The right is getting weirder about sex

Close watchers of the MAGA movement have been chronicling the alarming escalation of both violent intimidation and overt white supremacy in recent weeks. Donald Trump, of course, now begs his followers on a nearly daily basis to murder his perceived enemies. But the rhetoric is spiraling, with people like Fox News host Greg Gutfeld openly calling for civil war. Meanwhile, Christopher Rufo — a right hand man for Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. — recently hosted a forum that pushed establishment Republicans to build a “bridge” to the so-called “dissident right,” including some open white nationalists. He may get his wish, as one of the top contenders for Speaker of the House, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.” 

The radicalism of the right is growing as the GOP careens swiftly towards nominating Trump as their presidential candidate, despite his 91 felony indictments in four jurisdictions. But, as anyone who has studied cults can tell you, they never limit their escalations to violence or hateful ideologies. There’s almost always a weird sexual component, as cult leaders come up with ever stranger rules and regulations to control the sexual expression of their followers.

The MAGA movement is no different. The cult-like following of Trump always had an unsettling mix of incel-inflected misogyny, coupled with a homophobia that is somehow also homoerotic. But it’s been rapidly getting worse in recent months. Even more frightening is how determined they are to inflict their sexual hang-ups on the rest of the country. 

Gutfeld, who claims to be a “comedian,” has long positioned himself on Fox News as an everyman character. He’s meant to make audiences feel that normal people can be Republicans, and not just Bible-hugging weirdoes or camo-clad militia nuts. But, as his civil war rant makes clear, lately he’s been channeling a more David Koresh-esque vibe, and invariably that comes with some sexual weirdness. 

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Last week, Gutfeld hosted a far-right figure named Hotep Jesus, who is known primarily for being an apologist for white supremacists and anti-semites. Hotep Jesus, whose real name is Bryan Sharpe, was on the show to promote a “dating” blog that is, in actuality, propaganda for domestic abuse. As Media Matters chronicled, Sharpe regards it as a form of adultery if women are “allowed” to work or vote. “Imagine guts, sweat, and tears shed only to watch your woman get dolled up only to prance around another man’s office while he gives her marching orders,” Sharpe writes, claiming, “Women WANT to give up control of their life,” and that they only vote, work, or otherwise make decisions because of “the pressure of modern society.”

This wasn’t a one-off, either. Gutfeld recently joined the chorus of right wing voices defending Russell Brand, after the British “comedian” was accused by multiple women of sexual violence and rape. Gutfeld applauded a teacher who got arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old student. And he claimed men only cry because of “substances in the water that reduce testosterone.”

The jokey tone of some of this is there to insulate it from criticism, but Gutfeld isn’t joking. The party of Donald “Grab ‘Em By The Pussy” Trump shows no limits in normalizing extremely toxic masculinity and sexual violence. That much is evident in new court filings in the first big test case for the abortion “bounty hunter” law in Texas. The author of the law, former Texas solicitor general Jonathan Mitchell, has so far shown no shame that his client — who is suing his ex-wife’s friends for helping her abort a pregnancy — displays a long history of abusive, controlling behavior. Mitchell shrugged off reports that his client, Marcus Silva, tried to prevent his wife from working and called her names like “slut” and “whore” in front of her coworkers. 

So it’s unlikely that Mitchell will mind a new filing providing evidence that Silva threatened to upload sexually explicit videos of his ex-wife, unless she returned home to clean and do laundry for him. Or that he used blackmail methods in an attempt to rape her, saying he would drop the lawsuit if she had sex with him. The document had a transcript of Silva, this latest “hero” of the anti-abortion movement, telling his ex, “You’re just gonna have your f*cking life destroyed in every f*cking way that you can imagine to where you want to blow your f*cking brains out.”

It’s not surprising that Mitchell would be fine with this treatment of women. As he argued to the Supreme Court in 2021, women have it coming by not “refraining from sexual intercourse.” But now, of course, Mitchell is working for a man whose goal is to force his ex-wife to have sex with him. 

One would think, after the political backlash to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Republicans would not be so eager to advertise how the anti-choice movement is about controlling women and not “life.” But, as David Kirkpatrick of the New Yorker writes, the head of Alliance Defending Freedom, the biggest conservative legal group in the country, was open about how the goal is to destroy access to contraception. “It may be that the day will come when people say the birth-control pill was a mistake,” Alan Sears explained. 

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What’s notable is this extremism isn’t just relegated to the world of fundamentalist Christianity. The more secular and more proudly fascist right — which is increasingly cossetted and promoted by the tech billionaire world of Elon Musk and his buddies — has been aggressively promoting pseudo-scientific arguments in favor of extreme curtailing of sexual freedom. 

The most prominent example is Costin Alamariu, a self-declared fascist who has become an “intellectual” darling on the right for putting a faux-intellectual gloss on some of the most evil impulses of the MAGA movement. He’s been blogging for a long time under the name “Bronze Age Pervert,” which makes him sound fun, but of course, he’s anything but. His book, “Selective Breeding and the Birth of Philosophy,” has become an Amazon bestseller because he’s promoted by the grossest people on the internet. He proposes strict control over human “breeding” on the facetious grounds that it’s necessary for the betterment of humanity, which he mostly understands in extremely racist terms. In his newsletter, John Ganz quotes Alamariu’s writing:

I make the case in this introduction that this same matter of selective breeding, whether sexual selection, or various societies’ management of marriage and reproduction, constitutes the most important part of morality, legislation, or of the “lawgiver’s art,” and that a sharp awareness of this reality is what led, again, to the discovery of the standard of nature and the subsequent birth of philosophy.

As Graeme Wood at the Atlantic pointed out, on his blog, Alamariu dispenses with the faux-academic language for an earthier version of the same arguments. “He considers American cities a ‘wasteland’ run by Jews and Black people, though the words he uses to denote these groups are considerably less genteel than these,” he writes. Christopher Rufo has publicly praised Alamariu. 

The sexual weirdness of the MAGA movement is deeply intertwined with the racism and the violence. Alamariu’s writings are just saying the quiet part out loud: Sexual control, especially of women, is largely fueled by notions about “breeding” future generations, especially to look a certain way that racists want them to. Normalizing violence against women is part of that scheme, since, as fascists long have understood, women often don’t go along voluntarily. 

Because this is so weird, it’s tempting to ignore it as the chattering of a fringe group of men are still made they didn’t get laid in college. But that would be a mistake, and not just because some of those men have become wildly powerful:

As the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court shows, Republicans are never content to keep their massive sexual issues to themselves. They are determined to make everyone else suffer, not only by rolling back reproductive rights but by aggressively normalizing sexual and domestic violence. The throughline here is a belief that women aren’t full human beings, but a sexual resource to be put under male control, by violence if necessary. It’s a view they’re getting increasingly less coy about publicly sharing. 

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