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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 35  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 394-400

Can the degree of religiosity affect female sexual behavior in a sample of Muslim married women?

1 Department Andrology, Faculty of Medicine, Benha University, Benha, Egypt
2 Department Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Benha University, Benha, Egypt

Date of Submission24-Jun-2018
Date of Acceptance19-Aug-2018
Date of Web Publication07-Jan-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Lobna S El-Degheady
Department of Andrology, Faculty of Medicine, Benha University, Benha 13737
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/bmfj.bmfj_130_18

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Background Contemporary literature exhibits conflicting evidence about the link between religiosity and sexual behaviors. However, defining religion and spirituality remains a challenging prospect for scientists.
Aim The current study aimed to test if the degree of religiosity of a sample of Muslim women affected their sexuality.
Patients and methods A total of 406 married Muslim women responded to a self-report questionnaire that included questions about their sexual activities. Women were divided into three groups according to their assumed degree of religiosity.
Results The most common coital frequency was two to three times/week, which was ‘suitable’ for most women. Most participants refused the idea of initiating sexual contact with their husbands. Among our sample, 52.5% denied ever masturbating mainly because it is ‘haram’, and they believe that masturbation harms sexual life. Most women could reach orgasm in greater than 50% of their sexual encounters. More than once pre week was the commonest rate of having spontaneous desire. Although no statistically significant differences (P>0.05) could be found among the three groups, the group labeled as less religious than average tended to be more able to admit having masturbation sessions before marriage and they also faked orgasms more. Again, with no statistically significant differences (P>0.05), women labeled as more religious than average tended to be more able to achieve orgasm, to consider being tired as the reason for no interest to engage in sexual act, and to be more satisfied with their sexual life.
Conclusions The degree of religiosity seems to have no effect on sexual behavior in this sample of Muslim Egyptian women.

Keywords: Muslims, religiosity, sexual, women

How to cite this article:
Younis I, El-Hady AM, El-Degheady LS. Can the degree of religiosity affect female sexual behavior in a sample of Muslim married women?. Benha Med J 2018;35:394-400

How to cite this URL:
Younis I, El-Hady AM, El-Degheady LS. Can the degree of religiosity affect female sexual behavior in a sample of Muslim married women?. Benha Med J [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Oct 22];35:394-400. Available from: http://www.bmfj.eg.net/text.asp?2018/35/3/394/249411

  Introduction Top

Studies on religion and sexuality commonly find that religious beliefs and/or activities are associated with more conservative sexual attitudes [1],[2].

Religion stringently establishes the boundary for acceptable/moral and unacceptable/immoral sexual desire, behavior. Islam, perhaps more than any other divine religion, fits this popular imagination. It is often perceived as rigid in controlling all aspects of its believers’ lives and intolerant of any expressions of sexuality outside of the context of heterosexual marriage [3],[4],[5],[6].

The current study was carried out to explore how the degree of religiosity shapes sexual activity in a sample of mostly young, married Muslim women.

  Patients and methods Top

The current study is a cross-sectional observational study. The tool used was a self-report questionnaire designed by the authors. The study comprised 500 married women among patients attending Benha University hospital. Anonymity of participants was secured to obtain real data as much as possible. Illiterate women and those not engaged in regular coitus were excluded.

Ethical approval for this study was provided by the Ethics committee for Faculty of Medicine, Benha University, Benha, Egypt, in December 2017.

Usable questionnaires (with <half questions answered) were obtained from 406 participants, with a rejection rate of 18.8%.

The questions covered the following:
  • Demographic data, for example, age and educational level.
  • Level of religiosity (self-rating of religiosity).
  • Female sexual functions, for example, coital frequency and frequency of sexual desire.
  • Sexual knowledge before marriage and source of sexual knowledge.

Statistical analysis

The collected data were tabulated and presented in suitable figures and tables. Quantitative data were summarized using mean and standard deviation, whereas qualitative data were analyzed using χ2-test or Fisher’s exact test. A P value less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant (*), P value greater than 0.05 was considered statistically insignificant, and P value less than 0.01 was considered highly significant (**) in all analyses.

Data were analyzed with the aid of a software package of SPSS (version 20) using suitable statistical tests.

  Results Top

Women aged 30–39 comprised most of our sample (61.8%), and 93.8% of them had a university degree. Regarding the demographic data (age and education level) of the studied groups, a statistically significant difference was detected (P value was 0.023 and 0.04, respectively). Residents in urban areas constituted 78.6% of participants and half of the women were exposed to female genital cutting ([Table 1]). It was observed that the percentage of women with female genital cutting in age group 30–39 years was double the percentage of women aged 20–29 years.
Table 1 Demographic data (n=406)

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Depending on their self-rating of religiosity, participants were classified into three groups. Group A consisted of 156 women who considered themselves as average religious. Group B consisted of 101 women who considered their religiosity as ‘less religious than average’. Group C consisted of 149 women who considered their religiosity as ‘more religious than average’. Most of our sample wore Hijab (77.1%), 17.0% wore Niqab, and 5.9% did not cover their hair. Most of the sample (66.0%) stated that their upbringing as children showed average commitment to religion. There was a statistically significant difference in all items of self-estimation of participant’s religiosity (P=0.001) ([Table 2]).
Table 2 Self-estimation of religiosity of participants

