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Most world religions have sought to address the moral issues that arise from people's sexuality in society and in human interactions. Each major religion has developed moral codes covering issues of sexuality, morality, ethics etc. These moral codes seek to regulate the situations which can give rise to sexual interest and to influence people's sexual activities and practices.
Sexual morality has varied greatly over time and between cultures. A society's sexual norms—standards of sexual conduct—can be linked to religious beliefs, or social and environmental conditions, or all of these. Sexuality and reproduction are fundamental elements in human interaction and society worldwide. Furthermore, "sexual restrictions" is one of the universals of culture peculiar to all human societies. Accordingly, most religions have seen a need to address the question of a "proper" role for sexuality in human interactions. Different religions have different codes of sexual morality, which regulate sexual activity or assign normative values to certain sexually charged actions or thoughts.
The views of religions and religious believers range widely, from giving sex and sexuality a rather negative connotation, to the belief that sex is the highest expression of the divine. Views on sexuality may not even be shared among adherents of a particular sector. Some religions distinguish between sexual activities that are practiced for biological reproduction (sometimes allowed only when in formal marital status and at a certain age), and other activities practiced for sexual pleasure, as immoral.
The following summarises laws and penalties from the three major codes:
In the perspective of traditional Judaism, sex and reproduction are the holiest of acts one can do, the act through which one can imitate God, "The Creator", and in order to preserve its sanctity there are many boundaries and guidelines. Within the boundaries, there are virtually no outright strictures, and it is in fact obligatory. It prohibits sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage, maintains biblical strictures on relations within marriage including observance of Niddah, a prohibition on relations for a period including the menstrual period, and Tzniut, requirements of modest dress and behavior. Traditional Judaism views adultery, incest, and male/female homosexual acts as grave sins. See Jewish views of homosexuality. Judaism permits relatively free divorce, with Orthodox Judaism and Conservative Judaism requiring a religious divorce ceremony for a divorce to be religiously recognized. More modern branches of Judaism have adapted perspectives more consistent with contemporary general secular culture.
There are several levels to the observance of physical and personal modesty (tzniut) according to Orthodox Judaism as derived from various sources in halakha. Observance of these rules varies from aspirational to mandatory to routine across the spectrum of Orthodox stricture and observance.
Orthodox Judaism also maintains a strong prohibition on interfaith sexual relations and marriage.
Orthodox Jews tend to have a lower intermarriage rate than their Conservative and Reform counterparts. The 1990 National Jewish Population Survey indicated that of all the Jewish denominations, Orthodox Jews alone had a lower intermarriage rate in the 18-39 age category (3%) vs. the 40+ category (10%), compared with 37% vs. 10% for Conservative Jews, 53% vs. 10% for Reform Jews, and 72% vs. 39% for secular Jews. A Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report showed that Orthodox Judaism had doubled among synagogue-affiliated Jews in the United States, from 10% in 1990 to 21.8% in 2001, and that most of this growth was in the stricter Haredi Judaism as opposed to Modern Orthodox Judaism. It speculated that this trend may have been related to a general trend towards greater religious and social traditionalism, as well as due to earlier marriage and higher birth rates in Orthodox families consistent with more traditional sexual behavior. Orthodox Judaism, alone of all the Jewish denominations, retains relatively mild traditional disabilities on divorce, including a Biblical prohibition on a Kohen (priestly descendant of Aaron) marrying a divorcee or a woman who has engaged in certain types of sexual misconduct. These strictures, while observed, are generally regarded as matters of personal status rather than morality. An Orthodox bill of divorce is required for a divorce to be recognized.
