Posts Tagged ‘sexuality’

February 10th, 2015

Keeping sex sexy: American evangelicalism and the problem of sexuality

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Do Christians have the best sex? What kind of sex is best? And what does sex have to do with salvation?

If you have ever wondered how evangelicals seek to answer these questions, then Amy DeRogatis’s recently published book Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism is for you.

September 4th, 2014

Short skirts and niqab bans: On sexuality and the secular body

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Introduced in Québec in March 2010, Bill 94 proposed requiring women to unveil their faces if they wanted to work in the public sector or access public services, including hospitals, universities, and public transportation. The bill was eventually tabled and was followed in November 2013 with Bill 60, which demanded in more generalist language the removal of conspicuous religious signs in order to dispense or use public services in the province. These Québécois bills—which have not passed—echo the logic of the April 2011 French law targeting the niqab (face veil) and banning the “dissimulation of the face” in public spaces. Both French and Québécois proponents of these laws cited gender equality and women’s emancipation—which they deemed foundational to French and Québécois values—as their primary goal. Despite Québec’s long insistence that it espouses a third path between Canadian multiculturalism and the French Jacobin model, Québec and France have increasingly converged to promote a model of secularism in which liberty and equality are articulated as sexual liberty and sexual equality. In fact, these niqab restrictions represent a broader secular-liberal discourse—what Joan W. Scott calls “sexularism”—that posits secularism as the best guarantor of women’s sexual freedom and sexual equality and, therefore, as that which distinguishes the West from the woman-oppressing rest, especially from Islam.

August 12th, 2013

CFP: Histories of Sexuality and Religion in the 20th Century United States

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Editors Gillian Frank (Stony Brook University), Heather White (New College of Florida), and Bethany Moreton (University of Georgia) have issued a Call for Proposals for a new anthology on Histories of Sexuality and Religion in the 20th Century United States.

July 11th, 2013

CFP: Gender & Society

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The Committee for the Study of Religion at the CUNY Graduate Center has announced a call for papers for its Special Issue of Gender & Society.

November 14th, 2012

A postcolonial genealogy of secularism and sexuality

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A public lecture recently delivered by Saba Mahmood at the London School of Economics entitled “Secularism, Religion and Sexuality: A Postcolonial Genealogy” is now available as an audio podcast.

August 24th, 2012

Encountering the archive

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Where on earth to begin with the rich but deeply disturbing material presented to us on (For an example, see the documents relating to the Province of St. Barbara.) How to confront the archive’s huge volume but also the extent of its moral charge?

I also have a number of questions about what we are, or should be, looking at—the proper boundaries of the object of our inquiry.

August 3rd, 2012

The curious case of Paul Richard Shanley

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In the discursive regime of sexual abuse, the operative silence is the victim’s. This silence stems from shame and intimidation. The speech that would overcome it is courageous, a precious gift that provides access to truth. This account of silence assumes a theory of power as repressive: abusers—who have power—silence their victims by exercising power over them; victims reclaim power through speech. As Michel Foucault reminds us, when critiquing such unidirectional conceptions of power and such optimistic assessments of speech, “There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses.” I want to consider—briefly and provisionally—the silences operating in the public discourse concerning Paul Richard Shanley. I am particularly interested in how “sex abuse” discourses intertwine with and occlude “gay” discourses. Or, to state it more forcefully, I want to use Shanley’s case to suggest that any account of religion or gay politics in America that fails to provide a rich, nuanced description of both is an inadequate examination of either.

June 12th, 2012

Sexuality and the Catholic Church

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This past week the Catholic church denounced Sister Margaret A. Farley, an American nun and professor of Christian Ethics at Yale Divinity School, for her book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.

February 13th, 2012

Religion and the body

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The Scholar & Feminist Online, an e-journal published by the Barnard Center for Research on Women, recently launched a special issue on religion and the body.

July 5th, 2011

Religion and marriage debate

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Should the state be in the business of marriage, or is it inherently a religious union that should be performed solely by religious groups? Will the religious exemptions to recent same-sex marriage laws influence their viability in the long run? Last week, The New York Times posted a debate on its website, in which five public figures, scholars and writers, argue about the ways in which the religion and marriage debate draws out perennial questions about the appropriate relationship between religion and the state.

June 13th, 2011

Whose foreskin?

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Courtney Bender discusses the controversial ballot measure to prohibit circumcision of males under eighteen years of age, which will  be up for a vote in San Francisco in November.

