Sexual repression is a state where a person is unable or prevented from expressing their own sexuality. It is often associated with guilt or shame and sexual impulses. What constitutes as sexual repression varies massively between cultures.


Sigmund Freud was one of the first people to use the term widely, he argued it was a big problem in Western society. He believed that people had strong instincts towards sexuality, and that they constrained them due to society.

Freud never came without his criticisms, with sex therapists specifically targeting that Freud’s belief in universal sexuality was not based on the strength of sexual desire, rather the weakness.

In other cultures, sexual repression has been a massive topic, with countries like India using anaphrodisiacs in order to lower peoples libidos.


Religion has always been a huge place of sexual repression, in Christianity, homosexuality is strongly discouraged. Similar beliefs also exist in Islam.


There are also many laws in various countries that are there to prevent sexual acts outside of marriage. Countries include Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and more.


Marriage is seen by many as a form of sexual repression. Some forms of marriage are practised to regulate the sexuality of girls, this is particularly visible in child marriage.  People will marry off their children in order to regulate their daughters sexuality. According to the BBC some parents will marry off their daughters in order to increase their own income and to prevent promiscuity in their daughters.

Female Circumcision

Female circumcision or genital mutilation is where someone will remove external genitalia. This practice is prevalent in Africa and Indonesia, with more than 125 million women being subjected to it.

It does not have any benefits, and can serious impact health negatively, especially in childbirth. Female genital mutilation is used as a way of controlling female sexuality, and is motivated by beliefs that surround what is proper sexual behaviour. It is a form of sexual repression that is condemned by international human rights instruments. 

Male Circumcision

Male circumcision is practices around the world and is a surgical means of sexual repression. In Islam and Judaism male circumcision is a traditional practice that happens at childbirth. In Judaism, the reason for male circumcision is to bring about the decrease in sexual intercourse and diminish sexual activity.

In the late nineteenth century, circumcision was said to be a cure for masturbation.

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