The Effects of Religiosity on Sexual Behaviors
Religion plays a massive role in everyday life whether an individual is Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, even Atheist because although Atheists do not associate themselves with a particular religion they still have their own set of beliefs which is the belief to simply not believe in a God. Religion has been broadly defined as a set of institutionalized beliefs in a higher power and includes statutes or regulations for how to guide one’s life (Holder et al., 2000). According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Pyramid (Berger 2005), religiosity falls under the Self-fulfillment needs portion of the pyramid which includes Self-actualization (achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities).
Sex (sexual intercourse) also plays an immense function in the lives of not only human individuals but every living organism on the planet. Every animal is biologically constructed to reproduce. According to Freeman (2005), reproduction is the unconscious goal of virtually everything that an animal does. This statement refers back to the theory of evolution by natural selection which explains why animals reproduce. Consequently, sex should fall under the Physiological Needs portion of Maslow’s Pyramid which includes the most basic needs.
What is the result then, of these two elements combining? Religiosity and sex, a combination of a basic human need and a self-fulfilling need, does one overpower the other or can they both impact an individual equally? Hunt & Jung (2009), argue that religion (including its secular equivalent, i.e., global capitalism) remains a powerfully influential cultural force that shapes people’s lives, in general, and sanctifies their beliefs, in particular, about what makes for good sex. Religions have traditionally been guardians of sexual norms and practices. Religious beliefs and practices vary widely, but they form an important resource when reflecting on human sexuality. This indicates then, that religiosity can actually control individual’s sex lives by how powerful someone’s belief system and faith seem to be. A devout religious person would then be controlled more by their sacred values opposed to their biological human needs. According to the results of Barkan (2006) who focused solely on premarital sex by never-married adults it was found that religiosity has a consistent, fairly strong, and statistically significant deterrent effects on the number of sexual partners. Barkan was able to demonstrate that the more religiosity someone possesses, the smaller the number of sexual partners they tend to have opposed to a person who is not very religious.
Religious practice and participation such as attending Sunday mass, baptisms and burials among people has also undoubtedly declined in the past few decades. In fact, according to Orathinkal and Vansteenwegen (2007) the Sunday Mass attendance in Belgium (one of the most predominantly catholic countries in Europe), dropped from 94% in 1967 to 71% in 1995. When taking only church attendance into consideration, after reviewing this data an exchange in a person’s way of thinking could possibly take place in which religiosity would take a backseat when it comes to sexual decisions and actions. If then, there is a correlation between mass attendance and how religious a person seems to be, human biological impulses due to sex would more than likely overpower the beliefs of celibacy until marriage that most religions do acknowledge as the “precise” thing to do. When merely considering church attendance however, a few psychological questions concerning attitudes over behavior need to be analyzed more carefully.
For instance, in an article by Bradshaw and Cowden (2007) it is stated that early on, religiosity was generally operationalized as church attendance, which is potentially problematic because this measures behavior rather than attitudes, and behavior is influenced by non-attitudinal forces, such as social and familial pressures. This fact will be measured carefully and taken into massive consideration when collecting data to ensure the validity of the study (religiosity will be measured by what the individual indicates opposed to taking into consideration how many times that person attends religious services).
Example of a specific ethnic background study that could take place among the Latinos:
There is no doubt that a variety of different results could be the outcome of this study which is why ethnic background and culture as well as a general demographic location are also being taken into consideration. Latinos all hold an ethnic similarity and therefore certain cultural similarities as well. The decision to focus on one ethnic group assists the research on its clarity of reliability through the population while still having variability among the participants through random sampling. The decision to collect data in one demographic location increases the cultural similarities among the participants.
Latino culture then must be taken into consideration. Often in the Latino culture, males and females take on different gender roles which then contribute to the sexual activities that take place. Latino males tend to be more sexually active than Latino females and this is probably due to machismo and marianismo. Machismo is a concept that describes the male role as dominant, independent, and protective of the family, whereas marianismo refers to the female role as a caregiver, a virgin, and obedient to men (Gloria, Ruiz, & Castillo, 2004). Due to these exceedingly different gender roles, it is apparent that males are given more sexual liberty while females are expected to remain celibate. The influence of machismo and marianismo in the lives of Latino adolescents may depend on their level of acculturation; Acculturation has been defined as the process by which one is influenced by the host culture and one’s own culture of membership (Edwards et al., 2008; Berry, 2003). This straightforward culture value has a significant function when it comes to drawing conclusions about the data that will be collected about religiosity and sexual activity among Latino youth.
I hypothesize that the more religiosity a person possesses, the less likely they are to engage in sexual behavior such as masturbation, premarital intercourse, marital intercourse, and other intimate acts. Sexuality, being viewed as a socially disapproved behavior should be less prevalent in Latinos who are more religious.