March 21st, 2011

The “great sinner” myth

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Confessions re-emerged into floodlit attention in the Romantic era of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, when it was read as a Bildungsroman riding on the popularity of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions (1782) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Sorrows of Werther (1774) and Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795). In 1888 Harnack would compare Confessions to Goethe’s Faust. The coming-of-age tale and sins-of-my-youth story made Augustine a byword for libertine-rake glamorization. Such is the reputation of Confessions that James O’Donnell said he first took up the book as a boy with the expectation that it had salacious things in it (for which, he added, he is still futilely searching). The “great sinner” myth has no basis in fact.

December 24th, 2010

Rubber soul

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To much fanfare, the Vatican recently decreed that under certain conditions the trapping of male semen by a thin balloon of rubber fastened around the penis when it is inserted into various orifices (mouths, anuses, vaginas?) is officially, morally, and doctrinally acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church.  Now, why would anyone ever say that religion is no more than a fantastic spiritual exercise?

December 13th, 2010

An alternate reading of David Wojnarowicz’s ant-covered Christ

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David Wojnarowicz’s “Fire in My Belly” is an expression not of hostility to the Christian faith but of a deep, and profoundly agonized, spirituality, argues S. Brent Plate, contra the Catholic League (and 0thers), who successfully lobbied last month to have the piece removed from the National Portrait Gallery’s “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” exhibit, ostensibly because of its depiction of Jesus’ crucified body encroached upon by ants. “In the midst of the hoopla,” says Plate, “is a deeply religious artwork made by an artist struggling with and through the embodied life of the spirit.”

December 2nd, 2010

Video removed from the National Portrait Gallery

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Yesterday morning saw the removal of David Wojnarowicz’s 1987 video A Fire in My Belly from the National Portrait Gallery’s “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” exhibition.  This video (which can be viewed here) was deemed controversial for an eleven second clip of ants crawling across a small crucifix.

August 6th, 2010

Parodic politics

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Perhaps the upswing in religious individualism in this postmodern, postsecular period doesn’t herald the breakdown of community after all—nor does the rise of a postmodern culture mean the death of parodic political activism. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, though a small organization, may be indicative of larger patterns that we as sociologists have yet to thoroughly study: the roles of postsecular religiosities in community and activism, and the force of parody in postmodern politics.

August 2nd, 2010

Religion, spirituality, and the sexual scandal

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Religion and the sex scandal are still closely linked, though the targets of public outrage have morphed: it is often religious authorities and bearers of traditional morality whose sexual desires and actions are publicized and condemned. With so many religious institutions and their authorities rocked by sex scandals in a litany of abuse and victimhood, it behooves us to ask what, precisely, is being exposed and denounced, and, conversely, what is being protected and perhaps even obscured. What aspects of “religion” are under fire in these scandals? What role does “spirituality” play in this discursive reconfiguration of sexuality and religion?

July 15th, 2010

Teaching Catholicism and sexual morality

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The dismissal of Kenneth Howell, a University of Illinois adjunct professor of Catholic history and thought, has generated much discussion and commentary in the last week, most of it focusing upon the appropriateness, tone, and argumentative validity of an email that he sent to students prior to their Spring semester exam.

June 30th, 2010

“The Lady Twilight”

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Over at Killing the Buddha, William Dalrymple is excerpting his new book, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India.

June 16th, 2010

Recent episodes on religion and sexuality

posted by has recently put up two “diavlogs” on issues related to religion and sexuality.

May 12th, 2010

Jesuit university rescinds offer to sociologist

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Marquette University, a Catholic university run by Jesuits, has come under fire after rescinding its offer to Seattle University sociologist Jodi O’Brien to serve as Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. In a statement to The New York Times, Marquette’s president, Rev. Robert A. Wild, denies that the decision was based on O’Brien’s sexual orientation, instead claiming that concerns arose after the administration “found some strongly negative statements about marriage and family.” At Sexuality & Society, Shari Dworkin and Kari Lerum (who acknowledge that they are long term colleagues of Dr. O’Brien) discuss the backlash that is emerging in response to Marquette’s decision.

April 26th, 2010

Symposium: The Traffic in Policy

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This Friday, April 30, the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University will hold a day-long symposium entitled “The Traffic in Policy: Religion, Sexuality, and the State.” Complete details are available here.

March 15th, 2010

“Questioning” Catholic celibacy

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At the Reuters FaithWorld blog, Tom Heneghan has a useful post about the controversy sparked by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s remarks on the connection between priestly sex abuse and celibacy.

March 5th, 2010

Christian militants wreak havoc on sex lives of Texans

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At Think Progress, Lee Fang reports on the recent actions of Repent Amarillo, an evangelical militia in northern Texas.

March 1st, 2010

Faith-based solutions

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In the New York Times, Nicolas Kristoff suggests that if secular liberals and religious actors who are working to help those in need could bridge their differences on issues of sexual morality, the world would be much better off.

