Christian Kink: Why Traditional Religion and Non-Traditional Sex Are a Good Match
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It’s difficult enough for many of us to reconcile the spiritual traditions and religious viewpoints that we carry with our modern views of sexuality: admonitions against masturbation, homosexuality, pre-marital and extra-marital relations pepper various religious texts, not to mention directives from various pulpits and sage advice from leaders of the faithful. While most current major religions espouse that a healthy sex life is an integral part of being a healthy human being, there is a wide range of definitions of what “healthy” might mean. While all agree on sex within a married relationship for procreative purposes, the rest of it is a bit blurry—even more so when we try to figure out what the consensus might be about kinky sexual behavior.
Christianity, while not statistically the largest religion in the world, is, according to census data, the most prevalent faith overall in the United States. And while there is a tremendous diversity in denominations, the great majority view sexuality as a healthy part of a married couple’s life, and only a few specifically suggest that sex be for the purposes of procreation.
Judaism has a bit more flexibility in its beliefs about sexuality, but their more conservative traditionalists agree—sex is reserved for married people.
Muslim men and women sometimes traditionally live in a very segregated and, some would say, a very misogynistic culture; yet even in Islamic religious texts, Mohammad proclaims that sex is a pleasure that, while reserved for committed marriages, is not solely for procreation.
But what about when one partner in the relationship wants to do something that isn’t just plain ol’ sex? What if it involves spanking or hitting their consenting partner—or wanting their partner to spank them? What if a man wants to be dominated by his wife? What about bondage, or roleplay? And what if the partners aren’t married?
The challenge for people of faith to reconcile their physical and emotional desires for non-traditional sexual practices with the tenets of their belief is difficult—and for some, has been enough to bring them to a crisis not only of spirit, but of body and mind.
Body, Mind and Spirit
There are certainly plenty of aspects of sacredness and spirituality that are present in BDSM activities. A fantastic example of that is the aspect of service. In most religions, adherents are taught that to submit to their deity and be of service to them (or to the world in general) is one of the highest forms of faith. So for a submissive or slave to offer themselves to a dominant, and to serve the dominant’s needs and desires, can fulfill the same need to serve that missionaries, ministers, and others who follow a religious calling experience. There is a deep sense of satisfaction at the core of service, for those who do it for religious reasons as well as within relationships; many people continue to offer service simply because of the feeling of rightness that they experience as they do it—regardless of the context in which they serve.
A number of religious traditions also involve enduring trials and overcoming ordeals in order to experience a sense of transcendence or to gain self awareness through the loss of external control. From the self-flagellation of Catholic monks, to sweat lodge and vision quest rituals of the native Americans, to the physical trials of yogis, to the routine fasting in a number of religious traditions, undergoing and enduring painful or challenging situations has long been regarded as a path to transformation and communion with one’s higher power. When compared with the experience of “sub space” that many people experience during a S/M scene, or the sense of dissociation from an intense bondage or mummification experience, it makes perfect sense that people may use a BDSM context for exploring these deep unknowns in life, and using them as ways to alter their perspective of a situation, or even of their lives.