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Westminster Faith Debate 27.2.2013 'Too Much Sex ...' Press Release

27 February 13

Catholic guilt about sex is a myth[i]

A new YouGov survey of religious and secular attitudes to sex commissioned for the Westminster Faith Debates[ii] finds no evidence that Catholics feel more guilty about sexual ’sins’ than other religious people – although religious people in general feel more guilt than non-religious, with Baptists, Muslims and Pentecostals surveyed feeling the most.

When asked whether they would feel guilty about four sexual activities condemned by the Catholic Church – pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex and the use of pornography and contraception – only 14% of Catholics said they would feel guilty about most or all of these, compared with 16% of all those who said they belong to a religion, and 3% of non-religious people.[iii]

Only 9% of Catholics would feel guilty about using contraception

Previous surveys have found that contraception is widely used by Catholics, despite their Church’s condemnation of it. This survey finds that few Catholics in our survey today would even feel guilty about using it:  only 9% of nominal Catholics and 12% of practising Catholics polled say they would feel guilty. [iv]

Catholics no more guilty about extra-marital sex than non-Catholics

When it comes to extra-marital sex, less than 60% of Catholics would feel guilty about it – the same proportion as Anglicans, and indeed the general population.

The guiltiest are Baptists and Pentecostals – almost 90% of those surveyed say they would feel guilty about extra-marital sex.

The least guilty are those of no religion – only half would feel guilty about extra-marital sex.

It’s when it comes to pre-marital sex and pornography that religious people feel more guilty than non-religious

Four times as many religious people (20%) say they would feel guilty about pre-marital sex as non-religious people (5%).

More than twice as many religious people (33%) say they would feel guilty about using pornography for sexual stimulation as non-religious people (15%). Interestingly, there is little difference between nominal and practising Catholics (about 30% would feel guilty) about the use of porn, whereas many more practising Anglicans (55%) would feel guilty than nominal Anglicans (30%).

Most people think sex is important, but that society is too sexualised

68% of people agree that sex is important for a fulfilled life, and there is little difference of opinion between religious and non-religious people. The biggest difference is between men and women, especially between those who feel strongly – men are almost twice as likely to agree strongly (40%) that sex is important for a fulfilled life as women (20%), and this gender difference is the same amongst religious and non-religious people.

Even though 68% of people think sex is important, a similar proportion (66%) also say that the profile of sex is too high in society, with religious people agreeing even more strongly, and little difference between men and women.

The most and the least guilty in society

If we isolate the factors which correlate with feeling guilty, we can construct a profile of the people who would typically feel most and least guilt over the sexual activities the survey asked about.

The least guilty are men who regard their own judgement or intuition as authoritative, do not identify with nor participate in a religion, and are definite that there is no God.

The guiltiest are women who describe themselves as religious, regard religious sources as authoritative, are active members of a religious group, and definitely believe there is a God. They would feel four times as much guilt as the most guilt-free men.

 

 

 

Appendix[v]

Would feel guilty if

All

All non-religious

All religious

Anglicans

Catholics

Baptists

Pentecostals

Muslims

Jewish

Used pornography for sexual stimulation

26%

15%

33%

30%

30%

69%

89%

54%

31%

Used contraception

5%

3%

6%

3%

9%

7%

9%

23%

3%

Had pre-marital sex

13%

5%

20%

12%

19%

50%

76%

62%

12%

Had extra-marital sex

56%

48%

64%

60%

57%

88%

89%

69%

72%

 

 

 


[i] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 4,437 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th - 30th January 2013.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

 

[ii] The Westminster Faith debates are organised by Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead and supported by Lancaster University, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. They are designed to bring high-quality academic research on religion into public debate. http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/faith_debates-2013/

[iii] Those we refer to in this briefing as the ‘religious’ or ‘nominally’ religious are those who identified with one of the following major religions or denominations: Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Jewish, Hindu, Islam/Muslim, Sikh, Other.  Those we call ‘non-religious’ are those who answered ‘none’ to the same question about identification.

[iv] Practising Catholics and Anglicans are those say that they ‘currently engage in religious or spiritual practices with other people, for example attending services in a place of worship or elsewhere, or taking part in a more informal group’, and that the group or community with which they are involved is ‘Roman Catholic’ or ‘Anglican’.

V Sample sizes: Anglican 1519, Catholic 391, Baptist 60, Pentecostal 25, Muslim 107, Jewish 80.

 

 

 

Press enquiries should be directed to:

 

Professor Linda Woodhead

Lancaster University

l.woodhead@lancs.ac.uk

07764 566090

 

 

 

 

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