Relations Reporting on marriage, family, and sexuality

Religion and romance

Family | A new report bursts modern stereotypes about who is in the most satisfying relationships
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 6/07/19, 01:55 pm

Very religious couples enjoy higher-quality relationships and more sexual satisfaction than less religious or secular couples, according to a new study by the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution. The report looked at four key outcomes—relationship quality, fertility, domestic violence, and infidelity—among couples in religious, mixed, and secular marriages in 11 countries around the world. It asked, “Is faith a global force for good or ill in the family?”

Overall, religion is good for couples, the study concluded. Those who attend religious services together are more likely to say their relationships are marked by satisfaction, commitment, attachment, and stability. Nearly 50 percent of women in couples with a shared faith reported being satisfied with their sexual relationship, compared to just 32 percent of women in secular or mixed-religion couples.

One of the authors, W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, explained in an interview with Quillette that “for many couples, I think a shared faith translates into greater exposure to norms like fidelity and forgiveness, family-friendly networks that lend counsel and support when the going gets tough, and a nomos—or a religious belief system—that both buffers against the stresses of married life and encourages them to prioritize their marriage by investing their relationship, and life more generally, with tremendous meaning.”

Highly religious wives with traditional gender values were the most likely to report relational satisfaction (73 percent), followed by highly religious wives with progressive gender values (60 percent), and then secular wives with progressive gender values (55 percent). Wives in mixed relationships, regardless of the gender ideology, scored lower.

“It turns out the bluest and reddest wives are most likely to report that they are ‘very happy’ in their marriages,” the report’s authors observed in an opinion article for The New York Times. “In fact, in listening to the happiest secular progressive wives and their religiously conservative counterparts, we noticed something they share in common: devoted family men. Both feminism and faith give family men a clear code: They are supposed to play a big role in their kids’ lives.” The authors note the average amount of time fathers devote to child care jumped from 2.5 hours per week in 1965 to eight hours per week in 2016.

The boost from religion had one notable exception. Religion had no statistically significant effect when it came to abuse. Reports of intimate partner violence (physical, sexual, or emotional abuse) stayed constant at about 20 percent of men and women.

The report pushes back on the idea promulgated by American academics and the cultural elite that liberation from religion is the key to sexual fulfillment, David French wrote for National Review. French said the study explodes “progressive cultural stereotypes of unhappy, sexless religious prudes.” He also noted it comes at a time when research is finding young Americans are having less sex than previous generations. “Sexual liberation has all too often brought neither sex nor liberation,” French wrote. “Are you seeking love in this life? The church doors are always open, and while matchmaking isn’t its purpose, the connection to a holy God carries with it connection to his flawed people, and in those connections you can find profound joy.”

Associated Press/Photo by Mark Schiefelbein (file) Associated Press/Photo by Mark Schiefelbein (file) Caster Semenya at Carrara Stadium during the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia

Swiss court sides with Semenya

A Swiss court ordered the governing body of track and field to suspend regulations on Monday barring female athletes with elevated testosterone levels from competing in top-level middle-distance races.

South African Olympian Caster Semenya had argued that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rule violated her human rights. “I am a woman, and I am a world-class athlete,” Semenya said. “The IAAF will not drug me or stop me from being who I am.” 

The IAAF regulation requires females with naturally elevated testosterone levels, like Semenya, to take medication to reduce their levels for six months prior to competing in the 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1,500-meter races at international competitions. Women with the disorder have testosterone levels in the male range, which gives them greater muscle-building capacity and allows them to carry more oxygen in their blood.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland decided last month that the rule was necessary to achieve fairness among female athletes. Semenya appealed to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, the country’s highest court, and it suspended the regulation.

The case affects other elite runners. Last month Margaret Wambui of Kenya followed Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi in announcing she falls under the new regulations. Now all three medalists in the 800-meter race at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics—Semenya with gold, Niyonsaba with silver, and Wambui with bronze—have acknowledged they have elevated testosterone levels. Wambui said she would not take any medication to reduce her levels, and said she was considering switching to the 100- and 200-meter races.

Monday’s decision temporarily lifts the IAAF rules until the federation responds with its arguments, which are due by June 25. If the IAAF does not convince the court to overturn ruling, the regulations will remain suspended until Semenya’s full appeal is heard by a panel of Swiss judges. That could take up to a year.

In the meantime, Semenya could be cleared to run the 800-meter race in the world track and field championships in Doha, Qatar, in September and October. —K.C.

Associated Press/Photo by Josh Reynolds (file) Associated Press/Photo by Josh Reynolds (file) Bishop Thomas Tobin in Riverside, R.I.

Standing by his tweet

A Rhode Island Catholic bishop isn’t backing down after taking criticism for a tweet last week discouraging parishioners from participating in Pride Month. “A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events held in June,” Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin tweeted on June 1. “They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.”

Tens of thousands of comments blasted the tweet—including from actress Mia Farrow calling it “pure ignorance and bigotry.” The diocese released a statement from Tobin the next day in which he expressed regret that the comments offended some but concluded, “As a Catholic bishop, however, my obligation before God is to lead the faithful entrusted to my care and to teach the faith, clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues.” —K.C.

Surrogacy in Silicon Valley

A recent report in The Economist 1843 delves into the surging rates of surrogacy in California’s Bay Area, made possible by tech-generated wealth and progressive employer subsidies. Carrot Fertility, a Silicon Valley benefits company founded in 2016, said requests for surrogacy have risen 500 percent year over year. The main clients: heterosexual couples who have struggled with infertility, gay couples, and unmarried heterosexual men who want to be fathers. —K.C.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a former WORLD correspondent.

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