Conservative Judaism, consistent with its general view that Halakha (Jewish law) is a binding guide to Jewish life but subject to periodic revision by the Rabbinate, has lifted a number of strictures observed by Orthodox Judaism. In particular, in December 2006, Conservative Judaism's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards adopted responsa presenting diametrically opposed views on the issue of homosexuality. It adopted an opinion restricting a prior prohibition on homosexual conduct to male-male anal sex only, which it declared to be the only Biblical prohibition, declaring all other prohibitions (e.g. male-male oral sex or lesbian sex) rabbinic, and lifting all rabbinic restrictions based on its interpretation of the Talmudic principle of Kevod HaBriyot ("human dignity"). While declining to develop a form of religious gay marriage, it permitted blessing lesbian and gay unions and ordaining openly lesbian and gay rabbis who agree not to engage in male-male anal sex. It is also a traditionalist opinion, upholding all traditional prohibitions on homosexual activity, also adopted as a majority opinion, The approach permits individual rabbis, congregations, and rabbinical schools to set their own policy on homosexual conduct. It reflects a profound change from a prior blanket prohibition on male homosexual practices. It acknowledges a sharp divergence of views on sexual matters within Conservative Judaism, such that there is no single Conservative Jewish approach to matters of sexuality. Conservative Judaism currently straddles the divide between liberal and traditional opinion on sexual matters within contemporary American society, permitting both views.
Conservative Judaism has maintained on its books a variety requirements and prohibitions, including a requirement that married women observe the laws of Niddah (refraining from sex during and shortly after their menstrual period and immersing in a Mikvah prior to resuming relations) and a general prohibition on non-marital heterosexual conduct. On the same day as the CJLS released its homosexuality responsa, it released multiple opinions on the subject of Niddah including a responsum lifting certain traditional restrictions on husband-wife contact during the niddah period while maintaining a prohibition on sexual relations. The permissive responsum on homosexuality used the Conservative movement's approach to Niddah as an analogy for construing the Biblical prohibition against male homosexual conduct narrowly and lifting restrictions it deemed Rabbinic in nature. The responsum indicated it would be making a practical analogy between an approach in which male homosexual couples would be on their honor to refrain from certain acts and its approach to Niddah:
The responsum enjoined young people not to be "promiscuous" and to prepare themselves for "traditional marriage" if possible, while not explicitly lifting or re-enforcing any express strictures on non-marital heterosexual conduct.
Even before this responsum, strictures on pre-marital sex had been substantially ignored, even in official circles. For example, when the Jewish Theological Seminary of America proposed enforcing a policy against non-marital cohabitation by rabbinical students in the 1990s, protests by cohabiting rabbinical students resulted in a complete rescission of the policy.
Conservative Judaism formally prohibits interfaith marriage and its standards currently indicate it will expel a Rabbi who performs an interfaith marriage. It maintains a variety of formal strictures including a prohibition on making birth announcements in synagogue bulletins for children on non-Jewish mothers and accepting non-Jewish individuals as synagogue members. However, interfaith marriage is relatively widespread among the Conservative laity, and the Conservative movement has recently adapted a policy of being more welcoming of interfaith couples in the hopes of interesting their children in Judaism.
Conservative Judaism, which was for much of the 20th century the largest Jewish denomination in the United States declined sharply in synagogue membership in the United States the 1990s, from 51% of synagogue memberships in 1990 to 33.1% in 2001, with most of the loss going to Orthodox Judaism and most of the rest to Reform. The fracturing in American society of opinion between increasingly liberal and increasingly traditionalist viewpoints on sexual and other issues, as well as the gap between official opinion and general lay practice vis-a-vis the more traditionalist and liberal denominations, may have contributed to the decline.
Reform Judaism, Humanistic Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism do not observe or require traditional sexuality rules and have welcomed non married and homosexual couples and endorsed homosexual commitment ceremonies and marriages.
Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism are more tolerant of interfaith marriage, and many rabbis in both communities will perform one. Humanistic Judaism permits interfaith marriage. Reform, Reconstructionist and Humanistic Judaism also do not require a religious divorce ceremony separate from a civil divorce.
