Religion and Sexuality in France from the 1970s to the 2000s. Changes in Practices and Attachment to the Heterosexual Family

By Marion Maudet, James Tovey

The growing diversity of affective and sexual trajectories, the waning influence of institutional principles governing behaviours and representations, and the individualization of both sexual and religious practices raise questions about the influence of religion on contemporary sexuality in France. Drawing on data from three French surveys on sexuality conducted in 1970, 1992 and 2006, this article characterizes the sexual practices and representations of Catholics and Muslims in France, focusing on the combined effects of gender and religion. We show that over the period, for a series of sexual practices, including contraception, masturbation and pornography, the behavior of Catholics moved closer to that of people with no religion. But the age at first sexual intercourse remained higher for Catholic and Muslim women than for non-religious women in 2006. This interaction between gender and religion relative to certain sexual practices is also observed for representations of sexuality, notably of homosexuality and same-sex parenting. Compared with non-religious people, Catholics and Muslims, men in particular, are strongly attached to the heterosexual family.


  • religion
  • catholicism
  • Islam
  • no religion
  • gender
  • sexuality
  • homosexuality
  • heteronormativity
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