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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It’s My Body, I’ll Sell It If Want To

The documentary “Buying Sex” provided a detailed, in-depth, and compelling look into the Canadian legal systems attempts to make the legal system safer. It was quickly made apparent that not all parties agreed on the best way to make safety a reality, with advocates in favor of legalization (at least for bawdy-houses) heavily clashing with advocates in favor of criminalizing the purchasers of sexual services. While both sides desire the same end result, both vehemently believe that their opponent’s methods will cause more harm to the sex workers. Each method has precedent, with legalization having been successfully implemented in the Netherlands, New Zealand, and even 11 counties in Nevada and criminalization of those who purchase sexual services having been successfully implemented in Sweden. Canada’s desire to make sex work safer for the women, and men though they are fewer in number, involved was driven by the findings on the farm of Robert Pickton, where body parts and DNA of 33 different women (many were identified as prostitutes at the time of their disappearance) were found. When looking at the different sides of the debate, it was extremely interesting to see what the women who worked in the sex industry called themselves. Valerie Scott, who was in favor of legalizing prostitution, called herself a sex worker whereas Trisha Baptie, who was in favor of making the act of purchasing sex illegal, referred to herself as having been a hooker.

The documentary tied in directly with the transcript of the interview with Wendy Chapkis entitled Sex Workers. Just like in the documentary, during the course of her work Chapkis found that there were many different views on prostitution amongst those advocating for women. Chapkis discussed a political alliance she created in California between sex workers and feminist activists, stating ” Regardless of our views on prostitution (and they were very mixed within the alliance), we all agreed that closing women’s places of employment did nothing to empower them and, in fact, meant that many of them had to resort to working in more isolated and dangerous settings” showing the same issues faced in Canada are faced here in the United States (Chapkis 329). Activists have the same goal, safety for women, but there are always greatly varying view points on the best way to achieve that goal. The question that comes to mind is how do we achieve greater safety for sex workers? Do we follow the Swedish model or the the Netherlands model? Should this be an issue for the states or an issue for the federal government?

If we look at the United States there is precedent set in Nevada that states will determine their own laws on prostitution where, as the map above shows, there are 11 counties in which sex work is legalized. In Nevada, legal brothels can only exist in counties with 400,000 or less people, prostitutes must be 21 (except in two counties where they must be 18), sex work can only be done in a brothel, earnings are split evenly between the sex workers and the brothel owners, and mandatory health checks for STIs are required weekly. This is one procedure that has been put into place to legalize sex work in the United States and some of the regulations it involves, but it certainly isn’t the only option. Each state has very different issues to address in relation to sex work, and therefore must determine the best way to make sex work legal based off of the issues the state faces. I firmly believe that the first step towards making sex work a safe job is to legalize prostitution. It is only through legalization that proper regulation and safety standards. Indeed, as stated by Carol Leigh of the Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network, “If prostitution were not an underground activity it would allow us to much more effectively address the serious problem of forced prostitution and juvenile prostitution and the other abuses which are part of an industry that operates completely in the shadows”. It is through legalization that regulation can be made possible, that women and men won’t be forced into the sex trade and that health care and methods of prevention against STIs can be consistently administered.

Prostitution goes on in the United States, according to information from procon.org 20% of men have admitted to paying for sex at least once. This is a huge amount of men, and indeed generates a huge amount of profit for an industry that can’t be taxed. For purely economic reasons, the United States would be better off if prostitution was legal and therefore taxable like any other service and industry. Sexual health for sex workers and clients of sex workers would be improved if the industry was legalized and put under health code laws and protections to prevent the spread of STIs, with studies around the world showing that legal sex workers have better sexual health than their illegal counterparts. Finally, sex work should be legal simply so that women have the right to use their bodies as they see fit and make money in the most profitable ways they can find. It seems illogical that an athlete can sell their body to the dangers and pains of athletics, with injuries such as concussions being revealed as more damaging the more information the scientific community uncovers, but people can’t sell their body to a partner for safe, consensual sex.

There is no clear answer regarding how to make sex work safely legal nationally, but it is clear that prostitution must be legalized for safety to be an option and women to be allowed full control over their bodies. Why wouldn’t we legalize an industry if the rate of STIs would be lowered? Why wouldn’t we legalize an industry the could be taxed and regulated? Why is it that women can choose to get paid to have sex in a film the world can see, but cannot make the choice to get paid for sex behind closed doors in a private transaction?