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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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Want a special someone who will bring you to your knees? One who will be totally in charge? One who will tell you that you are really, really bad and threaten you with punishments? Maybe you have a little day dream about being a captive virgin. Or maybe you prefer to fantasize about a man who is helpless, who, say, has his arms secured to a crossbeam. Christianity has something for everyone.

I’m not the first person to  observe that religious and sexual ecstasy have a lot in common—or that the love songs Christians croon to Jesus sound remarkably like other love songs. Nor am I the first to point out that Christian ministers, musicians, and recruiters  play with this  blurry boundary deliberately. Tim Tebow  posing as sexy Jesus-on-the-cross for GQ kind of says it all. As if there weren’t enough Christian girls and boys struggling with Jesus fantasies already. ( hereherehere)

Early pagan religions incorporated sexuality explicitly into religious practice, for example, in the form of temple prostitutes or fertility rites or sacred sexuality. Some Dharmic traditions, like tantric Buddhism, continue to do so today. Given the power of religion to arouse and exploit sexual energy, it should come as no surprise that sacred sexuality takes a wide variety of forms—or that, despite an overt attempt by the Abrahamic traditions to constrain and control sexuality, these traditions also make use of the very same urges they seek to suppress.

One offshoot of the religion-sensuality-sexuality nexus that doesn’t get talked about much is the relationship between Christianity and kink. On the surface, the two couldn’t appear more different. Christianity has often advocated abstinence or sex exclusively for procreation, as a means to propagate the religion itself, while kink is about consensual pleasuring limited only by an agreement between the individuals involved. Christianity can be thought of as seeking to  sublimate, or redirect, sexual passion, while kink tries to enhance it. Christianity claims to be about the end game, while kink often is about the moment. Christianity is deadly serious, while kink commonly is framed as playful. Christianity is a multi-billion dollar, multi-billion member, multi-national enterprise, while kink is a small counter culture without revenue and membership goals.

But just beneath the surface both communities may be leveraging a similar set of human instincts and emotions. I am not suggesting that Christianity is all about sexual arousal, even sublimated or redirected sexual arousal, though that most certainly is a part of the picture. I  amsuggesting that kink and Christianity appear to tap an overlapping array of social and psychological impulses that include sexual arousal, moral emotions like shame and disgust, our tendency to seek hierarchy, our desire to escape rationality, our heightened sensory acuity in the presence of emotional arousal, and our tendency to take every pleasure to its extreme. In all of these, the themes of dominance and submission, inflicting pain, and receiving pain, have parts to play. 

1. Pleasure and Pain: In the past five hundred years, few Christian writers have described the relationship between pain and pleasure as graphically as St. Teresa of Avila, whose sixteenth century vision of mystical union with God drips with sexuality:

In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with it and he left me completely afire with a great love for God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by the intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one's soul be content with anything less than God. 

 
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