Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sex & Religion



I thought it was only fitting after the last post featuring The Hijabist, that I share with you what my interviewees had to say about sex & religion. Obviously, this is a very polarizing issue, people feel very passionately both for and against religion. It is one of those things, it will always be....

I was thrilled to see the discussion the last post generated. And thats really the healthiest part about this exercise, talking about it - airing out concerns and issues.... learning to tolerate views that are the opposite of ours. So once again, I'd love to hear your views :) 

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Ayesha, Female, 28
 Textual religion I can’t say anything about, but in practised reformist Islam in urban upper class Pakistan demonized sex to such an extent to children and teens that when the time comes to actually have sex, even after marriage, people have already developed an internalized horror of things sensual and sexual. In the Islam my family practices, sex is to be used only to tie one’s spouse to one’s side and in order to procreate.


Layla, Female, 19
It plays a very significant role, and is seen as both good and bad, depending on the situation ( eg.  Premarital supposed to = bad). But a mother giving birth to her child = beautiful. It heightens the power of God as it is like a miracle.


Ambreen, Female, 28
i think in each religion they mention it (as far as my knowledge is concerned) i think sex is very important.... i remember reading somewhere foreplay was mentioned in a hadith... infact there are certain schools of thought that say a wife can ask for divorce if she's not sexually satisfied....


Mariam, Female, 26
Oh god… (groans) I don’t think that sex plays any role in religion…I think religion plays a big role in people's sex lives. In religious guidelines…. Sex is something….functional….especially our religion…Islam…so its really sidelined…. Religious people cannot have any notions about sex….simply because they’re not permitted by religion to have such notions about sex…apart from its very functional …and reasonably enjoyable nature….but reasonably enjoyable for the more emancipated religious people. For the less emanciapated it’s simply functional…that’s why it has a huge bearing on people's sex lives….if u take that (functionality) out of the equation …people would be much happier with their sex life.


Fatima, Female, 25
Sex plays one major role in religion – PROCREATION. But you know, different religions different thoughts…it doesn’t have to be nasty like people make it in our culture.

Our religion encourages you if you want a divorce. I think that way this religion (Islam) is a lot more accepting, I mean fine – it may be a bit male-oriented, but then… all religions are. But yeah – it allows you four wives; you can be ‘doing four different people legally’…

 Also, religion came down pre-contraceptives…pre-birth control, pre-safe sex…so when they tell you not to be sodomizing each other it makes sense. But – that was a time when we couldn't have these plastic things that do wonders. If you take sodomy in the old sense… then yeah… that would mean oral sex too – but you see religion came down when everyone was promiscuous, it didn't come down when everyone was behaving themselves. People started behaving because religion came. So at times like that I’m sure everyone was pretty skanky… so would you want to put your mouth to that skank?

The funny part is that the religious extremist center of Pakistan –  is the first part of Pakistan (up in the north) where we had our first gay marriage earlier on…and then of course they blamed the earthquake on it saying it’s a sign of “Qayamat” …well there are gay marriages all over the world and there are no earthquakes as a result of them. Yeah we still have a lot of education that lacks but its funny how they can be so accepting of the fact that yeah we like it this way…and we can get married… however you come into city centers and urban areas its like we’ve gone back in time – where we’ve caught up with the west everywhere else – this is something that’s still very taboo. It’s what the 80’s was in England for gays is what Pakistan  currently is; very, very closed minded. Yes – a lot of families do disown their children. Yes – a lot of kids have been beaten the shit out of. My own uncle married a gay woman (and this is in the early 80’s) so she could get her inheritance.

We don’t believe in ourselves because that’s what our society teaches us – is not to believe in ourselves even sexually. Sexuality is very personal and because you’re told not to have personal beliefs you end up very dead in today’s world. FUCK people – open your minds… start living! 

Sumeira, Female, 25
I don’t think you should put sex and religion together – they are two different things. I don’t think you should combine them – They are two very different things.


Zobia, Female, 22
Many established, institutionalised religions such as Christianity and Islam try to restrict sexual activity to reproduction, if anything at all.  Other religions like Hinduism embrace sex, whereas Buddhism promotes abstinence and monks aren’t meant to make any physical contact with women whatsoever.  Leading religions however, (i.e. Islam, Christianity) encourage a minimal interest in sex…mostly implying that it is an impious or unclean act…totally ruling out any spiritual qualities that can be attributed to sex.

