Being religious may be linked with higher levels of sexual satisfaction, according to a new study in The Journal of Sex Research. After analyzing survey responses from over 15,000 adults in the UK, the researchers found that those with stronger religious beliefs had less sex than their secular peers but were generally happier with their carnal experiences.
Summing up the team’s findings, study author Vegard Skirbekk explained in a statement that “religious individuals are less likely to engage in casual sex and are more likely to limit sexual activity to a relationship based on love.”
“This can lead to lower expectations of sexual activity outside a formal union, as well as increased satisfaction from sex life in general.”
Overall, 11 percent of men and 16 percent of women said that religion was an important factor in their lives. On the whole, these individuals engaged in less sexual activity than those who placed less significance on religious beliefs, with single and non-cohabiting religious people having the least sex of all.
“At the same time, religiosity was linked with overall higher levels of sex life satisfaction,” report the study authors. “This relationship appeared to be largely mediated by attitudes on the appropriate context for sexual intercourse.”
In particular, married women were more likely to report higher sexual satisfaction if they were religious. Among married men, however, no such trend was observed.
Previous research has indicated that casual or loveless sex is often associated with disappointment and unhappiness, which may explain why even single religious men – who are likely to be abstinent – reported greater sexual satisfaction than those who consider religion unimportant.
Across the entire sample, 25 percent of women and 24 percent of men said they were happy with their sex lives, while 14 percent of women and 17 percent of men were sexually unsatisfied. Around two-thirds of male respondents said they thought it was fine to sleep with someone without being in love with them, compared to 50 percent of women.
However, those who approved of casual sex were less likely to be satisfied with their sex life overall.
Expanding upon this finding, study author Nitzan Peri-Rotem explained that "the relationship between sex frequency and sexual satisfaction is neither simple nor straightforward; across all relationship types, too little or too much sex is associated with lower sexual satisfaction, suggesting that an optimum exists in terms of frequency related to higher satisfaction levels."
Overall, 40 percent of men claimed to have had ten or more sexual partners, while a quarter of women said that the number of people they had slept with was in the double digits. On the other hand, just two percent of respondents admitted to having no first-hand experience of the birds and the bees.
"For women, it is found that having no sexual partners, as well as having ten or more lifetime sexual partners is associated with lower satisfaction from sex life,” said Peri-Rotem. “Among men on the other hand, no relationship is found between the number of lifetime sexual partners and sexual satisfaction."
Interpreting their data, the study authors conclude that “while sexual satisfaction initially increases with sex frequency, it declines again at a higher number of sex occasions.”
“Therefore, having 'too much' sex may lead to lower level of satisfaction from sex life."