On Monday, November 14, the University of Edinburgh’s Sexpression society hosted a panel discussion on the relationship between Sex and Religion with three faith representatives from the University community.
The panel was led by Sexpression representative Rohanie-Campbell Thakoordin, and considered a variety of religious backgrounds including Islamic, Catholic and Evangelist viewpoints.
Panellists included Alice Nagle, a Social Anthropology PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, whose research took place within an “American Fundamental-Evangelist” community, and who followed the Catholic faith.
The other contributors included Hajira Kamran, a second year student studying Government Policy, who discussed her experiences with sex education within her Islamic upbringing, and Moyo-Amoo Peters, who gave an insight into the perspective of an asexual individual within the Christian belief system.
Questions were submitted to the panelists prior to the event covering personal experiences, wider religious communities, and the role of sexual education within society.
Notably, the panel first discussed the positive impacts that religion can have in terms of sex, sexual education and sexuality. Kamran and Amoo-Peters discussed feeling less pressure from their communities, and also from other religious peers, to engage in sex prematurely. Kamran explained that this contributed to her empowerment as a woman when “sex wasn’t the only priority”, in the transition to adulthood. Conversely, the panel also expressed their thoughts regarding the negative influence of religion upon sex in a broader sense.
All three panelists acknowledged the issue surrounding the lack of sexual education provided by religious communities for young people, especially within conservative families.
Nagle identified the insecurity this can create for young people. Kamran also discussed the issue on a broader scale, referring to the role of poor sexual education in STI epidemics and unwanted pregnancies in many non-secular countries, such as Pakistan.
Reccurring in this discussion was also the feeling of guilt, expressed differently by all three speakers. Peters discussed the asexual community’s guilt for not wanting to fulfil the life plan epitomised in the scripture.
This can also be destructive for men, who cannot meet the sexual and reproductive pressures placed upon them by their community, as well as by social pressures surrounding masculinity.
An overarching theme of the discussion was interpreting the scripture in the context of its overall meaning. Kamran, Amoo-Peters and Nagle all felt that their belief systems above all emphasised self-love and acceptance as well as love of others.
The panel was hugely successful in ‘myth-busting’, demonstrating that religion can play a huge role in empowering and encouraging self- acceptance in young people.
Image: John Lord via Flickr