A new study headlined “God I Can’t Stop Thinking About Sex” examined differences between Jewish Orthodox teenagers and secular adolescents in Israel.
The study found that religious teenagers who had a greater preoccupation with sex-related thoughts were more prone to report lower wellbeing and were more likely to try to suppress sexual thoughts.
Study author Yaniv Efrati of Beit Berl College said “I have noticed over the years that the subject of sexuality in the religious public is more complex than the secular public. I also noticed that many religious people are busy with the question of whether their sexual behavior is normal or not.”
A survey of 661 teenagers found that religious people had a greater preoccupation with unwanted sexual thoughts than secular teens.
The second survey of 522 teens found that religious adolescents tended to report lower well-being, which was linked to their preoccupation with unwanted sexual thoughts.
The final study interviewed 317 teenagers, and it found that the religious teens were more likely to report attempts to suppress undesired sexual fantasies, which in turn led to more compulsive sexual behavior and lower well-being.
Efrati told PsyPost “The study reflects, in my opinion, the complex reality among religious adolescents. It seems that the religious public should examine its ways regarding the importance of discourse and the ability to engage in sexuality and sexual education even in the early stages of adolescence.”
“It is very important that religious society discuss sexuality and deal with sexuality in the right manner at the beginning of adolescence and even at the elementary age in order to prevent the development of compulsive sexual behavior,” he continued.
“In my studies and work with sexually compulsive behavior in adults, I find that parental responses to child sexual behavior (masturbation, pornography viewing) are very significant in compulsive sexual development.
“Comments regarding sexuality as being a ‘dirty thing’ or ‘forbidden’ only cause the development of compulsive sexual behavior.”
Efrati also noted that religious people tend to overestimate their compulsive sexual behavior.
“It would not be prudent to say that religious people have a higher compulsive sexual behavior than secular people,'”Efrati said.
“In the field of therapy, I see that religious people in self-reporting will indeed report that they have a compulsive sexual behavior when in practice they do not have a compulsive sexual behavior.
“They define themselves as such because of the negative feelings (shame and guilt) of the conflict in which they live — sexuality versus religion.”
Another study by the University of Calgary, however, has found that religion may have a positive, healthy effect in terms of limiting porn consumption among adolescents.