Monday, February 2, 2009

Just what do you mean "professional masturbation counselor"?

Those who haven’t yet read Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, published in 2008, may want to download parts of the book as they originally appeared, as articles in Rolling Stone and Harper’s Magazine from 2003 to 2006:

Jesus plus nothing: Undercover among America's secret theocrats

God's Senator: Who would Jesus vote for? Meet Sam Brownback

Soldiers of Christ: Insider America's Most Powerful Megachurch

Through a glass, darkly: How the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history

Mr. Sharlet’s book is a fascinating read, but the parts that made me laugh out loud were originally published in Rolling Stone in 2005.

An example of real life imitating an episode of Seinfeld:

Power holds up his right hand. Wrapped around his wrist, in a figure eight, is a black plastic bracelet. "This," he says, "is a 'masturband.' " One of their friends at college -- Pepperdine University -- came up with the idea. As long as you stay pure -- resist jerking off -- you can wear your masturband. Give in, and off it goes, a scarlet letter in reverse. No masturband? No one wants to shake your hand. "It started with just four of us," says Dunbar. "Then there were, like, twenty guys wearing them. And girls too. The more people that wore them, the more people knew, the more reason you had to refrain." Dunbar even told his mother. He lasted the longest. "Eight and a half months," he says. I notice he's not wearing one now. He's not embarrassed. Sexuality, he believes, is not a private matter.

Then there’s this passage:

Every Man operates a hot line, 800-NEW-LIFE, for men who've "threatened" their relationships through their use of pornography. When I called to confess that reading about tight nylon shorts in Every Young Man's Battle had aroused me, a professional masturbation counselor named Jason told me that pornography is "probably the number-one cause of divorce." Then he suggested I sign up for a five-day, $1,800 Every Man's Battle workshop (held monthly in hotels around the country) in which I would take classes on shame, "false intimacy" and "temptation cycles" and work with other men in small groups toward "recovery."
I’ll leave it to the reader’s imagination what the requirements must be in order to become a "professional masturbation counselor." The interview for this job must be a doozy.

Mr. Sharlet has done a number of broadcast interviews about The Family, and the reader can search for them himself. A recent online interview can be found here.


  1. I imagine the interviewee's chair has to be steam cleaned after each interview.

  2. To put it mildly, I would not count Jeff Sharlet or Harper's or Rolling Stone as impartial observers of American Christianity, much less "Fundamentalism". For a book issued in an election year.