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Why Are Religious Conservatives So Scared of Gay Sex?

Anti-gay bigotry is just one piece of a larger picture of conservative fear and loathing of all forms of sexuality.

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The religious right looks at sex the way most of us look at drugs. In their eyes, straight, married sex is an indulgence like a glass of wine at dinner--oh, you know you probably shouldn’t, but they shrug it off, especially if they view you as a wealthy, privileged sort who can “handle” the responsibility. You can extrapolate from there: premarital sex between engaged couples is like smoking pot, cohabitation is like having a cocaine habit, and hooking up casually is like doing meth. In their worldview, gay sex is like heroin, and they insist it’s actually as dangerous as heroin.   

The overt hostility to most sex, and only tacit acceptance of in-the-dark-missionary- position-married-once-a-month-sex is pretty much the defining feature of the religious right. Many religious-right leaders are beginning to clue into the fact that their overt anti-pleasure attitudes aren’t good for PR, so there’s been some attempts to remake their arguments against all sex outside of heterosexual marriage to create something more enticing. Ted Haggard, for instance, tried to sell the line that if you’re Christian and wait for marriage, you’ll have  "the best sex life."  Even when he was pushing the line initially, it seemed forced, but later revelations that he did not, in fact, think he had the best sex life and instead chose to have meth-fueled gay sex with prostitutes proved exactly how dishonest his claims really were. 

Slightly more convincing are various grassroots attempts by religious-right women to actually live the claims that chastity before marriage means nothing but hot sex after marriage. (And of course, you have unmarried fundamentalists like Lila Rose working the “sexy virgin” angle as hard as they can.) It’s understandable that
fundamentalist women feel the need to take this approach.

The hostility toward sex for pleasure hasn’t prevented men in red states from becoming the biggest consumers of porn. Their claims that anti-feminism makes women happier has to butt up with images of sexually liberated feminists doing whatever they want to please themselves sexually. But even a site like Christian Nymphos is shot through with the belief that sexual pleasure is a dangerous force that must be strictly controlled, and that women may only have it if they
sacrifice their autonomy and dignity to a Biblically mandated female-submissive marriage. At their site, single women are not even allowed to leave comments or ask questions. Even knowledge of sex is considered too much for a woman who isn’t under direct control of a man. And for married couples, all sexual thoughts and fantasies are to be directly strictly toward their spouse, erasing their individual sexual natures. In other words, even pro-sex right-wing Christianity is still hostile to the concept that individuals have a right to their sexuality.

The religious right is much more comfortable treating sex like it’s dirty, and then obsessively cataloguing how dirty each act is in comparison with other acts. For an entertaining look at how outrageous this can get, I highly recommend watching  this clip from  “The Dildo Diaries,” in which the Texas legislature debated whether or not to make anal sex illegal. When challenged about whether or not the law should ban it even for married couples, Rep. Warren Chisum said it should be banned “especially” for married couples, and added, “I can’t believe anyone would do that if they was married.” Much hilarity on the floor of the legislature ensued, but the moment really stands out in history as a crystallization of the social conservative attitudes toward sex: it really shouldn’t exist at all unless it’s within in the confines of marriage and with as little imagination and frequency as possible.  

Once you grasp how the social right sees this issue, many of the other issues that matter to them make sense: their hatred of Hollywood for suggesting that  sex might be something people do for fun; their jihad against pornography; the war on birth control and Planned Parenthood; objections to abortion rights; support for abstinence-only education; and their objections to the HPV vaccine. And of course, extending any rights whatsoever to gay people. It all goes back to sex, and their sense that it’s a filthy thing to do in all circumstances, though of course filthier in some more than others. But the idea that sex is anything but a naughty thing you should try to avoid seems as much an anathema to them as adding a daily glass of wine to the food pyramid would be to teetotalers. 

 
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