The Arab revolutions beginning in 2010 may suggest a diminishing chasm between Muslim-majority and Western nations, however, a new study by Amy Adamczyk, Associate Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, finds that strict divisions based on sexual behaviors endure due to their deep roots in religious and national foundations.
Professor Adamczyk and co-author Brittany Hayes’s recent work titled, “Religion and Sexual Behaviors: Understanding the Influence of Islamic Cultures and Religious Affiliation for Explaining Sex Outside of Marriage,” published in the scholarly publication, American Sociological Review, analyzed data on pre-marital and extra-marital sexual behaviors in over 30 countries around the world.
Adamczyk and Hayes’s study found that Hindus and Muslims are less likely than Christians and Jews to have premarital sex and Muslims are less likely to have extramarital sex. Muslims’ lower likelihood of premarital and extramarital sex is related to their commitment to, and community support for, strict religious tenants that only permit sex within marriage. The researchers also found that national Islamic cultures influence the sexual behaviors of all residents, even people who do not identify themselves as Muslim. The authors posit that religion tends to have a more powerful effect than restrictions on women’s movement in many Muslim countries.
“One of the most surprising findings was that religious affiliations has a real influence on people’s sexual behaviors,” said Adamczyk. “Specifically, Muslim and Hindus are significantly less likely to report having had premarital sex than Christians and Jews. One of the novelties of our study is our analysis of behaviors, rather than attitudes. While a lot of research attention has been given to understanding differences between the major world religions in adherents’ attitudes, much less attention has been given to understanding differences based on behaviors.”
The study was inspired by Adamczyk’s earlier work where she observed the differences in HIV/AIDS infection rates between Christian- and Muslim-majority nations in which residents in Muslim-majority nations had lower infection rates than residents of Christian nations. Adamczyk and Hayes speculate that differences is sexual behaviors may help explain why people in Muslim-majority nations tend to have lower prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS than residents of other countries.
Adamczyk received her B.A. from Hunter College, City University of New York and her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. Her interests focus on religion, deviance and crime, and health. Her research has been supported with grants from the Department of Homeland Security and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Adamczyk’s coauthor, Brittany Hayes, is a Ph.D. student in the Criminal Justice program. She is currently working on a project focusing on how contextual factors influence victim–offender relationships in ideologically and non-ideologically motivated homicides.
The American Sociological Review is the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association and has an acceptance rate of 6%.
About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit www.jjay.cuny.edu.
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