Sexuality and the Erotic

Jeffrey J. Kripal

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780195170214
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Sexuality and the Erotic

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The biological, psychological, cultural, and ethical complexities of what we today call sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual trauma have been the focus of intense research for well over a century now. It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of this corporate knowledge for how we have come to see “religion,” and it is worth noting that both the modern categories of religion and sexuality as signs marking fields of rational discourse and critical study were born more or less together within the same time period (the nineteenth and twentieth centuries) and within the same cultural institution (the Western university). This article examines the abstract categories of sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, the erotic, desire, and sexual trauma. It concludes with two individual fields of sexual-religious emotion and, in this case, two historical female bodies, one (apparently) heterosexual, the other homosexual or bisexual: Mother Ann Lee, the charismatic founder of the American Shaker community, and the contemporary Hollywood actress, Anne Heche.

Keywords: Mother Ann Lee; Anne Heche; sexuality; erotic; gender; sexual orientation; desire; sexual trauma

Article.  8632 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion ; Religious Studies

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