Sexual repression

Sexual repression is a state in which a person is prevented from expressing his or her sexuality. Sexual repression is often associated with feelings of guilt or shame being associated with sexual impulses.[1] What constitutes sexual repression is subjective and can vary greatly between cultures and moral systems. Many religions have been accused of fostering sexual repression.

Some ideologies seek to repress certain forms of sexual expression, such as homosexuality. Some use religious rituals (male infant circumcision) to try and numb or at least lower sexual drive/pleasure, and some cultures even use violent practices such as female genital mutilation, honor killings, or stoning, in an attempt to regulate human sexual behavior.


Sigmund Freud was the first to use the term widely, and argued that it was one of the roots of many problems in Western society.[2] Freud believed that people's naturally strong instincts toward sexuality were repressed by people in order to meet the constraints imposed on them by civilized life. However, Freud's ideas about sexual repression have not been without their critics. According to sex therapist Bernard Apfelbaum, Freud did not base his belief in universal innate, natural sexuality on the strength of sexual desire he saw in people, but rather on its weakness.[3]

In religion

Further information: Religion and sexuality

Most forms of Christianity strongly discourage homosexual behavior.[4]

Many forms of Islam have strict sexual codes which include banning homosexuality, demanding virginity before marriage accompanied by a ban on fornication, and can require modest dress-codes for men and women (during prayer).[5]


Further information: Fornication and Adultery

Various countries have laws against sexual acts outside marriage. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan,[6] Afghanistan,[7][8] Iran,[8] Kuwait,[9] Maldives,[10] Morocco,[11] Oman,[12] Mauritania,[13] United Arab Emirates,[14][15] Sudan,[16] Yemen,[17] any form of sexual activity outside marriage is illegal.


Further information: Child marriage

Marriage has been seen as a means of controlling sexuality.[18] Some forms of marriage, such as child marriage, are often practiced as a means of regulating the sexuality of girls, by ensuring they do not have several partners, thus preserving their virginity for the future husband.[19] According to the BBC World Service:[20]

In some cases, parents willingly marry off their young girls in order to increase the family income or protect the girl from the risk of unwanted sexual advances or even promiscuity.

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, "comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons".[21] The practice is concentrated in 27 countries in Africa as well as Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen; and more than 125 million girls and women today are estimated to have been subjected to FGM.[21]

FGM does not have any health benefits, and has serious negative effects on health; including complications during childbirth.[21]

FGM is used as a way of controlling female sexuality; the World Health Organization (WHO) states:[21]

FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman's libido and therefore believed to help her resist "illicit" sexual acts.

Honor killings

Main article: Honor killing

An honor killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the perpetrators' belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family or community, usually for reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate, or engaging in homosexual relations.[22][23][24][25][26] According to a UN Expert Group Meeting on good practices in legislation to address harmful practices against women:[27]

They [honor killings] stem from the deeply-rooted social belief that male family members (in some cases, mothers and other women are involved in planning or carrying out honor crimes) should control the sexuality of or protect the reputation of women in the family, and that they may contain their movements or kill them for blemishing family honor, even when rumors or false gossip are the reason for public suspicion.

Same-sex sexual activity

Further information: Sodomy law

Various cultures attempt to repress homosexual sexual expression. As of 2014, same-sex sexual acts are punishable by prison in 70 countries, and in five other countries and in parts of two others, homosexuality is punishable with the death penalty.[28] Apart from criminal prosecution, LGBT individuals may also face social stigmatization and serious violence (see Violence against LGBT people).


Some researchers have hypothesized a relationship between sexual repression and rape. However, they have been unable to find any support for this hypothesis - whether the tremendous difficulty of measuring sexual repression is to blame, or whether the theory is simply false, is unknown.[29]

Sexual repression is often viewed as a key issue within feminism,[30] although feminist views on sexuality vary widely.

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault, in his The History of Sexuality, neither refutes nor confirms what he calls the "repressive hypothesis." Instead, he says sexuality has become an important topic to understand and manipulate for the purpose of nation building. Through categorization of sexuality, the idea of repression was born. While he agrees sexuality has become much more controlled, he equates it to necessity. Furthermore, it is through psychiatric and medical discourse on sexuality that it has become repressed.

Foucault argues that religious confession as well as psychiatric procedure codify confession within as a means of extracting truth. Because the mechanisms of sex were obscure, it was elusive by nature and its mechanisms escaped observation. By integrating it into the beginnings of a scientific discourse, the nineteenth century altered the scope of confession. Confession tended no longer to be concerned solely with what the subject wished to hide but with what was hidden from himself. It had to be extracted by force, since it involved something that tried to stay hidden. This relationship of truth scientifically validated the view of the confessed which could assimilate, record, and verify this obscure truth.[31]

Repression in various countries

Many countries have developed a much more liberal attitude towards sexuality, but in some it has become less so:


Reproduction-based sex was urged by Mao Zedong, but later politicians instituted a one-child policy. In a country where atheism is popular, the restriction cannot be ascribed to religion but to nationalist motives.[32]

See also


  1. Karen A. McClintock, Sexual Shame: An Urgent Call to Healing, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN. (ISBN 0800632389) (2006).
  2. Wilf Hey. "Sigmund Freud: Psychoanalysis and Sexual Repression",
  3. B. Apfelbaum. "Sexual Reality and How We Dismiss It."
  4. liberal media Free Lance-Star retrieved 27 January 2012
  5. Sex and Society Volume 3 - Page 722
  6. "Human Rights Voices – Pakistan, August 21, 2008".
  7. "Home". AIDSPortal.
  8. 1 2 "Iran".
  9. "United Nations Human Rights Website – Treaty Bodies Database – Document – Summary Record – Kuwait".
  10. "Culture of Maldives – history, people, clothing, women, beliefs, food, customs, family, social".
  11. Fakim, Nora (9 August 2012). "BBC News – Morocco: Should pre-marital sex be legal?". BBC.
  12. "Legislation of Interpol member states on sexual offences against children – Oman" (PDF). Interpol. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 December 2007.
  13. "2010 Human Rights Report: Mauritania". 8 April 2011.
  14. Dubai FAQs. "Education in Dubai".
  15. Judd, Terri (10 July 2008). "Briton faces jail for sex on Dubai beach – Middle East – World". The Independent. London.
  16. "Sudan must rewrite rape laws to protect victims". Reuters. 28 June 2007.
  17. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Refworld | Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa – Yemen". UNHCR.
  20. "Article 16: Right to marriage and family and to equal rights of men and women during and after marriage". BBC World Service. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  21. 1 2 3 4
  29. Mary E. Odem, Jody Clay-Warner, Confronting rape and sexual assault, Rowman & Littlefield, 1998, p. 104.
  30. Shulman, Alix Kates (1980). "Sex and Power: Sexual Bases of Radical Feminism". Signs. University of Chicago Press. 5 (4): 590–604. ISSN 1545-6943. JSTOR 3173832 via JSTOR. (registration required (help)).
  31. Michel Foucault (14 April 1990). The history of sexuality. Vintage Books. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-679-72469-8. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  32. Yuehong Zhang, Everett (September 2005). "Rethinking Sexual Repression in Maoist China: Ideology, Structure and the Ownership of the Body". Body & Society. 11 (3). doi:10.1177/1357034X05056188.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/28/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.