Christians under Covers shifts how scholars and popular media talk about religious conservatives and sex. Moving away from debates over homosexuality, premarital sex, and other perceived sexual sins, Kelsy Burke examines Christian sexuality websites to show how some evangelical Christians use digital media to promote the idea that God wants married, heterosexual couples to have satisfying sex lives. These evangelicals maintain their religious beliefs while incorporating feminist and queer language into their talk of sexuality—encouraging sexual knowledge, emphasizing women’s pleasure, and justifying marginal sexual practices within Christian marriages. This illuminating ethnography complicates the boundaries between normal and subversive, empowered and oppressed, and sacred and profane.
List of Figures and Tables
A Note to Readers on Quoting Online Content
1 • Godly Sex: A New Evangelical Sexual Logic
2 • Overcoming the Obscene: Using Religion to Talk about Sex
3 • Virtual and Virtuous: Forming Online Religious Communities
4 • Sexual Awakening: Defining Women's Pleasures
5 • What Makes a Man: Making "Bad" Sex "Good"
Conclusion: Paths of Desire
Appendix A: Websites Mentioned by Name in the Book
Appendix B: Doing Internet Ethnography
Kelsy Burke is Assistant Professor of Sociology at St. Norbert College.
"As evangelical Christians challenge older ideals of marriage, how do they continue to maintain their belief in the heterosexual ideal? Challenging stereotypes of evangelicals as prudish Puritans, Kelsy Burke brings a respectful feminist and queer sociological gaze to this examination of what it means for twenty-first century evangelicals to understand sex as a deeply satisfying gift they can try to get the most of. This is a fascinating case study of how human beings reproduce social power as they seek to navigate its effects."—Dawne Moon, author of God, Sex, and Politics: Homosexuality and Everyday Theologies
"For readers who think that conservative Christianity must be incompatible with inventive sex, Kelsy Burke’s Christians under Covers offers any number of brilliant surprises—beginning with an online sex-toy shop founded upon earnest prayer. When some evangelicals try to apply their scriptural faith to the details of sexual practice, Burke shows that their religious experiences are changed in the process. Our current culture of sex begins to animate even the most sincere expressions of old-time religion. Be prepared to blush!"—Mark D. Jordan, author of Recruiting Young Love: How Christians Talk about Homosexuality
"What is 'godly sex?' Can there even be such a thing? Although evangelical Christians and sexual pleasure are often thought of as at odds with one another, Christians under Covers explores what it means to be a conservative Christian in search of sexual fulfillment. Kelsy Burke brings the reader into the world of online evangelical Christian sexual advice communities where participants seek help in making sense of their own sexual desires. Communities like LustyChristianLadies.com provide their conservative Christian members with spiritual and practical tools to aid them in framing seemingly sinful sexual practices like masturbation or pegging as 'godly sex' that strengthens, rather than detracts from, their spiritual practice. This nuanced and rich portrait of online religious communities is a must-read for scholars of sexuality and religion alike."—C. J. Pascoe, author of Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School