Has the Mainstream Embraced BDSM? Should You?

Have you noticed that BDSM is going mainstream? Or maybe “gone” is the appropriate word.

In case you don’t know what BDSM is, it’s an acronym that stands for:

B = Bondage
D = Domination/Discipline
S = Submission/Sadism
M = Masochism

Such practices have existed for centuries, but in most societies they have been considered fringe sexual activities. Or at least the hard core versions of them. (I admit a huge difference between tying your wife to the bedpost with a necktie and, say, “erotic asphyxiation” where one cuts off oxygen supply to achieve a more intense experience.)

But BDSM is all the rage now: in best-selling fiction, song lyrics (“Blurred Lines,” anyone?), sex toy sales, and water-cooler discussions. Not to mention bedrooms.

BDSM is no longer a fringe practice among many. It’s something they are contemplating, experimenting, or routinely including in their bedroom. Perhaps they’ve been inspired by something they’ve read, seen, or heard.

So what is appealing about some of the hard core practices that we’re hearing about?  What would make a person who’d normally denounce anything that smacks of mistreatment out in the real world fully embrace pain in the bedroom? Why is something that’s not okay (e.g., a man hitting a woman) in a hallway suddenly okay and even desirable when it’s placed in a sexual context? And why has this idea taken hold like wildfire?

Here’s one theory: Couples are bored in the bedroom.

God’s gift of sexual intimacy is intended for married couples to express and nurture deep intimacy that goes beyond the physical. When a couple lacks commitment, oneness, and a sense of the spiritual aspect, what’s left? The physical.

And when you play with simply the physical, ratcheting up your experience means getting more and more physical. Finding ways to stimulate your physiology and gain more sensation and pleasure from the experience.

Many BDSM practices trigger heightened awareness of physical sensations, stimulate a flow of adrenaline and endorphins, and may result in a more intense encounter. Of course, the negative consequences can be mild to severe. Regardless, is that encounter bringing about the intimacy that God designed for us? Or is it satisfying the flesh without considering the spirit?

Well, you can probably tell where I come down on this subject.

Look, I’m all for spicing up your sex life. I’ve had numerous posts, and will continue to write, about ways to add zing! to your marital bedroom. I’m also completely on board for sex feeling gooooood . . . physically. Sex is indeed a physical act. However, sex also expresses and nurtures something beyond the physical. It’s far more than kink.

So are any BDSM practices okay?

Looking through a glossary of BDSM terms, honestly there isn’t much that aligns with God’s definition of love: kind, does not dishonor others, not self-seeking, always protects, etc. (See 1 Corinthians 13). There is no indication in scripture that real pain is intended to be part of the sexual relationship between husband and wife.

Of course, couples must decide for themselves what they will and will not do in their marital bedroom. It’s up to you to keep your conscience clear before God and man (see Acts 24:16). But be careful about getting swept up in the cultural tide that is moving BDSM to the mainstream. If you’re interested in trying something out, hold it up against what God’s Word says.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Sex with your mate is noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. God designed it to be. But not all possible sexual practices in the bedroom meet that standard. And ever-so-few BDSM practices meet that standard. Still, you’ll have to decide where to draw the line.

As to wanting to ramp up the sexy in your bedroom, don’t settle for boredom! Your married sex life should not be ho-hum, blah, meh, or zzzzzzz. It’s supposed to be fun! Explore sexuality with your mate through prolonged touch, flirtation, foreplay, oral sex (for her and/or for him), different positions, changing up location, game-playing, and investing in the intimacy you experience in other areas of marriage. And I’ll keep making suggestions here on Hot, Holy & Humorous for how to heat things up in the bedroom (thus the “Hot” in my blog name).

Also see Galatians 5:19-23 for another look at how to evaluate what practices honor God.

31 thoughts on “Has the Mainstream Embraced BDSM? Should You?

  1. Anonymous

    Nice post. I will admit that I have read some of these books from one specific author I have gotten to know personally and have had numerous conversations about her books and reasons behind things. It has been a very enlightening experience since I have known nothing about this world. I have taken some ideas from those fiction books I have read and talked to my husband about them. He even read the books. We stop at the B for bondage. Like you said – there is a big difference between tying someone to a bedpost and the other stuff. Those books have started conversations about things we would like in the bedroom. We are both on the same page as to what is in God’s will and what isn’t. It has really spiced up our intimacy and playfulness. I think you have to have the other things you mentioned like trust, oneness, etc in a marriage before you can step out of your comfort zone and try any of this, though.