It has been speculated that the more tolerant attitudes of Reform, Reconstructionist and Humanistic Judaism towards both sexual diversity and interfaith marriage may have contributed to the rise in their popularity during the 1990s, from about 33% of affiliated households to 38%, making it pass Conservative Judaism as the largest Jewish denomination in the United States.
In early and ascetic Christianity, with expectation of an imminent Armageddon, sex (procreation of children) was not highly emphasized, and was considered by some "evil", while celibacy and virginity were highly praised. Paul of Tarsus wrote in 1 Corinthians that "It is good for [the unmarried] to stay unmarried, but if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion". Some have suggested that Paul's treatment of sex was influenced by his conviction that the end of the world was imminent. Under this view, Paul, believing that the world would soon end, took it as a corollary that all earthly concerns, including sex, should hold little interest for Christians. Paul's letters show far greater concern with sexual issues than the gospel writers attributed to Jesus, since Paul was building Christian communities over decades and responding to various issues that arose.
Paul did, however, support marriage, and sex within marriage. He recognized that for married couples, sex is helpful in protecting them with respect to their temptations and he recommends ongoing sexual relations between spouses, even if their religious observances may prompt them to abstain for a time. Importantly, Paul’s view of sex is also that it is actually unnecessary for those with certain “gifts” (presumably "celibacy").
From the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Catholic Church formally recognized marriage between a freely consenting, baptized man and woman as a sacrament—an outward sign communicating a special gift of God's love. The Council of Florence in 1438 gave this definition, following earlier Church statements in 1208, and declared that sexual union was a special participation in the union of Christ in the Church. However the Puritans, while highly valuing the institution, viewed marriage as a "civil", rather than a "religious" matter, being "under the jurisdiction of the civil courts". This is because they found no biblical precedent for clergy performing marriage ceremonies. Further, marriage was said to be for the "relief of concupiscence" as well as any spiritual purpose.
Sex before marriage was not a taboo in the Anglican Church until the "Hardwicke Marriage Act of 1753, which for the first time stipulated that everyone in England and Wales had to be married in their parish church"  Prior to that time, "marriage began at the time of betrothal, when couples would live and sleep together... The process begun at the time of the Hardwicke Act continued throughout the 1800s, with stigma beginning to attach to illegitimacy" .
After World War II, divergence in Protestant teaching on sexuality accelerated. Today, progressive Christians in a wide number of denominations advocate that the teachings against premarital sex, divorce, and homosexuality have been either misread throughout previous centuries or that they applied to ancient, and not current, circumstances. Fundamentalist Christians tend to hold onto the idea that based on passages in the Bible that condemn men laying with men and porneia that homosexuality and premarital sex are sinful. However, some conservative Protestant Christians have downplayed the importance of Bible verses that condemn remarriage after divorce as adultery.(Matthew 5:31-32)
Scriptures in the New Testament dealing with sexuality are extensive. Subjects include: the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15), sexual immorality, divine love (1 Corinthians 13), mutual self-giving (1 Corinthians 7), bodily membership between Christ and between husband and wife (1 Corinthians 6:15-20) and honor versus dishonor of adultery.(Hebrews 13:4) Even with the large number of Bible passages that address issues of sexuality, interpretation of these verses can vary. The issue of premarital sex is good example of how the same verse can be viewed in different ways. In modern English, fornication typically refers to voluntary sexual intercourse between persons not married to each other. Given that modern definition, a verse that condemns fornication (such as 1 Corinthians 6:9 which is often cited by various denominations as biblical opposition to pre-marital sex) would appear to be clear. However, in the New Testament, fornication is the word used to translate the Koine Greek word porneia into English. In Ancient Greek, the word porneia meant "illicit sex" or "illegal sex". Early Christians interpreted this word to encompass activities such as: adultery, incest, and bestiality. Modern evangelical Christians tend to prefer the definition of premarital sex, or will even choose to broaden the term to also include activities such as homosexuality, prostitution, masturbation and pornography, while progressive Christians tend to limit the interpretation of the word to illegal sexual activities such as incest, bestiality, and pedophilia.
