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"Tired of getting all of the guilt, but none of the sex?" This is one of the first questions posed by Douglass St. Clair Smith, also known as Reverend Ivan Stang, in the first SubGenius commercial aired on MTV in the early 90's. "There IS a simple answer, dear friend!" He goes on to describe the Church of the SubGenius, a cult promising everything the socially abnormal person's heart has longed for in the form of "Slack," a term used to describe anything pleasurable that can be had without having to work for it. In the commercial, Slack refers to two main things; money and sex. A topless girl winks at the camera and money magically appears in a man's hand as Stang references "the Slack They stole away."
Anyone who has bought a SubGenius "ordainment kit" knows, but hopefully doesn't believe, the dogma proposed by the church, that an enlightened, utterly stupid, yet unbelievably lucky traveling salesman named "Bob" Dobbs (his name is always in quotes) made a deal with the alien God that rules Earth to let the SubGenii be whisked away by pleasure saucers full of alien sex goddesses on X-Day, when all the humans will be left on earth to be eventually ruled over by SubGenii or destroyed by aliens, which is somewhat comparable to the Christian Apocalypse and Rapture. (SubGenius Pamphlet #1) Most SubGenii know that their church is a parody of the more disdainful aspects of Protestant Christianity and the conservative movement, such as the utilization of fear to keep blind faith and the fear of reprimand to keep people from going beyond traditional Christian social boundaries and to undermine sexual desires. (Stein, 2006)
The 80's, 90's, and the new millennium saw the emergence of New Age beliefs and New Wave alternative cultures. Satanism, Wiccism, Paganism, Discordianism, and dozens of other alternative cultures including the Church of the SubGenius arose for those seeking a new path offering much more sexual freedom and respect for women where mainstream Christianity had dominated for so long. This boom was fueled by sexual and cultural revolution of the 60's and 70's, which prompted women to ask for themselves what they wanted spiritually as well as sexually. (Armstrong 1986) The Church of the SubGenius is different from these movements in that its "sacred scribe," Ivan Stang, fully admits that it's "more of a business than a religion", while, "incorporat[ing] all the GOOD parts of religions – the feel-good, "I can win", "I will get laid" aspects – and also to either subvert or else IMPROVE UPON the negative aspects of religion, such as the crutchlike dependency, the utter abandonment of logic or thought, etc." (Fade to Black interview of Stang) This may be so, but do women have a place in a cult in which the pretend-dogma is that the faithful will be rewarded with scantily clad sex goddesses and topless women? Is the "promise" of gaining more sex in the SubGenius commercial aimed at adolescent men, since it is widely held in American society that boys "should be allowed sexual activity before marriage, but… women should be virginal until marriage?" (Burlage 1974, 107) Is this cult, by parodying and mocking Christian Protestantism, releasing women from the bonds of Christian guilt of their bodies and sexual desires, or is it perpetuating the Christian status quo of male dominance by using the image of women as pornographically sexual to interest potential members? To explore this, one must know the history of the Christian church's patriarchal tendencies and how it has affected even the most secular life in modern America and compare their beliefs to the beliefs of the Church of the SubGenius.
