The XX Factor

Conservative Sex Obsession Hurts Both Boys and Girls

In the right-wing bubble, the outside world is portrayed as a den of sin, where everyone is having sex all the time

Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

Woe to the children of hard-line right wingers and religious fundamentalists! While plenty of kids born into this situation carry on their parents’ ideals exactly as instructed, many get screwed up by the inherent conflict between being a young person trying to figure your life out and claiming on the other side that God and Ayn Rand have given you all the answers. Andy Kopsa of The Atlantic reviewed the Lifetime reality show Preachers’ Daughters. She was struck by how the parents’ overwhelming desire to prove their Christian bona fides by preserving their kids’ hymeneal integrity didn’t serve the parent-child relationship well at all.*

Having watched the latest episode online, I must concur with Kopsa’s assessment. The parents on this show treat their daughters less like full human beings to be loved and cherished and more like walking libidos that have to be suppressed at any cost. Unsurprisingly, the girls chafe under this dehumanizing treatment. They swing wildly back and forth between wanting to make their parents happy and being overcome with anger.

It’s tempting to assume that these girls are suffering from a female-specific problem. But a profile of conservative-wunderkind-turned-liberal-college-kid Jonathan Krohn in the New York Times suggests otherwise. At age 13, Krohn made a splash by regurgitating a bunch of hard-right talking points in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Since then, he’s grown up and learned to think more for himself: Last fall, he entered NYU as a gay-marriage-supporting liberal. However, Krohn seems haunted by the conservative values he now rejects, particularly on the subject of sex:

“In the midst of all the upheaval in his life, the one thing that has remained constant (‘unfortunately,’ he said) is his virginity. Interests like comic books and Star Trek aren’t exactly chick magnets (he recently tweeted about the ‘pre-anniversary of the Vulcans making first contact with Humans in 2063!’). Nor does it help that Mr. Krohn himself has written about his sexual status more than once.”

One of the realities of living in the right-wing bubble is that the outside world is portrayed as a den of sin, where everyone is having sex all the time, from puberty on. Rest assured, Jonathan Krohn, NYU’s campus is positively thick with virgins of all political stripes. You’re only 18. There’s no reason to feel like an outsider.

Both Preachers’ Daughters and the Krohn profile demonstrate the suffering inflicted on the children of a right-wing culture so intent on policing sex. These kids are too concerned with virginity—losing it, safeguarding it—to  enjoy their intimate lives as they play out naturally. My message to all of them: Lighten up. Do your best to escape the bubble. Life’s too short to let your parents’ hang-ups have such a grip on your sexuality.

Correction, April 29, 2013: Due to an editing error, this post originally misidentified Andy Kopsa as a “he.”