The Curious Case of the Condom: How the Secular Matters in the Netherlands

Jelle Oscar Wiering*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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This article argues that the material approach to religion can productively be extended to the domain of the secular, so as to grasp its material dimension. It investigates the Dutch field of sexual health to examine the ways in which the male condom was employed to underscore an image of religion as an obstacle to open conversations about sexual matters. It analyzes how the condom was deployed during sex education classes to evoke discussions about sexuality, but also to demonstrate the organizations’ alleged comfortability with discussing these objects. I argue that, in my fieldwork, the condom materialized secularity because it was key to the introduction of what my interlocutors called “an open attitude” towards sexuality: an open appreciation of sexuality that implicitly references religion as the antithesis of a good sex education class. In doing so, the stereotypical representation of religion as prudish and constrained is reproduced and cultivated through sex education classes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-258
Number of pages23
JournalMaterial Religion
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2023


  • condom
  • secular materiality
  • secularity
  • sex education
  • sexuality
  • the Netherlands

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