'Sex-Crazed' Evangelicals Talk Spanking and Anal Sex
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We all know that the growing evangelical movement is one (with a few left-leaning pockets exempted) obsessed with sex. Controlling it. Punishing it. Using it to control women. Stomping out most versions of it completely. Shaming people who enjoy it. And now, believe it or not, promoting it as an important part of healthy marriages.
Wait, come again? Sex-positive evangelicals? Well, sort of. While they're not bringing in enough numbers to drown out the dominant attitude of shaming, there does seem to be a trend in the evangelical community of promoting more and better sex within marriage -- for the good of the marriages. There are now Christian sex shops, Christian sex advice columns, and Christian sex blogs. Most of it is tame compared to secular counterparts, but the fact that it exists at all gives pause to those of us who spend quite a bit of time wrangling with evangelicals who want to ban abortion, restrict contraception, put virginity rings on girls, and teach nothing but abstinence-until-marriage.
But should this trend surprise us? Upon further reflection, the whole thing makes perfect sense. One of the favorite selling points for abstinence-only, reiterated endlessly by abstinence-only "educators," is that waiting until marriage means that the sex will be even better, with the implication often being that it works seamlessly without the learning period the rest of us have to go through, and that it's so hot that others couldn't even imagine it. (It's a false promise -- just listen to reports from couples who waited, only to find out that they had compatibility issues. But it's never been beyond fundamentalists to treat the truth as disposable in pursuit of a larger agenda.) Evangelicals have an investment in making sure that married sex is hot, so they can push the abstinence-only line with more confidence.
But there's another aspect to it that's even more important -- people come to evangelical churches because they need help running their lives, and if the churches want to keep members, they need to offer that help. In fact, one of the most remarkable aspects of the modern evangelical movement is how self-help-y it is. Matt Taibbi discovered this when he went undercover at James Hagee's San Antonio megachurch. Most of the work done in the church borrowed heavily from the dreck of the self-help world, except with demons thrown in as a twist. Certainly Rick Warren has exploited the melding of Christianity with the self-help section of the bookstore with his book "The Purpose-Driven Life," which, from the title alone, sounds just like a self-help book.
Since the evangelical movement is basically competing with self-help for an audience, it makes sense that they'd have to branch out into one of the most popular forms of self-help, which is advice on how to make sex better inside relationships. This kind of thing isn't exactly new to evangelical Christianity. In the 70s, the right wing power couple Beverly and Tim LaHaye co-authored a sex manual that at least said female orgasms were important -- but scolded people who used the popular oral sex method to get there. Modern sex-positive evangelicals are a lot more open-minded about oral sex, I discovered as I perused various Christian websites.
What I found in my research was a surprising diversity in attitudes about what sex acts were acceptable, though a shared fondness for obsessing over the potential sinfulness of each act. Of all the people pushing the "more sex for marrieds" message, I found Joy Wilson, who owns the sex shop Book 22, the most pleasant person who really seemed happy to be helping people have more and better sex. Like the rest of the sites I read, Book 22 had the same nit-picking "sin or not?" specificity -- dildos are out -- but on the whole, her website sells the same kind of products that feminist sex shops do, with the same goal of making sure that women are getting as much pleasure out of sex as men do. She blogs about sex in a blunt, generous style that I found appealing.