    1. J

      I agree that the rise in interest about this subject can spur conversations among married couples about what they do and do not want to do in their bedroom. I’m glad that you and your husband are in sync about God’s will.

      Blessings!

  2. Anonymous

    I’d like to give a testimony on this subject. BDSM is NO good for your marriage. When I was a young child I was sexually molested by my older sister & continued in light incest through my early teen years. I was traumatized by it and it messed my thought life up. Satan convinced me of the lie that it was my fault & that I was a dirty pervert for it. This started a porn addiction age 11 that has taken 14 years, counseling, prayer & battle to get over. Because of my porn addiction it pushed me to enjoy the sick acts I was watching over me & my wifes martial intimacy. I pushed wicked sexual acts like facials, wicked rp, watching porn & degrading each other in the bedroom causing my wife to withdraw sexually. I say that to say all this that these sex acts are not normal and are normally brought in because of being violated, porn ect, I thank God that through a message my pastor preached I realized the lie Satan & had told me “that I was just a perv & that’s what I liked”, in which I combated with God’s truth that I was fearfuly & wonderfully made & that God had so much more for me. Thank God for victory.

    1. J

      Anonymous #2 – I understand wanting to defend a particular practice, but Anonymous #1 explained the context such that the act was not part of a loving intimate relationship with his wife. Insisting on a specific act your mate finds repulsive and degrading is not okay. Thanks for coming by!

      Anonymous #1 – Thank you for sharing your story. I pray that you and your wife have a lovely relationship now. Blessings to you both!

    2. Anonymous

      Not passing judgment – but explain facials to me. Who would have dreamed that up? “Honey, I’ve got a great idea, let me ___ all over your face”. I’m a man and I have two daughters and I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would find this stimulating. My fear is that this “concept” was projected on us through pornography and we have tried to pull that into our marriage bed. I have a hard time believing a loving, Christian couple would just dream this up on their own as a good idea. No, I think probably the husband was exposed to this through porn and now wants his wife to receive this “loving gift”. I mean think about. Really think about it. The basic concept is revolting. You may want to “express” yourself in this way all over your wife’s face but how about your daughter one day when she is married? How does it sound now?

    3. J

      Anonymous #3 – You bring up some great points! Yeah, I don’t find the practice of facials appealing AT ALL. I don’t know who came up with this idea. I haven’t seen exactly how this happens, but I certainly know what it is.

      That said, I think along the lines of: Is a husband ejaculating on a wife’s tummy okay? Breasts? In her mouth? All those things happen, so then it becomes…what about the face? What’s specifically different about that?

      My point simply being that I personally find facials to be ICK, and it would not feel loving to me. However, I’m reluctant to label it wrong.

      Thanks for adding your input.

    4. J

      Oh, and you bring up a good way of looking at things: Would we be okay with our kids involved in these practices someday? If the answer is no for them, that should give us genuine pause in evaluating our own behaviors. Thanks.

    5. Anonymous

      me again, it is amazing how my view has shifted on so much when I think about my daughters. I love my wife dearly and I try to always remember, she was once a little girl. She was once a princess. She comes from a broken home and there is a lot of pain – dysfunctional Mom and Dad. Tons of guilt and manipulation. Tons of pain from a divorce. But at the end of the day, she was and still is a little girl. Vulnerable. Innocent. We’ve had big problems in our marriage with “no sex” and I’ve posted on your blog a tons of time as a frustrated husband. And even in and through that, I’ve still tried to remember, “she’s still a little girl”. And it helps. It helps to radically shift how we view our wives and how my “neediness” impacts her. My raw selfishness stands in stark contrast to her basic need to just be held, snuggled in a lap and told “you’re OK, I love you” and have it stop right there. She’s still a little girl and now that my girls are almost out of the house, I still think back to their days at 2-3-4 year olds and how much comfort they got from the safety of their father’s arms and how much I loved holding my girls.

