Feminism

on being a kinky Christian feminist

[content note for discussions of sexual violence]

Note for friends and family: I’m going to be talking about my sex life in probably more detail than you’d feel comfortable with knowing when we’re sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, so you might want to skip this one.

If you are in the Christian feminist blogosphere, you probably noticed that there was a bit of a brouhaha over the post that Sarah Bessey put up last Monday: “On Jian Ghomeshi and the Acceptability of Sexualized Violence Against Women.” I didn’t catch onto it until last weekend, when I read her post Sunday evening and … I had a lot of feelings about what she said. I have a lot of respect for Sarah; her work, her blog, and her book have all meant a great deal to me over the past couple of years. I’ve recommended her writing to many of the people that I care about, and probably will continue to do so.

I do my best to avoid being a “hot take” blogger– I talk about the things I want to talk about, and sometimes that means going over some internet controversy, but I do it when I’ve taken the time to really think about it and I don’t really care about whether or not it’s as “relevant” anymore. For this post … I honestly don’t really want to respond point-by-point to Sarah’s argument, since if you go to her blog and read the comments, a lot of people have already made the arguments I would have.

What I do want to do, however, is contribute something that is missing: the perspective of a Christian feminist who also participate in kink or BDSM. I’m not the only one talking about this (see this post or this two-part series), but there isn’t exactly a whole lot of us, for reasons I completely understand. I try to keep the TMI stuff to myself. Mostly.

But, when I read Sarah’s post I …. well, it hurt. A lot. It hurt because of statements like this:

How dare we make light of the very real terror and horror that women have endured and are enduring? You talk to a woman who has been raped or sexually violated or beaten or abused and then try to tell me that itโ€™s okay to be turned on by that. It is NOT okay. It is never okay, it never will be okay. Violence against women is epidemic and evil, itโ€™s not to be mined for sexual pleasure. How dare we forget our sisters? How dare we make light of or sexualize for our own pleasures the unmitigated horror that is endured by women even at this moment?

I’m a rape victim. I’ve been sexually violated, beaten, and abused, and I am turned on by kink. So is my partner– a wonderful, loving, gentle, compassionate man married to a sexual abuse survivor. And while I’ve heard all the arguments about how being a victim means my brain is all confused, I don’t buy it because I have been turned on by really kinky stuff since I was very young. And while Sarah argues that BDSM is intrinsically unloving, when I look into my partner’s eyes I see the exact opposite of that. He adores me and he expresses that every single time we make love, no matter how vanilla or kinky it is.

Sarah says she’s gotten a lot of letters from women who were physically and sexually abused– women whose partners used “BDSM” to groom them, to cover for their abuse, much like what Jian Ghomeshi is currently doing. I completely understand Sarah’s concern about this, because I’ve been in the exact same place. My rapist used the cover of BDSM and kink as one of many tools to convince me that what he was doing was “normal.” He would humiliate me, he would force me to do things that I didn’t want to do as part of being “dominant,” he would use verbally abusive and degrading language that I didn’t like, and he would hurt me and use his “kinkiness” to cover it up.

So when I became intimate with Handsome, I had sky-scraper-big question marks about whether or not I felt ok having kink in our relationship. I knew it still turned me on like it always had, but I didn’t know if I was comfortable allowing it into a healthy relationship. I took a good long hard look at myself and asked if I wanted it because the only thing I had to go on for “normal” in a relationship was abusive– was my response to kink a leftover from abuse being conflated with love?

What I figured out was that there are certain things that I am not ok with, and will never be ok with. Many of the things have been discovered over time: right off the bat I knew I’dย never allow a specific type of “dirty” talk during sex– being called a bitch or a whore, for example. Some women, men, and others enjoy that sort of thing, but I cannot handle that. Other things we’ve discovered through talking about it, like the fact that even though I love being spanked before and during sex, being spanked with a belt would be a hard limit for us.

But there is so much else to explore, and it is wonderful and beautiful. Handsome and I “switch,” although I’m usually the one subbing. I can’t even begin to explain how much I enjoy watching him as he ties me up and pulls my arms and legs until I can feel an amazing stretch, a feeling that is impossible to duplicate without being restrained. When I grab his wrists, force them over his head, and tie them together, then order him to do whatever I want, I can’t get over how his eyes sparkle at me. I adore the way he fights to bury his fingers in my hair when I’m slowly teasing him but he can’t.