In most Lutheran, Reformed and United churches of the EKD in Germany and in the Netherlands and Switzerland view homosexuality as a violation of the 7th commandment. In these Lutheran, United and Reformed churches (Luther/Calvin) gay ministers are not permitted in ministry and gay couples are not allowed in their churches.
In the Anglican church there is a large discussion over the blessing of gay couples and over tolerance of homosexuality. In some dioceses, Anglican (Episcopal) churches in Canada and the USA permit openly gay priests in ministry and allow same-sex blessings, which has drawn much criticism from other parts of the Anglican Communion. Anglican churches in parts of Africa are extremely conservative in their attitude towards homosexuality. Gay priests in most Anglican churches must be celibate if they wish to continue their work as priests.
While the Unity Church at one point in its history offered prayers for the healing of homosexuality, the church has consistently ordained openly gay ministers, beginning with Ernest C. Wilson, who was ordained as a minister by founder Charles Fillmore, who sent him to a church in Hollywood, California on learning of his orientation.
Most evangelical churches, such as Southern Baptists, for example, interpret the Bible to say that homosexuality is a sin. Although Leviticus calls for the killing of anyone who commits a homosexual act, evangelicals believe that this was part of the Mosaic law. They point out that in the new testament, Romans 1:27, while it is still a sin, sinners have a chance for forgiveness. The theme of Leviticus, death, is not echoed in this reading.
The Catholic Church affirms the sanctity of human life, from conception to natural death. The Church believes the human being has been created in the "image and likeness of God", and that human life should not be weighed against other values such as economy, convenience, personal preferences, or social engineering. Therefore, the Church opposes activities that they believe harmful or devalue divinely created life, including euthanasia, eugenics, death penalty and abortion.
The Church preaches that Manichaeism is a heresy. Therefore, the Church does not preach that sex is sinful or an impairment to a grace-filled life. "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." then the human body and sex must likewise be good. The Catechism teaches that "the flesh is the hinge of salvation."
However the Church does refer to sexual intercourse outside of marriage is contrary to its purpose. The "conjugal act" aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul" (Catechism 1643) since the marriage bond is to be a sign of the love between God and humanity (Catechism 1617).
Pope John Paul II's first major teaching was on the Theology of the Body. Over the course of five years he elucidated a vision of sex that was not only positive and affirming but was about redemption, not condemnation. He taught that by understanding God's plan for physical love we could understand "the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life." He taught that human beings were created by a loving God for a purpose: to be loving persons who freely choose to love, to give themselves as persons who express their self-giving through their bodies. Thus, sexual intercourse between husband and wife is a symbol of their total mutual self-donation.
For John Paul II, "The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine." He says there is no other more perfect image of the unity and communion of God in mutual love than the sexual act of a married couple, whereby they give themselves in a total way—exclusively to one another, and up to end of their lives, and in a fruitfully generous way by participating in the creation of new human beings. Through this perspective, he understands the immorality of extra marital sex. It falsifies the language of the human body, a language of total love worthy of persons by using the body for selfish ends, thus treating persons and things and objects, rather than dealing with embodied persons with the reverence and love that incarnate spirits deserve. John Paul II stresses that there is great beauty in sexual love when done in harmony with the human values of freely chosen total commitment and self-giving. For him, this sexual love is a form of worship, an experience of the sacred.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church indicates that sexual relationships in marriage as a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator's generosity and fecundity  and lists fornication as one of the "Offenses Against Chastity"  and calls it "an intrinsically and gravely disordered action" because "use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose."
Few modern Muslim countries have legal systems based fully on Islamic law (called shariah), and an increasing number of Muslims do not look to shariah but to the Quran itself for moral guidance.
