Culture strongly influences both the way we feel about our sexuality and the way we express it. In this section, we examine some influences in Western society—particularly in the United States—that affect our sexuality and can contribute to sexual problems.

Negative Childhood Learning

We learn many of our basic, important attitudes about sexuality during childhood. While growing up, we observe and integrate the models of human relationships from our families. We notice how our parents use touch and how they feel about one another. For example, one research study found that women with low sexual desire perceived their parents’ attitudes toward sex and their affectionate interaction with each other to be sig­nificantly more negative than did women with higher sexual desire (Stuart et al., 1998).

A variety of therapist researchers have reported that religious orthodoxy that creates guilt about sex by equating it with reproduction or labeling it as sinful is common to the backgrounds of many sexually troubled people (Fox et al., 2006; Hunt & Jung, 2009). One study found that women who reported more guilt about sex had lower sexual desire than women with little or no guilt (Woo et al., 2011). Further, research indicates that people who leave their religion report dramatic improvement in their sexual lives. The more sexu­ally conservative the religion was, the greater the improvement reported (Ray, 2012).