What I love about kink is how it exposes us as a couple. It puts the amount of love we have for each other and how deeply we trust each other fully on display in a way that more vanilla sex just doesn’t. For me, when I’m subbing, there’s an unbelievable amount of anticipation that is almost joyful. I don’t know what he’s about to do, or where this is about to go, but I know that I’m going to love it.

The best part is that I have complete and total control over what happens. As a rape victim, I cannot overstate how much that means to me. When Handsome and I are in a scene, I know that if he attempts something that makes me uncomfortable I can put an instant stop to it– but that hasn’t even happened yet. While we’re playing, we’re attentive to each other in a way that we don’t quite attain when we’re having a missionary quickie. Whoever is on top is watching every single breath and twitch, and we’re communicating with each other more than any other time we have sex. And because I know he is watching me incredibly carefully, I’m free to let go; he’s pushed me in ways I didn’t think was possible, and that’s happened because I trust him and I know he loves me.

And yes, many time’s there’s pain, but not always. I delight in being pinched and nipped and bitten and spanked and gripped and scratched and flogged. Most of the time I’m begging for more and for harder. But pain is not the same thing as violence, and causing pain is certainly not the same thing as abuse. That’s not even an argument that makes sense– everything in our daily lives belies that. It’s non-consensual pain (emotional or physical) that is an intrinsic violation and is always wrong, full stop.

To me, BDSM is about communication, and respect, and trust, and love, and commitment, and honoring each other. It’s about exploring, finding, and then keeping boundaries. That’s what I wish people could know when they think about kinky couples. I understand if you’re not personally comfortable with it. I understand if the furthest you ever want to go is fuzzy handcuffs. I understand being confused or even frightened by what other people are more than just comfortable with. That’s the beauty of consent– if you don’t want to, no one is allowed to make you.

Photo by Turbo.Beagle
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  • I always enjoy your posts, even though I’ve left Christianity. I identify with feminist views against violence towards women but am turned on by kink so those factors, plus all the purity culture tsk-tsks of my upbringing, make it a bit tricky to navigate. Glad to know I’m not the only one who sees the two should not be confused for the same thing.

  • Thank you so much for writing this. A fellow KFC myself, I was really hurt by her post, but couldn’t articulate why–even to myself. I appreciate your wisdom and vulnerability so much. I don’t have anything to add to your thoughts, just gratitude.

  • A.nonny.mouse

    Thank you SO MUCH. As a fellow kinky Christian feminist, I get exceedingly frustrated when feminists (Christian or otherwise) denounce BDSM as being incompatible with feminism. Consent is a thing, people. There certainly are abusive relationships that are BDSM, but there are abusive relationships that aren’t, either. BDSM /= abuse- in fact, in many ways there are more social protocols in “the community” so that everyone involved in a scene has a good time. It’s a bit different scening with a significant other, but at least for play partners people are supposed to sit down, set boundaries, and talk about what they’re interested in before any scening takes place. (And you’d do this in a healthy vanilla-exploring-kink relationship, too!) Everybody is supposed to vet their potential partner before playing, and if you can’t, you take it slow & in public.
    Anyways. Kink, faith, and feminism are a fun mix. (Especially the first two- my kinky friends can get a bit head-explodey when I tell them I’m a practicing Christian.)

  • Nicole C

    Bless you for writing this. Not an easy thing to put out there, but I’m absolutely sure your story is gonna make at least a few people feel a little more free.

  • Have I mentioned that you’re awesome and, from your descriptions, your husband and your marriage are also awesome? Well, you, your husband, and your marriage are all awesome.

    My wife found this ( http://healthybdsm.tumblr.com/post/65666195806/in-the-bdsm-community-it-may-be-hard-to-tell-where ) two months ago; we thought it was useful.

  • Nice and not at all TMI description (for someone who isn’t eating Thanksgiving dinner with you, maybe even if we were) of the differences between abuse and BDSM. I am a formerly-fundamentalist Christian who was sexually abused in the home and in the church. I have an uncomfortable BDSM interest that results from it. I don’t think I am really very kinky–I never ever have played out my fantasies, the very thought of it makes me nauseous, but I can’t climax during sex without the fantasy. I think it is the result of having repressed the abuse for decades. For me, the kinky fantasies are part of the pathology. But I can clearly see, having done a lot of reading and research trying to understand what is going on in my head, that there is a big, HUGE, categorical difference between pain and abuse. Consent. Consent. Consent.

