Explaining My Research

It’s been a few days since the infographic came out. 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, insha’Allah, 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 dangerous. They clearly need to know about issues of 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.


Brezsnyak, M.,& Whisman, M.A. (2004). Sexual desire and relationship functioning: The effects of marital satisfaction and power. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 30, 199-217. doi: 10.1080/00926230490262393

Cado, S., & Leitenberg, H. (1990). Guilt reactions to sexual fantasies during intercourse. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 19, 49-63. doi: 10.1007/BF01541825

Darling, C.A., Davidson, J.K., & Passello, L.C. (1992). The mystique of first intercourse among college youth: The role of partners, contraceptive practices, and psychological reactions. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 21, 97-117. doi: 10.1007/BF01536984

Mendelsohn, M. J., & Mosher, D. L. (1979). Effects of sex guilt and premarital sexual permissiveness on role-played sex education and moral attitudes. Journal of Sex Research, 15, 174-183. doi:10.1080/00224497909551039

Trudel, G., & Goldfarb, M.R., (2010). Marital and sexual functioning and dysfunctioning, depression and anxiety. Sexologies, 19, 137-142. doi: 10.1016/j.sexol.2009.12.009

Witting, K., Santtila, P., Alanko, K., Harlaar, N., Jern, P., Johansson, A.,… Sandnabba, K. (2008). Female sexual function and its associations with number of children, pregnancy, and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 34, 89 – 106. doi: 10.1080/00926230701636163

4 thoughts on “Explaining My Research

  1. I’m curious- In your research, how did you define ‘sex’ for your participants? Did it have to be sex with a partner? Did it have to be penetrative sex?


    1. Thanks for the question, Lindsay. I had two questions. In one I asked if they had sexual experience, in the other I asked if they had engaged in sexual intercourse. The statistics I used in this infographic were from the sexual intercourse question, though the difference in numbers was 2 (2 – I believe – people said they had sexual experience but not sexual intercourse).


  2. “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.”

    I may sound naive, but I never expected such a high number…….


    1. Me neither, actually, but I’m not surprised. I think I was more surprised that people, thankfully, were willing to share.


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