Saira, Female, 22

 I actually think sex plays a big role in religion in general. I think its misinterpreted that its not allowed or its taboo....its impossible to have a healthy marriage without it so it promotes it in a way. Actually i tihnk in islam u are allowed to have a divorce from ur husband if he's not sexually pleasing u. 


Rabia Female, 23
Sex is an integral part of marriage, and marriage of my religion. Thus it is an important one.  There are numerous mentions of intimacy in the Quran and Hadith (which I can provide if you would like) which indicate their significance.

Farah, Female, 29
Most if not all religions place a number of restrictions on sex. I think in Islam, there are some positive discussions and some negative. The restriction on sex before marriage is understandeable and workable only if people marry very young, and therefore perhaps these parts of the scripture should be reinterpreted to reflect modern times.


Sam, Female, 28
ahh..sex and religion haha. well i should say that to my knowledge, Islam does pay importance to sex, (in marriage of course). Apparently you get 'sawab' for having sex with your partner. And islam certainly is accommodating towards it. I know they say four wives concept was not just to satisfy men’s needs but also to provide women support etc, but c'mon...how many men do we know who'd have the urge to marry 3 more times for charitable purposes ONLY? you take the sex out and i wouldn't expect many muslim men will indulge in polygamy much! 

Plus the enticing offer of virgins in heaven (for men) again seems like gods willing to bribe the men with sexual favours! (no offense).

BUT Islam also expects you to bathe everytime you have sex, because you need to pray five times and sex makes you 'unclean', plus you can't have sex during a roza. That, my five-time-praying-friends tell me, isn't most conducive towards their sex lives.

Regardless of how people may choose to defend their religions, I think it has played an extremely negative role by repressing sexuality in society! And i'm talking about what the holy books (mostly abrahamic religions) say, I am not talking about modern practices (which aren’t always an accurate depiction of the religion)

It is after all religion that condemns sex outside marriage, it requires women to cover up, it tries to de-sexualize women, it prohibits contraception etc

The woman most revered in Christianity is the 'Vigrin Mary'. Its like the idea of her having sex was so damaging to her piety and purity, they told everyone, she managed to conceive a baby without intercourse!!

The general message that religion seems to send, specially for women, is that the less sex you have, the less sexual you are, the more pure and holy you are! 

Maliha, Female, 21
Sex in religion…Its become quite a controversy, I think, and there are a lot of misconceptions with regard to sex.  So much of the idea of original sin has seeped into our culture, along with its guilt with regard to sex, and the idea that it’s disgusting or shameful. We forget that there are whole verses devoted to sex in the Quran and that several hadith have detailed how to please your partner.  I think Islam in particular is quite practical about sex – it doesn’t make a fuss about it, but it doesn’t ignore it entirely either.  It recognizes sex as an important part of life, and as with other important areas of life, it gives us advice on how to go about it in a civilized manner.  It’s only us that have created such a wall of mystery and shame around the topic.  Silly of us, really.


Mahreen, Female, 26
I think some religions see sex as a means to oppress women, to “keep them in their place”. A lot of the double standards I see are promoted by religious figures. But that’s my view.


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Ah, thats a healthy and diverse set of opinions... 


What the men say, next time :)

9 comments:

  1. It's interesting to see the varied knowledge of sex in religion amongst the respondents. While some have read & know the practical aspect of sex & Islam, others have based their views more on what they've heard and seen. It's sad that people in Muslim countries try to suppress sex ed, and as a result make it seem unclean when its not.


    The reason we have to bathe after sex to offer prayers is the same reason we have to do wadhu after eating before offering prayers, we have to disassociate from the world during prayers, its not because sex is unclean.

    Islam is extremely open about sex, and no where prohibits contraception. More than any other religion or ideology, Islam recognizes the importance of sex in human life.


    Also, it doesn't really oppress female sexual desires. If anything, it protects females by prohibiting men from sex during periods, which doctors today say would be harmful for females. Same for anal, condoms or not, the nerve damage that can result due to anal can be extremely dangerous, fatal even

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    1. THanks for your comment aB, I'm not sure that the intention of forbidding sex during menstruation is to 'protect women' and i'm not really sure why they can't just make up their own minds about whether they want to have sex during their period or not.

      Also, I have never before heard that sex during menstruation can be harmful...is there a link or something u can provide me with...because I'd love to see what this perspectives justifications are...