Qur'anic verses made it legal for Muslim men to marry women from other Abrahamic religions (i.e. Jews and Christians), provided that the women are faithful (adherent) to their own religious beliefs. Contemporary scholars have upheld this ruling.
A Muslim woman, on the other hand, is only allowed to marry a Muslim man, one of the reasons being, to marry a non-Muslim man would mean that the children would grow up as non-Muslims. A marriage contract between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man is traditionally considered illegal and void, and hence legally an adulterous affair. Another reason is to insure that the woman's legal rights are fully recognized in a marriage contract.
The Qur'an states the following conditions for men with regard to marriage:
4:22 And marry not women whom your fathers married save for what is past: it is shameful and odious—indeed an abominable custom.
4:23 Prohibited to you (For marriage) are: Your mothers, daughters, sisters; father's sisters, Mother's sisters; brother's daughters, sister's daughters; foster-mothers, foster-sisters; your wives' mothers; your stepdaughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in,- no prohibition if ye have not gone in; (Those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time save for what is past; for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
4:24 Also (prohibited are) women already married. Thus hath God ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property: desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you. And God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
4:25 If any of you have not the means wherewith to wed free believing women, they may wed believing girls from among those whom your right hands possess. And God hath full knowledge about your faith. Ye are one from another: wed them with the leave of their owners, and give them their dowers, according to what is reasonable. They should be chaste, not lustful, nor taking paramours: when they are taken in wedlock, if they fall into shame, their punishment is half that for free women. This (permission) is for those among you who fear sin; but it is better for you that ye practice self-restraint. And God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
4:26 Allah doth wish to make clear to you and to show you the ordinances of those before you; and (He doth wish to) turn to you (In Mercy): And God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
Most forms of sexual contact within a marriage are allowed. Sex is considered a pleasurable, even spiritual activity, and a duty. At least one hadith explicitly states that for a married couple to have sex is a good deed rewarded by God. Another hadith suggests that a man should not leave the proverbial bed until the woman is satisfied, a reference many say points to orgasm.
Adultery warrants severe punishment. Pre-marital sex is also considered sinful, albeit less severe. All shari'a laws regulating sexual conduct apply to both men and women equally, apart from those concerning menstruation.
Forbidden sexual contact includes genital contact with a woman while she is menstruating. In such case, other sexual contact (such as kissing and any sexual activity that does not include vaginal contact) is explicitly allowed. Temporary marriage (Mut'a, marriage designated for a preset period of time) is not allowed by the majority Sunni schools, but is allowed by Shia schools. Debate continues on its validity.
There are dissenting views on the topic of masturbation. While some scholars consider it unlawful and thus prohibited according to Islamic doctrine, others (such as those of the Hanbali doctrine) believe that those who masturbate out of fear of committing fornication or fear for their bodies have done nothing wrong and are not punished if (and only if) they are unable to marry. According to some hadiths however, men are encouraged to fast in order to avoid fornication and tempting oneself with sexual thoughts or conversations with opposite sex outside marriage is strongly discouraged.
The Quran clearly disapproves of sodomy, but only one passage, sura 4:16, can be interpreted as taking a particular legal position towards such activities: "As for the two of you who are guilty thereof, punish them both; and if they repent and improve, then let them be. Lo, Allah is relenting, merciful." The hadith (reports of Muhammad's sayings and deeds from those close to him in his lifetime) are inconsistent, some reporting that "inverts" were common in the Prophet's own tribe and that he was much amused by their wit, while others recommend the death penalty. Islamic law, or shariah, distinguishes between liwat (penetrative male-male sexual activity) and non-penetrative male same-sex activity, the second being considered only a minor sin requiring chastisement. Homosexual sodomy attracts the same penalties as adultery or fornication (flogging or death), although the exact punishment varies with schools and scholars.
