Sex and relationships

Religious and Ethical Aspects of Sex

Religious and ethical aspects of sex
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Sexual ethics is a category of ethics that deals with issues arising from all aspects of sexuality and human sexual behaviour. Sexual ethics varies significantly depending on a religion professed in a particular society.

Present day global world implies travelling, moving, and consequently, the number of sexual relationships among the representatives of different cultures and religions is constantly increasing. Being ignorant of another culture’s peculiarities it is possible to easily offend its representative unintentionally. Or a given signal can be easily misunderstood. Let us carry out a brief overview of the basic cross-cultural and interdenominational differences in sexual ethics.

European sexual ethics presents a combination of the two ethical systems – biblical and ancient Greek. The biblical system is a particular set of rules, given to a person by God, and their violation is considered to be sinful and leads to grave consequences. These rules are undisputed. Their accurate observance without unnecessary discussion and doubt is called morality; a person observing them is considered to be “good”, the one violating them – “bad”. The set of rules existing in ancient Greece was created on the basis of public thoughts and convictions and has nothing to do with a divine origin. On condition of following certain rules a person was regarded as a “good citizen”.

Buddhist sexual ethics is completely different. Life in Buddhism is regarded as a difficult existence full of suffering. But this suffering has a cause, which can be eliminated by us. There exist certain patterns of behaviour which are a guarantee of inevitable suffering. Consequently, if we do not want to suffer we should avoid these patterns of behaviour, but if it suits us then it is a personal choice of every individual. Buddhist teachings state that the result of our activity is sure to take its toll on us in a long-term perspective.

An important role is attributed to sexual motivation in Buddhist sexual ethics. Some simple examples are the following: if we engage in the sexual activity because of a strong desire, anger or affection it will have a devastating effect. If we do it because we otherwise cannot fall asleep, it is neutral. But if we have a sexual intercourse with the right person to show our love and please him or her, then it will have a positive effect. To understand the subtleties, of course, it is necessary to take a closer look at Buddhism. Similarly, sex with a strange partner is condemned, if we have a permanent partner but engage in sexual activity with a different one, in the future we will face difficulties with our partner since we harm him or her. If you do not have your own partner in a similar situation, then in the future when you finally find him or her, they will commit adultery. And so on and so forth.

In general, we can conclude that Buddhist sexual ethics is aimed at the minimization of problems and sufferings by means of eliminating wrong behaviour.

Judaism surprises us with its liberal attitude to sex. The genitals were never regarded as something indecent since God had created a person in his image and likeness. Besides, a great number of sources state that the Jews were never inclined to think that people should get married solely for the continuation of the species, that it was the main purpose. Sexual pleasure has its own value but since the highest religious sense is attributed to the concept of the family, sex should have place only in marriage.  Talmud allows a wife to refuse sex if she has no desire and besides, it lets her take the initiative in the sexual activity. There are no restrictions in the sexual life of Jews, both anal and oral sexes are permissible, but ejaculation is expected to happen only in the vagina. A woman has a right to divorce an impotent man or if the husband neglects her sexually. The same is true for men. Judaism condemns adultery, incest, prostitution or gay compulsion.

In contrast, Christian teachings very frequently express a negative attitude to sex or pass it over in silence. Chastity as a possibility to avoid sin is welcomed, free sex, homosexuality and masturbation are condemned. Catholicism condemns divorce (with very rare exceptions) and also contraception. In 1987 the church expressed its negative attitude to the majority of methods dealing with infertility, such as surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization.Islam does not encourage celibacy and has a positive attitude to the majority of sex forms. However, there exist a lot of nuances concerning female discrimination, including the sexual one. Thus, in many countries women still undergo clitoral removal. Men are allowed to have four wives. Divorce is permissible. Cheating on the husband is punished by death in some countries.

But Hinduism regards sexuality as a form of spiritual energy. The Kama Sutra which depicts sexual positions in detail was written by a cleric. Some of the Hinduism followers choose a different way, implying sexual abstinence at some certain periods of life. However, the majority of Hindu priests do get married.

While communicating with a representative of another religion give yourself the trouble of getting to know the peculiarities of their religion better. It is sure to help you in achieving spiritual affinity with your sexual partner.


The religious traditions orient the person to his need for the infinite. Some of these involve the absolute chastity of celibacy as a privileged means for the way to ...

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