What does sex have to do with… religion?

Many people argue that religion and sex do not intertwine. Sex is often portrayed as a ‘fragile’ or ‘sacred’ topic that is seldom talked about. Religions around the world all have different views on sexual intercourse.

The most popular religion worldwide, Roman Catholicism preaches that sex is a precious virtue that should happen only after marriage. Engaging in sexual activity before marriage in considered a mortal sin. In Catholicism, mortal sins are considered the most severe type of sin, and it is recommended to go to communion before you receive the Holy Communion after committing a sin of this kind. However, in most churches, it is advised that activities like cuddling, holding hands, and sometimes kissing are thought of as okay when dealing with intimacy before marriage. Sex within marriage for Catholics is completely normal. Couples are encouraged to have sex as it is said to unite them.

Some forms of birth control are also aloud, so that couple can engage in sex without the wife having to worry about constantly having children. However abortion is viewed as murder. To Catholics, the beginning of life starts at conception, making abortion a mortal sin.

Regarding sex in Buddhism, buddhism.about.com says sex is seen as an okay act, as long as it is not abusive, and if the couple loves one another. It is not okay if sex between a married couple is abusive. Desire to have sex is described as a type of suffering, and is called tanha, which is the second noble truth.

In Judaism, sex is considered to be virtually the same type of evil as hunger or thirst. However, sex does come from an evil impulse and is told to be controlled. The only permissible sex is between a husband and wife and is called a mitzvah. This is a significant combination of both love and desire. Sexual contact outside of marriage is not allowed, as Jews believe such acts will lead to sexual intercourse.

In India, there are a group of girls who dedicate their lives to a Hindu deity and they support their families through sex work. On independent.co.uk, Sarah Harris talks about her experience traveling to and talking to the girls. Otherwise known as Temple prostitutes, the Devadasi practice was made illegal in 1988. However, this practice still continues, and ceremonies are held underground. Girls who participate in the practice are usually ashamed of what they do, and typically very poor. Some girls join the practice as early as two or three years old, and are raised in Devadasi communities, where there are no men. This way, the girls grow up not expecting to marry and have a husband, because they have never had a father figure.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GFaN9-1iz0

 

Here is a video link to a documentary about Hindu girls in the Indian city of Sangli that sell their bodies to Hindu Goddess Yellamma.

 

If you traveled to India, and saw this practice, would you try and talk to one of these girls?

How does this make you feel knowing that this happens, especially at such a young age?

Do you think this is considered okay because it is part of a religion?

Do you think that law enforcement should further push to make this illegal and not let it slide in some of the more poor, rural areas?

Do you think this should be legalized?

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What’s Sex Got to Do With… India’s Raw Star?

Just a few days ago, on the Indian show Raw Star, a female contestant in the singing competition was physically assaulted by a man in the audience. The man initially began teasing and taunting the contestant, and when she protested, he stood up, approached the her, and slapped her on the face.

American culture is surely not the only one where women are painted as submissive to men and susceptible to their policing. Power and privilege lie in the hands of men. Gender hierarchies in which women are viewed beneath men aid in the objectification of women’s bodies and the desire of control over said bodies. Male dominance is embedded in cultures and societies across the entire globe, India included.

Many men assume women exist merely to serve them, and when that “service” is unsatisfactory (or in some cases does not even present itself), then the woman is at fault and subject to violent consequences.

Remember the UC-Santa Barbara shooting where a young man went on a killing spree because of his disgust with the women in his life who didn’t freely give themselves to him like they were “supposed to”?

Male dominance and power also connect to issues of morality and social institutions. The man who assaulted the Raw Star contestant claimed that as a Muslim woman, she should be wearing “such a short dress.” We see this rhetoric of using clothing choice or behaviors as an indication of a person’s morality constantly throughout hegemonic society, despite its complete unreliability.

Indian women, like others around the world, are under high scrutiny–unwarranted scrutiny. Men find that they have the right to police women’s bodies, just like the attacker on Raw Star, who told police that he slapped the female contestant to make the point that, “since it makes him so sexually attracted to her, her clothing could ‘damage the brains’ of her other male audience members as well.” (Read: Sounds kinda like “she was asking for it,” to me.)

Do you think that women should be more conscientious of how they are presenting themselves in order to “keep the peace” with men? Have you encountered similar situations while here at Vanderbilt? Is there anything we can actually do to change the mentalities of young men who think like this attacker?