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God, Sex, and the Internet: The Faithful, Sexual, and Virtual Lives of Contemporary Evangelical Christians

Burke, Kelsy Conlin (2013) God, Sex, and the Internet: The Faithful, Sexual, and Virtual Lives of Contemporary Evangelical Christians. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines a large network of evangelical Christian authors, speakers, business owners, and website creators and users who promote the idea that God intends married, heterosexual couples to have active and satisfying sex lives. Even the casual consumer of American media is probably familiar with evangelical positions against homosexuality and premarital sex, and indeed the ways in which evangelicals are anti-sex are often the only depictions of evangelical sexuality in academic scholarship. Yet it is precisely because they are active participants in American debates over sexuality, including those on sex education in schools, legal protection for gays and lesbians, and media censorship, that it is important to learn how evangelicals, both lay and professional, talk about sex as they believe God intends it. To do so, I collected a unique set of qualitative and quantitative data from online and face-to-face interviews, online surveys, observations of conferences, and content analysis of online and print material. I focus on websites because the Internet hosts conversations that are not likely to take place in face-to-face interactions. Participants in online discussions use frank language to talk about personal and sensitive aspects of their sexualities, sharing details that are not found in Christian books and not usually shared in less anonymous real-life exchanges. Since talk shapes how we understand gender and sexuality, these websites offer a unique opportunity for analysis. Lay evangelicals use the Internet to shape, interpret, and make meaning of sexual desire and pleasure. Although most scholars assume that evangelical messages about sexuality simply reproduce gender inequality and homophobia, I argue that online discussions about evangelical sexuality both enable and limit women’s agency and reinforce and challenge heteronormativity. Evangelicals who use Christian sexuality websites maintain their religious beliefs that privilege men and heterosexuality while simultaneously 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.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Burke, Kelsy Conlinkcb17@pitt.eduKCB17
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBlee, Kathleenkblee@pitt.eduKBLEE
Committee MemberConstable, Nicolencgrad@pitt.eduNCGRAD
Committee MemberBamyeh, Mohammedmab205@pitt.eduMAB205
Committee MemberKutz-Flamenbaum, Rachelrflamenb@pitt.eduRFLAMENB
Date: 30 June 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 April 2013
Approval Date: 30 June 2013
Submission Date: 9 April 2013
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 238
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: religion evangelicalism gender heterosexuality Internet
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2013 18:20
Last Modified: 30 Jun 2018 05:15

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  • God, Sex, and the Internet: The Faithful, Sexual, and Virtual Lives of Contemporary Evangelical Christians. (deposited 30 Jun 2013 18:20) [Currently Displayed]


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