Telling My Own Story: A Perspective from a Kinky Christian (A Guest Post)

I was pretty upset by a recent post by Jesus Feminist author, Sarah Bessey, in which she conflated BDSM and abuse, shaming those who participated, and excluding them from her brand of “Jesus following.” I found it inaccurate, dishonest, and harmful. So, today, I am glad to host a guest post by an anonymous kinky Christian, responding to Bessey. Please be respectful in the comments. 

[Content Note: Self-Injury]

——

Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Introductions: I’m 25, cis female, bisexual, white. Raised in a moderate, mainline Protestant Christianity that skewed juuuust slightly conservative. I didn’t get the purity rings, in other words, but I got the purity talks. At this point, I’m liberally and agnostically Christian, accustomed to thinking in Christian mode even on the days when I’m not convinced about “God” or “good news.”

Unmarried, in a long-term long-distance monogamous relationship with a man. My sexual ethic is built around consent and respect: that is, all participants must consent—uncoerced—to the sex; and all participants must regard each other as human rather than merely objects for gratification.

Oh, and: I’m also kinky. Pretty significantly kinky. Out of bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism, masochism, I’ll take anything but discipline, please and thank you. Yes, you’re reading that right: I like to dominate and submit, to inflict pain and receive it.

*

This duality is one of the many things Sarah Bessey ignores in her recent post that conflates BDSM with dehumanization of and violence against women. For starters, the post assumes a heteronormative narrative: a man dominates, a woman submits. It assumes that it always goes in exactly that direction. And it allows for no consideration of the submissive partner’s emotions. If we’re going to talk about “dehumanizing. Period. Full stop,” let’s start there.

It’s dehumanizing to assume you know the full story of what’s going on in anyone‘s head.

If an anti-BDSM feminist comes up to my boyfriend and me and tells me that he’s oppressing me by tying me up and giving me pain/pleasure, my boyfriend isn’t the one denying my autonomy.

If an anti-BDSM feminist tells me that by putting a collar on my boyfriend and ordering him to fetch me a drink from the next room, I’m only replicating the male/female dynamic in reverse, I’m not the one assuming that female must mean submissive and male must mean dominant.

I don’t intend to build up straw arguments; I’ve actually seen both those claims “in the wild” before. And they are dehumanizing. They tell me that my experience is less “true” than the narrative that BDSM critics try to impose. That the way I feel isn’t real, can’t be trusted. (You know this is gaslighting, right?)

Here is what it feels like for me, as a submissive who is otherwise a perfectionist, to be in the hands of a trusted partner: relaxation. Gratitude. Is it okay for me to be this lazy and still feel this good? No need to think, to stress. Just receive.

Here is what it feels like for me, a dominant who was raised in a culture where women aren’t really supposed to want power, let alone claim it: awe. Look at what I can do. Look what he wants from me, what he trusts me with. Look how wonderful he looks.

Now you know, okay? You have to stop pretending that no one ever told you.

*

Jian Ghomeshi is wrong. What he has done to women is wrong. Abuse of women is always wrong, whether it’s done under the guise of BDSM or through slowly wearing down her boundaries or any other way. (Abuse of anyone is wrong, but abuse of women is more endemic to our culture and specific to the question of Ghomeshi’s misdeeds.) I want to live in a world where everyone agrees with these statements without question, but that isn’t the world we live in, and the trivialization of violence against women is probably the single most important reason for it.

But calling all BDSM abusive is not a solution. Not a healthy one. Telling someone that an interest in pain is Wrong will not quell that interest in pain; it’ll foster self-hatred instead. In my case: a self-injury habit. I knew instinctively, when I was a teenager, that I was interested in pain. But I couldn’t possibly be one of those people. Those people are Bad and Wrong. So instead, I interpreted my feelings as belonging to an angsty teen girl who cut herself to feel better. And then I shoved myself into that model: I learned to hurt myself when I thought I was bad. I left the habit behind years ago, but the thought processes remain. And it was another eight years before I could face my desires honestly.

*

So, what? Anything goes?

Well, no.

Sex is fraught with connotations, with connections hidden in the subconscious. Power dynamics are also fraught. Examine everything. In fact, I will be prescriptive here: the more closely an action mimics oppressive power structures, the more closely you should examine it before acting on it or making it a deliberate part of your fantasy life.

And if an action seems to replicate those power structures too closely for your comfort, that is a good reason for you to refrain from an act. In fact, I think it’s a fantastic reason. Society does program us all in certain ways, and it is our duty and responsibility to be on the lookout for that.

But “too close for comfort” for you does not mean that other people can’t navigate it safely.

And assuming that one can draw a line in the sand where the actions on one side are “good” and the actions on the other side are “bad” is a practice that Christianity has engaged in for too long. It’s a practice that stunts thinking and growth. It produces despair. I went through figuring out my bisexuality and my kinkiness at the same time (side note: try to avoid doing that if you can, it sucks), and I’ve spent too much time living in the cognitive dissonance of finding my own actions to be harmless but being told that they’re evil. That’ll tear you apart. I’m only learning, in recent years, to trust my own emotions rather than what other people tell me I’m feeling.

So let’s stop trying to tell other people’s stories for them. I would never tell you that kink is right for you. So stop trying to tell me that it’s wrong for me.

"aww you upvoted your own comment. At least someone agrees with you, Jarus."

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