Roy Moore, Sex, Republicans, and Religious Conservatism

Conservative Republicans and Christians aren’t against sex — just adult sex

News item: Roy Moore, the Republican senatorial candidate from Alabama, stands accused of dating teenagers when he was a professional in his 30s (to which he has largely conceded) and — criminally — of sexual petting with a 14-year-old.

Roy Moore stands out even among modern Republicans for his religiosity — having been forced out of his judgeship, first for insisting on religious ornamentation in the courthouse, and again for refusing to obey Supreme Court rulings concerning gay marriage. In his judicial actions, Moore has declared that all power “comes from God,” rather than from the Constitution.

Which makes him unfit to hold public office in the United States. But it’s only his dating history that has seemingly endangered his ability to assume a Senate seat as a Republican.

Moore operates within a national Republican Party that holds as a fundamental principle the defunding of Planned Parenthood. PP, for its part, holds as one of its founding principles the right of women to have sex while protecting themselves from health and family-planning hazards.

The idea of mature independent women’s sexuality drives Republicans’ and conservative Christians’ opposition. This follows, as Kathryn Brightbill has made clear, since adult male sex and marriage with teen girls is a regular feature of Evangelical Christianity adopted into conservative politics:

“Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson advocated for adult men to marry 15- and 16-year-old girls and deemed age 20 too old because “you wait until they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket.” Home-school leader Kevin Swanson, whose 2015 convention was attended by several Republican presidential candidates, defended Robertson on his radio show after the story broke. Advocating for child marriage hasn’t slowed down Robertson’s career. He just got a new show on the conservative digital network CRTV.

As witnessed by hyper-Christian Moore’s dating habits with (in his words) “young women” on his return from the service to a rural Alabama county, where he served as an assistant district attorney. And we can’t be surprised by Alabamans’ biblical defense of Moore.

Moore didn’t have sexual intercourse with any of the young women; he merely courted them, first (it seems) getting their parents’ permission.

Except with the 14-year-old, whom he is accused of seeing surreptitiously, then engaging in secondary petting (contact outside their underwear).

This is in the late 1970s when, shall we say, many people of Moore’s age were engaging in mature, adult sex.

Moore may have been guilty of a sexual crime for having any sort of sexual contact with a minor — a crime not to be made light of.

But what drove his allegedly illegal — and always inappropriate — sexual connection to virginal teenagers was a case of arrested sexual development that runs much deeper than his own psyche. This failure to accept adult sexuality is one embedded in his entire cultural context.

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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