The position regarding male/female anal intercourse is not clear-cut in Shia Islam. The majority of Shiite interpreters hold that (l) anal intercourse, while strongly disliked, is not haram (forbidden) provided the wife agrees, and (2), if the wife does not agree, then it is preferable to refrain: "Woman is a means of your pleasure, therefore do not harm her." Sunni Muslim disagree with that interpretation.
In the Bahá'í Faith, sexual relationships are permitted only between a husband and wife. Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith in his book of laws, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, forbid extramarital sexual intercourse. The Baha'i understanding of sex is that chastity should be practised by both sexes before marriage because it is commendable ethically and that it leads to a happy and successful marital life. The Bahá'í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse, but that its proper use is within the institution of marriage; Baha'is do not believe in the suppression of the sex impulse but in its regulation and control.
While Unitarianism and Universalism are terms used to express Christian theological ideas, since the 1950s it has changed to be less focused on Scripture and the traditions of Christianity and started to draw from a wider range of sources.
Unitarian Universalists have advocated for many decades for same-sex marriage. The Canadian Unitarian Council was given Intervenor status to argue in support of same-sex marriage in the debates before legalisation in 2005.
The Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ partnered to create Our Whole Lives, a comprehensive sexuality curricula that has modules from Kindergarten/Grade 1 through adult. This program is an abstinence-based program that focuses on comprehensive sexual education (as opposed to the abstinence-only programs often taught in the United States).
Unitarian Universalism advocates freedom for people to choose which sexual acts are morally and personally permissible, and to express one's sexual orientation and gender openly.
The Reverend Debra Haffner, a Unitarian Universalist minister, is co-founder and director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, a multi-faith organization promoting sexual health, education and justice in faith communities. The Institute has become a major progressive voice on sexuality issues, and Reverend Haffner completed an assessment of sexual health and responsibility within the UUA.
In Hinduism, views of sexual morality differ widely depending on the tendence. Hindu scriptures themselves are often vague about sexuality. There are temples depicting sexual activity openly (examples include temple complexes at Ajanta and Ellora, and at Khajuraho, which has a group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, with their erotic sculpture), and sexual imagery is not sacrilege, but sexual self-restraint (as well as in other aspects of life) are considered essential to a Hindu's well being and dharmic/karmic duties. Sexual variance was seen as a creative expression and was not expressly discouraged: it was also encouraged as part of a human soul's need to experience/comprehend the multifariousness that the world has to offer; but it is deemed, as with any other worldly act, impermanent and imperfect compared to the bliss of moksha. However, celibacy, sexual regulation and sexual abstinence was recommended for those who would like a quicker, less complicated and proven path to liberation. Note that any act of sex between consenting adults is not inherently sinful: being attached to sex might merely delay your 'liberation'; in that sense sex is as much an impedance as amassing wealth, anger, attachment to one's kin or any other worldly pursuits, including intellectual pursuits.
Religiously speaking, Hindus begin life at the Brahmacharya or "student" stage, in which they are directed to chastely advance themselves educationally and spiritually to prepare themselves for a life of furthering their dharma (societal, occupational, parental, etc. duties) and karma (right earthly actions); only once they reach the Grihastya or "householder" stage can they seek kama (physical pleasure) and artha (worldly achievement, material prosperity) through their vocations.
Among more traditional elements of Hindu society, such concepts as pre-marital sex are still anathema.
The Kama Sutra (Discourse on Kāma) by Vatsayana, widely believed to be just a manual for sexual congress, offers an insight into sexual mores, ethics and societal rules that were prevalent at that time (ca. 5 CE). Shrungara Ras (Romance, one of the nine rasas or emotions). A drama in Sanskrit, Shakuntalam by Kalidasa, cited as one of the best examples of Shrungara Ras, talks of the love story of Dushyanta and Shakuntala.