      And so I read this stuff about facials or handcuffs or whips or anal sex and I just want to say, “really?”. Sex is grand and deeply spiritual and incredibly fulfilling in a loving Christian bed between a VERY broken husband and a very broken wife coming together to receive this precious gift. 3 times a week would be great but I live with 1x a month and I’ve struggled but at the end of the day, I take what God gives me and I love my wife. I love her deeply and dearly and I’d never suggest nor hopefully ever desire to degrade her with a facial.

      At the end of the day, we must examine our own hearts. Why do I seek to do _______? Really, where does that come from? Why would it fulfill me to do _________ to my wife? Where did I first see this? Was it porn? If so…repent of that. Don’t defile your marriage bed with an idea you saw in a movie.

      I’m all for adventure and mixing things up some but let’s not kid ourselves about the genesis of these “ideas”. Are they from God?

      And yes, ask yourself, what about my daughter…

      that’s a pretty good litmus test

  3. rockhisworld

    Wonderful Article – You are right on in so many ways;
    – Marriage Sex should not be boring.
    – We are fighting pornography’s influence in our world and in our marriage.
    – Much of BDSM falls outside of what should be involved in a loving, married, sexual marriage.

    I am glad that you tackled this topic and I hope that couples will take a look at this practice and all sexual practices in light of the Bible!

    1. J

      Thank you! Your statement is exactly what I suggest: “take a look at this practice and all sexual practices in light of the Bible!” That is all. 🙂

  4. Bonny Pearl

    I agree, every couple has to decide for themselves about this topic. Your pivotal statement is, “If you’re interested in trying something out, hold it up against what God’s Word says.” I would also add 1 Corinthians 10:23 (I don’t think I saw it up there….)to the mix of scripture to contemplate, “I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial.”

    This topic is coming up more and more for the exact reason you stated. Too many people falsely believe that sex is only about the physical.

    Thank you for stepping out on this one. It’s spot on.

  5. Paul Byerly

    I agree that boredom is a big part of it. I think another part, especially for couples not married, is that BDSM is all about trust and knowing each other. A lot of couples have a gross lack of those things, along with a deep hunger for them. So BDSM is giving them something non-sexual they desperately want.

    Just my 2¢ (not adjusted for inflation)

  6. John Wilder

    One of the things that you did not mention that I would like to add is that men are visual and we like lacy frilly lingerie for the most part. Most women raised in the church have a lot of inhibitions beat into them by well meaning parents, pastors and sunday school teachers. Many girls hear the message that sex is: bad, dirty and wrong and that “good girls don’t do it”.
    This often negatively conditions women for life from fully embracing their sexuality.

    One other thing that I find is that most women have a rape fantasy, not necessarily wanting to be raped but to be taken forcefully by a strong self confident man. I say if you are going to engage in this, (and I do recommend it) that you talk it over and come up with a SAFE word that means stop immediately if it goes to far for her. Just my two cents

    1. J

      While your first point is true, John, I don’t know how it relates to this particular post. But you know I’m all about women embracing their God-given sexuality.

      As to the rape fantasy, I have read suggestions that perhaps some women have such thoughts because they crave having their man desire them so much that they seemingly can’t hold back. You may recommend giving into that fantasy. I DO NOT. What I mean is that “being taken,” so to speak, is quite different from actual rape…and while I get letting your guy be definitely in charge, I don’t know why a loving Christian couple would act out rape. When is that line crossed? I know for myself, so perhaps that something others would figure out on their own.

      And honestly, I’m always a little creeped out that I would need a “safe word” during sex with my husband. Any activity that you need a safe word for seems inherently dangerous.

      Thanks for engaging in the discussion.

  7. Jay Dee - SexWithinMarriage.com

    With all due respect, my wife and I are not bored, nor is there any emotional intimacy lacking in our sex life.

    Yet, we very much enjoy bondage play on occasion. And when we do, it has nothing to do with degrading her, or putting her down. It has nothing to do with disrespect. And it extends far beyond mere physical pleasure.

    It feels like you have painted with a very large brush here, akin to those who say oral sex is not permissible, because it’s in porn.

    My take on bondage (also from a Christian perspective) can be found here: http://sexwithinmarriage.com/2013/06/my-wife-wants-me-to-tie-her-up/

    1. J

      Whoa, Jay Dee. I said that each couple has to look at these practices and decide if they meet the standards of the Bible, according to their own conscience. I also said that there is a wide range of BDSM practices and even mentioned that tying up a spouse is quite different from some of the hard core practices.

      Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about, but some BDSM practices are really intense. I’ve done my homework, and I know some of what’s out there. Honestly, some of it is scary, and I want Christians to pause and think before they add something to their repertoire.

      You seem to take offense where none was intended. Maybe you could read my post again with that in mind.

      Thanks for coming by!

    2. Angie Sargenti

      Bondage is useful for more than degrading your partner. You can also tie them up and tease the heck out of them. As for spanking, I don’t feel that should be considered BDSM, because it’s another kind of thing altogether. Lumping all this up together makes it seem worse than it really is. And it all doesn’t have to be so gloomy and off-putting. There is a lot of fun to be had in expiramentation.
      PS: Erotica is not porn.

    3. J

      Of course there is a range of activities, but spanking is often listed under the umbrella of BDSM–by those who write and talk about this stuff. I’m not saying that all of these practices are problematic, but many under that large umbrella are disconcerting. I’m suggesting that couples consider where to draw their line and use God’s Word and their own conscience to determine.

      And no, erotica is not porn. But it’s not okay for Christians either.

  8. Anonymous

    I have to agree with Jay Dee above. While it may not have been your intention to be so broad I think that there needs to be some expansion on BDSM. And it will depend on each person’s background. BDSM could be as fun and exciting as prolonged orgasm denial (bringing your partner to the edge repeatedly with out allowing completion) or as detrimental as canning or whipping. Because of the wide and varied nature of “BDSM” I would strongly suggest christian couples that are curious do legitimate research. This should not include fictional erotica, porn, or Google. There are some very well written educational books, non-pornographic, that discuss the myriad subjects that fall under the BDSM heading including pros and cons, safety tips and even some of the emotional or psychological aspects of certain acts. BDSM can be just one more pleasant tool in a couple’s love making toolbox, like a new position, oral sex, or flavored lube. Like any tool however, it works best when used properly and has the potential to be misused or abused if not understood.
    By the way, I really enjoy your blog and the good job you do.

    1. J

      I actually agree with most of what you say here–that there is a wide array of activities that have fallen under this umbrella and that some are not problematic while others are. However, your statement that “BDSM can be just one more pleasant tool in a couple’s love making toolbox, like a new position, oral sex, or flavored lube” doesn’t equate. Because I will not be injured, or possibly die, from a flavored lube…whereas injuries and death have occurred with some of the more extreme BDSM practices. As you say, the range is wide, but the hard core practices are abusive by definition.

      Where the line is drawn is up to each married couple to decide, with the guidance of scripture. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Gaye @CalmHealthySexy

    Thanks, J, for dealing with a difficult subject. I agree with your take on this and think you have left the door open for married couples to try things that they both agree on, are not harmful or hurtful to one or both, and are consistent with scripture.

  10. Anonymous

    J, thank you; IMO you did a great job tackling this subject. And I personally challenge the notion that erotica isn’t porn. There’s a big difference between sensuality in marriage and any material (written, audible, or visual) that is intended to incite lust.

    1. J

      I agree that both porn and erotica have the same intention (titillation), but different ways of delivering it. Thanks for your comment!

  11. Anonymous

    Yes. big difference between fuzzy handcuffs that you can easily pop out of yourself and being hog tied. Big difference between a playful slap on the rear during sex and spanking with a whip. Personally, I think porn has had too huge an influence on married sex lives and there is too much compromise just because it feels good. It smacks of the world’s thinking, “it feels good, so it must be good!”. There is a difference between.sexual expliration in marriage and pushing the boundaries. Examine it against scripture and your motives.

  12. Steve

    Hi J. I’m kind of new to your blog and was intrigued by the Christian response and interpretation to this topic. For my wife and I, I think it is a question of degree. You mentioned that couples might turn to BDSM practices to alleviate some boredom in the bedroom. I think that depends on the specifics. If a couple engages in some play that involves a few light spanks and one or two “Yes sir’s” then that should not be a problem. If a couple has a separate room next to their bedroom, filled with enough BDSM gear to, in comparable dollar-for-dollar value, replace a car or send a kid to college for a year, then that could be interpreted as a bit of a problem! As usual everything, even BDSM, should be kept in moderation…

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