MAGA's sexy beer calendar scandal cracks up the Christian right

MAGA has learned that sex sells — but it’s undermining the anti-abortion, abstinence-only message

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published January 12, 2024 6:00AM (EST)

Holding up a MAGA hat and a beer at a Trump rally (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Holding up a MAGA hat and a beer at a Trump rally (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

In our era of wars, political violence, and climate catastrophe, Republicans have shown yet again that they have their priorities straight by freaking out over a sexy beer calendar.

Ultra Right Beer, which markets itself as an "anti-woke" brew for people worried Bud Light doesn't hate queer people enough, last month released a pin-up calendar of right-wing women. The calendar is relatively tame for what it is. It's nothing more than trying to prop up the sad fantasy of lonely MAGA men that hot women might one day date them. 

Some of the pin-ups are even wearing shirts. But the whole thing outraged many Republicans who, As Zack Beauchamp at Vox reports, complained that sticking your booty in a camera while flashing come-hither eyes runs counter to Christian values. "If conservatives aren’t morally grounded Christians, what are we even ‘conserving’?" complained former Donald Trump lawyer and confessed criminal Jenna Ellis. Speaking for this faction, Madeline Kearns at the National Review wrote that conservatives should stand for "a courtship culture, one that emphasizes male and female sexual complementarity, abstinence before marriage, fidelity within it, openness to the gift of children." (For those who don't speak Republican, "openness to children" is code for banning birth control.) 

By signing off on Trump as their new messiah, the Christian right signaled that this attitude is the new way of doing business for the GOP. 

Beauchamp portrays this as a fight between Christian conservatives and "Barstool conservatives," who he describes as dude-bros less interested in Jesus and more in hating "what they see as censorious political correctness." The truth is that it's even weirder than that.

In many circles, the dirtbag aesthetic of the Joe Rogan world has been combined with a lot of Jesus talk. Many people on the right who never darken a church doorstep now proclaim themselves "evangelical." It's become an identity marker more than a faith, a way to create a tribal identity for white conservatives that runs deeper than mere partisan preference. Even the Proud Boys, who were initially sold as a secular authoritarian group, are now mixing showy prayer with all the hard drinking. Indeed, many of the women who posed for the cheesecake photos espouse conservative Christianity. Like this woman

She recently told the audience at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, Virginia that she views herself in a "spiritual battle" between "moral versus evil." 

Or this lady, who otherwise likes quoting Bible verses on Twitter

Separating the "evangelical" identity from actual Christian teachings may be politically popular — all those "thou shalt nots" suck! — but it understandably frustrates people who actually believe all that "blood of the Savior" stuff. This fight has been brewing for awhile. Right-wing social media is rife with personalities who claim to advocate for "traditional" Christian values, but whose feeds regularly serve up sexually provocative imagery. As I recently wrote, for instance, the whole world of "tradwives" online looks like a 50s-era Playboy magazine ad. 

The reason for this isn't hard to suss out: Sex sells. On social media especially, it can be hard to capture people's attention as they scroll rapidly through their feeds. The easiest and quickest way to grab their eyes and cause them to linger over a post? Boobs. Or a butt. Or a scantily clad woman making "f—k me" eyes. So conservative creators, even those who champion themselves as Christians, have come around to the tits-forward marketing strategy. 

The problem is that this runs directly counter to the "purity" messaging that the Christian right has been peddling forever. The contradictions are especially galling after the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. It's already difficult for Republicans to pretend they don't hate women when they are punishing women — even with death — for having sex. It becomes impossible in the face of this endless stream of softcore porn being served to men from MAGA influencers. 

Frustration over this has been building within the Christian right for a while now. Even before the sexy calendar fight, a growing chorus vented frustration at female MAGA influencers who unsubtly use sex to bolster their following. Last fall, for instance, there was an intra-right social media war over this video by a woman who has figured out how to get hundreds of thousands of followers for her far-right propaganda.

We need your help to stay independent

For the men consuming this content, I suspect they don't feel much cognitive dissonance between "sex is good when straight men have it" but "women who have sex have no rights." The two views are entirely consistent if you believe in male supremacy. Read enough "men's rights" material and it swiftly becomes evident that they see sex as men's right and women's burden — and childbirth and marriage as ways to trap women into servitude to men. 

The Republicans pushing back against this, of course, understand that while "orgasms for me, forced childbirth for thee" is a pleasing ideology for conservative men, it's a hard sell outside of their circles. Most Americans don't like to think of themselves as sexist or unfair. There's a reason that most Americans oppose the flood of abortion bans being passed in red states. It's hard to justify the belief that men get to have sex, but women who do should be punished. 

In the pre-Donald Trump era, the way Christian conservatives sold their views as just was to argue that their roles applied to both men and women. They claimed to believe that both sexes should wait until marriage. They argued that, in exchange for women's submission, a man was required to provide and protect. Patriarchy was propped up as an arrangement where both sexes had duties and made sacrifices. It was always a lie, of course. Men's sexual transgressions were always quietly forgiven while women were condemned. Men's "duties" were not enforced, while women's submission was policed heavily. But this concept of "complementarianism" seemed fair enough in the abstract to deflect criticism from feminists. 

Donald Trump, however, has blown all that up. He doesn't pretend to buy this "equal but different" view of gender. He brags about his own womanizing while shaming women who have sex. It mirrors his attitude towards Christianity. Trump waves a Bible around and demands to be treated as a Christian leader, but he barely bothers to hide that he's never read the Bible, doesn't believe in basic Christian tenets, and doesn't even know the basic rituals of church

Trump's worldview, shaped by his severe personality disorders, is simple: He should get all the benefits with none of the work. He should get all the traditional privileges of being a man, including dominion over women, without having any of the responsibilities. He should get the glory and praise of being a Christian leader, but without having to know anything or do anything vaguely Christ-like. By signing off on Trump as their new messiah, the Christian right signaled that this attitude is the new way of doing business for the GOP. 

Is it really any wonder that the ranks of Republican voters are now flush with people who call themselves "evangelical" but never go to church? This fight over the porn-ification of right-wing media is just more of the same. Republican men don't care about propping up an illusion of fairness. They just want to be sexually gratified while heaping punishment on the heads of women who want the same. They feel entitled to hang it all out like that because their leader, Trump, approaches the world with the same over-the-top selfishness. 

But yeah, it turns off everyone outside of the GOP bubble. For those who want Republicans to win elections, this situation is aggravating. Running on the "men get to have sex, while women get to suffer" platform is especially tough when trying to win the women's vote. None of that really matters to the right-wing influencers and beer peddlers and other online marketers trading on conservative resentments to make money, however. If anything, they probably make more cash if Republicans are out of power. Not that anyone should feel sorry for the Christian right, however. They knew Trump was trouble when they backed him, but they were done in by their own short-sightedness. Now they're lying in the bikini photoshoot bed they made for themselves. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

MORE FROM Amanda Marcotte