Skip to main content

The Relationship Among Sexual Attitudes, Sexual Fantasy, and Religiosity

An Erratum to this article was published on 29 May 2011

Abstract

Recent research on the impact of religiosity on sexuality has highlighted the role of the individual, and suggests that the effects of religious group and sexual attitudes and fantasy may be mediated through individual differences in spirituality. The present study investigated the role of religion in an ethnically diverse young adult sample (N = 1413, 69% women) using religious group as well as several religiosity domains: spirituality, intrinsic religiosity, paranormal beliefs, and fundamentalism. Differences between religious groups in conservative sexual attitudes were statistically significant but small; as predicted, spirituality mediated these effects. In contrast to the weak effects of religious group, spirituality, intrinsic religiosity, and fundamentalism were strong predictors of women’s conservative sexual attitudes; for men, intrinsic religiosity predicted sexual attitude conservatism but spirituality predicted attitudinal liberalism. For women, both religious group and religiosity domains were significant predictors of frequency of sexual fantasies while, for men, only religiosity domains were significant predictors. These results indicate that individual differences in religiosity domains were better predictors of sexual attitudes and fantasy than religious group and that these associations are moderated by gender.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Ahrold, T. K., & Meston, C. M. (2010). Ethnic differences in sexual attitudes of U.S. college students: Gender, acculturation, and religiosity factors. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 190–202.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Allport, G. W., & Ross, M. J. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5, 432–443.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Altemeyer, B., & Hunsberger, B. (1992). Authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism, quest, and prejudice. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2, 113–133.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Altemeyer, B., & Hunsberger, B. (2004). A revised Religious Fundamentalism Scale: The short and sweet of it. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 14, 47–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bainbridge, W. S. (2004). After the new age. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 43, 381–394.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bainbridge, W. S. (2005). Atheism. Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, 1, 1–23.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bang, E., Hall, M. E. L., Anderson, T. L., & Willingham, M. M. (2005). Ethnicity, acculturation, and religiosity as predictors of female college students role expectations. Sex Roles, 53, 231–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barkan, S. E. (2006). Religiosity and premarital sex in adulthood. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 45, 407–417.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baron, R., & Kenny, D. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bassett, R. L., Smith, H. L., Newell, R. L., & Richards, A. H. (1999). Thou shalt not like sex: Taking another look at religiousness and sexual attitudes. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 18, 205–216.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beckwith, H. D., & Morrow, J. A. (2005). Sexual attitudes of college students: The impact of religiosity and spirituality. College Student Journal, 39, 357–367.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brasher, B. E. (1998). Godly women: Fundamentalism and female power. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brotto, L. A., Chik, H. M., Ryder, A. G., Gorzalka, B. B., & Seal, B. N. (2005). Acculturation and sexual function in Asian women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34, 613–626.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bryan, J., & Freed, F. (1993). Abortion research: Attitudes, sexual behavior, and problems in a community college population. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 22, 1–22.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davidson, J. K., Moore, N. B., & Ullstrup, K. M. (2004). Religiosity and sexual responsibility: Relationships of choice. American Journal of Health Behavior, 28, 335–346.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Davis, N. J., & Robinson, R. V. (1999). Their brothers’ keepers? Orthodox religionists, modernists, and economic justice in Europe. American Journal of Sociology, 104, 1631–1665.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Derogatis, L. R. (1979). The DSFI: A multidimensional measure of sexual functioning. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 5, 244–281.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Farmer, M., & Meston, C. (2006). Predictors of condom use self-efficacy in an ethnically diverse university sample. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 313–326.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Farmer, M., & Meston, C. (2007). Predictors of genital pain in young women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 831–843.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Farmer, M., Trapnell, P., & Meston, C. (2009). The relation between sexual behavior and religiosity subtypes: A test of the secularization hypothesis. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 852–865.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fisher, W., White, L., Byrne, D., & Kelley, K. (1988). Erotophobia-erotophilia as a dimension of personality. Journal of Sex Research, 25, 123–151.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Froese, P. (2004). After atheism: An analysis of religious monopolies in the post-communist world. Sociology of Religion, 65, 57–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gil, V. E. (1990). Sexual fantasy experiences and guilt among conservative Christians: An exploratory study. Journal of Sex Research, 27, 629–638.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gorsuch, R. L., & Venable, G. D. (1983). Development of an “age universal” I-E scale. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 22, 181–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hayes, B. C. (2000). Religious independents within Western industrialized nations: A socio-demographic profile. Sociology of Religion, 61, 191–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heelas, P. (1996). The New Age movement: The celebration of the self and the sacralization of modernity. Boston: Blackwell Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heelas, P. (2002). The spiritual revolution: From ‘religion’ to ‘spirituality’. In L. Woodhead, P. Fletcher, H. Kawanami, & D. Smith (Eds.), Religions in the modern world (pp. 357–376). London: Routledge Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hirschman, C. (2004). The role of religion in the origins and adaptation of immigrant groups in the United States. International Migration Review, 38, 1206–1233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hood, R. W., Spilka, B., Hunsberger, B., & Gorsuch, R. (1996). The psychology of religion: An empirical approach. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Horn, M. J., Piedmont, R. L., Fialkowski, G. M., Wicks, R. J., & Hunt, M. E. (2005). Sexuality and spirituality: The Embodied Spirituality Scale. Theology & Sexuality, 12, 81–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hughes, J. L. (2008). Encouraging students to apply human sexuality material to themselves by using integration papers. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 3, 247–253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hunsberger, B. (1996). Religious fundamentalism, right-wing authoritarianism, and hostility toward homosexuals in non-Christian religious groups. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 6, 39–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hunsberger, B., & Brown, L. B. (1984). Religious socialization, apostasy, and the impact of family background. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 23, 239–251.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Irwin, H. J. (1993). Belief in the paranormal: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 87, 1–39.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jones, R. K., Darroch, J. E., & Singh, S. (2005). Religious differentials in the sexual and reproductive behaviors of young women in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health, 36, 279–288.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kell, D. B., & Oliver, S. G. (2004). Here is the evidence, now what is the hypothesis? The complementary roles of inductive and hypothesis-driven science in the post-genomic era. BioEssays: News and Reviews in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, 26, 99–105.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., & Gebhard, P. H. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kirkpatrick, L. A., & Hood, R. W. (1990). Intrinsic-Extrinsic religious orientation: The boon or bane of contemporary psychology of religion? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 29, 442–462.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lefkowitz, E. S., Gillen, M. M., Shearer, C. L., & Boone, T. L. (2004). Religiosity, sexual behaviors, and sexual attitudes during emerging adulthood. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 150–159.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leitenberg, H., & Henning, K. (1995). Sexual fantasy. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 469–469.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meston, C. M., & Ahrold, T. K. (2010). Ethnic, gender, and acculturation influences on sexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 179–189.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meston, C. M., Trapnell, P. D., & Gorzalka, B. B. (1996). Ethnic and gender differences in sexuality: Variations in sexual behavior between Asian and non-Asian university students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 25, 33–72.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miller, A. S., & Hoffmann, J. P. (1995). Risk and religion: An explanation of gender differences in religiosity. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 34, 63–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Murray, K. M., Ciarrocchi, J. W., & Murray-Swank, N. A. (2007). Spirituality, religiosity, shame and guilt as predictors of sexual attitudes and experiences. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 35, 222–234.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicholas, L. J. (2004). The association between religiosity, sexual fantasy, participation in sexual acts, sexual enjoyment, exposure, and reaction to sexual materials among black South Africans. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 30, 37–42.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pluhar, E., Frongillo, E. A., Stycos, J. M., & Dempser-McClain, D. (1998). Understanding the relationship between religion and the sexual attitudes and behaviors of college students. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 23, 288–296.

