BDSM comes up from time to time. If you don’t know what that is, let me (somewhat sadly) educate you: It stands for Bondage – Discipline/Dominance – Submission/Sadism – Masochism. The activities range in intensity, but they are all categorized together because they involve shifting of power in the sexual act.
Another single reader contacted me about these practices. Here’s his question:
“I’m a 23 year old student who’s single, but I have found myself struggling more and more with being kinky. Or at least feeling as though I’m kinky. I don’t know I’m confused. When I talk about being kinky I am specifically talking about bdsm – sadomasochism and domination and submission.
“The problem is that I feel somewhat predisposed to those activities… (E.g., I used to have quite bad depression…and one time I tried to hang myself and I was aroused by it.) I guess my question is, is it alright to be like this? And if I ever do get married would it ever be permissible in God’s eyes to try anything like that? Or is this stuff generally best to leave alone?”
My answer gets a bit graphic, so this is my NSFW (Not Safe For Work) warning. Also, not safe to read with kids hanging over your shoulder.
Yes, you should leave this stuff alone. Why? Because it really doesn’t match up with God’s descriptions of love among his people, and the intimacy of the marriage bed. You might want to check out: Married, Consenting Adults: Whose Okay Really Matters?
But that’s not enough to tell you. Because now you have to figure out what to do with all of those feelings! You can’t just shut them off with a click. You might want to start by understanding why people pursue kinky sexual interactions that involve pain.
For one thing, God made us so that when we experience extreme pain, our bodies respond with numbing and feel-good chemicals to counteract our discomfort. Those who engage in BDSM capitalize on that connection by inflicting pain that heightens awareness and brings forth a counterbalancing reaction. However, God intended sex to include the pleasure without the pain, and that is entirely achievable.
Others engage in these behaviors basically because of the power trip. Power is very exciting for many people, and power in the bedroom can be even more so. But how is a power imbalance what God intended for married couples experiencing His gift of sex?
Unfortunately, people with backgrounds of sexual abuse also find BDSM intriguing, because they lacked control in their first experiences of sex…and this gives them a sense of control. That’s true whether they are the one in power (dominant) or the one in submission (submissive), because one calls the shots and the other practices “safe words.” But surely, our notions of sexuality shouldn’t come from misuse of God’s gift of intimacy. Sex isn’t about control, but about love and connection and generosity.
By the way, the connection of hanging and arousal is known as erotic asphyxiation. That you responded in that way does not mean this is something you are truly attracted to doing. It can be a natural response to the brain’s lack of oxygen and increase in carbon dioxide, which causes feeling of giddiness and heightened sensations. In fact, public hanging victims were sometimes observed achieving erections as they died. But a continuing fascination with this activity, or engaging in it on purpose, is listed as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of American Psychiatric Association.
So what needs to happen now? It’s not just about getting rid of one thing (interest in problematic sexual practices), but replacing it with far better (God’s intent for marital sexuality). My suggestion? You’ve got to sit down and talk with a Christian mentor, counselor, or therapist and see why this is an issue for you. Then you need to find ways to combat erroneous thinking and replace those messages with what God desires instead.
I’m hoping you have some resources to do this, but you can also connect with online ministries. I suggest asking around or looking up options. They’re not the only ones, but I am aware of XXX Church; although I’ve not had direct interaction with them, I’ve heard good things.
Above all, remember Philippians 4:8 (NLT): “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Focus your thoughts on the higher things of God, including His plan for marital intimacy.