February 17th, 2010

Haggling over Ted Haggard’s identity

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Ever since revelations of his tryst with a male prostitute became public in 2006, Ted Haggard has been a visible focal point for the evangelical community’s encounter with homosexuality. In an interview with Kathryn Joyce at Religion Dispatches, Haggard’s wife Gayle describes how the incident and its fallout has affected her thinking about sexual identity and, as she repeatedly puts it, the spiritual “journey.”

January 27th, 2010

Nussbaum on sexual orientation and religion

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At the OUPblog, Martha Nussbaum suggests a Constitutional parallel between religion and sexual orientation.

January 14th, 2010

Why Ugandans embrace the Family

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At New America Media, Edwin Okong’o suggests that the U.S. Christian Right has been successful in influencing the Ugandan anti-gay agenda because Africans “staunchly believe in the supremacy of the white man. Ill-informed Christians […] place the white man immediately below the Holy Trinity, a belief with its roots in the colonial era.”

December 1st, 2009

Witness to compassion

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At Progressive Revival, and in honor of World AIDS Day, Diana Butler Bass bears witness to the compassion of her friend and “evangelical hero” Jeffrey Michael.

July 22nd, 2009

Religious and sexual freedoms are not opposed

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On June 1st, President Barack Obama proclaimed June 2009 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month and called “upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.” If President Obama expected to be showered in lavender love in return for this proclamation, he was sorely disappointed. During June, grumbling about the Obama administration’s public stance on such issues as gays in the military, same-sex marriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) reached a crescendo. Candidate Obama had expressed his determination to overturn the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy and DOMA; now-President Obama is taking a decidedly more muted tack—in the name of pragmatism. At a White House reception for invited gay and lesbian leaders on June 30th, with wife Michelle prominently at his side, the President implicitly acknowledged the slow pace of change (critics might say the no-pace of change) and counseled patience: “I know that many in this room don’t believe progress has come fast enough, and I understand that. It’s not for me to tell you to be patient any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half-century ago. We’ve been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration.”

September 22nd, 2008

The ruse of “secular humanism”

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Discussions of the secular can often be peculiarly remote.  Whenever secularism is imagined as unbelief, or political neutrality, or an empty social space to be filled up with religious pluralism, it can be difficult to remember how it can also serve as a framework of corporeal experience and struggle.  We are used to associating corporeal discipline and affect with religion, but not with the secular.  So it might be excusable to begin with some personal reflection, not for the sake of autobiography but in order to tether analysis in some awareness of how the problem comes to have stakes. […]

January 10th, 2008

Sex and the subject of religion

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secular_age.jpgThe current campaign within the Archdiocese of New York to canonize the radical activist Dorothy Day (1897-1980) offers a good example of what Elizabeth Povinelli, writing here on December 13 (“Can Sex be a Minor Form of Spitting?”), calls the “mutual conditions and secret agreements” that tie the sexual revolution and Catholic teaching together behind the scenes—and of the “transformation in the field of sin” sealed in their alliance. It isn’t simply that the candor with which Cardinal O’Connor and now Cardinal Egan have described Day’s sexual agency, single motherhood, and presumed abortion signals the Church’s accommodation to new, post-1960s norms of frankness.

January 9th, 2008

Practicing sex, practicing democracy

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secular_age.jpgWhy is it that sex is such a central part of American political life anyway? Why, when The New York Times reported on the influence of “values” voters on the 2004 Presidential election, did the Times name only two “values,” both of them reflecting a conservative sexual ethic: opposition to abortion and opposition to “recognition of lesbian and gay couples”?

January 8th, 2008

Marriage plots

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sex-in-a-secular-age.jpgDespite the putative separation of church and state, one of the major places in the U.S. where religion and the state remained entwined is around sexuality, specifically at the point of marriage, where religious officials are actually empowered to act on behalf of the state. And whenever politicians talk about marriage laws, they nearly always do so with reference to religious commitments—and the political affiliation or philosophy of the policymaker doesn’t much matter in terms of this outcome.

December 19th, 2007

Sex & aggression

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secular_age.jpgI want to raise some questions about Taylor’s account of “our moral landscape” after the mainstreaming of the sexual revolution in the 1960s. Our moral landscape has indeed changed—that is undeniable—and yet, in Taylor’s hands, the cartography of that moral landscape appears all too familiar, and this is so because he does not take—indeed historically has not taken—the challenge of post-Nietzscheanism seriously.

December 13th, 2007

Can sex be a minor form of spitting?

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secular_age.jpgSo what’s the problem? What’s the ethical crisis? For Taylor it is this: sexuality cannot carry the burden of the enormous demands placed on it by those who would see its flourishing or repression as the foundation of all ethical, social, spiritual, and subjective goods.