In her book Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill, author Jessica Stern attempts to provide the logic behind terrorist actions. However, when unveiling this cause and effect relationship, there is no simple answer. This is because the problem of terrorism is essentially a problem that is as diverse as human existence itself, incorporating elements such as the sociological, the political, the religious, the psychological and the sexual. Stern devotes in her work equal attention to all these factors, through interviews with terrorists to understand their thought processes. Of all these aforementioned causes, however, it is arguably the sexual which receives the least attention in the academic literature.
Stern’s work is a contribution, in this sense, to rectifying this omission. If, following the work of psychologists such as Freud, the psycho-sexual is crucial to the human being, it therefore must be present in terrorist group relations. Terrorist group relations as part of the social are not an anomaly. This is a subtext of Stern’s work: if we do not hope to explain terrorism using anthropological and sociological methods, this means that we mystify terrorists. This is especially interesting when we consider that terrorism itself is a type of mystification when it is based on “holy warriors.”
By examining the relationship between sexuality and terrorism we understand that terrorism is constituted by the same type of psycho-sexual group dynamics. As Stern brings forth in her interviews, one of the critiques of Western culture is its emphasis on sex (124): accordingly, an attitude to sexuality informs terrorist hostility. The exact psychological reasons of this attitude is debatable, dependant upon which psychological theory one prefers. But the important point is to include the sexual within our discussion of religious terrorism, in order to place it in a sociological context.
Stern, Jessica. Why Religious Militants Kill: Terror in the Name of God. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.