Exploring Sexual Experiences, Shame, and Access to Sexual Health Information among Muslim Youth in Canada & U.S.: A Research Study
We welcome guest writer and researcher Sobia Ali Faisal, who recently earned her doctoral degree from the University of Windsor. Her research is compelling and was turned into an info graphic. Below, she succinctly explains what her research findings were and why it is so important for our communities to begin making a commitment to sex education for Muslim youth. We congratulate Sobia for such compelling research and look forward to more of her work in this field.
by Sobia Ali Faisal
Some of my research findings from my doctoral work were put into an infographic to make the results more accessible than they are right now in the huge dissertation document. It’s great to see the information get out there and be shared. Research on sex and Muslims in Canada and the US is virtually non-existent. People have had some questions on it so I thought I would explain my research a little (and save people having to read my entire dissertation). I’m hoping to get it published in the near future, God willing, but some of this information is relevant right now. Although the issue is not being covered in the media as much anymore, this is an issue that is and will be relevant for Muslims for a long time.
Muslim Youth Need Sex Education
Yes they do. Why? Because Muslim youth are having sex. I surveyed 403 Muslims in Canada and the US between the ages of 17 and 35. More than half (221) reported they had engaged in sex. I did not ask for any particular time frame. I was simply asking if they had ever had sex. Of those 221, two-thirds (148) said they had done so before marriage. Before anyone thinks that most of those 148 people were men, I found these proportions were the same for men and women – two-thirds of the women and two-thirds of the men had sex before marriage.
Even when looking at those who had not engaged in sex before marriage, half of those Muslims reported that they had considered doing so.
It’s clear that sex is relevant to Muslim youth. Previous research on the sexual education of Muslim youth (done mostly in New Zealand or the UK) has found Muslim parents DO want their children to have sexual education, but not until they are getting married. Knowing that Muslims are having sex before marriage means that having them wait until they are getting married to provide them with this education is too late and, not to mention, dangerous. They clearly need to know about issues of contraception, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, consent, violence in relationships, and healthy sexual decision making long before that time.
The Greatest Source of Sex Ed is the Media and Parents are the Least Likely Source
I asked my participants to rate, on a scale from 0 – 4, how much sexual education they received from the media, their friends, and their parents. Media received the highest rating and was statistically significantly higher than the rating given to parents as a source of education.This isn’t unique to Muslims, but it highlights the problem that plagues all young people – parents aren’t talking about issues of sex and sexual health so the school systems need to provide this education. My research simply points out that Muslim youth are no different than their non-Muslim counterparts in this regard.
Lack of Sexual Knowledge -> Fear of Negative Sexual Self-Judgement -> Unhealthy Relationships
The main focus of my dissertation was sexual guilt and sexual anxiety of young Muslim adults. Previous research has found belief in sexual myths and lack of sexual knowledge to be related to higher levels of sexual guilt. Sexual guilt is a fear of negatively judging oneself for either engaging in or possibly engaging in sexual activity.
Previous research has also found a sexual guilt to be related to greater sexual dissatisfaction, higher frequency of sexual problems, and dissatisfaction with a current sexual relationship, which in turn has been found to be related to decreased relationship and marital satisfaction.
Lack of sexual knowledge can therefore result in negative feelings about sexual activity which will have an impact on sexual and romantic relationships.
My conclusion is the same as before – young Muslims need sexual health education, just as their non-Muslim counterparts do.
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Sobia Ali-Faisal received her PhD in Applied Social Psychology from the University of Windsor in 2014. She currently resides in Canada.
originally published on sobiaalifaisal.com