      That said, I do appreciate that u took the time to put down ur thoughts. Cheers ;)

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  2. Dear ". aB .",

    "More than any other religion or ideology, Islam recognizes the importance of sex in human life." - wow, an extremely expansive statement , with no qualifying proof...
    "If anything, it protects females by prohibiting men from sex during periods, which doctors today say would be harmful for females." - again, no proofs offered, purely anecdotal justification. I don't know if you've every really been with a woman but during certain parts of their period women often become *extremely horny* - so preventing her from getting satisfaction rather than simply being hygienic about sex during menstruation seems a very cruel pill for women to swallow.
    "Same for anal, condoms or not, the nerve damage that can result due to anal can be extremely dangerous, fatal even" - this is really your most specious statement! Nerves are there to flag pain and possible damage to the body. Frankly, if you're having anal sex and it's causing nerve damage, your hurting your partner, which means you're not doing it right.
    There are plenty of guides out there to mutually pleasurable hetero anal sex. Take a look. You're missing out unnecessarily, and so is your partner, if you have one (which your comments suggest that you don't BTW)...

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    1. Completely agree with you about the fact that if ur having nerve damage during anal.... ur definitely hurting someone, and not doing it right. If anal sex were that fatal, then a lot of people would be dead from it. If its done right, it can be completely safe. But you've also got to recognize that its definitely 'an acquired taste' (sorry for the gross pun... couldnt think of another way to phrase it lol) - some people can be very open minded, but just dont want to go that route... i think thats fair ...

      Thanks for ur comment ;)

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  3. Dear Saadi,

    Firstly, thank you for the personal attacks you made there, my sexual life is my personal matter and I am perfectly capable of having opinions/views based on acquired knowledge, not just from sleeping with someone :)

    As for proof, there are doctors you can talk to about sex during menstruation. I have had asked doctors, that too female ones about it and the majority hold the view that its not safe, irrespective of how horny they might be feeling. Now to give you some "proof", "A woman's risk of sexually transmitted disease and infection is higher than normal during this time because the cervix opens to allow blood to pass through. Unfortunately, this creates the perfect pathway for bacteria to travel deep inside the pelvic cavity. A woman is also more likely to pass on blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis to a partner during her period, and she's more likely to develop yeast or bacterial infections because the vagina's pH during menstruation is less acidic" as taken from http://www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health/101/specialist/berman/sex-during-period.aspx . You can recheck with your doctor to see if the above statement is valid or not.

    Safe sex, or contraception, has not always been around, condoms are a recent invention, and the cow guts that were used as make shift condoms in times before weren't really a healthy option either. Religion is supposed to be for all times, not just for during the 21st century, and you have to open your mind a bit to understand that. The medical reasons do make a perfectly good case of avoiding sex during periods.
    Also, ask most women, majority will agree that sex during periods is not a very appealing option for that.
    As for leaving women unsatisfied when they feel horny during periods, my friend, if you are as experienced as you claim to be, you will know that there are other ways to satisfy a woman too other than penetration, and trust me, they work really well, maybe you'll learn with time :)

    Coming to anal sex, other than the nerves, anal sex is not hygienic. Most advocates of anal sex today state condoms as a way of safe anal sex; again the recency of condoms is a valid argument. The nerve damage is an issue, bruising and bleeding as well. and as Eiynah said, its not something everyone is willing for. If you want to go for it, that's your choice, but frankly, when we believe in a religion, giving up on an already rarely used form of sexual activity is not that big of an issue, honest.


    As for your first object, its a comment, last time I checked, citations were not a requirement for it. Read up on sex in Islam and you will know what I meant when I wrote about openness of Islam towards sex.

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    1. if you arent in a committed monogamous relationship, then you should be using condoms during sex anyway.... (re: the risks involved during menstruation or anal)... if u are in a comitted monogamous relationship, then those risks aren't really applicable) - just my humble opinion... but ur right, as far as preference goes, both anal and sex during menstruation arent everyones 'cup of tea' (gross metaphor, i know)... i know plenty of women that would prefer not to be touched during that time of the month... since alot of em feel so icky anyway. But that said, the choice should be theirs and their partners... :)

