Is there a correlation between sexual repression and sexual deviancy?

Now we all have heard stories of people growing up in incredibly strict households that become some of the most exploratory and sexually deviant persons as soon as they get a 'taste of freedom' in college, or kids that went to Catholic schools that seem to stand for the antithesis of everything the Catholic church is as soon as they get out.

I was wondering, "what gives?" Before, having researched this topic, I just figured that repression of all kinds leads to deviant behavior, but after a search through some databases, I could not find anything that corroborates this belief.

I did a few Google searches using the keywords Sexual repression and sexual deviance, as well as using the PsycINFO database from Ebsco that my school provides and using the same keywords to no avail. I also did searches of just the single keywords or ideas that vaguely mean the same thing, and I couldn't find what I was looking for.

Am I just wrong in my assumption, or am I using these words or search terms wrong? I would really appreciate some insight into this topic, thanks everyone!

  • $\begingroup$ Without the teachings of the churches and societal norms, what would even be defined as deviancy? $\endgroup$
    – DJG
    Jun 15, 2021 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ This seems somewhat unlikely ... strict households are common cultural staples in many parts of the world - if this premise was true, then there ought to be an epidemic of sexual deviance all around the world. In an answer to a different question, I did mention 2 studies that suggest that restricting adolescents access to pornography may increase sex crime, which is in line with your premise, but I don't think this is the majority view. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Jun 16, 2021 at 5:41
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe this stems from my preconceived idea of sexual deviance, to me, it seems that things that are sexually deviant, at least in western culture, are sexual behaviors that deviate from heterosexual monogamous relationships, and we have recently seen extreme attitudes of deviance towards these cultural norms of a bygone area. I think classifying it as an epidemic may be wrong because that attributes a negative connotation to deviance; this is why I may be confused, is deviance always a negative thing, and am I using it wrong in this context? $\endgroup$ Jun 16, 2021 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps. It would help to explain in your question what you mean by any terms that you use. If by sexual deviance you simply mean non-monogamous or non-heterosexual relationships, then you should probably state that. In clinical literature, deviance usually refers to paraphilia, or people who have unusual sexual preferences, which may have included non-monogamous or non-heterosexual relationships in the past, but is unlikely to be the case in modern literature. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Jun 16, 2021 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ Hi Joseph, I agree with Arnon that it would be helpful to define "sexual repression" and "sexual deviancy". For example, for "sexual repression", could this be defined by teaching abstinence in health class in public school? Or could this be something that occurs in the household? Or, as in your example, are you specifically interested in the effect of going to Catholic school on subsequent sexual behavior? (Sexual "behavior" in this comment is the broader class of behavior under which sexual deviancy may fall.) $\endgroup$
    – pep
    Jun 17, 2021 at 21:24

1 Answer 1


I think this question is not really about strict religious upbringings or sexuality at all, this is really about the broader issue of rebellious attitudes and anti-authoritarianism. No matter what controlled environment with particular sets of rules that groups of people find themselves in, there will always be a handful of those who rebel.

A good reference (among many that can be found) which suggests a neurological cause is below:

Rudorf, S., Baumgartner, T., Markett, S., Schmelz, K., Wiest, R., Fischbacher, U., & Knoch, D. (2018). Intrinsic connectivity networks underlying individual differences in control‐averse behavior. Human brain mapping, 39(12), 4857-4869. https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.24328


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