Sexualisation of Society

‘Too much sex these days – the sexualisation of society?’

There has been a liberalising of attitudes towards sex over the last 50 years in conjunction with rapid social, technological and economic change. The perception among many people now is that sex has too prominent a role in the public life of society, with children in particular exposed to deeply damaging attitudes and pressures.

Our YouGov survey bears out this perception, finding that most people (66%) think our society is too sexualised, with too high a profile given to sex these days. On this point most men and women agree, but men are twice as likely (40%) as women (20%) to strongly agree that sex is important for a fulfilled life.

Do religious people have a different code of conduct when it comes to sex? Conservative Protestant Christians and Muslims are most likely to take a strict view of sexual morality, but our poll found that most Anglicans, Catholics and Jews ignore religious leaders and official teachings to make a fairly close fit with the attitudes of the general population.

Most of us think that, while sex is important for a fulfilled life, our society is too sexualised


“All through my late teens and twenties I lived a typical hack’s life and smoked a lot, drank a lot, slept around and bought the whole package about free love: sex is good, it is healthy … I bought into all of that until I discovered it was doing me no good at all.”

Jenny Taylor

“The connection between sex and procreation has been broken … Once you have broken that connection between procreation and sex it leads you down a path to a place where I think sexual activity becomes another form of entertainment.”

Catherine Pepinster

“The sexual revolution was a rebellion against many things. Sex was a symbol. Young people no longer wanted to be told: ‘No, you can’t do this. No, you can’t have pleasure. No, you can’t have fun.’ Who had the right to tell me how to live my own life?”

Linda Woodhead

Some media reaction

‘“Catholic guilt” is a myth – but puritanism is alive and well, says study.’ Only one in 10 regular mass-going Roman Catholics in Britain feel any guilt about using contraception despite Pope Benedict’s strong opposition to it, the study found. They are also much less likely to feel guilty about committing adultery, having sex before marriage or using pornography than people from many other religious groups.

John Bingham, Daily Telegraph, 27 February 2013

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, Professor Woodhead said ‘… It shows that the official positions of churches are significantly more conservative than the members of those churches. It’s interesting because secular people usually think that religious people have very conservative views on society and it’s simply not true.’

Felicity A. Morse, Huffington Post, 26 February 2013


Read the BBC Ethics guide regarding sexual abstinence

For background on Christian ethics and an account of Catholic natural law teaching, go to The Tablet’s Student Zone 

The Silver Ring Thing’ is an American youth ministry which promotes a message of purity and abstinence until marriage

This event was held at QEIICC, Westminster, Wednesday 27 February 2013


  • 0130227_WFD13_02_12

    Catherine Pepinster

    Catherine Pepinster has since 2004 been editor of The Tablet, a weekly Catholic journal which she...

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  • Charles Clarke

    Charles Clarke

    Charles was Labour Member of Parliament for Norwich South, which he remained until May 1997 –...

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  • 0130227_WFD13_02_09

    Donna Freitas

    Donna Freitas writes both fiction and non-fiction, and blogs, and is a Professor of Religious...

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  • 0130227_WFD13_02_31

    Jenny Taylor

    Dr Jenny Taylor founded Lapido Media to promote “religious literacy”, understanding among...

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  • Linda Woodhead

    Linda Woodhead

    Linda is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University and Director of the Religion...

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  • 0130227_WFD13_02_19

    Maureen Kendler

    Maureen Kendler teaches at the London School for Jewish Studies where she is also Head of...

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  • Intro by Jenny Taylor

  • Intro by Donna Freitas

  • Intro by Catherine Pepinster

  • Intro by Maureen Kendler

  • Intro by Linda Woodhead

  • Sexualisation of Society Part 1

  • Sexualisation of Society Part 2


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