They can't tear their eyes away; the far right is obsessed with gay sex. By making it seem dirty and shameful, they raise millions to defeat laws protecting gay men and lesbians.
Sex sells. And in the current heated political environment, conservative Christians peddle the nitty-gritty of gay sex in the same way that Tolstoy wrote a book: with ponderous detail and pure fiction. Religious-right groups are fascinated with gay sex: They study it or make up studies about it, circulating countless Web pages, white papers, and "fact" sheets filled with obsessive sexual detail. This has become especially true during the past year, as evangelicals have fought to pass a host of antigay laws in various states, banning same-sex marriage and barring gays and lesbians from adopting and often even fostering children.
"It should come as no surprise that [sex] sells as much to an evangelical Christian audience as to any other audience," says Andrew Seligsohn, a political science professor at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. "Sex engages people. In politics, as in entertainment, you have to keep them coming back for more. Interest groups need their constituents to keep reading their materials and paying the bills--titillating, forbidden material is useful to that end."
A recent Advocate analysis of conservative Christian Web sites reveals a telling tactic: the painting of gay sex not only as forbidden sin but as acts so heinous and perverted that only the most depraved de·praved
Morally corrupt; perverted.
de·praved·ly adv. would participate. One site describes photos with titillating tit·il·late
v. tit·il·lat·ed, tit·il·lat·ing, tit·il·lates
1. To stimulate by touching lightly; tickle.
2. To excite (another) pleasurably, superficially or erotically. details: "men's naked bottoms being spanked over the knee of a leatherman"; "two men bound together with rope." Adjectives like "dangerous," "unrighteous," and "perverted" are employed to demonize de·mon·ize
tr.v. de·mon·ized, de·mon·iz·ing, de·mon·iz·es
1. To turn into or as if into a demon.
2. To possess by or as if by a demon.
3. participants, and parallels to pedophilia pedophilia, psychosexual disorder in which there is a preference for sexual activity with prepubertal children. Pedophiles are almost always males. The children are more often of the opposite sex (about twice as often) and are typically 13 years or age or younger; and incest are common.
"America's children are the ultimate casualties," reads an article at LifeWay life·way
1. A customary manner of living; a way of life.
2. A custom, practice, or art: the traditional lifeways of a tribal society. , an online "Christian resource" center operated by the Southern Baptist Convention Noun 1. Southern Baptist Convention - an association of Southern Baptists
association - a formal organization of people or groups of people; "he joined the Modern Language Association"
Southern Baptist - a member of the Southern Baptist Convention . "Innocent little boys and girls boys and girls
mercurialisannua. are having their childhood ripped from them."
Concerned Women for America Concerned Women for America is a conservative Christian political action group active in the United States. The group was founded in 1979 by Beverly LaHaye, wife of Christian Coalition co-founder Timothy LaHaye, as a response to activities by the National Organization for Women and , a Washington, D.C.-based "biblical values" group, is particularly fixated fix·ate
v. fix·at·ed, fix·at·ing, fix·ates
1. To make fixed, stable, or stationary.
2. To focus one's eyes or attention on: fixate a faint object. . On the group's Web site keyword searches for "homosexual" and "gay" garner thousands of hits, while the more explicit "sodomy" yields hundreds of results, and even the colorful "fisting" produces more than 20 entries.
Lesbian sex has a somewhat lower profile--much of the anti-lesbian rhetoric instead treats lesbians as emotionally fractured or abused victims. "Religious-right leaders continue to focus primarily on gay male sex, as a way of invoking the stereotype of gay men as sexual predators," says Seligsohn. "Because lesbian sexuality has been represented as an element of heterosexual male fantasy, it does not have the capacity to inspire the sort of fear and loathing fear and loathing - (Hunter S. Thompson) A state inspired by the prospect of dealing with certain real-world systems and standards that are totally brain-damaged but ubiquitous - Intel 8086s, COBOL, EBCDIC, or any IBM machine except the Rios (also known as the RS/6000). that is at the heart of religious-right appeals to gay sexuality."
Most hypocritically, straight people who enjoy anal sex--who studies suggest number more than the entire gay population--get little attention from Christian groups.
While some religious leaders like the Reverend Jerry Falwell have made efforts to appear more tolerant with messages such as "hate the sin, love the sinner" by offering lessons on how to tactfully try to "convert" a gay or lesbian person, many conservative sites continue to present gay sex as an evil act that threatens the world as we know it.
The religious right has grown bolder in presenting its message, some say, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the aftermath of which has revealed an exploitable vulnerability in the national consciousness: fear. Alarmists with moral agendas simply conflate con·flate
tr.v. con·flat·ed, con·flat·ing, con·flates
1. To bring together; meld or fuse: "The problems [with the biopic] include . . the perceived threats--as if to say, Fear gay sex as you fear an enemy.
The Traditional Values Coalition The Traditional Values Coalition is a Christian Right organization that claims to represent over 43,000 conservative Christian churches throughout the United States of America. Headquartered in Washington, D.C. , another conservative lobbying group, spends considerable effort comparing gay sex to acts of violence against children as well as using fear of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases Sexually transmitted diseases
Infections that are acquired and transmitted by sexual contact. Although virtually any infection may be transmitted during intimate contact, the term sexually transmitted disease is restricted to conditions that are largely as leverage in the culture wars. "Special reports" and "counseling resources" relate graphic details of anal fissures, anal cancer, and AIDS complications to deem gay sex dirty or immoral and STDs God's punishment.
Scrutinizing the footnotes that make many of the articles in conservative Christian media appear scholarly, one finds references to other fundamentalist sources or, in some cases, discredited research that's three or more decades old. "Activists on the religious right have no respect for truth," says Roger Lancaster, professor of anthropology and director of cultural studies at George Mason University Named after American revolutionary, patriot and founding father George Mason, the university was founded as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1957 and became an independent institution in 1972. in Fairfax, Va., and author of The Trouble With Nature: Sex in Science and Popular Culture. "They make things up. They crank out 'studies' that have no basis in reality. They cite facts that aren't in the least bit factual. I don't think I give away any secrets when I say that there's a deep pathology at work among the activists on the homophobic right."
The links among religion, politics, and intolerance of homosexuality are nearly impossible to sever. While the powerful church of ancient Greece seemed tolerant of same-sex relations, the Christian doctrine that prevailed--that of the apostle Paul--is explicitly opposed to sex outside of heterosexual marriage. Indeed, Paul urged people to remain celibate even if straight: Only those too weak to stay celibate should cave in and get married.
Today, political operatives use any and all tools available, including fueling the Christian fascination with gay sex and sexual taboos, to craft an appearance of tacit agreement among the masses. Thus a fair-minded churchgoer might be afraid to speak up and defend friends, relatives, and neighbors who participate in gay sex. The threat of ostracism ostracism (ŏs`trəsĭz'əm), ancient Athenian method of banishing a public figure. It was introduced after the fall of the family of Pisistratus. makes silence a powerful weapon in the war over moral values.
"Can America stomach this strategy? The public wouldn't have stood for it in the 1990s," Lancaster says. Since 9/11, "'protection' is the big, overarching theme of the Daddy State [that] protects America from terrorists. Protect the family from gays, lesbians, and feminists. Protect the innocent--the unborn, the brain-dead--from abortion- and euthanasia-rights advocates. It's as close to fascism as anything a ruling party has ever embraced in the United States."
Griffith is a regional bureau chief for the Orlando [Fla.] Sentinel.