Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Married Kink and 1 Cor 7:3-5

(This is edited from a post of mine to the Christian BDSM Bible Study group at FetLife.)

All this I'm going to apply to "in the bedroom" kink, because that's the only kind I know anything about. How to apply it to a relationship with power exchange, I don't presume to say.

1 Cor 7:3-5, NIV (in context)
3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
This passage seems to have kink implications as well as implications for sexual frequency. The way I read it, it implies that both the husband and wife should strive to fulfill the other's kinks and their desired sexual frequency; they yield authority over their own bodies. But, on the other hand, neither the husband nor the wife may demand it of the other (except of course where the demand is itself part of the consensual relationship). The possessor of the body yields it, the spouse may not make the partner feel bad by pushing for it. Especially in light of Ephesians 5:28-30 (in context)
28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church- 30 for we are members of his body.
And, of course, in light of Matthew 22:37-40 (in context) and all the other myriad passages about love:
37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
To a Christian, GIVING love is central. Demanding it is nothing like giving it, and violates the spirit of the injunctions to love your enemies and turn the other cheek. All the commandments are aimed at each of us, almost none have anything to do with us trying to influence other's morality; and when they do it tends to be an injunction not to.

I often see claims that Christians in BDSM are supposed to do mdom/fsub only. Another implication of 1 Cor 7:4 is that husbands may be submissive as well, at least in the bedroom; the husband yields authority over his body to his wife "in the same way" as the wife to her husband.


  1. I never thought I'd see a Biblically supported argument for Christian kink, much less one this well written. Thanks, Mousie--I'm trying to get my husband to read it and let me indulge a few more of his (and mine, from the other side of the coin).

  2. I'm glad you liked it, Heroditus, and I hope it's useful! I think indeed that a Christian should strive to indulge their spouse's kinks; it's another part of Christian love.

  3. Oh, and I said a lot about not using the Bible to pressure your spouse, so maybe I should mention that using the Bible to free your spouse of unbiblical hangups seems like another thing entirely.

  4. Hangups are certainly the problem--he's afraid of letting some of his kink out to play, afraid that some of the things he wants are too dark and/or violent to even talk about. The ones we have talked about he often won't indulge (even though I share them), mostly because he's afraid of hurting me, I think.

    Not that it's easy to really play with two children, one of whom isn't yet sleeping more than three or four hours at a time. We start out planning intimacy, and end up with me sleeping. :-\

  5. Mousie, I suppose it would be likewise possible to find bible quotes that go against the idea of kinks, even in the marital bedroom (I could try to do it myself -- Genesis (Sodom and Gomorrha) would be my first guess of a place to look, or maybe elsewhere in the Pauline letters --, but you are a good bible knower, and besides I'm at work right now so I shouldn't spend too much time on blogs). How do you deal with the possibility of contradicting the Bible with the Bible itself? What is your dialogue like with Christians who would be shocked by kinky sex, which they probably would consider anti-Christian (especially BDSM, which has to 'look bad' in order to feel good)?

    This is not a criticism, just sheer curiosity. I wished I had met Christians like you long, long ago, when I was still a very 'angry' anti-Christian Brazilian; seeing people like you would probably have made me come to my senses much sooner than was actually the case.

  6. Asehpe, thanks!

    My dialogue with people who would be shocked is to just not bring the topic up. If it were to come up anyway, I would defend kink as politely as I could.

    I don't think there are quotes that go against the idea of kinks when taken in context and with an understanding of what kink is. If someone were to try for BDSM, they would probably use quotes about love, gentleness, and respect. At that point it's not a Bible argument any more, it's the same explaining kink that all of us kinky people had to do with ourselves when we first acknowledged we were into it; one has to explain for example that part of loving and respecting say, a submissive masochist may in certain circumstances involve insulting and hitting them.

    I'm sure they could find something in extra-Biblical writings, but not in the Bible.

