How do we conceptualize religious conservatives and their relationship with sex? And how do Christians use digital media for sexual knowledge and pleasure? In her new book, Christians Under Covers: Evangelicals and Sexual Pleasure on the Internet(University of California Press, 2016), Kelsy Burke tackles these issues and more. Using “virtual ethnography” consisting of analysis of website content and interviews with website users online, Burke explores the ways in which evangelicals maintain commitment to God while expressing and learning about themselves sexually online. This book uses a feminist and queer perspective to understand this population and many of sociology’s great topics, including power, inequality, and gender. Respondents tend to think about themselves in terms of what Burke refers to as marital exceptionalism – that if these conversations and acts are taking place within a heterosexual marriage, then they are okay. She compares and contrasts men and women’s experiences on these websites, finding that women focus more on sexual awakening and how sexual pleasure ties to their emotional and spiritual lives, while men focus more on the practical aspects of issues they are questioning. Most evangelicals see their sexual experiences as tied to God and rest in their faith for understanding.
This book will be of interest to gender and religion scholars, but Burke provides really clear and accessible explanations early on in the book which makes the book marketable to a wide audience. This text would be useful in a Sociology of Religion or a Sociology of Gender class regarding religion, graduate level.
Sarah E. Patterson is a postdoc at the University of Western Ontario. You can tweet her at @spattersearch.