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  4. Dear ". aB .",
    I thank Eiynah for addressing most of your points already:
    1) Personal taste is key to sexual habits, clearly.
    2) You should be using prophylactic contraception if you're not in a committed monogamous relationship anyway, which negates your STI transmission point. So no, "The medical reasons do make a perfectly good case of avoiding sex during periods." is quite wrong, I'm afraid.
    As for: "Also, ask most women, majority will agree that sex during periods is not a very appealing option for that." my experience has shown that menstruation is such a hormone roller-coaster for most women that inevitably, at some point, in that part of their cycle, they want sex, and they want it immediately, and they want a lot of it. Granted though that this experience may be subjective and hormones work differently in different women and some women's desire for sex is over-ridden by their views on personal hygiene (which I happen to think is silly since most people wash themselves after sex or use wet wipes anyway)
    "Religion is supposed to be for all times, not just for during the 21st century," - well, I'm not sure you can call yourself a progressive-looking muslim if you don't believe in "Itjehad". FWIW - I'm not a muslim at all, but i firmly believe it is for religion to evolve based on society and not vice versa.
    Regarding your point: "As for leaving women unsatisfied when they feel horny during periods, my friend, if you are as experienced as you claim to be, you will know that there are other ways to satisfy a woman too other than penetration, and trust me, they work really well, maybe you'll learn with time :)" - as you may also know, there are different ways for women to reach climax, and sometimes non-penetrative orgasm just isn't an option...
    Re anal sex, I have to tell you that it is hardly a rarely practised method! It's very common indeed, perhaps more in sexually open societies than Muslim societies. It can be totally hygienic if you want it to be, and regarding "The nerve damage is an issue, bruising and bleeding as well" - if you pleasure a women well enough beforehand (I prefer clitoral orgasm for this) then I assure you that the muscles in the pelvic area become extremely relaxed and open and nerve damage and pain becomes a non-issue.
    I believe that anal sex was only banned under Islam because of repression and fear of the male homosexual act. Which is the same repression which led me to refute your first statement. I have yet to find any proof that Islam is sex-positive. But hey, just my 2 cents...

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  5. Firstly on Ijtihad, there are some things that Ijtihad cannot take place on, these are the things which are explicitly talked about in the Quran, sex during menstruation & anal sex are in this category.

    It is your belief that anal sex was banned for fear of male homosexuality, it is not what most of us believe.

    Anal sex is a preference of men in hetrosexual relationships for most part, this is an observation, you can look up studies on it if you wish.

    Coming to openness of sex in Islam, firstly, other than the two forms of sex that Islam has forbidden, everything else is allowed, from oral to any other position you may wish to indulge in. In the so called "progressive" societies such as the US, up till recently people were jailed for indulging in oral sex, and in some states it is still not legally allowed. I can't recall the exact reference of the Hadith, but it is narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) allowed for indulgence of sex from behind (which includes the doggy style position). There was a myth in the Arab culture that approaching a woman from behind will result in the child conceived being born with abnormalities, and this was broken by Islam. I will have to look up the exact reference because as I recall, there even is a Quranic verse which was sent to negate this myth.

    Sexual preference is a personal choice you say. Let me present to you an example. There are those who prefer incest & there are those who prefer pedophilia, if tomorrow scientists find out that both these preferences are inborn, that they cannot be helped, if the person is not allowed to indulge in them that person will go insane, and that there are no medical consequences of either of these practices both on the people indulging in them and in the children born of it as a result, would you accept them?

    If you think that your partner's desires for sexual pleasure during periods are uncontrollable, she can be brought to an orgasm via fingering, intercourse is not the only option for it :)

    Why is it that people only focus on the sexual preferences that affect their personal tastes and disregard the allowances given to them in religion? and also, why is it that the propagators of anal sex & sex during periods are virtually all men? Are they not trying to enforce their will upon their female partners when it comes to this?

    Why do people forget that Islam gives a woman the right to get a divorce if her sexual needs are not being met as apposed to faking it all her life? Eiynah can link you to the interview she did with the woman who never had an orgasm in her life. Christianity doesn't allow for divorce, other religions don't either, Islam does, that too for unmet sexual needs irrespective of how well the relationship otherwise is. Is that openness for sex or not?

    And if we keep evolving religion to meet every new issue, what will be left of the original set of beliefs? Tomorrow everything will be allowed because the society is progressing? Where is the logic in that? Will the US Government reduce the drinking age to 15 in the US because most teenagers are already drinking at that age? No, they won't because it has risks involved. Same is for religion, leeways can't be made for everything, some things just need to be accepted. If you believe in a religion, you should be open enough to accept that not everything you desire will be permissible under it and have to live with that, not go around questioning and demanding for change in everything.

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  6. LMAO... @ Word Art. L in religion is straight up and G is hung down.

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