    Interestingly, there's a guy on FetLife who doesn't claim to be Christian but hangs around the Christian forums telling us that God disapproves, with various quotes dug up from Catholic saints or out-of-context bible quotes or stuff he found on some prudish website or other. So, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't find anything if you looked, first because I never noticed it, and second because this guy's already tried it.

  7. Not to mention with Sodom and Gomorrah, it seems that the crime involved in the story wasn't necessarily kink, but nonconsentual harm--the people of the town Lot lived in wanted the strangers handed over so they could do harm to them. Lot's response was just about as bad: he begged them not to make him a bad host, and to just take his daughters to do with as they pleased.

    I assumed that the crowd he offered his daughters to to be gang-raped wanted to do the same to the angels. Just because they were strangers--they refused Lot's daughers. That's not sex, not kink. That's a belligerent power play.

  8. I suppose the point with Sodom and Gomorrha is that it wasn't made explicit exactly what the list of "unspeakable things" it was that the locals did and that led to their being destroyed. We can guess that orgies and sodomy were part of it (given Lot's story -- the people wanted the angels of the Lord, which suggests homosexuality and sodomy; Lot offered his two virgin daughters, which suggests orgies). But the implication is that there was more than this; so that Sodom and Gomorrah has become a part of most anti-sex speeches or sermons around, no matter what behavior is specificially targeted.

    Heroditus, it is true that the implication is that the people of that town wanted to do non-consensual harm. But in those days, and to many people even today, kink is "obviously" non-consensual (see the meaning of the word "sadist" in colloquial usage). To many readers of that passage, it probably seems that the people of those town were "normal" kinksters/gays, i.e. obviously non-consensual (because they are, as kinksters, per definition evil, and evil people don't bother with ethic questions like consent). It's even easy to imagine that this is what the author meant, too (though there is of course no way of knowing it for sure).

    Mousie, have you ever successfully defended kink to a non-kinky Christian? From a conservative perspective, it is not difficult to see the confusion ('hurting and insulting' as a way of showing love for them is sufficiently difficult to understand to a non-kinky person to make it look like the work of the devil, I suppose). It's already difficult to argue with non-kinky non-Christians (those who say it must be some mental disorder, you probably were abused as a child, you need help, etc.); I imagine it must be more difficult with Christians. Given my experience (I grew up in the Biggest Catholic Country on earth and was educated in a Catholic school), I'd imagine they would suggest contemplation and prayer to free yourself from the hook the devil placed in your heart, or something like that. (I don't mean to imply any insult in general; I have, over the years, met sufficiently many free-thinking Christians. I'm just wondering what your experience was like.)

  9. Asehpe - I agree with Heroditus on Sodom and Gomorrah.

    have you ever successfully defended kink to a non-kinky Christian?

    No, no non-kinky Christian has ever discussed it with me. I think that's much more likely to happen in the future; I'm much more "out" than I used to be.

  10. I just wanted to reply that, though I forget where, it is implied that Sodom and Gomorrah's sins have to do with not showing hospitality rather than with homosexuality. I would also wager that the wanting to gang rape God's messengers also didn't help.

  11. Really, Anonymous? I would be curious to see the text that says it. It must be interesting.

    My impression, judging by the way people use Sodom and Gomorrha in their speeches, is that they think of it as a condemnation of 'wrong' sexuality more than as a condemnation of non-consensuality. It's not like they would say everything was A-OK if God's messengers had consented and were actually aroused by the idea of a gangbang; they'd probably say it still was "wrong sex" no matter how consensual it was.

    Mousie and Heroditus, I much prefer your interpretation. I hope it catches on.

  12. Asehpe, if you read the text, I think you will find very little to indicate that the type of sexuality was a big deal. You are certainly right about the way it has been used; but to believe that interpretation you have to go into it with a preconception that consenting anal is a worse offense than raping your guests.

    In the ancient Middle East, as well as many other places in the ancient world, hospitality to travellers was considered a sacred duty; there were all kinds of rules along the lines of once he ate with you he was the same as your brother. Harming a guest was a far worse offense than harming just anybody, and the messengers were guests of one of the inhabitants of the cities. That is the hospitality Anonymous is referring too.