religiosity, sexual sanctification, sexual guilt, sexual satisfaction


With a Mechanical Turk sample of 1,614 sexually active individuals (62.6% women, 85% heterosexual, mean age of 34.47 years) who had been in a committed sexual relationship for a least two years, we used structural equation modeling to better understand how global religiosity may indirectly influence sexual satisfaction. Because religiosity has been linked to the way people make sense of sexuality, we assessed positive (sexual sanctification) and negative (sexual guilt) meaning making variables as mediators between religiosity and sexual satisfaction. Consistent with prior research, greater sanctification of sexuality was directly tied to greater sexual satisfaction, whereas greater sexual guilt was directly tied to less sexual satisfaction. Greater general religiosity was indirectly related to greater sexual satisfaction for men and women through greater sexual sanctification. Contrary to expectations, no significant pathways emerged between greater religiosity and less sexual satisfaction via sexual guilt, possibly due to reliance on a one item indicator for the latter variable. Also, in structural equation models, when sanctification of sexuality was taken into account, greater religiosity was directly tied to less sexual satisfaction for women, but not for men. This suggests that sanctification of sexuality represents a facet of religiousness that facilitates women's and men's sexual satisfaction, whereas other religious beliefs may inhibit women's sexual satisfaction.

Original Publication Citation

Leonhardt, N. D., Busby, D. M., & Willoughby, B. J. (2020). Sex guilt or sanctification? The indirect role of religiosity on sexual satisfaction. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 12, 213-222.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Psychology of Religion and Spirituality




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor