Hyper-masculinity and the development of a queer consciousness: the surprising contribution of conservative evangelicalism

Posted on April 1, 2012

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There is an interesting article under this title in the online American Journal of Explorations in Culture and Sexuality (AJECS). It argues, in effect, that preachers such as Pastor Mark Driscoll are – unintentionally, of course – promoting the development of a post-heterosexual culture in the USA.

The essay suggests first that the emergence of a mainstream LGBT, or ‘queer,’ culture in American society has repeatedly drawn on gay men’s adoptions of  intentional parodies of a tradition of American cultural masculinities. The author argues that these parodies contribute to the subversion of traditional narratives of masculinity by rendering them ridiculous, and so promote the creation of a queer consciousness. In support of this thesis, there is extensive analysis of 1970s gay club culture; this is fascinating, and an area of research that was totally new to me, but the author helpfully indicates that the point at which such parodic masculinities entered popular consciousness was with the pastiche representations of classic icons of American masculinity by the Village People. S/he (the author unsurprisingly models the queer practice of refusing to be labeled with any gender identity) notes that there was an intentionality about these parodies, but then suggests that there is a strand within contemporary US conservative evangelical culture that unconsciously and unintentionally presents parodic representations of hyper-masculinity in its gender analysis. These unintentional parodies, it is argued,  will inevitably tend to the same end. Several preachers who have modelled parodic hyper-masculinity are discussed; the only one who has achieved any notice this side of the Atlantic, I think, is Driscoll.

This construction of an unintentionally parodic hyper-masculinity within the evangelical subculture will, the essay argues, hasten the collapse of support for traditional gender roles within the American church, and promote the development of a post-herterosexist queer consciousness, in which experimental gender orientations will be celebrated as experiences of God’s grace.

As I say, I don’t know any of the other preachers referenced, and it seems to me that the article is repeatedly unfair in its interpretation of Driscoll. That said, the cultural analysis of seventies gay culture is very interesting, and the parallels drawn between the Village People and leading figures within conservative evangelicalism are actually surprisingly – worryingly, to an evangelical like me – suggestive at certain points. It’s worth a read, and the article can be read open access online here.

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