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Coital frequency of two to three times per week was the most common frequency for the three groups (48.7%), and most women in the three groups described their current frequency as ‘suitable’ (66.5%). Those who found coital frequency unsuitable will most commonly draw husband’s attention indirectly (in the three groups) (45.2%). For the question ‘Does a wife have the right to initiate sex?’, the most common answer in the three groups was ‘no’ (78.5%). Having pleasure for both partners was the main purpose of intercourse in the opinion of the overwhelming majority of participants in the three groups (93.5%). No statistically significant differences were found between the three groups in the aforementioned questions (P>0.05) ([Table 3]).
Table 3 Correlation between coitus and degree of religiosity

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Most women denied ever masturbating (52.4%) mainly because it is ‘haram’ (44.5%) and because masturbation harms sexual life (65.2%). There were no statistically significant differences among the three groups (P>0.05), but the percentage of women who gave these responses were more in group C (> average religiosity). Most women can reach orgasm in greater than 50% of their sexual encounters (50%), and there was no significant difference (P>0.05) among the studied groups. For those who faked orgasm (32.7%), the main reason was their desire to finish intercourse swiftly (17.48%); there was no significant difference among the studied groups, but the highest percentage (59.5%) belonged to group C ([Table 4]).
Table 4 Correlation between some sexual activities and degree of religiosity

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[Table 4] also indicates that the most common frequency of having sexual desire in the three groups is more than once per week (42.1%). Most women in the three groups (50.4%) would give the reason to their husbands for not wanting to have sex that they were tired (57.1%). Dyspareunia may occur in less than half the times of sexual encounter for the three groups (43.3%). Moreover, most women in the three groups consider that they have a positive role in sexual life (63%) and are satisfied to a great extent with their sexual relation (62.5%). Again, there were no statistically significant differences among the three groups (P>0.05).

In the three groups, most women would talk to their husbands ‘sometimes’ about their sexual needs (49.7%) and the most common reason for not talking is embarrassment (13.3%). On the contrary, women of all groups will reject a husband’s request for something they do not like sexually (37.1%). Most women would turn a blind eye on a sexual dysfunction in the husband (46%), although most participants would refuse to continue marital life without sex (50.9%). For those who would continue marital life without sex, the reason most commonly would be emotional (28.0%) ([Table 5]).
Table 5 Correlation between relation with husband and degree of religiosity

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  Discussion Top

Because of its different dimensions and consequently varied definitions, religiosity is perceivably difficult to measure. Numerous researchers have offered different definitions, yet thus far, none explained the full range of meaning inherent within the word [7]. Koeng et al. [8] defined religiosity as a set of beliefs and practices relating to the transcendent. Schaffer [9] defined it as the ‘degree of participation in, or faithfulness to the beliefs and practices of a religion’. In Islam the degree of religiosity is very difficult to determine because nearly every Muslim knows that faith is found in the heart and not necessarily related to ritual performance. So, we relied on self-assessment of religiosity by our participants. This choice seems logical as the percentage of women wearing hijab in the three groups was very comparable, and the percentage of those not wearing hijab in the group labeled as ‘less religious than average’ was less than those wearing hijab in group B (religious<average), with a statistically significant difference (P<0.05).

Meston and Buss [10] asked 203 men and 241 women, ranging in age from 17 years to 52 years, to list all the reasons they can think of why they, or someone they have known, has engaged in sexual intercourse. The researchers identified 237 reasons for having sex. Among the top 50 reasons for women were being attracted to the man or wanting to experience the physical pleasure. Number 10 in the least frequent reasons was wanting to feel closer to God. In this study, more than 90% of the participants (irrespective of their degree of religiosity) stated that the purpose of having sex was obtaining pleasure for both spouses. Those practicing sex with their husbands for fear of God constituted 0% (for least religious) to 2.7% (for the most religious).

Sexual communication refers to couples’ interactions concerning sexual matters [11],[12]. One way of communication is that each partner explains to the other what he/she likes better and what he/she dislikes in sexual performance. Another way of communication is enhancing intimacy. This leads to greater sexual satisfaction [13],[14],[15],[16]. Sexual communication between our participants and their husbands did not differ between different groups. In the three groups, most women would sexually communicate with their husbands only ‘sometimes’ about their sexual needs, mainly owing to embarrassment. This reflects the conservative nature of our participants (and maybe of many Egyptians), irrespective of the degree of religiosity. On the contrary, women of all groups will ignore a husband’s request for something they do not like sexually and most of them would turn a blind eye on a sexual dysfunction in the husband. This does not mean loss of interest in sex as most participants would refuse to continue marital life without sex. This behavior may be owing to the desire of women to keep their marital life even if there are minor or temporary difficulties.

Although only 36% of our sample admitted ever masturbating, it is the impression of the authors that the percentage may be higher. Some more responders may belong to the masturbators group as 11.6% of responders said that they do not know what masturbation is. Besides, the sensitivity of this matter may lead some women to give a socially accepted response. Although there were no statistically significant differences (P>0.05) among the three groups concerning the practice of masturbation, the more religious group tended to contain the largest percentage of those denying the practice of masturbation and the largest percentage saying that masturbation is haram. The percentage of women engaged in masturbation may differ according to the level of liberal attitudes found in a country. This percentage in China was 13% [17], in Russia was 32% [18], and in Croatia was 60% [19]. Higher incidences of masturbation have been reported in studies done in Great Britain (71%) [20], USA (78.2%) [21], Sweden (85.5%) [22], and Portugal (91%) [23]. In Croatia, Baćaka and Štulhofer [19] reported that women who found religious beliefs personally important and those who frequently attended religious services were less likely to report masturbation.

  Conclusion Top

The current study could not find significant effects of the degree of religiosity on the sexual behavior of participating women.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]


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