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Conservative Christianity and Pickup Artist Culture

Conservative Christianity and Pickup Artist Culture

In the wake of the Elliot Rodger shootings in Santa Barbara and the #YesAllWomen movement on social media, Dr. Kevin Kuhn-Choi, Assistant Professor of Religion at Cal State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, CA, examines some of the cultural and religious forces undergirding the tragedy. For Kuhn-Choi, understanding conservative Christianity is part and parcel of knowing the broader cultural framework of American masculinity that creates the ground for Pickup Artist culture and a rigid definition of gender roles:

Many commentators have discussed the “pick up artist” (PUA) culture in which Rodger’s ideology is based, but broader cultural forces shape the exaggerated ideas of gender roles that are the foundation of Rodger’s misguided notions of masculinity and entitlement—including most conservative Christian constructions of strict gender roles. Though they approach beliefs about masculinity from different perspectives, both PUA and contemporary portrayals of conservative Christian masculinity share some similar points. Rodger himself was not directly influenced by conservative Christianity, and I do not mean to imply he was. Rather, what I want to suggest through these comparisons is a larger cultural framework that shapes American notions of masculinity and sexuality…

A culture that frames masculinity as an insatiable sex drive shapes sex as something to which men have a right. As Heather Hendershot warns in relation to evangelical abstinence materials, maintaining “essentialist notions of gender” that portray “masculinity as aggression, and sexual urges and femininity as passive submission,” ultimately leads to a loss of control in which “boys give in to their urge to rape and girls give in to their urge to submit to rape.”…

Of course, versions of Christianity that espouse essentialist notions of gender presumably do not intend for them to be taken to the point of Rodger’s extreme misogyny. Yet the insistence on strictly differentiated gender roles in both conservative Christian and PUA cultures can lead to inequality, a devaluing of women and, in an already patriarchal society, a definition of masculinity that isn’t just a nightmare for men, but a tragedy for all.

The full article from Religion Dispatches is available here.

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