Could Jews be members of the most sexually promiscuous religion on earth? A new study, “Religion and Sexual Behaviors: Understanding the Influence of Islamic Cultures and Religious Affiliation for Explaining Sex Outside of Marriage,” written up in the journal “American Sociological Review,” seems to say so. It also found that Muslims are the most conservative when it comes to matters of sex.
While the focus of the study was on Muslims, it compared the pre-marital and extra-marital sexual behavior of Muslims in a wide range of countries to that of Christians, Hindus and Jews in those countries. The authors, Amy Adamcyzk, associate professor of sociology at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Brittany Hayes, a doctoral candidate there, looked at studies of people in some 30 countries ranging from Azerbaijan to Haiti to Zimbabwe, most of them not places with very large Jewish populations. They assessed data collected between 2000 and 2008 by the Demographic and Health Survey, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The study’s authors found that Muslim women were least likely to report having had sex before marriage, while Buddhists and Jews reported being most likely, followed by Christians, who were trailed by Hindus.
Jews were “significantly more likely than Muslims and most other groups to report premarital sex,” according to Adamczyk. “This is consistent with some U.S.-based studies that have compared the sex-related attitudes and behaviors of Jews and Christians, finding that Jews tend to be less conservative.”
Asked if that might make Jews the most promiscuous people on earth, she said, “I like the term ‘promiscuous,’ but academics would use the term ‘report’ premarital sex since we want to make clear that the only way we can know people’s sex-behaviors is by what they ‘report’ and they may lie or forget.”
The study looked specifically at sexual behavior reported by people who are or have been married, but not in relation to the strength of their religious commitment which, the paper says, is not available in the DHS data. So there are no comparisons within religious groups, for instance Catholics compared to Protestant Christians, or Orthodox compared to Reform Jews.
When it comes to extramarital sex, the study “found that married Muslims are less likely than all other major religious groups, except Buddhists, to report extramarital sex. This finding shows that Muslims are distinct from almost all other religious groups in being less likely to report sex outside of marriage.”
“This is one of the first studies to show that there are clear differences between religious groups in terms of their sexual behaviors,” Adamczyk said. There are also “likely to be other behavioral differences, which adds insight into the chasm between Muslims and adherents of Judeo-Christian faiths that we seem to be observing. Religion clearly has a powerful influence on behavior, and its effect is not the same across religious groups.”
Religions differ, overall, in their focus on pre- and extra-marital sex, she said. “Islam has been the most successful religion in putting forth religious precepts about premarital sex and getting its adherents to abide by these precepts.
“Even if you are not religious, if you are living in a Muslim majority country, you are likely to adjust your behavior and act in ways that are more consistent with Islamic religious precepts. Across the world, the Islamic faith is clearly very powerful in shaping behavior,” she said.