The Future of Religion and Partnered Sexual Satisfaction

Midjourney’s interpretation of “Married Mormon couple.” It’s uncanny how well it visually taps into stereotype.

Deseret News published another piece of mine, this time about evidence that shows that, contrary to conventional wisdom, religious people report more satisfying sex lives. So now for my post-game, more casual, more speculative blogosphere analysis. 

First off. Yes, I did check, and no, it doesn’t look like Latter-day Saints have better or worse sex lives on average, but this isn’t surprising since there were so few of them in the sample I was using that the effect would have to have been huge for me to pick it up. 

I suspect some of the finding that religious people have better sex lives is because religious people have rose-colored glasses about things in general. I’m open to the possibility that highly sex-negative, religious upbringings could affect sexual functioning, especially in women, and I would not be surprised if some future research found that certain types of early-life religiosity are associated with aorgasmia, for example (but would also not be surprised if there was no such effect; a lot of people have sexual hang-ups, not just religious people). 

However, I still suspect that a conservative Church upbringing is a net positive. For every person who can’t switch into marital sexy mode after a teenagerhood of chastity lessons, there’s another one whose religious upbringing helped them avoid highly negative early life sexual experiences, where the structure and expectations provided by religion allowed them to develop their sexuality in a loving, secure, context.  

I suspect the advantages of the latter will become even more pointed as the digital alternatives become more available and tempting as technology develops. As I’ve already spoken about at great length in several posts, for those disposed towards pornography use, secular anti-pornography arguments fall a little flat in a contemporary zeitgeist that emphasizes sexual authenticity. If the gay returned missionary who marries a man is being authentic to his sexual self, then so too is the highly sociosexual 20-year old heterosexual sitting in his basement watching pornography. 

In the past the latter case had an outlet, gradually developed across history layer by sociocultural layer, that vectored their desires into a partnered relationship that in turn entailed adopting various responsibilities. (Of course, that’s not to say that that’s all there was, but it was a big part). Of course, all of the sudden there’s now a short-cut and, as I’ve written about at greater length in two other pieces, the digital replacements for the real thing are going to become more and more of an issue as technology develops. 

So what does this mean for the future of partnered sexual satisfaction among the religious? 

First, I suspect the highly insular setting required for intense religious guilting is a thing of the past. In addition to the fact that people are less religious, it’s just much harder to maintain the “sacred canopy” anymore where you can tightly control your children’s environment. I think this was inevitable, and I’m not saying it’s all bad. It just is what it is. 

At the same time, as the Carrie-type, ultra-religious guilting becomes more of a thing of the past, the sexual structure provided by religion will become more distinctive in a landscape with little in way of structure and a lot in way of options. Consequently, I suspect the religious advantage in partnered sexual satisfaction will become increasingly pronounced.

1 comment for “The Future of Religion and Partnered Sexual Satisfaction

  1. Sexual intimacy is more rewarding when we’re building a life with someone–rather than just being with someone that we really like. If we bond with someone in a total sense — that is, blending our lives together as we build a home and a family — then we’ve opened ourselves up to being intimate with each other on many different levels–and all of that works together to make our sexual intimacy more complete.

    That said, I’ve learned over the years that erotic love by itself is not powerful enough to sustain a marriage–indeed, it can be rather fleeting. There must be a greater love that undergirds the marriage relationship–and of course the greatest love is Charity. And as charity never faileth–so too a marriage that is founded on charity will never fail.

    That (and that) said, I think we need to remember that, while marriage in the eternities may look a lot like marriage here in a typological sense, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it might be a bit different in practice. It will, no doubt, be founded on the love of God–and that’s not to say that eros will be nonexistent–I don’t know–but it will certainly be bridled by and directed by the greatest love.

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