Christopher Hitchens, in his now probably most famous work, god is not great (Emblem: 2007), indicts religion with “four irreducible objections” of which include that religious faith “…is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression…” (pg.4). It can be questioned whether Hitchens meant “the” as opposed to “a” result and/or cause but be that as it may, being a young man in his twenties, I would like personally to set the record straight that secular values and society, particularly in the North American context of the sexual liberation movement, have been equally repressive as religion when it comes to matters of sex, though of course for very different reasons. “Is not the problem that there’s rampant sex all over the place? What can possibly be your case that secularism is also sexually repressive?” is the objection raised. Some brief points:

            1) The anxiety over performance, technique, and pleasure- Secularism by trading the purpose of sex from love and procreation to almost a recreational activity for pleasure has unwittingly created more anxiety and worry about sex than ever before. Men worrying about the size of their penis, women worrying about pubic hair, parents worrying about keeping the ‘spice’ in their marriage, partners worrying about orgasms and whether they can ‘satisfy’ their partner, the worry whether one can measure up to one’s partner’s past experiences with others, the worry about becoming a sex addict, the worry over not having enough sex–all of this because now with sex as a sport their is the competition as to who is the best player and what makes them so good.

            2) The fear of becoming infected, pregnant or a pervert- Rampant numbers of partners, creates rampant amount of STDs and types of infections that now one has to live in constant fear of before having sex, or finding out after sex, “Was I infected with a fatal disease?”. In our world, the encouragement now is to get tested at the doctor’s before having sex with your partner. Such fear is sadly quite justified, but when both partners were presumably virgins no one had to fear death from sex. In addition to this, because sex is not for procreation, procreation could often be ‘accidental’. Understand that I’m not presenting a Pro-Roman-Catholic-No-Contraception-Ever argument but what is suggested is that now secularism has made children often the unwanted result of an activity, an economic burden unanticipated, rather than a bundle of joy in many cases. Finally, there is the fear of becoming a pervert. How has secularism changed this? Well by proposing that sexual attraction is entirely biological in nature, or almost entirely biological in nature, this creates almost a determinism when it comes to sexuality, and thus a fear that it will become uncontrollable. We see this in the anxieties of some as to whether they are gay or not, even when they are not. We also see it in grave fears of other sexual perversions. But it is because sexual choice, attraction, mating or whatever are seen as biologically determined, they are also things that control us, rather than us them, creating more fear and anxiety.

          Esquire  3) Lastly the great denigration of women as sexual objects- While many religious communities can also be rightfully accused of centering all of a women’s worth on the status of their virginity, secularism also has in many cases reduced a women’s worth to her sexuality. Recently, the editor of Esquire magazine, Alex Bilmes, made the quite honest confess that,

“We produce a men’s magazine and it has a male gaze… This is the controversial bit that people don’t like but I always tell the truth about it – the women we feature in the magazine are ornamental, that is how we see them…I could lie and say we are interested in their brains as well but on the whole we’re not, they are there to be a beautiful object, they’re objectified.” (i)

What was so shocking about this statement was not so much its content, though that too of course, but rather that he actually said it. Its has arguably been known for decades that this has been the case but no one dared to voice it in such a stark and blatant manner. The objectification of women’s bodies in patriarchal societies has of course been a terrible phenomenon over the course of many centuries but the justification for it in North American society is totally secular- the female body has become a commode in the capitalist market, as well as a tool for advertising. The objectification of the women’s body is now not as a baby machine to continue the ancestral lineage (as in more religiously oriented societies) but as sex products.

            These have been just some brief notes in need of further development, such as a definition of secularism and religiosity for our purposes. But I hope I’ve at least shown that sexual repression is hardly the sin of any one group, but is a problem of humanity and that secular society in these three forms has perpetuated its own forms of sexual repression.

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(i) Waterlow, Lucy. “Women are ‘ornamental’ and should be viewed in same way as ‘cool cars’: Esquire editor sparks row as admits he is not interested in girls’ brains.” Mail Online, March 21, 2013. < http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2296968/Esquire-editor-Alex-Bilmes-sparks-sexism-row-admits-women-ornamental-viewed-way-cool-cars.html >

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