Participants: Due to the nature and context of this study, I propose to select 300 Latino university students at random. These students will have to be over 18 years of age but no older than 26 years of age. Of the research sample, 150 participants will be men and 150 will be women, in order to keep the ratio of the two sexes balanced. Therefore the proportion of males to females will be more generalized when calculating data between the two sexes. The participants are going to be selected from The University of Texas Pan American where there is a vast population of Latinos. The student participants are to be informed of the nature of the study as well.
Materials: The materials for this experiment include the Religion as Quest Scale, the I/E-R scale, and the ASC Scale. The I/E-R is a 14-item, 5-response Likert-type scale, which according to Bradshaw and Cowden (2007) has been extensively used. Questions include: “I try to live all my life according to my religious beliefs.” (I) and “I go to church because it helps me make friends.” (E). The Religion as Quest Scale is a 12-item, 9-response Likert-type scale. Questions include: “As I grow and change, I expect my religion to also grow and change.” The Attitudes Related to Sexual Concerns Scale is a 28-item, 5-response Likert-type scale that was developed to measure attitudes that have been identified as associated with a variety of sexual concerns. Demographic variables will also be examined such as age differences and gender differences. My data will fall under the assumption of nonparametric statistics using The Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test. A scantron will also be used for easier statistical analysis to be sorted out and calculated towards the end of the study. The responses of the questionnaire will be placed in a software program called PASW (Predictive Analytics SoftWare; formerly SPSS).
Procedure: Before the actual questionnaires are distributed, an informed consent form would be explained and read thoroughly. Each participant would have to fully understand the purpose of the study and what it entails before signing the form. After the forms are signed, the participants would receive each survey separately. Note that there is no time limit to complete the questionnaires and inclusion in the study is strictly voluntary. A scantron which is to be used for all three surveys will be handed out at the beginning of the study before any questionnaires are passed out. The scantron would have three separate sections indicating where each survey is to be filled out. Each questionnaire will be administered separately. After one of the questionnaires is filled out completely, a participant would turn in the first survey and receive the next and so on until all surveys are completed. Participants would be surveyed in classroom settings throughout the university. When all of the surveys are completed they are to be separated by gender, this is for a later data comparison between the two genders. After separating the 300 surveys into two stacks of 150, calculating data may begin by imputing data into the PASW system.
Results: The data will fall under the assumption of nonparametric statistics using The Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test. It was hypothesized that the more religiosity a person possesses, the less likely they are to engage in sexual behavior such as masturbation, premarital intercourse, marital intercourse, and other intimate acts. I anticipate that the future results will support this hypothesis.
Discussion: The present experiment examined the effects of religiosity on sexual behaviors in the young adult Latino population. It was hypothesized that the more religiosity a person possesses, the less likely they are to engage in sexual behavior such as masturbation, premarital intercourse, marital intercourse, and other intimate acts. I anticipate that the future results will support this hypothesis. Previous research has proven that religiosity does play a role in sexual behaviors. Barkan (2006) found that that religiosity has a consistent, fairly strong, and statistically significant deterrent effect on the number of sexual partners. He also found that the belief that premarital sex is wrong accounts for almost half of this effect. A limitation of this study would be that only one demographic location would be used as well as only one college Latino population opposed to various populations. This however, could be very simply solved by future research on this topic over a wide range of different Latino populations. A future study concerning different ethnic groups would be a great idea considering the fact that little research has been conducted on Latinos alone. Another limiting factor would be the proportion of heterosexual participants to homosexual participants. According to Bradshaw and Cowden, in most research, unless special recruitment methods are pursued, the non-heterosexual sample tends to be so small that statistical significance is hard to achieve. The generality of this study also needs to be taken into consideration because the sample population did come from a university setting. The results would yield greater generalizations if a larger sample was selected outside of the college atmosphere. Future data collected from UTPA students may represent systematically different information from young adult Latinos in general. In addition to these motives research has suggested that few studies have focused specifically on Latino/a youth especially examining the relationship between religiosity and sexual activity among Latinos, therefore more research is needed (Edwards, Fehring et al., 2008). Not only are more studies needed for Latinos but more studies need to be conducted concerning the subject matter of sexuality and religion itself. Perhaps future research examining homosexual religiosity or the effects of religiosity on sexually deviant behavior should be considered. Future research in this area however shouldn’t solely consist of Western cultures and religions. A wider Anthropological approach needs to be taken into consideration also. Studies from different cultures and other countries would be a valuable addition to this branch of psychological research.
–Monique T. Cano (Undergraduate at the University of Texas Pan-American majoring in Psychology with a minor in Anthropology)
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