    There was no consent in my sexual experiences before my marriage. There was no consent in any of my significant relationships, regardless of their sexual content; I was taught that consent was something demanded, not given. God required me to obliterate my Will, my capacity to consent. That was abusive, even if there wasn’t any sexual content. A BDSM relationship such as you describe with your partner is the polar opposite of what I was explicitly and implicitly taught, the opposite of abuse.

    • This is really just based on anecdotal evidence, but in my personal experience and looking at some of the comments here, it is pretty/very common for abuse/rape survivors to be into BSDM stuff. And I think there is very good reason for that: I think it’s a way to reclaim autonomy and control. I think it is can actually be a very powerful and healthy thing for that reason; a way to take ownership of your body and your sex.

      I’m not sure if or where a line exists where it becomes unhealthy; two rape survivors I’ve known, for example, are also into “forced” fantasy. I think the underlying psychology is the same. One of them is my partner; the idea makes me uncomfortable, but a big part of that is wondering if it is okay that I’m potentially okay with that. Curious as to what people’s thoughts are on that.

      • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, as long as it’s actually consensual. (Of all types of play, a safeword is particularly essential for that kind.)

      • I’ve known many women who grew up in the purity culture who when they began having sex (even after being married) they couldn’t orgasm without fantasizing that it was non-con. There was so much guilt from all the purity nonsense that they couldn’t let go.

        • @Beroli — Ok, good point. And good idea about the safe word. Pretty new to this kind of thing, at the risk of TMI.

          @Sam — Very interesting, and depressing. Purity culture is so damaging.

  • Aimee

    I truly admire your honesty and can relate to what you are saying as I’ve been there too. However , I have to agree with Sarah Bessey’s take on it. Love is distorted in so many ways.

    • So … My and my partner’s love is distorted?

      • Matt

        Yeah, you and your husband are basically a hot mess.

        • Slow Learner

          Hot as in sexy or hot as in high temperature? (Honest confusion here).

        • Insults, Matt, are against my comment policy. Watch it.

          • Matt

            Fair enough. The description “Christian Feminist who is into kink” strikes me as odd. But… Bisexual Atheist MRAs are probably unusual as well.

            I think that God might be a little disappointed in both of us ๐Ÿ™ But thankfully, he doesn’t exist ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Melissa

    I’m not someone who’s into kink (as far as I know- haven’t tried) or knew much about it. I appreciated Sarah Bessey’s post in an indirect way because I learned so much from the responses to it, and now from your column. So thanks for joining the discussion and being willing to educate people who are unfamiliar.

    I did have one question and I’m not sure there’s a solid answer to it. I get what you’re saying about pain and abuse, but there is also a point at which pain becomes true physical injury or even death. I’m purposely thinking about the most extreme case I know of, Armin Meiwes, who put out an ad looking for a volunteer to be eaten, was answered, and did eat and kill him. All this was completely consensual. From the little I know, the vast majority BDSM obviously doesn’t cause permanent injury and none of it is as extreme as this eating case, but from a legal/ethical standpoint, where would the line be drawn? At death? Broken bones? Sooner? Consent as an ethic is so much better than so many other ways of approaching sexual relationships. I wholeheartedly agree with that. But it is absolutely possible to consent to things that harm us. What do we do with that?

    I’m not trying to be provocative or disrespectful, I’ve just been pondering it and genuinely don’t know.

    • Slow Learner

      I think people disagree about where the line should be drawn, but most people agree that there should be one.
      An easy line to draw would be anything that causes, or could be expected to cause, death or disablement; but if I cannot consent to my death, does that not rule out euthanasia? (Clearly, if you are opposed to euthanasia, you can comfortably draw that line).
      The best I can say as a broad sweeping principle is that for consent to be valid, it must be informed consent. If you are going to engage in extreme activities which carry a risk of injury or death you should know that. Not merely that there is some risk of injury, but how high the risks are, and what injuries you are risking. I would be entirely sanguine about injuries that left scars, and far less comfortable with injuries that impaired my functioning, for example. Other people might feel differently.
      Additionally, someone wishing to consent to being whipped until they bled (to pick an example) should probably have tried some lighter techniques first. It’s a known fact that at least some submissives will enthusiastically consent to, or even demand, activities in the heat of a scene that when the endorphins aren’t rushing they would not consent to. A safe dominant needs to be aware of that, and maybe not cross that line. An unsafe dominant will almost certainly be aware of that phenomenon, and use it to push the submissive across that limit.
      As you can see, I don’t have a general theory of the limits of consent in kink, but I hope what I do have is useful to your pondering.

