The overarching question that drives my research program is: How do religion and sexuality interact and intersect as a politicized set of practices, ideologies, and identities? My research shifts sociological inquiry from a focus on what is socially marginal to what is socially normative and privileged, particularly addressing the relationship between conservative Christianity, heterosexuality, gender, and whiteness. To that end, I have explored a wide range of topics, including Christian sex advice; evangelical women's ministries; debates over religitous freedom laws; and contemporary debates over pornography.
My latest book, The Pornography Wars: The Past, Present, and Future of America’s Obscene Obsession is forthcoming with Bloomsbury in 2022. Drawing from 90 in-depth interviews with both pornography’s opponents and its sympathizers, participant observations of public events, and qualitative and quantitative content analysis, I combine my original research with a historical overview of pornography debates in the United States. This project has also allowed me to co-author publications with two of my PhD students that appeared in Gender & Society and Social Forces in 2020.
In 2019, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Dr. Emily Kazyak (PI) and myself (co-PI) a grant to support a 3-year project on religious exemption laws and minority rights. The issue of whether individuals may be exempt from adhering to nondiscrimination laws owing to religious beliefs is a complex question involving legal institutions as well as individual beliefs. Our mixed-methods study uses quantitative and qualitative analysis of legal data and qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews to understand processes of cultural interpretations at both the institutional and individual level.
In 2021, I received an Honorable Mention for the American Sociological Association Section on Religion’s Early Career Award. In 2017, I was awarded the Distinguished Book Award for the ASA Section on Religion for my first book, Christians Under Covers: Evangelicals and Sexual Pleasure on the Internet (2016 University of California Press).
My research has also been published in academic journals, including Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sexualities, Sociology Compass, and Socius, and featured in popular outlets including Savage Lovecast, Nebraska Public Radio, Newsweek, and Slate.
I am seeking graduate students who share my areas of interest as well as students interested in qualitative methodologies studying other substantive topics.
I am also seeking undergraduate students with strong writing skills and who are interested in gaining experience transcribing and analyzing qualitative data.
I teach Introduction to Sociology and classes on gender, sexuality, and religion.
Kelsy Burke and Amy McDowell “White Women Who Lead: God, Girlfriends, and Diversity Projects in a National Evangelical Ministry.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity (2021)
Kelsy Burke and Alice MillerMacPhee “Constructing Pornography Addiction’s Harms in Science, News Media, and Politics.” Social Forces (2020)
Kelsy Burke and Trenton Haltom “Created by God and Wired to Porn: Redemptive Masculinity and Gender Beliefs in Narratives of Religious Men’s Pornography Addiction Recovery.” Gender & Society (2020)
Kazyak, Emily, Kelsy Burke, and Mathew Stange. “Logics of Freedom: Debating Religious Freedom Laws and Gay and Lesbian Rights.” Socius, (January 2018).
Burke, Kelsy. Christians under Covers: Evangelicals and Sexual Pleasure on the Internet. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press (2016)