Religion and sex don’t mix.
At least, that’s the narrative of the sexual revolution: religion is prudish, even oppressive, and ruins the sex lives of religious people.
But I came across some recent (2019) research that challenges this narrative. In fact, it flips this narrative on its head.
The Secular Research:
‘The Ties that Bind: Is Faith a Global Force for Good or Ill in the Family?’
The report is in the form of an essay entitled ‘The Ties That Bind: Is Faith a Global Force for Good or Ill in The Family?’, put out by The Institute for Family Studies and Wheatley Institution, in partnership with various universities from across the globe.
The report seeks to answer a specific question: ‘is religion a force for good or ill in families around the globe?’
‘This report answers this question by looking at the relationship between religion and four important outcomes — relationship quality, fertility, domestic violence, and infidelity — in 11 countries in the Americas, Europe, and Oceania.’(3)
In terms of method, the report used a large segment from around the globe:
‘[The report uses] a sample of 9,566 men and women in heterosexual relationships in Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Ireland, Mexico, Peru, United Kingdom, and the United States drawn from the Global Family and Gender Survey, or GFGS… All of our analyses control for a range of sociodemographic factors, including measures of education, income, gender, nativity, age, marital status, parental relationship status, and children in the home.’ (22)
In other words, it’s a significant report, and worth paying attention to.
And so, what did it find out about relationship quality (including sexual satisfaction within the relationship)? Well, the findings may come as a surprise to many in our secular world.
1) The More Religious A Couple Is, the Better Their Sex Life
It may surprise many secular readers to learn that the more religious a couple is, the better their sex life:
‘There is a strong association between shared regular participation in a religious community and both relationship quality and sexual satisfaction in our sample of married and cohabiting heterosexual couples. For instance, women and men in highly religious couples were significantly more likely to report higher quality relationships than their peers in less/mixed religious couples or shared secular couples.’
(22, emphasis added)
But there’s another interesting finding around this research:
2) Religious Women Report The Highest Levels of Relationship and Sexual Satisfaction
The research finds that highly religious women (in religious couples) are the most satisfied with their marriage and sex lives:
‘While both women and men in highly religious couples reported significantly higher overall relationship quality and satisfaction with their sex life, the results in both cases were strongest for women in these couples. In fact, women in highly religious relationships are about 50% more likely to report that they are strongly satisfied with their sexual relationship than their secular and less religious counterparts in the GFGS.
(23-24, emphasis added)
We Shouldn’t Be Surprised By These Findings
The Bible tells a better story about sex than the sexual revolution
The report concludes:
‘… faith is a force for good in contemporary family life in the Americas, Europe, and Oceania. Men and women who share an active religious life, for instance, enjoy higher levels of relationship quality and sexual satisfaction compared to their peers in secular or less/mixed religious relationships. They also have more children and are more likely to marry.’ (4)
While many secular people will be surprised by this finding, Christians shouldn’t be. We of all people know that sex is good, and a precious gift for married couples (e.g. 1 Cor 7:3-4). Like any gift, when it’s used according to the Maker’s instructions, it will work best. It will unite couples as ‘one flesh’ (Gen 2:24-25) and provide a stable and secure means of bringing children into the world.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that all Christians will have better sex and relational lives than secular people. The research is based on statistical averages: individual cases can and will vary — not least because God doesn’t promise a great sex life!
But, in general, people that live their lives according to God’s good design will have richer, more meaningful and satisfying lives than those who ignore Him. (Rom 1:18-32)