      • Melissa

        Thanks so much for replying. That makes sense, especially the part about endorphins and the partner being aware of that. I guess I feel pretty uncomfortable with the idea of people being ok with things that impair their functioning (scars- meh, that’s basically what tattooing is after all!) but perhaps if they’re informed and calm, it should be allowed. Euthanasia does cause me similar difficulties- I’m not opposed to it in an absolute sense, but again, think that there’s lots of room for debate about when exactly it should be ok. Anyway, thanks!

    • Henri

      As a kinky Christian myself, I’ll try to answer your question ๐Ÿ™‚
      Most kinky folks adhere to the philosophy of “safe, sane and consensual.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe,_sane_and_consensual. Basically, kink activities should always identify and prevent risks to health (safe), they should be only undertaken in a healthy state of mind (sane) and they should be consensual. In this view, an activity that has a significant risk of harm/injury (as opposed to just “hurt”) would not be okay. And someone wanting to be killed and eaten would be indicative of a unhealthy state of mind, and so would break the “sane” rule.
      There’s also a philosophy of “risk aware consensual kink.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk-aware_consensual_kink. The distinction here is not that all risks of harm should be removed, but that people should be aware of the risks, take steps to minimize them, and accept that the risks are low enough. You might compare it to a skydiver; they are choosing to participate in an activity that has inherent risk, but they are fully aware of the risk and they take all possible steps to avoid it.
      In both cases, nobody intentionally does anything that would cause permanent harm (emotional or physical.) With SSC, people don’t do anything that would even risk permanent harm. With RACK, people might do something that has the risk of permanent harm, but they’re aware of the risk and they take every possible step to avoid it. In no case is it okay to participate in something where the intention is to cause permanent harm, even if it’s consented to.
      Hope that helps!

    • I’ll point to the safe sane and consensual post below, but I think in the case of that dude eating the other one “consensually” … pretty sure that violates the sane principle. I think in that case it’s probably safe to say that both individuals were not in their right minds.

      • Ooops, jumped the gun. My comment has already been made, and better. Can’t seem to delete posts though!

  • Nine

    Well and rightly spoken. Kink hasn’t just been a fun and exciting toy for me, it’s been a form of therapy. I mentioned before that I’ve struggled with gender identity issues and body dysmorphia. While those problems aren’t going anywhere, I have (mostly) learned to manage them. An integral part of that management has been the loving, healing attention of a partner who will see me as whatever I want to be through sexual role-playing. Plenty of fundamentalists would decry the things we do as an affront to propriety and to God’s divine order for marriage… All I know is that I don’t slice myself up very much anymore.

    (As an aside, I am very much interested to see your response to the comment above re: the infamous German cannibal. The stock response would be to say that Meiwes and his victim were obviously insane and therefore incapable of granting consent… But plenty of people would say the same thing about people who enjoy being tied up and smacked. I obviously don’t think it’s at all the same thing, but I’m curious what your response is. Where are the boundaries of consent-based ethics? Is there anything that a sane person cannot give consent to? Where does assisted suicide for terminal patients fall on this spectrum? What about suicide by healthy people who just aren’t happy living?)

  • Oh… huh. I’d only previously seen the bit you extracted, and had read it in the opposite way – as being addressed to a man being turned on by or fantasizing about *non-consensual* violence. Reading the full article (your link in the first para is broken, btw) disappointingly puts in in a very different light. I thought we largely had the BDSM/kink community to thank for much of the progress in discussing and maintaining consent, for obvious reasons?

    I confess I don’t really ‘get’ full-on BDSM, despite having a number of friends in the scene, and the kink does make me uncomfortable. But I figure this is in much the same way that, as a straight man, I find the thought of guy-on-guy sex uncomfortable – because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be a straight man, would I? (Yes, the parallel is intentional, given that some of the same arguments crop up.)

    A clear case for YKINMKBYKIOK, I think. Best to you and Handsome.

  • Anonymous Kinky Christian Feminist

    This. You have articulated exactly the difference between abuse and BDSM. I would like to underline the point about abuse, consent, and pain. Athletes accept bodily pain and push themselves for the sake of their sport, to get better, to avoid future injury. This morning, I went to the dentist and happily let the hygienist poke my gums; tomorrow, I’m going for a flu shot at Walgreens. At times, I have asked my husband to pinch, bite, scratch, or flog me. Any of these things might cause more physical pain than a mild spanking administered by an adult to a child, but the power dynamic and presence/ absence of consent makes a world of difference. (There is an exception, of course, for medical pain done to a child – obviously a young child may not consent to having shots etc. However, for ethical reasons we try to limit these instances to times when it cannot be helped).

  • Somewhat related tangent: if you have a deviantart account, look up shiniez’s graphic novel “Sunstone.” It’s what introduced me to the psychological, human aspects of kink rather than just the porny aspects. Great characters, great art, and I think the book of Chapter 1 is coming out for Christmas. (And it’s worth getting a deviantart account for; also, shiniez’s wife sigeel is also worth following, though she’s doing a completely different genre of not-even-remotely erotic.)

    • Kay

      Thank you so much for suggesting Sunstone. I devoured all four chapters in one night. Beautiful art, great character depth. Erotic, but not at all mindless porn. I loved it!

  • Tryingtounderstand

    Thank you for your thoughts and vulnerability. It’s greatly appreciated. My hubby and i have struggled with this issue for years. For me my deep experiences of pain coupled with my spiritual abuse make it very, very difficult for me to approach kink with anything other than fear. For hubby, this is the one element missing from an otherwise amazing marriage. Obviously I’d love to make that happen for him, but feel i can’t go to that place in any healthy way. I wonder whether you’d be willing to offer any thoughts?
    Many thanks.

  • Thank you so much. I responded as carefully as I could to Sarah’s post but it was very hurtful to read. As someone who feels that kink has been a huge part of my healing, it stung a lot. Thank you for writing this.

    B

  • Much love to you for writing this, and hugs if you want them. This absolutely needed to be said, and you did it well and gracefully. I’ve never personally been in a kink relationship, though I think I might like to try it sometime as some of it definitely turns me on – only certain things though, which I guess is the point; with consent you can say this is okay but that isn’t. At any rate, it’s definitely not something that anyone should be shamed for enjoying when it’s done within the safe space of consent and respect and mutual enjoyment. Thank you for being vulnerable enough to share how it works in your relationship, the intimacy and joy of it – those things are a critical point that needs to be expressed. Thank you so much, for speaking up for people like me when we didn’t know what to say.

  • Katie

    I think there is a difference between violence within a physical relationship as part of a kink and BDSM. There are shades, obviously, because some things exist in both realms and some don’t and it’s different for different people. But I do agree with her in the sense that I believe that degradation, humiliation, and actual physical violence don’t really have any part in a true Christian relationship/marriage. But I don’t see all of BDSM with that light, which she appears to. But I do think that any time bruises or real physical harm is involved – or words/actions that cause emotional harm or mimic the causing of emotional harm – you are treading a very thin line and beginning to somewhat glorify some of the worst ways that people hurt each other (general you, of course). That makes me deeply uncomfortable.

    So I disagreed with her post, but agreed with about 40% of it. It’s a strange place to live, as most of my Christian friends have been railing against her all week. I’m still a huge fan of hers, and I understand entirely where she’s coming from. I just can’t really totally agree. But I can’t totally disagree.

    I just don’t think there is a place in a truly loving relationship for humilitation and degradation. I just don’t. I cannot be convinced otherwise. That said, this is mostly why I just keep my mouth shut when it comes to friends who DO seek those sorts of things in their relationships, but am there to support them if they change their minds ever, and support them if they don’t.

  • Hello Samantha. I saw this on Twitter and decided to come over and read and now pipe in.
    First of all great post and not TMI in my opinion.
    I went over to read Sarah’s post and I agree with your assessment/opinion.
    This whole topic is such a minefield of grey areas mixed with our own individual sexual morality, that the debate will probably never end.
    Consent, caring, respect for each others wishes, and open communication are as important in the bedroom as they are in every other area of a relationship.
    As long as no one is being permanently harmed, physically or emotionally, and no one is forced to do things against their will, then no one else has a right to judge what turns others on.

  • Would Christians get on their high horse concerning triathletes? or marathon runners? weight lifters? Most athletes get a high from the pain of exercise and competition. Football players hurl their bodies at full speed hitting and getting hit many spend the rest of their lives with debilitating injuries. Boxers risk death in the ring or decades of being punch drunk. Yet not do Christians proudly holding up signs reading John 3:16 during the games condemn those football players or demonstrate against the owners for exploiting the athletes for the billions they make? After all it’s consensual. No pain, no gain.
    If people get their jollies sexually in carefully controlled pain what to others might look like torture is pleasure. Why is it so hard for some Christians to understand the word’s of Christ in Matthew: Judge not, lest you be judged likewise.

    • Nine

      That seems like a very apt comparison, Mr. Prescott. Not being much of a ‘sports person’, I hadn’t thought of that.

  • Thank you for your post. The level of attentiveness that you describe between yourself & Handsome was so lovely, it instantly transported me to thoughts of my own union with my partner, & we actually aren’t into BDSM at all, but do have that wonderful kind of connection & enjoy experimentation & the fact that we don’t know what the other might try next. I don’t think what we do is kinky, but suppose that some of it probably falls into that category. It’s funny b/c I’m not a big one for labels & I don’t know if I’d use the term “kinky” for anything b/c it’s all enjoyment…

    But anyway, I’m grateful for women like you who are willing to open up your personal lives to educate those of us outside the BDSM community. I think one of the big issues is that for those who don’t practice BDSM (but do judge it) the belief is often that two or more people are participating in some sort of sexual play-acting scenario which involves fantasizing about one forcing the other without consent. So the assumption is that the foreplay/sex is consensual but the fantasy revolves around violations of consent.

    From what I gather, BDSM is actually more about one partner enjoying the power to give pleasure to the other partner, who demonstrates & explores trust by allowing his/herself to be placed in a purely receiving position for that pleasure. (Which sounds a lot like my own very healthy & freeing non-BDSM sex life, so…not perverse & wrong at all, but so beautiful.) Sometimes pain can be a part of that, but I think we all know that there are extremely pleasurable forms of pain, both sexually & not. If a deep massage & sore muscles or burning lungs during a workout are beautiful, pleasurable forms that pain can take, then why not let that spill into our sex lives, too?

    The more people who, like you, are willing to share how BDSM plays out in their lives & how consent-centric BDSM practices are, the more those of us who don’t practice BDSM will be able to support y’all & celebrate the rich tapestry of human sexuality. I’m sorry that Bessey’s post hurt you & others & extremely encouraged & blessed by the maturity of your response to it. Ignorance causes so much damage. Enlightenment sets us free.

  • The media certainly doesn’t help in this regard, we have everyone believing that every bdsm relationship is like what you would see in fifty shades of gray and we have a problem. People don’t want to dig deeper into this topic to find out that bdsm has a huge emphasis on consent. Something that many people who are into vanilla sex could probably learn something from.

  • Nox Lucente

    Beautiful post. Thank you for speaking up to show that kink and abuse are different things, from a position of knowledge. I think that last is very important: having experienced kink as kink and kink mixed with abuse, you’re able to say, definitively, that these are different and here is how, and here is how kink can mask abuse and how to avoid that. Our and many other cultures have so much hidden, built-in misogyny, and often we did not see it until our perspective changed. That experience makes it hard to be 100% sure that there *is* a distinction between kink and abuse, and that we would feel it when abuse was added to the mix. Nobody wants to go out and get abused so that they can recognize it in the future.
    It’s very valuable for people to speak up and say, here is how it should feel when sex (of any stripe) is consensual and communicative. Otherwise we have nothing to compare to, and may assume that a bad or even abusive experience is just what sex is like. This I think is one of the primary dangers of conservative sexual mores: people, but especially women, have NO basis for comparison in either their relationships or their sex lives, and therefore cannot reliably recognize mistreatment or a plain old bad match.

  • BDSM is totally fine IMO. I think it can go too far with the degrading language, which I am fully confident in saying has no place in a loving relationship no matter the context, and sometimes the physical damage inflicted, but I think in general, it is totally fine. As far as what the limit for what sort of stuff to inflict goes, I’d suggest the max is something that takes a day or two to fully heal; say mild bruising. Anything beyond that is too much. Broken bones, severe breaking of the skin, or anything that could be classified as an actual injury should be avoided IMO. Still, for most people, that probably isn’t a concern. I would hope that the general population of BDSM practitioners are mentally balanced enough to understand those limits, and I think they likely are.

    • Slow Learner

      Yeah, no. Sorry Magnus, but no.
      1) degrading language – to some people that would be abusive or even triggering, but to others it is the epitome of what they want out of kink. My partner and I don’t particularly get off on that, but I know people who do. They are healthy, sane, loving people. So no, you’re wrong there.
      2) as you see elsewhere in this thread, I am not sure exactly where the line lies, but if you’re okay with spanking and paddling (which fit with the line you’ve drawn), I see no obvious reason you should then say caning is wrong and across a line that would be recognised by anyone who is “mentally balanced”.
      I think you need to learn the acronym YKINMKBYKIOK and apply it.

      • Perhaps if someone could explain the appeal of degrading language, I may understand it more. (I do understand that not all sexual things can really be explained though.)

        • It’s hot.
          Or rather, it’s hot sometimes, in certain circumstances. Such as with a partner who I trust, who I know DOES respect and care for me.
          I don’t know if I can explain it more than that.

        • Slow Learner

          Some people are very strongly affected by words and language. Without bringing kink into it at all, imagine a situation where your partner is one of those people. Now further imagine that when you are being physically affectionate with your partner, you make sure to speak to them about how you find their body physically attractive, and why you love them.
          That would affect anybody, right? But to someone who is particularly attuned to language, I assure you that is a really intense experience that heightens and in some ways overwhelms the actual physical contact.

          If you’ve followed me that far, the extrapolation to degrading language should be obvious – just as some people find that pain accentuates and intensifies their pleasure, other people find that humiliation or degradation accentuates theirs. For one person that might be being insulted on their physical appearance; for another it might be their ethics, their sexual tastes or their history. (I would be more explicit, but I don’t think Samantha’s blog is the place for that. I imagine you get the idea, however?

          • I get it. It’s like a love language sort of thing. That actually makes sense. I’d never ever do it to someone no matter how much she asked for it though, but I do at least comprehend it now. Much thanks.

          • Nine

            That’s absolutely okay, nobody should ever pressure you into sexual situations with which you are uncomfortable. I would hope, however, that A) you would discuss what kind of sexual activity you’re comfortable with and uncomfortable with /prior/ to entering a relationship and B) that were someone to tell you that degrading language is a necessary part of their sexual experience, you would respond politely with “I’m afraid that’s something I’m not comfortable with” and refrain from lecturing them on how wrong or distasteful you find it.

  • This is just awesome. You are so brave and I love how deep you take your explorations.

  • Thank you for writing this post.

  • This post made me SO HAPPY! Mostly in a “yay, writer I admire likes semi-taboo thing I like too!” way. I was raised in a different religious tradition than you (Reform Judaism, where taboos on sex are very light), but between the anti-kink feminists and my history of emotional abuse making me wary of ANYTHING I enjoy, I do have to tell myself, repeatedly, that anything I safely negotiate with a partner to bring us both joy is not abuse, is not a betrayal of feminism, and is not “better than I deserve.” Thank you!

  • I am not into this at all, but I totally understand what you mean. When you said, “The best part is that I have complete and total control over what happens,” this really resonates with me! I was in a horrible emotionally and psychologically abusive marriage for years, and one of the things I so appreciated about my marriage now is that I can yell at my husband when we argue WITHOUT FEAR OF REPRISAL. It’s an amazingly empowering and wonderful feeling! Thank you for posting this.

  • Innocent & Chaste

    Since there aren’t a lot of resources out there for Kinky Christians, and this site/conversation seems to have quite a few folks, I’m wondering how folks have approached being Kinky in the dating world.
    How and when do folks put that out there? I’m also wondering what your experiences have been with traditional gender roles and D/s, because I’m finding that being a Kinky Christian evidently doesn’t make me enough of a minority, most Christian men seem to be doms and Christian women subs – but I’m a sub (in private, at least) and finding a Christian dominant woman feels like a unicorn hunt.
    Thanks to whomever responds.

    • I don’t have anything very helpful, I’m afraid. My approach was simply to be, in retrospect, amazingly lucky (when I got involved with the woman I’m now married to, I didn’t know I was as kinky as I am and she didn’t know she was kinky at all). I just wanted to mention that, in my observation, what you’re saying is true not just for Christians; of the four combinations “dominant woman, dominant man, submissive woman, submissive man,” dominant women seem to be by far the least common.

      They are out there, though. Good luck.

