Religion: The Opiate of Sexuality

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February 3, 2012 by Katie.

Ms. Nikki B. is on vacation so Project X will continue next week with a post on Privilege. I can’t wait! (Psst. You should be excited, too!) In the meantime, here’s an article I wrote for the lovelies over at Met Another Frog back in October. Enjoy!

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Why does religion fuck up your sexuality?

I don’t mean “why” as in how  they do it.  I mean why do they even bother.  What motivates religions – well, I’ll put a finer point on it: Western Judeo-Christian Religions – to put such strictures on sexuality??

The Bible doesn’t discuss pre-martial sex as bad.  It’s not there.  There are definitely passages chastising adultery; there are passages that tell you to keep your body pure for the Lord (not sure what that means…because – my point – it’s never clarified); there are passages that suggest one not be “sexually immoral”…but where is that equated with any sexual act committed outside the boundaries of marriage?  Not in the Bible.

Futhermore, why does religion think that sex is damaging to its message?  Let’s try to suspend all of our collective upbringings for a moment and really look at it: how does having sex preclude you from also loving God and being a follower of Him?  If it doesn’t preclude you when you’re married, how does it suddenly preclude you when your’e not?  If it’s fine when you’re married, if it’s not the act of sex that a problem…I don’t see how it interferes; it isn’t logical.  Moreover, the Bible is filled with beautifully poetic sexual passages (Ecclesiastes if you wanna check that shit out) so the Book condones having “those” thoughts, doing “those” things, anyway.

So, then why is sex wrong?  And, if we take the evidentiary and logical stance that it didn’t begin as wrong…when did it become so?

Karl Marx and Michel Foucault (I know, what can I say?  I love the guy) both propose that regulation of sex – through religion, mostly – began with the advent of industry and capitalism.  Marx’s infamous saying, “Religion is the opiate of the people” meant that the ruling classes employed religion to impose controls upon the lower classes to ensure they stayed in their place.  According to Marx, religion was particularly good at this because it assumed suffering in the earthly world was inherent (akin to working class life in the 1800s) and promised heavenly bounties for good behavior.  Furthermore, rules about sex, or at least where sex should occur, erected strict boundaries around the legitimacy of children and thusly, inheritance.  Foucault takes much the same tone.  Sexual mores became increasingly important as the bourgeoisie sought to tighten their control on their accumulating wealth and property and ensure that it was passed on to their offspring.  What’s mine is mine, says capitalism.  Paired with a gendered society in which males, not females, decide who gets what, you have a perfect recipe for more and more structured sexual rules.  As we all obviously know…it’s easy to tell who the mother is, but the father?  Not so much.  Religion, with all its talk about keeping yourself pure for the Lord – which is, obviously, ripe for interpretation because lord knows (ha!) that could mean anything – was a perfect venue to host this growing need to know the paternity of your child.  Foucault goes on to indict the growing medical and psychological fields – the pathology of sexuality – in this power structure as well but religion remains as the dominant poster child for sexual regulation in the name of capitalism.

So, let’s bring it back to the beginning, shall we?  I think what I’m trying to say is: (blasphemy of blasphemies!) God doesn’t care if you have sex.  There’s other shit going on in religion land – that has much more to do with power and money than sex – that’s keeping you from getting a good shag.  Go do it to it!  Just try to be a good person (that means communicating with your sexual partners, y’all!), cuz I think we can all agree that’s actually what Jesus  – and Aesop, and the Brothers Grimm, and Mr. Rodgers, and all other fairytales – cared about and wanted.

Suggested Reading:
History of Sexuality: Volume I by Michel Foucault

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