Christianity and Sex

The topic of sex has always been of a special importance in Christianity. In the Bible, one can find narratives of procreation, abstinence, chastity, virginity, sexual desire and pleasure, sexual immorality, regulations on, and even detailed description of sexual acts. The interpretations of biblical teachings, when it comes to sex, have represented all kinds of sexual moralities throughout the ages of Christianity. The most sacred of Christian symbols, including the body of Christ, Holy Mary, and the Holy Ghost, have been experienced within a sexual context by highly revered saints and some monastic orders. By contrast, Christian asceticism has been primarily associated with chastity and celibacy.

Sexual immorality is at the focus of the ethical teachings of the Old Testament, the Gospels, and Apostle Paul. The issues of homosexuality, incest, sex outside of marriage, and “unnatural” practices are discussed, along with the pious practices of childbearing, chastity, spousal sex, and celibacy. Likewise, modern Christians hold very active political and cultural positions on sex, especially when it comes to same-sex relations, abortion, pornography, pre-marital sex, and promiscuity. The narratives of post-secularity regard sex as one of the major themes of resilient religion in the modern world.

Sex is thus always a potentiality in ethical, cultural, political, and theological debates within the context of Christianity. Sex is one of the central themes in hamartiology — the study of sin. Most adult converts report sexual immorality as one of the foremost examples of their old sinful ways, be it promiscuity, an obsession with pornography, or inappropriate relations with the opposite sex. The issue of gender itself is often put in the context of sex in Christian ethical discourses.

The existing research on sex and Christianity is largely represented by studies of gender and ethics (Mahmood 2005; Gallagher 2003; Erzen 2006; Fedele and Knibbe 2013; Gemzöe et al. 2016; Kupari and Vuola 2019), historical critique (Martin 1995; 2006), and confessional theologies. Methodologically, the most recent studies of sex and gender in Christianity are situated in the context of “lived religion” — focusing on everyday Christian practices (Orsi 1985).

We invite paper submissions that connect Christianity and sex, both broadly understood. How do Christians practice sex? How do they interpret their sexualities, chastity and virginity, marriage and sexual immorality? How do they negotiate their gender order, family values, and raising children in the context of sex? What are the ethical and theological implications of sexual life? How do sexual practices distinguish Christian life from worldly living? How does sex play the role of a tool for resilient religion?

Theological, sociological, philosophical, anthropological, historic, and especially cross-disciplinary approaches are welcome, as well as the studies of all kinds of communities, old and new, historic and contemporary, local and global, (self-)identified as Christian.

Igor Mikeshin: