At noon each day, Melati Mohdsalleh, her hair veiled for modesty, can be found on her knees praying toward Mecca. The senior liberal studies major performs the prayer ritual five times a day and lives her life according to the principles and morals found in the Koran.
For Mohdsalleh, even sexual behavior is dictated by what she finds in the holy book.
“Sexuality should be expressed within the covenant of marriage,” Mohdsalleh said. “Loving is not about just the emotional, it encompasses everything.”
Some religious CSUN students define their attitudes about sex in strict accordance with their religious teachings, while others said their views on sex are influenced, but not necessarily dictated, by their religious beliefs.
Despite the glut of sexual images of women in society, particularly when it comes to fashion, Mohdsalleh does not feel pressured to dress differently, nor does she judge how others dress.
“The way people dress is not wrong,” Mohdsalleh said. “The way a person dresses is an expression about oneself. The way people dress is ambiguous to the viewer.”
Mohdsalleh dresses modestly for her own personal spiritual convictions. Those same convictions might one day lead to marriage.
Mohdsalleh has had several marriage proposals. Her family may recommend a certain individual, but will leave the ultimate choice to her.
“I have the final say in regard to the person I choose to marry,” Mohdsalleh said. “There are an array of variables including educational background, work ethic, and moral values that I consider, but I am in no rush. God will bring the right person at the right time.”
In direct correlation with the principles of the Koran, Mohdsalleh said that homosexuality is wrong.
“It exists and that is just how it is,” Mohdsalleh added. “Homosexuality is what one individual or that particular group wants. I still respect them because they are still human. In my eyes it is morally wrong, and I have no opinion on the matter outside of the Koran, which forbids it.”
Mohdsalleh recognizes she is a part of society that is allowed to make its own choices.
“I am used to multiculturalism and diversity,” Mohdsalleh said. “I keep my moral and ethical beliefs for myself and will not voice them. I don’t want to transcend my beliefs into social fabrication.”
“I don’t feel any difference between society and me,” Mohdsalleh said. “Different cultural, ethnic, and religious sects express themselves in a variety of ways.”
Angel Peña is president of the Crusaders for Christ club on campus. The senior business administration and marketing major said the group has about 30 members this semester.
In 1997, at the age of 16, Peña reluctantly attended a Christian camp and had a life-changing experience there, converting to a non-denominational sect of Christianity from Catholicism.
“Everything I had wished for before, although I wasn’t rich nor was I lacking anything, hadn’t fulfilled my life,” Peña said. “I finally understood the value of my life when I realized a man died 2000 years ago for my sins.”
Peña does not view sex as inherently wrong or corrupt. He said God created sex because it is beautiful and something special.
“People pervert and distort sex; it is made valueless,” Peña said. “The media has an affect on culture, especially for young people. I don’t feel pressure, but it is always there.”
On how sexuality is portrayed in the media, Peña said the Bible says everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. This idea correlates with God giving people free will.
Peña has been in his current relationship for three years. He said he adheres to the principles found in the Bible to save sex for marriage and has high respect for his girlfriend.
“A lot of spiritual things happen when you have sex that happens within your soul,” Peña said. “That experience is deeper than what the TV portrays.”
Following the moral values found within the Bible and Christian principles, Peña asserts that sex should only be confined to the bounds of marriage.
“There are a purpose and a season for everything,” Peña added. “People are to get married and become one with their spouse. God doesn’t want anyone to suffer, and sex outside of marriage will devalue the people involved.
“For me to wait for marriage makes me valuable,” Peña said. “It is a discipline. I feel like a jewel. I am a man of reason to be able to control my desires. A culture that teaches you to do it anytime you please makes us act like primates.”
Peña quoted an example found in the Bible. King Solomon, the son of David, wrote about his feelings toward life and sexuality. Solomon had all the women he wanted, was the wisest and the richest, yet at the end of it all he said life was pointless.
“I get involved in a lot of activities that keep me out of compromising situations,” Peña said. “In my decision-making process, I always ask if it is taking me to where I want to be, which is closer to God, the one man who is perfect.”
With regards to homosexuality, Peña said that Jesus went out to find the lost. The church is required to love homosexuals but hate the sin.
“To say God made a mistake or got it wrong is to admit that a homosexual was born gay,” said Peña. “Many gay men and women realize the truth of their gender when they join the church and turn back (into heterosexuals). Jesus walked with as many sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors and gives the same chance to me as everyone else.”
Dan Monteleone, junior political science and English major, attends the Hillel Jewish Student Center, a Jewish student club located just a block off campus, established to enrich the lives of Jewish CSUN students.
Monteleone said he is relatively devout. He goes to temple and acknowledges the guidelines found within the Torah.
“We are to aspire to those guidelines, but I do not follow them word for word,” Monteleone said. “Moral lessons are learned from the Torah, but I try to follow that which is reasonable in today’s society.”
Monteleone said he feels the most important guideline is to be faithful to the person he is involved with. He said he has been sexually active since the age of 18.
“My personal waiting period in a relationship is not affected by my religion,” Monteleone added. “I base my decisions in light of the fact if we are two intelligent and responsible adults who care for each other.”
Monteleone said he prefers to get both sides of the story when he makes decisions in his life. He listens to conservative Christian radio and reads the Jewish Journal.
“The media does not really affect me,” Monteleone said. “I know the difference between the norms and media and what is standard.”
In 2000, Monteleone campaigned against Proposition 22, the state initiative that defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman. The proposition passed, but Monteleone still believes gay people should have the right to marry.
CSUN history professor Leslie Smithers studied the evolution of sexuality throughout history. She has found that the technological advances of media influenced society’s attitude toward sex more than the actual images communicated in the media.
“With inventions such as the car and the telephone, it promoted intimacy between younger people that had not been experienced before,” Smithers said. “With the advent of the movie theater, it gave the young the ability to go out on dates that gave them the privacy to hold hands and kiss.
“Sex has been the predominant theme in motion pictures.”
These movies and new ways of entertainment influenced the way we act and think sexually, Smithers said. “Europe and America have two very different way of viewing sex,” Smithers said. “Fundamentalists in Europe are much more open, so much more that the average American might be bothered by it.”
America was based on a Christian Puritanica
l system, which suppresses sexuality in our culture, Smithers said.
“The view is that we cannot talk about sex, which creates an enormous impact on the way we think and conceive it,” Smithers said. “If we looked at sex in a less complicated way, so many problems would be reduced.”
Michael Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.