Although women were and are often treated poorly in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Christianity has a unique fear and avoidance of sex and female sexuality that only Christian societies have to deal with. In Islam, misogyny is rampant, "not… because Islam hates sex, but because Islam women are the valued possessions of men." (Armstrong 1986, 2) Judaism feels the need to "propagate [itself] and so women, as mothers, have a… crucial religious role." (3) This is also why celibacy is not a huge part of Judaism. Misogyny carried into Roman Catholicism, and the Popes held women in low regard, not because they were servants or property of man, but because women were the decedents of Eve and used their powers of persuasion, which later became seduction, to make Adam do the original sin. (Burlage) The Roman Catholics did, although, portray Mary as the Mother of God, which recalls remnants of Pagan goddess worship of ancient European times. The Reformation brought along Protestantism, which renounced the cult of Mary and made Christianity a fully patriarchal institution. (Odagaki,1998) There is also a separation of the human and the divine, between mind and body, which has also been clear in Christianity from the beginning. This caused Christians to attempt to reject bodily desires in order to attain the divine. (Stein, 2006)
Christianity eventually took over the Western world, and with it came sexual repression and misguided intolerance to the female body and psyche. The Victorian era perfected the means of guilt and shame towards sex and women in the name of society. A proper Victorian era woman would be taught that "she had no sexual feelings; if she did have sexual pleasure there was something wrong with her… if [she] did [she] suffered such agony of guilt that it destroyed [her] sex life altogether." (Armstrong, 5) Interestingly enough, around this time brothels flourished next to chapels and the scientific community became interested in sexual behavior more than ever before. (Stein) The 1960's brought on the sexual revolution and women "[spoke] for the first time about taboo subjects and mobilized a public expression of feelings." (Stein, 10) This openness about sex and female sexuality eventually turned into a very profitable ongoing advertizing campaign that is now used by nearly every company in the United States in the form of skinny, scantily clad female models for their products. This fluidity of truth, or the grey areas between black and white with regard to sexuality, are now the conservative Right's (and unfortunately by association, Christianity's) reason for the "reassertion of traditional values" that made it's way into, and some would say became, the American mainstream belief system. (Stein, 12)
One may argue that since many people in modern America were not raised Christian, and since their mothers and possibly grandmothers were not Christian, the rules of Christianity do not apply to them. This is not true, not just because America was founded by Puritans, but because all of our most fundamental laws and ethics are from the Bible. (Armstrong) Every commandment is considered not only a law to Christians, but it's also a law in America's government, and it is also considered common sense. Whether you like it or not, "Christianity is embedded in the national identity of every American." (Armstrong, 7) Even so, some have made it out of and completely denounced the mainstream Christian world like the Church of the SubGenius. In this new era of female rights to sexuality, does the SubGenius Church have a place for women? It does, in fact the Church has a whole branch of its dogma dedicated to "Bob"s wife and lover, Connie Dobbs. Connie was not included in the very earliest days of the Church, but as it grew, and the number of women involved in the Church grew with it, Connie made her way into the first book about the Church and "Bob" published by Stang called The Book of the Subgenius in 1983. In an interview with the magazine Gray Areas, Stang noted the shift in sexes at the various "devivals" (play on words of the revivals held by Christian churches) and X-Day, which is a festival held every year in anticipation of the landing of the alien pleasure saucers. He says, "The biggest change is the influx of women, the female influence. Our live stage devivals are so vastly different from the old parade of bespectacled male geeks that you'd hardly believe it." This influx of women in the Church is ever expanding, and by Stang's estimation at least 30% of the Church is female.
What draws women to Connie and the Church? Perhaps it is because there are many different visual and written representations of Connie that cater to every woman, and in turn convince men and women that every SubGenius woman is Connie in some way. Popess Lilith von Fraumench sums up the lore of the different faces of Connie quite well in a "rant" (usually performed on a stage during X-Day or a devival) that was written down and published in The Subgenius Psychlopedia of Slack: the Bobliographon. "If you look in the Book of the SubGenius, you'll see that no two pictures of Connie look the same. There's a good reason for that. No other woman could hold the attention span of a man like "Bob" so… she shifts from one persona to another. Her hairdo and wardrobe,… even her AGE changes by her bidding… Thus, there's a Waitress Connie and a Nurse Connie, a Hooker Connie and a Nun Connie… and the Cowgirl Connie riding a Bucking "Bob"!"
Connie's many identities are usually sexual in some way, or have some connotation of either being "good" or "bad" in the Christian sense of womanly virtue as a wife and mother, represented by Mary, or more often as the seductress Eve, or something in between with some sexual connotation or tendencies, although to the SubGenius all of these identities are acceptable and encouraged. (Burlage) Connie, as far as the SubGenius Church is concerned, with or without a sex life, is every woman in the sense that she embodies the feminine principle of eros, or inclusion, as opposed to "Bob" and the masculine principle of logos, or distinction. (Odagaki) The Church of the SubGenius sees a big difference between them, "the Con," "Normals," "Pinks," or whoever is not a SubGenius, and us, or the Church. In this regard they share the masculine logos of Christianity. (Odagaki) Unfortunately, women in Christianity do not have much freedom in who they should look up to, while the women of the Church of the SubGenius can make their female deity into anything they want her to be, knowing that they can't be wrong. If more people looked at Christianity with the feminine eros perspective, being all inclusive and seeing the grey areas of sexuality instead of only the black and white, the "them" and "us," maybe there would be more peace and level-headedness in the discussion of violence against women, sex education in schools, homosexuality, and freedom of choice.