Brown sophomore Kevin Roose didn’t study abroad, but he definitely visited a foreign land during his semester off-campus at Virginia’s Liberty University, the school founded by preacher Jerry Falwell to train “champions for Christ.” Roose chronicles his stint as an evangelical embed in his new book, The Unlikely Disciple. Fair and revealing, the book is much like Roose himself. Admitting you attended a masturbation addiction group meeting — even for research purposes — shows a certain level of self-comfort (no pun intended). Roose spoke with Playboy.com about evangelical pick-up lines and the frontlines of “Every Man’s Battle.”
PLAYBOY.COM: Did you ever see anybody with a Playboy at Liberty?
KEVIN ROOSE: I didn’t, although I had two related experiences. I heard from a couple guys that Playboy once ranked Liberty girls the second hottest in the nation. Not sure if it’s a true statistic, but guys there like to talk about it. The other one was this group I went to, “Every Man’s Battle,” for recovering masturbation addicts that [also] doubled as a group for porn addicts. There’s a reason there are no single dorm rooms at Liberty. They want to keep everyone’s mind pure. According to Liberty, the sin isn’t masturbating, it’s lust.
PLAYBOY.COM: Are there evangelical sex symbols? I’m thinking someone like Bree from Desperate Housewives.
KEVIN ROOSE: There’s a pastor at Liberty, a young Ryan Seacrest look-a-like, who’s extremely popular. And I just came across a website called Christiannymphos.com about this movement of Christian wives who say they’re proud nymphos and love sex with their husbands. They get a little raunchy — what does the Bible say about anal sex, what does it say about toys — stuff like that. It’s controversial, but I like the thought.
PLAYBOY.COM: I like the thought, too. What does the Bible say about anal sex and toys?
KEVIN ROOSE: I don’t know… but I think it supports both — in marriage.
PLAYBOY.COM: Is there evangelical slang for hot girls?
KEVIN ROOSE: There are definitely evangelical pickup lines. If a Christian guy says, “I feel like God is leading me to kiss you,” or, “I feel like we should pray and hold hands while we do it,” that’s their way of making a move.
PLAYBOY.COM: It seems weird playing off God as some kind of omnipotent wingman.
KEVIN ROOSE: Yeah, that’s totally true.
PLAYBOY.COM: You wrote about a guy, Luke, who had sex with a couple of girls at Liberty. Do a lot of students sneak off and have sex?
KEVIN ROOSE: There probably are a fair number of people having sex at Liberty. Very few people talk about it, and it’s still very taboo. It probably does happen and, more often than not, people feel terribly guilty, repent and promise never to do it again. It’s still an atmosphere where most people value virginity and premarital abstinence. Any community of college age kids is going to have sex, no matter what restrictions you put on it. I don’t know how Luke did it. I was actually pretty impressed and amazed by the amount of sex he was having.
PLAYBOY.COM: When they’re hooking up, do a lot of these evangelical students not consider it sex as long as it isn’t intercourse — for instance, having anal sex or “outercourse?”
KEVIN ROOSE: That’s a definite question on campus, “How far can I go before it becomes sinful?” The professors would usually say anything beyond hand holding is. Almost everyone I know there that has a girlfriend or boyfriend makes out with them — that’s de rigueur. I don’t think there is too much outercourse, or people going right up to the line and then stopping. I think people realize that’s probably not a great idea as far as keeping yourself in control.
PLAYBOY.COM: Since marriage is so important in evangelical circles, is there a lot of pressure for guys along the lines of, “What if I’m terrible in bed?”
KEVIN ROOSE: It’s definitely a source of nerves for a lot of the guys, and the girls too. There are horror stories, like some girls have no idea what a penis looks like, and their husband disrobes on their wedding night and she breaks into tears. But most have seen enough movies like American Pie. They’re socialized, they know what sex is and how sex goes.
PLAYBOY.COM: Do evangelicals develop any weird sexual kinks in marriage, since sex has been something they’ve avoided for so long?
KEVIN ROOSE: Christian newlyweds have a reputation for going at it like bunnies, because they go from zero to 60 in no time and want to try everything.
PLAYBOY.COM: Do you get any attention from evangelical chicks now?
KEVIN ROOSE: I wish I could say I’ve been swamped by e-mails from Liberty girls, but most of the e-mails I get from Liberty women are praying for my soul.