  • I think it’s possible to be kink-affirming, while also being kink-critical. Sexual desires don’t exist in a vacuum and we should be aware of what we’re contributing to culture, but also what ideas we’ve absorbed and whether those are productive or harmful. This isn’t to say anyone’s personal kink is bad or wrong, just that we should be aware of where those messages are coming from. The truth is that some fantasies are very rooted in preserving the status quo or doing really problematic and harmful things – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play, just that you should be aware of where the messages are coming from and to not let it affect the way you treat people in a non-kinky context.
    BDSM where women are subs and where violence against women is practiced as the norm does definitely come out of the patriarchal context. That doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad, just that you should be aware of where it’s coming from and that you probably have internalized misogyny like we all do. If we’re aware of where these desires and kinks come from, we can make a conscientious effort to not let them affect our other interpersonal interactions.
    Race-play and slave fantasies are really common with WM-WOC/BW kink dynamics/fantasies. Sex workers write a lot about this. Now obviously we’re aware that that’s gross, but that doesn’t mean two consenting adults shouldn’t be able to do this or that their relationship dynamic is inherently abusive, but we still have to be context sensitive and aware of the history of these dynamics.

  • Dave

    Thank you so much for writing this; I found it really enlightening and fascinating, as well as reassuring and encouraging.
    I’m a straight cis Christian man who was raised in an abusive, misogynist household, but have made a long journey to Christian feminism over the past decade. A huge part of that has been the wonderful woman I married.
    I’ve also had desires to be dominated by women for as long as I can remember. I’ve discussed this extensively with my therapist, who is amazing and specializes in abused children and victims of childhood abuse. She was the first person I was ever able to be completely honest with about my desires and fantasies, and through years of counseling I have become much more in touch with the ins and outs of my sexuality, including being more comfortable discussing it with my wife than ever before–in fact, next visit she and I will be going in together and I will be able to tell her about my fantasies (I’ve given her some details before, but not everything), not with the expectation that she will fulfill them, but just so that she can know me better.
    At the same time, while I feel less of a need than ever before for fantasy, I don’t necessarily want to give up on incorporating some form of kink into our marriage, provided that she is amenable to it. I’m particularly intrigued by the idea that although normally a sub, you can “switch” into a dominant role as well. I think both my wife and I would be considered subs, but I would be willing to switch for her if she wanted, and hopefully she would be willing to switch for me as well.
    My question is this–and within reason, boundaries, etc. As a sub, how are you able to switch and become a dom? Is it something that is very uncomfortable? Please excuse the clumsy nature of my questioning–while I’ve fascinated about BDSM for years, I have absolutely zero real-world experience.

    • It’s a mood thing for me– I have to be in the right frame of mind. Usually it’s when I’m feeling mischievous, then I like the idea of tying him up and driving him crazy. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Dave

        That sounds great…I’m just not sure how I would we would get ourselves into the right frame of mind, you know? Like, if I were going to tie her up, or vise-versa, I would imagine that it would be out of love for the other person and wanting to please them sexually, but I don’t know if either of us are at the point where we could get sexual pleasure out of being dominant, but I suppose that’s where love and sacrifice come in, right?

        My thought is that if we were going to incorporate kink into sex (and I’d love it if we could talk to my therapist about this–I’m sharing your blog post with her and my wife), we would want to start with something really simple and just left of vanilla–maybe light bondage or something, and then see how that goes?

        Again, forgive me if I’m prying, but I’ve never met another Christian who is as affirming of these kinds of preferences, so it was kind of a revelation to discover your blog post. I was really hoping I could ask you a few more questions? Would that be okay?

        • How about you e-mail me privately? You can find my contact information at the top of the page.

          • Dave

            Awesome, thanks! Will do ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Dave

            And, email sent! Thanks again, Samantha! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sylvia

    Also raised in a fundamentalist church… also the survivor of a couple of abusive relationships (didn’t know how to choose a mate), and also into kink.
    I love this. My fiance and I are into a few naughty things, and sometimes I wonder if there’s something WRONG with me… but we have talked and talked and talked about likes and dislikes and boundaries and books and movies and web-sites… He’s a long haul truck driver, so he’s only home for 4 or 5 days every 3 weeks or so. Those times he’s home, the trust and love that we have built up in 11 years really shows, and both of us can do what we want to do, without fear of reprisal and without fear of the other person taking it too far. Thank you thank you thank you for writing this.

  • Samantha, thank you so much for clearing up some awful questions I had had about myself. My abuser too liked to cover up his abuse with the BDSM idea, and I had started to question whether I was warped by him because of that. Your post made me realise that it is ok to still like being spanked and it’s also ok to still not like handcuffs. Thank you for making me feel more normal and not warped. X