to practice, to give themselves meaning and to construct their social identities. Stories provide a foundation on which people are able to organize different groups in society and also find their own place in that setting. In religion rituals, myths, and symbols create comprehensive “narratives and stories that give meaning to individual and collective experiences.” (Dawson)

These myths and stories allow humans to confront “profound” and transcendent experiences such as death, pain, suffering and life’s purpose.

Cited:

1. Dawson, Lorne L., and Douglas E. Cowan. Religion online: finding faith on the Internet. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.

2. Herbert, Wray . “Why Do We Have Religion Anyway?.” Association for Psychological Science RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2013. <http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/were-only-human/why-do-we-have-religion-anyway.html&gt;.