"Write what you know," the adage says, which is one of many good reasons why I don't write about sex much. I do, however, write about American politics and American Christianity, and about the intersection of American politics and American Christianity, and these days it's awful hard to write about any of that without also writing about sex.
What's up with that? How did our privates become so very public? And why, in particular, do American Christians seem so very obsessed with a punitive and negative politics of sex?
Such questions have many dismissive answers, half-joking remarks about repressed prudes and misogynist perverts. And those half-jokes wouldn't be half-funny if they weren't also half-true — many of the most vocal and strident sex-obsessed activists do seem to be repressed prudes and misogynist perverts.
Some of the anti-sex-obsessed just seem like they're the embodiment of Mencken's definition of a puritan: "someone who is deathly afraid that someone, somewhere, is having fun." But when we keep encountering conservative activists describing their "first girlfriend" as a farm animal, or ad libbing about man-on-dog love, or writing novels in which the heroine is raped by a bear, then I think it's safe to say there's something much darker going on than mere puritanism.
But apart from the explicit perverts, I think there's also a lot of other stuff going on at a lot of other levels that's worth exploring. And anyway, I'm not a therapist, I'm a journalist with a background in theology. So I'm not particularly interested here in somebody like James Dobson, who seems like raw material for a string of Ph.D. dissertations on a variety of dysfunctions. I'm more interested in the otherwise normal-seeming Ned-Flanders-type evangelical Christians next door, the people who seem to find the Dobson types persuasive even if they themselves don't seem to be working through quite so many issues as America's favorite spanking guru.
So, then, it's a somewhat unfairly provocative way of framing the question, but: Why do Christians hate sex?