I’m happy to announce a new peer reviewed publication in the journal Culture and Religion, written together with my colleague Jelle Wiering (RUG Groningen). The past year, we wrote, thought, and presented together on the relation between sexuality and religion. Specifically, we address some concerns about the way sex and sexuality are studied in the field of religious studies and anthropology of religion. As most of us intuitively know, there is ‘more’ to sex than being heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual, asexual, lesbian, etc. Sex is not only an identity, but a bodily practice. Yet the intimacy of sex makes it a paradoxical topic for academics. For how can one study sex without being trapped in identity-discourses? Is there any way to do research on empirical sexual practices that goes further than discourse, or narration? How can academics understand the relation between discourse and practice in the field of sex and sexuality? Reflecting on our case studies we aim to show how religious and secular ideas of sex do not only shape sexual ethics or moral, but have an impact on the bodily, experiental and sensory qualities of sex. As such, both religion and secularity shape experiences and moralities of ‘good sex’.
Schrijvers, L.L. & Wiering, J. (2018): Religious/secular Discourses and Practices of Good Sex. Culture and Religion 19(2), DOI: 10.1080/14755610.2018.1444655
This article focuses on the triangulation of sexuality, religion and secularity in Dutch society by analysing two contemporary case studies. We focus on sexual experiences and practices rather than sexual identities to further understand the constructions of what constitutes ‘good’ sex. The empirical research is situated in the Netherlands, where the binary of religion and sexual regulation versus secularity and sexual freedom has been dominant in both public and political discourse for a long time. Exploring sexual practices and narratives as central to the constitution of both religious and secular selves, we noted these to be fluctuating, inconsistent and subject to discourses. Our first case study discusses sexual experiences of non-heterosexual Protestant women, whereas the second explores the frequently considered ‘neutral’ notions of secularity in sexual education. Applying insights from both religious studies and queer studies, we bring the empirical study of sexuality together with the theoretical debates about the conceptualisation of the secular and the religious in contemporary Western Europe. This comparative approach to sexuality not only undermines the culturally presumed exclusive opposition of the secular and the religious but it also provides new empirical contributions for understanding the interactions between sexual practices and sexual discourses.