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 would participate. One site describes photos with titillating 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 participants, and parallels to pedophilia and incest are common.
"America's children are the ultimate casualties," reads an article at LifeWay, an online "Christian resource" center operated by the Southern Baptist Convention. "Innocent little boys and girls are having their childhood ripped from them."
Concerned Women for America, a Washington, D.C.-based "biblical values" group, is particularly fixated. 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 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. …