While we have seen that The Satanic Temple and other purveyors of the “moral panic” narrative attempt to create much ado about “false allegations” of sexual abuse, assimilating them to “ritual abuse” and maximally farfetched conspiracist claims and generally working to promote the (false) “belief that we live in a society where men are constantly at risk from a false rape claim epidemic” (de Gallier), it may come as somewhat of a shock to learn that The Satanic Temple has itself engaged in and attempted to make a public spectacle out of a form of sexually abusive Satanic ritual.
In 2013, Satanic Temple co-founder and principal spokesperson Douglas Misicko was charged with “grave desecration” (a misdemeanor offense) after posing for a photograph (shown below, censored) in which he can be seen rubbing his genitals on the grave marker of a dead woman, during what The Satanic Temple portrayed as a “gay conversion” ritual, which the group called a “pink mass.”
Figure 7.9. Douglas Misicko engages in an act of vicarious necrophilia, ostensibly (and nonsensically) turning a dead woman into a lesbian by rubbing his genitals on her grave, located in Mississippi (thegauntlet.com). Misicko’s genitals, which are exposed in the original photo, have been censored with the “Charles Manson rebel flag,” which was featured on the wall of the studio where Misicko recorded cordial interviews with white supremacist neo-Nazis Tom Metzger and George Burdi (see: Chapters 3 and 5).
The dead woman, Catherine Johnston, was the mother of Fred Phelps (1929–2014), late leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, an ultra-right-wing, pseudo-Christian hate group. Ostensibly meant to turn Phelps’ mother “gay in the afterlife,” the stunt appears to have been both a pretext to provoke a spectacle-producing response from the Westboro cult as well as to raise the visibility of The Satanic Temple with the help of the Satanic “Message Force Multipliers” in mass media. Nevertheless, several inconsistencies readily stand out. For one, if the stunt was meant to turn a dead straight woman into a lesbian in the afterlife by having lesbian and gay experiences at her grave site (other photos show two women and two men kissing above Phelps’ mother’s grave with Misicko standing nearby), then how did the quasi-heterosexual action of Misicko placing his genitals on the woman’s grave contribute to this? The only possibility is that TST’s line of thinking was something like this: Exposing Phelps’ mother’s corpse to nonconsensual male sexual contact will drive her spirit to homosexuality because she will be so disgusted by male sexual violence that she won’t want to have anything to do with men anymore. This means however that the penis-to-dead-woman’s-grave act is admittedly a misogynistic act of symbolic sexual violence. The predictable response to this would be for TST to deflect criticism of its rape culture ritual by asserting that the entire ritual is meant to be taken as a satirical provocation and not a genuine Satanic ritual, mimicking Jean-Paul Sartre’s description of the antisemite as a man who does not take his own words seriously, but merely aims to provoke. Since the ritual is “just a joke, man,” it would be predictable to anticipate that TST or its apologists would claim that incorporation of the penis-to-dead-woman’s-grave act into a ritual ostensibly meant to turn the dead woman into a lesbian has no real significance, because the ritual itself is not “real,” and it is therefore not worth analyzing. This would of course be wrong.
What analysis reveals is that The Satanic Temple’s sexualized grave desecration ritual harkens to a number of paraphilias (i.e., disorders associated with “engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme” [Psychology Today]). While sexual contact with grave markers would appear to fall under the umbrella of objectophilia at first glance, it is clear from the stated objective of the ceremony that the action of TST’s co-founder was in fact “quasi-,” or vicariously, necrophilic: it was a sexual act involving a human corpse, symbolically present in the ritual through its proximity and adjacentness to the gravestone, which, as the object of sexual contact, stood as a representative of the targeted corpse. The sexual act was not perpetrated against a “pure” object per se, deriving instead its symbolic power from the correlation between that object and the subject-cum-object: the human body devoid of life and of freedom, whose material trace is marked by the gravestone. Like the the sexual exploitation of enslaved persons, necrophilia relies on the transformation of the human subject into an object which is as incapable of giving its consent to participation in sexual acts as it is of withholding it. This sex object is a slave, a corpse, a stone, a toy.
If one were to rank the various paraphilias implied here in order of the magnitude of their harmfulness, the sexual abuse of corpses might arguably be viewed (if we assume the victim of the necrophilic act was not murdered by the necrophile) as not being as heinous as the sexual abuse of living persons (due to the lack of consciousness on the part of the dead) and, similarly, the vicarious sexual abuse of the dead via sexual contact with their gravestones might arguably not be as bad as directly molesting corpses due to the former’s less extreme nature. Nevertheless, these things exist on a spectrum, and it is still entirely valid to raise serious concern when confronted by an individual who thinks it’s okay to expose their genitals at a cemetary and rub them on a dead person’s grave, even if it is the grave of a bad person, or the relative of a bad person. The fact that The Satanic Temple does not consider gravestones as something sacred, seeing it as justified to employee them as sexual objects in vicariously necrophilic acts, raises the question of how far the “civil society” Satanist is willing to go to transgress moral norms surrounding treatment of graves and cadavers, particularly the taboo against sexual contact with the dead.
Would liberal pseudo-radicals have cheered at The Satanic Temple’s “epic trolling” of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church if members of TST had gone, not in daylight, but in the darkness of night, exhumed the corpse of Fred Phelps’ mother and nonsensically had a man sexually violate her dead body, to “make her spirit gay”? And even if it had been a woman, what difference would that make? If TST had wanted to perform a stunt that would unambiguously transgress ethical boundaries and “épater la bourgeoisie,” surely that would have been the way to go. It seems almost inevitable however that, owing to the contradictions arising from the warring ideals of “personal sovereignty” absolutism (which says, “I can do anything I want to a corpse because I am alive and powerful and that person is dead, weak, and unable to defend their bodily sovereignty”) on the one hand and, on the other, the imperative to dissociate “civil society”-engaged Satanism from any hint of criminality and hardcore unethical behavior (the source of the “lone wolf Satanists = pseudo-Satanists” meme), the praxis of organized Satanists will continue to incorporate acts which transgress accepted ethical and legal norms, though they are more likely to make spectacles out of transgressions judged minor enough to “get away with” than ones that would lead to widespread condemnation.
Nevertheless, a group like The Satanic Temple, which tries to strike a balance between respectable “free speech” legality and transgressive “edginess,” will inevitably fall short of really achieving one or the other. For now, what The Satanic Temple seems to offer, at least publicly, is Satanism-lite, the Satanism of the “nice guys” of rape culture or what might be called petty “Satanic Ritual Hooliganism.” But it also appears to offer a window to something more sinister, showing a way via its “septenary system” (see Chapter 8), The Process, and the dark web to ideological cousins such as Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, the Tempel ov Blood, Atomwaffen Division, and other deliberately marginal groups which belong “legitimately […] somewhere on a broad spectrum of recognized ‘Left Hand Path’ philosophies.”
OR RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS (Anatomy of a Crypto-Fascist Sect: The Unauthorized Guide to “The Satanic Temple”)