Buddhism does not go into details regarding what is right and what is wrong within the mundane activities of life. Details of accepted or unaccepted human sexual conduct is not specifically mentioned in any of the religious scriptures. The most common formulation of Buddhist ethics are the Five Precepts and the Eightfold Path, which say that one should neither be attached to nor crave sensual pleasure. These precepts take the form of voluntary, personal undertakings, not divine mandate or instruction. The third of the Five Precepts is "To refrain from committing sexual misconduct. However, the "sexual misconduct" is such a broad term, and is subjected to interpretation relative to the social norms of the followers. In fact, Buddhism in its fundamental form, does not define what is right and what is wrong in absolute terms for lay followers. Therefore the interpretation of what kinds of sexual activity is acceptable for a layperson, is not a religious matter as far as Buddhism is concerned.
Buddhist monks and nuns of most traditions are expected to refrain from all sexual activity and the Buddha is said to have admonished his followers to avoid unchastity "as if it were a pit of burning cinders."
Most Neopagan religions have the theme of fertility (both physical and creative/spiritual) as central to their practices, and as such encourage what they view as a healthy sex life, consensual sex between adults, regardless of gender or age.
Wicca, like other religions, has adherents with a broad spectrum of views ranging from conservative to liberal. It is a largely nondogmatic religion and has no prohibitions against sexual intercourse outside of marriage or relationships between members of the same sex. The religion's ethics are largely summed up by the Wiccan Rede: "An it harm none, do as thou wilt", which is interpreted by many as allowing and endorsing responsible sexual relationships of all varieties. Specifically in the Wiccan tradition of modern witchcraft, one of the widely accepted pieces of Craft liturgy, the Charge of the Goddess instructs that "...all acts of love and pleasure are [the Goddess'] rituals", giving validity to all forms of sexual activity for Wiccan practitioners.
In the Gardnerian and Alexandrian forms of Wicca, the "Great Rite" is a sex ritual much like the hieros gamos, performed by a priest and priestess who are believed to embody the Wiccan God and Goddess. The Great Rite is almost always performed figuratively using the athame and chalice as symbols of the penis and vagina. The literal form of the ritual is always performed by consenting adults, by a couple who are already lovers and in private. The Great Rite is not seen as an opportunity for casual sex.
Most Neopagan religions generally accept same-sex relationships as equal to heterosexual ones; notable exceptions include the early writings of Gerald Gardener, which are sometimes cited as homophobic, and some reconstructionists regard same-sex relationships as second to heterosexuality. Homophobia is considerably most-common amongst Germanic Neopaganism, though some are outspoken advocates of civil rights for same-sex-loving persons, and as homosexual or bisexual, themselves.
LaVeyan Satanism is critical of Abrahamic sexual mores, considering them narrow, restrictive and hypocritical. Satanists are pluralists, accepting gays, lesbians, bisexuals, BDSM, transgendered people, and asexuals. Sex is viewed as an indulgence, but one that should only be freely entered into with consent. The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth only give two instructions regarding sex: "Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal" and "Do not harm little children", though the latter is much broader and encompasses physical and other abuse. This has always been consistent part of CoS policy since its inception in 1966, as Peter H. Gillmore wrote in an essay on same sex marriage:
Finally, since certain people try to suggest that our attitude on sexuality is “anything goes” despite our stated base principle of “responsibility to the responsible,” we must reiterate another fundamental dictate: The Church of Satan’s philosophy strictly forbids sexual activity with children as well as with non-human animals.
— Magister Peter H. Gilmore
Many cultures attempt to codify their prescriptions concerning individual sexual behaviors. Such codifications are frequently enacted as laws, extending their application beyond the culture to other cultures under the purview of the laws, including dissenters.
Most of the Islamic world has strict rules enforced with sometimes violent punishments to enforce Islamic moral codes, including sexual morality on their citizens, and impose it on non-Muslims living within their societies. The same was true of various European Christian regimes at some stages in history, and some contemporary Christians support restrictions on the private expression of sexuality outside of marriage, ranging from prohibitions of prostitution to restrictions on oral sex and sodomy.