    Google Scholar 

  • Puttick, E. (1997). Women in new religions: In search of community, sexuality and spiritual power. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roof, W. C., & McKinney, W. (1987). American mainline religion: Its changing shape and future. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rowatt, W. C., & Schmitt, D. P. (2003). Associations between religious orientation and varieties of sexual experience. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42, 455–465.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stark, R., & Bainbridge, W. S. (1985). The future of religion: Secularization, revival and cult formation. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stephenson, K. S., Ahrold, T. K., Pujols, Y., & Meston, C. M. (2009, February). The associations between motivations for sex and sexual satisfaction differ by gender. Podium presentation at the Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH), Florence, Italy.

  • Strasser, U. (2003). State of virginity: Gender, religion, and politics in an early modern Catholic state. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thornton, A., & Camburn, D. (1989). Religious participation and adolescent sexual behavior and attitudes. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 51, 641–653.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Trapnell, P. (2005). A brief, balanced measure of New Age paranormal beliefs. Unpublished data, University of Winnipeg. http://www.paultrapnell.com/measures/Transpersonal&ParanormalBeliefScale-and-SpiritualityScale.rtf

  • Weiss, A., Egan, V., & Figueredo, A. J. (2004). Sensational interests as a form of intrasexual competition. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 563–573.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Woodberry, R. D., & Smith, C. S. (1998). Fundamentalism et al.: Conservative Protestants in America. Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 25–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wulf, J., Prentice, D., Hansum, D., Ferrar, A., & Spilka, B. (1984). Religiosity and sexual attitudes and behavior among evangelical Christian singles. Review of Religious Research, 26, 119–131.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zinnbauer, B. J., Pargament, K. I., & Scott, A. B. (1999). The emerging meanings of religiousness and spirituality: Problems and prospects. Journal of Personality, 67, 889–919.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cindy M. Meston.

Additional information

An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10508-011-9782-9

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ahrold, T.K., Farmer, M., Trapnell, P.D. et al. The Relationship Among Sexual Attitudes, Sexual Fantasy, and Religiosity. Arch Sex Behav 40, 619–630 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-010-9621-4

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-010-9621-4

Keywords

  • Sexual attitudes
  • Sexual fantasy
  • Religiosity
  • Fundamentalism
  • Intrinsic religiosity
  • Spirituality