Better sex through faith? New study links religion and satisfaction

Americans are inundated with pitches for products promising to improve their sex
lives, many with reality-defying claims that make up with advertising vigor what
they lack in scientific validity.

New research suggests a different approach may yield more success: religion and spirituality.

A national study based on data from the 2017 Baylor Religion Survey found
prayer, worship and a strong spiritual life all have a significant association with a satisfying sex life.

That ageless staple of male comics – that women lose interest in sex after the
wedding ceremony – also doesn’t seem to apply to married couples of strong faith.

Married couples with strong spirituality were not only having better sex, but more
frequent sex.

The findings upend some conventional wisdom that having a religious background
may lead to more sexual hang-ups.

The results of the study by researcher Stephen Cranney were recently published online in the Review of Religious Research.

Spiritual pathways

The idea of religion leading to better sex is not a storyline of soap operas or other
forms of popular culture.

Yet, what research has been done generally has found either a null or positive
association between sex-life satisfaction and religiosity, Cranney reported.

Much of that research focused on specific groups ranging from college students to
older adults, and used limited demographic and religious measures.

A major contribution of the current research is that it uses a nationally
representative sample of 1,501 adults across groups of age, gender and marital
status, with multiple measures of faith, practices and beliefs.

The overall conclusion: “In general, religious people are more satisfied with their
sex lives.”

The major findings include:

From the sanctuary to the bedroom. Participants attending religious services frequently were more likely to say they were satisfied or completely satisfied with their sex lives.
Prayer also helps: Personal practices and beliefs including frequent prayer and higher ratings of their own spirituality and religiosity were significant for reports of better sex lives.
Marital benefits: Married participants also high in prayer and self-rated spirituality were also more likely to have sex more often.

One of the striking takeaways was that the positive relationship between sexual
satisfaction and religiosity and spirituality was so consistent across measures and
gender, age, and marital status.

An initial analysis of the Baylor study also found that Jewish and religiously
unaffiliated individuals reported less satisfying sex lives.

But those tradition-specific effects became insignificant when self-rated religiosity
was considered.

A new attitude

Faith is not always helpful.

A study last year found pornography use was negatively associated with sexual satisfaction among individuals with stronger ties to conventional religion.

Similarly, in the Baylor study, Cranney found that while married people who
attached high importance to faith were likely to have sex more often, unmarried
believers who attended religious services more often were less likely to have sex
monthly or more. That could be related to religious disapproval of sex outside
marriage.

The research cannot make a definite causal connection, but the findings add to a
growing body of work indicating religion and spirituality are positively related to
sexual satisfaction.

In speculating on some reasons for the positive connection among faith and sex,
Cranney said it is likely that the enhanced sex-life satisfaction is
related to the well-documented broader influence of religion on subjective well-
being.

The study also in part resonates with research showing that individuals who
believe their relationships are sanctified by God may have added incentives for expressions of loving kindness, compassion, and affection among partners.

A recent study of more than 1,600 sexually active individuals in an American
Psychological Association journal found greater sanctification of sexuality was directly tied to greater sexual satisfaction.

But the study’s most practical implication may be in dumping cold water on
popular assumptions that religion must be a turn-off in the bedroom.

Hear the same narrative often enough, and even secular counselors and the faithful
may be hampered by false expectations, Cranney noted. At worst, individuals
could incorrectly self-diagnose religion as the problem when it may in reality help
lead to a solution.

A more nuanced understanding of the relationship between faith and sexual
satisfaction, both how it may be helpful or problematic, may help some individuals
and couples find greater happiness.

One new mantra for a satisfying sex life for some believers could be: Worship,
pray, love.

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