Among the criticisms being leveled at the recent study on sex and secularism is the assertion that there is no established correlation between guilt and enjoyment of sex. This is a very odd criticism for anyone who has been both religious and secular. We know we’re enjoying sex more now that we’re not feeling guilty. But for someone who’s never experienced non-guilty sex, I suppose I can understand the objection.
Still, critics will say that personal experience does not constitute scientific fact, and they will be correct. (Never mind that the survey by Darrel Ray is a scientific examination of the differences between guilty and non-guilty sex and that it did discover a strong correlation.) In support of the proposition that guilt results in decreased sexual enjoyment, there is also a PhD dissertation from 1998 which discovered the following:
- Guilt was negatively associated with frequency of orgasm for women. It doesn’t get any plainer than this. Women who feel guilty about having sex don’t have as many orgasms. Orgasms are pretty much universally agreed upon as being pleasurable. We could end here, but there is plenty more.
- Guilt was negatively associated with the frequency of women initiating sex.
- Guilt was negatively associated with the frequency of intercourse.
- Guilt was positively associated with sex partners being unwilling to “experiment” in bed.
- When the question was asked directly, guilt was positively associated with lack of sexual desire and negatively associated with sexual satisfaction.
There it is. Guilt make sex less enjoyable.
To be perfectly honest, this is one of those “facepalm” moments for me. It seems patently obvious that anyone with any sexual experience has had guilty sex and less guilty sex. Most “good Christians” have pre-marital sex, and many feel guilty about it. Shouldn’t they be able to compare their feelings of satisfaction from that sex to the marital sex they feel less guilty about?
But critics will be critics, and all of us sexually satisfied secularists would do well to remember that there are people out there who honestly have no idea what guilt-free sex feels like. So we owe them the courtesy of at least pointing them in the direction of research proving the obvious.
Other notable scientific studies have concluded the following:
- Women suffer more from guilt relative to men, experiencing less satisfaction than men with comparable levels of guilt. (This is expected, since men generally always orgasm and guilty women seldom do.)
- Also in women, guilt is negatively associated with internal fantasy, masturbation, and erotic visualization, all of which are fun according to women who do them frequently.
- People who feel intense guilt are less likely to use proper contraception during casual encounters, which in turn leads to intensified feelings of guilt and the negative consequences listed here.
- Curiously, guilt specifically reduced the use of diaphragms — because women were ashamed to touch themselves in the rather intimate ways necessary for insertion.
- In men, sex guilt was negatively correlated with frequency of both self-testicular exams and professional testicular exams.
The facts — THE FACTS — are in and they are clear. Guilt and sexual enjoyment are negative correlates on many levels. From masturbation to marital enjoyment to safe sex to sexual health, guilt prohibits people from fully enjoying their sexual experiences.
Derflinger J. Sex guilt among evangelical Christians in the 1990s: An examination of gender differences and salient correlates of sex guilt among married couples [e-book]. US: ProQuest Information & Learning; 1998.
Benetti-McQuoid J, Bursik K. Individual Differences in Experiences of and Responses to Guilt and Shame: Examining the Lenses of Gender and Gender Role. Sex Roles [serial online]
Lamb S. Review of ‘The Secret Lives of Girls: What Good Girls Really Do-Sex Play, Aggression, and Their Guilt’. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy [serial online]. May 2003;29(3):244-246.
Mosher D, Vonderheide S. Contributions of sex guilt and masturbation guilt to women’s contraceptive attitudes and use. Journal of Sex Research [serial online]. February 1985;21(1):24-39.
Woo J, Brotto L, Gorzalka B. Sex guilt and culture-linked barriers to testicular examinations. International Journal of Sexual Health [serial online]. July 2010;22(3):144-154.