Which religions women are least exempted from

Religion and Sexuality - "The sexuality of women is more strictly regulated"

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The relationship between religion and female sexuality is ambivalent, sometimes destructive. This is shown by the film “#Female Pleasure”, which is currently showing in Swiss cinemas.

What is behind the obsession to control the female body? Religious scholar Anna-Katharina Höpflinger provides the answers.

Anna-Katharina Höpflinger

Religious scholar

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Dr. Anna-Katharina Höpflinger, 1976, studied religious studies in Zurich. In 2010 she did her doctorate there with a thesis on dragon battle myths. Since 2016 she has been researching and teaching at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. Her research interests include gender, body, clothing, dragon myths, European religious history, death, and heavy metal.

SRF: Why are there so many norms for sexuality in almost every religion?

Anna-Katharina Höpflinger: Religion offers basic existential questions a controlled framework. Just like death or the question of where a person comes from, sex is also a basic existential question for people. Not a basic need, but a question.

It's about making the uncontrolled controllable. Sexuality is something uncontrolled. It is now being channeled and standardized in the religions. Almost every religion says that there is “good” and “bad” sex. But how the individual religious traditions specifically deal with sexuality is very diverse.

The new movie "Female Pleasure" shows that many women are suppressed when it comes to sexuality in the five largest religions in the world. Why is that?

The worldview of these religions is based on man. The sexuality of women is more strictly regulated because it is supposed to be there for the man. In today's Europe, I'm not sure whether women's sexuality is more standardized, but it's definitely different.

So are things like dominance and power reflected in sexuality?

Exactly. But not just dominance, but the entire image of man. In addition, the founders of religions were usually men. And in cultures that are patriarchal, religion is patriarchal.

There are different forms of power. In certain fundamentalist currents, power is exercised in an authoritarian manner. But there are also religious possibilities to represent power as trust and security.

Religions are often very conservative.

This is also often argued. From a patriarchal point of view, it is said: We don't oppress women, we give them security. It's a different kind of power. People need security and trust. In this respect, power is not bad per se. It's about how it is practiced.

The whole thing is not just a problem of religion, but of society.

Clearly. Even our secular society is still patriarchal. In Switzerland too: women's suffrage was introduced in 1971. Change for women is slow.

Sexuality within marriage has changed dramatically.

Does it also play a role that one often has a point of reference in religions that is very old?

Clear. The focus on the old has a legitimizing effect. Also in our culture: what is as old as possible is considered valuable. Religions are often very conservative.

At the same time, one can find very open aspects in almost all religions. And sometimes they are suppressed, sometimes not. It always depends on who determines how religion is interpreted.

Did the sexual liberation of the 1968s affect religions as well?

The debates of the '68 did not reach traditional religious communities until 20 years later. Most religions have to distinguish between sexuality inside and outside of marriage.

In the more conservative religious context of Europe it tends to be the case that extra-marital sexuality - from that point of view, this also includes homosexuality - is not recognized as normal.

Sexuality within marriage, on the other hand, has changed dramatically. 1968 actually had an impact. For example, in the 1950s there was still the idea that you shouldn't see your partner naked. This is almost no longer the case today, even in traditionally oriented religious communities.

Interview conducted by Mirella Candreia.

canm / mata

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  • Comment from Denise Casagrande (begulide)
    Sexuality is naturally given to everyone in the world! This is natural! There is therefore no one who can take the liberty of deciding on the sexuality of women and men !! That would be more than a sin, that would be an impudent cheek "par excellence" !!
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Comment by Olivier Wetli ("out of this world")
    In the Bible, sexuality is precisely given to men and women alike. As an expression of their intimacy, their love and their joy. Only 'regulated' on the opposite sex and within the marriage. What you then read across is what the fallen human made of it. Today it is no different than it has been for 6000 years. Marriage, including sexuality, has always been sacred to God of the Bible.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Comment from Rolf Künzi (undefined)
    It's strange that we Christians - after all, I was born and left a Reformed family - have so little to say on this subject. Too difficult. The role of Maria Magtalena, that of Jesus' birth and death, and that of the oppressed woman can be criticized very much. The Westlice man has also been sexually deformed since 1980. On the one hand one would have to clarify the history of the last 2000, on the other hand the man is also a victim, well, silence is not always gold.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment

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