Leaky anuses, loose vaginas, and large penises

A hierarchy of sexualized bodies in the Pentecostal imaginary

Authored by: Nathanael Homewood

Routledge Handbook of Queer African Studies

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138503472
eBook ISBN: 9781351141963
Adobe ISBN:


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My WhatsApp dinged with a message from the prophet I had spent nine months researching in Greater Accra, Ghana. “Prophet Heals Gay Paralyzed Man,” the title heralded. I opened the video knowing that it was probably not exactly as promised. Paralyzed is often a capacious descriptor meaning sick. But it was the descriptor “gay” that captured my attention because of its specificity. This Pentecostal prophet, and others like him, spends a lot of time describing and imagining “gayism.” 1 The video was indeed a religious healing, but the act of healing was really just another opportunity for the prophet to imagine gayness. There in the video laid a topless man, who will be called “John,” wearing ill-fitting pants that sagged below his waist revealing an adult diaper underneath. Four pastors and the prophet Emmanuel, 2 people familiar to me from my research in this church, rubbed John’s exposed upper body vigorously as he groaned amidst intensive prayers. “Ah-Jesus-hh-release. Oooo-the-ooo-spirits. Ahh-Out!-hh-Out!-hh!!!” The deep groans, straining the boundary between pleasure and pain, lingered. The hands continued to rub John’s torso in this and that direction. John squirmed, neither recoiling nor embracing the touch. Prophet Emmanuel then began to pray in earnest. The words punctured the air without the ambiguity that had characterized the earlier moments. “Paralyzed Spirit, Out! Out! Out! I say you are Gay! Gay! Gay! Out!” With the final “Out!” John’s body stopped moving, his groans ceased and everyone stepped back from his now docile body. Then John gently and gradually arose, taking several tentative steps. He feebly waved his hands in front of his chest as he slowly made his way across the floor. The crowd applauded – but not vociferously so, exhibiting perhaps excitement but not surprise. This was exactly how they expected the ritual to play out. And those who had been near enough to see the body, to see the protruding whiteness of the adult diaper, knew that this body was marked for a particular type of release, deliverance from the spirit of gayism. What congregants witnessed here in ritual had often been portrayed and imagined from Emmanuel himself: The gay body was sick and in need of healing. But more broadly, the gay body was monstrous, deeply penetrated, leaking, and uncontrollable. The congregation had been inundated with Emmanuel’s projection of penetrated bodies as subhuman, especially those that had been anally penetrated.

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