Is Sex God's Gift?
A Beliefnet survey reveals that for many, sex is more than moral, emotional, or physical--it's spiritual.
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A version of this article appeared inNewsweek
When sex is discussed in religious circles, the conversation is usually about morality: what you should and shouldn't do. But apparently for many Americans, sex is not just moral, physical or emotional-it's spiritual. In a new online survey conducted by Beliefnet, 55% say sex is at least a part of their spiritual life, with fully one-third reporting, "my sexuality is an integral part of my spirituality." 38% say they have prayed before or after sex, and 48% primarily define sex as "a gift from God."
Predictably, more women (61%) than men (50%) believe that there is one perfect soul mate out there for everyone. But, at least according to these respondents, men don't just view sex as a good time: 51% of men say that sex is primarily "a gift from God," compared to only 46% of women, and more men (38%) than women (30%) say sex is a central part of their spiritual lives. Some respondents (41%) use prayer or meditation to overcome problems like performance anxiety or fear of intimacy, and some say that spiritual awareness makes them less judgmental of their partners and therefore more generous lovers.
Conservatives and liberals integrate spirituality into their sex lives in different ways. Self-described conservatives, compared to their liberal counterparts, tend to believe in soul mates (69% to 44%), pray before or after sex (42% to 34%), and believe that sex is a gift from God (56% to 42%). Liberals are more secular about sex-49% define sex as "a physical act of pleasure"-but are more likely to use spirituality-tinged sexual practices: 44% have tried tantra, the Kama Sutra, couples yoga, or prayers for intimacy, compared to just 24% of conservatives. These practices have evolved from religious thinkers who believed intense sexual pleasure is a powerful way for people to connect to their divine nature, not only each other.