Scientists Discover a Surprising Link Between Religious Beliefs and Sexual Satisfaction

Lead Image: The study also found that having many lifetime sexual partners was associated with lower sexual satisfaction.

A new study links stronger religious beliefs to high levels of sexual satisfaction.

According to recent research, higher levels of sexual satisfaction are associated with stronger religious beliefs.

Researchers discovered that people who perceive religion as significant in their lives had less sex – driven by abstinence among those who do not live with a partner – but are happier with their sex life overall.

According to the study, having many or no lifetime sexual partners is linked to lower levels of sexual satisfaction. Both men’s and women’s sexual pleasure were shown to be negatively associated with higher approval of casual sex or sex without love.

Dr. Nitzan Peri-Rotem from the University of Exeter and Dr. Vegard Skirbekk from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Columbia University carried out the research, which was published in The Journal of Sex Research.

Dr. Peri-Rotem said: “The relationship between sex frequency and sexual satisfaction is neither simple nor straightforward; across all relationship types, too little or too much sex is associated with lower sexual satisfaction, suggesting that an optimum exists in terms of frequency related to higher satisfaction levels.”

Researchers used data from the third British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles on men and women aged 18 to 59.

More religious married women reported higher sexual satisfaction than their less religious counterparts, but this association does not exist among married males. Additionally, single religious men reported greater levels of sex life satisfaction. However, this relationship vanished when the sample was controlled for attitudes to casual sex and sex without love, or when the sample was limited to sexually active respondents.

11% of men and 16% of women who responded to the study indicated that religion and religious beliefs are extremely important to them. More than two-thirds of those surveyed said they seldom, if ever, went to religious services. Half of all respondents were married, a further 17% lived with a partner, and 5% had no stable partner.

On average, men reported a higher frequency of sex occurrences in the past four weeks compared to women (4.4 compared to 4.0 respectively). Around a quarter of women and men expressed strong agreement with the statement “I feel satisfied with my sex life”, while 14% of women and 17% of men reported being dissatisfied with their sex life.

Nearly 40% of men reported having ten or more sexual partners in their lifetime compared to a quarter of women.

Dr. Skirbekk said: “As religious individuals are less likely to engage in casual sex and are more likely to limit sexual activity to a relationship based on love this can lead to lower expectations of sexual activity outside a formal union, as well as increased satisfaction from sex life in general. However, it is possible that religious sentiments about the sanctity of marital sex, as well as disapproval of sex outside marriage, matter more for women’s than for men’s sexual satisfaction. This is also evident by the relatively higher levels of sexual satisfaction among more religious cohabiting men when all other variables were held constant, while no similar relationship was found among cohabiting women.”

The study shows a significant association between educational attainment and sexual frequency and satisfaction. Highly educated individuals reported having less frequent sex, as well as reduced satisfaction from sex life compared to those with lower qualifications.

Dr. Peri-Rotem said: “Our research suggests that changes in sexual behavior need to be understood in a context of changes in religious norms and beliefs and other societal level trends. The postponement of union formation is related to less frequent sex, while also increasing the exposure to casual sex among those with weaker religious orientation.

“For women, it is found that having no sexual partners, as well as having ten or more lifetime sexual partners is associated with lower satisfaction from sex life. Among men, on the other hand, no relationship is found between the number of lifetime sexual partners and sexual satisfaction.

“However, disapproval of sex without love and of casual sex is linked with higher satisfaction from sex life among both men and women. While sexual satisfaction initially increases with sex frequency, it declines again at a higher number of sex occasions. Therefore, having “too much” sex may lead to a lower level of satisfaction from sex life.”

Reference: “Religiosity, Sex Frequency, and Sexual Satisfaction in Britain: Evidence from the Third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal)” by Nitzan Peri-Rotem and Vegard Skirbekk, 26 August 2022, The Journal of Sex Research.
DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2022.2108745

Kiran Fernandes

Kiran is your friendly neighbourhood tech enthusiast who's passionate about all kinds of tech, goes crazy over 4G and 5G networks, and has recently sparked an interest in sci-fi and cosmology.

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