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4 Things Kinky Sex and Christianity Have in Common

While the Abrahamic religions have tried to control sexuality, these traditions make use of the very urges they seek to suppress.

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Still today, in some Christian traditions, pain and religious passion go hand in hand. Mother Theresa is  quoted as saying that love isn’t real unless it hurts. In  one anecdote, she tells a suffering woman that her pain is the kiss of Jesus. The nuns of Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, have practiced self-mortification techniques including striking their legs with rope and wearing a spiked chain called a  cilice. Dan Brown’s thriller, The DaVinci Code was a wild fantasy, but the  mortification practices of the order Opus Dei are real. 

With or without the erotic overtones, pain appears to  heighten some spiritual experiences through several mechanisms. Self-inflicted pain or voluntary submission to pain can be proof of commitment, as in gang initiations. It may offer relief from guilt or anxiety or self-loathing, like self-cutting does for many depressed girls. It may produce an endorphin release as when runners and rowers push past a pain threshold. It may intensify focus on the present moment by causing distractions to recede into the background, like pinching oneself can do. It may offer a mesmerizing rhythm of sensation, as in head banging. The point isn’t that Christian penance and self-mortification are always or even usually erotic—they aren’t—but that both Christianity and kink can use pain as sensory enhancers.  

2. Bondage and slavery:  The Bible has its share of stories about master-slave relations and other funky sex—starting with Adam who sleeps with his female clone; and Abraham who has sex with his half-sister/ wife Sarah as well as her slave; and Lot’s daughters, who after being offered to a rabbling mob get their father drunk so they can conceive by him. Then there’s the temptress, Delilah, who ties  Samson up and finally saps his strength by cutting of his hair after their time together; and we can’t forget Solomon with his 700 wives and 300 concubines or sex slaves. (It wasn’t violence alone that got the Bible  reviewed by Hong Kong’s media regulators.) Some people were  shocked by all of the humping in Robert Crumb’s illustrated version of Genesis, but the Bible’s naughty bits have been staples for generations of teens stuck in church. 

Of course a key difference between these stories and modern sexuality is that dominance and submission in kink is dictated by preference rather than gender. Also, both ethics and law dictate that BDSM actions require the enthusiastic consent of both parties, which definitely is not the case in the Bible stories.  Fortunately most scholars think of the Bible stories as either mythologized history or historicized mythology rather than a factual record of events.  Also fortunately, (as Greta Christina  pointed out in the introduction to her kink novella,  Bending) most people who enjoy fictional violence or coercion—murder mysteries, spy novels, rape fantasies, or sexual slavery—would not seek or enjoy the same experiences in real life.  

When it comes to bondage, perhaps the most common stimulus in the Christian tradition is the crucifixion itself, with its glorified,  beatific images of Jesus hanging and  swooning, eyes half lidded. The crucified Jesus is almost never depicted as a short,  ordinary looking Semite. Instead, whether  Caucasian, Middle Eastern, or  Black, he is usually lanky and well-muscled with perfect skin and a face that fits some artist’s version of male beauty. Small wonder Tim Tebow slipped so easily into the pose.

3. Discipline: Articles and forums devoted to “ Christian domestic discipline” couch the practice in spiritual or religious terms: Wife spanking, like child spanking, is a means of maintaining the hierarchy that God established, with a man on top and wife as his “helpmeet.” Proponents are careful to distinguish their approach from secular kink, which they disparage.  They establish a proper biblical context with texts like this one from the book of Hebrews:  “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. ” Domestic discipline is  described as a means to fend off, “this unholy culture, with its radically selfish feminism, and wholesale bias against true manhood, [which] launches relentless attacks against traditional Christian family values,” and it is recommended for serious offenses such as “the four D’s” (Disobedience, Disrespect, Dishonesty or Dangerous behavior).

 
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