Dilemma of Two Roads: Sex or Religion

Religion and pre-marital sex go together as well as pineapple on pizza – some people think it’s great, others, not so much.

It’s common knowledge that sexual activities are commonly frowned upon by the religious, regardless of their faith. For those raised under strict parents, it’ll only be natural that they would hold conservative values and thoughts. So when we end up alone overseas for our education, in an environment of liberation and western perspectives on sex, how would we cope with the sudden freedom to choose? 

In a bid to fit in, religion takes a back seat to societal pressure; doubly so for international students who might find adapting in a new environment to be difficult, resulting in them latching on to they find to be the most accepting of them.

Jack (who chose to stay anonymous) fell head first into “a life of debauchery”. As a once devout Muslim, he bluntly told me that, “I just wanted to test things out… to see whether I could live out the life that I always saw in the movies.” 

And live them out he did.

Going to a different club every week and leaving with someone new each time. When asked if his actions were influenced by his friends, Jack couldn’t give me a straight answer.

“I’ll be real with you, ok? I’m a pretty good looking guy. Same goes for the friends I made [in Melbourne], so you know, sometimes we engage in ‘boys talk’ which includes the people we slept with. At the time I was still a virgin but to not lose face, I might have…lied a bit,” he explained.

“Not long after that, we would go to clubs together with the goal of bringing [someone] home with us.”

I asked Jack whether his friends were religious. He quickly replied with, “Hell no, and that made me insecure about my own religion to be honest”.

In a study done by the University of Pennsylvania, the idea of sex is found to be closely tied to the concept of ‘shame’ within conservative circles; whereas religion is the opposite, relating to the ‘shame’ people feel when talking about sexual topics outside of said circles. Of course, this largely applies to those that do not identify as conservative pious members in the first place.

In a bid to fit in, religion takes a back seat to societal pressure; doubly so for international students who might find adapting in a new environment to be difficult, resulting in them latching on to they find to be the most accepting of them.

As in the case for Susie (who’s real name is also withheld), she confided in me that her life in her first year of university was largely dictated by the friends she met at orientation, people who “hooked up whenever, because being in a relationship in their first year was ‘too restrictive’”. 

She didn’t share their same passion but it didn’t stop her from experimenting. “It just looked like they were having fun. More than anything I’d ever done while in church,” she admitted. Even in hindsight, now as a newly reformed Christian, Susie doesn’t regret her choice one bit.

“Part of me just feels glad I tried it out, because I probably wouldn’t have ran back to church if I didn’t realise how much I don’t like the lifestyle. [laughs] It’s a cool testimony to share with my cell members.”

This isn’t a piece that’s meant to shame those that live a sexually active lifestyle, nor is it one that criticises anyone’s self-control. Instead, what interests me is the idea of freedom, more specifically the kind that allows for religious international students the options to explore whatever lifestyle they see fit. 

Even as a Christian myself, I’ve…dabbled in certain activities; none of which I regret either, same goes for Susie and Jack. We chose to engage in these affairs and willingly accepted the consequences that came with them. 

The phase that we went through is not one that all religious people should try, and I’m definitely not justifying our actions either. Instead, the point I’m trying to make is we all have the right to choose and deal with our sexual urges, regardless of religion.

What we choose to do with the result of these choices is what will define the future of our faith. Susie, right now, is happy and “won’t be tempted to leave Jesus’ side again”. Jack, on the other hand, has left his religion completely; citing his newfound freedom to be “something I want to make full use of before I head back home”.

As for me, I’m caught somewhere in the middle. No longer dabbling but also not being heavily invested in my religion. Just a guy that’s conflicted and looking for answers to my dilemma.

Perhaps there aren’t supposed to be answers. What does happen when premarital sex and religion clash? Families disowning each other? People falling into a spiral of sin and debauchery? Or people that end up doing a 180 and becoming holier than ever before? 

There’s no ‘right’ answer or definite consequence. One thing’s for certain though – that the decision these people make is up to them and them only; and whatever the outcome, I just hope that the people around them can accept them for who they are, while guiding them to become a better person that they could be in the future.

Do you have a story or similar experience? Share it with us at meld@meldmagazine.com.au

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