Is BDSM Against My Religion?

Posted by Andrew Schroeder on

Sexual intercourse has always been somewhat of a taboo topic in religious circles. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that one may feel conflicted about it. The fact that it is usually whispered about rather than straightforwardly addressed makes the subject confusing in regards to religion.

The introduction of BDSM to the sex scene has only aggravated the feeling of conflict. Is BDSM a sin? Are you defying God’s laws if you engage in it? Whatever your religious beliefs, you will find the answers to these questions and more in the following lines.

Is BDSM a Sin?

BDSM is a controversial subject — that much is certain. It is an umbrella term for three major kinks — bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism. Each of these relies on the principle of complementary roles. Therefore, BDSM represents a wide range of unconventional ways of practicing sex. Some involve taking/relinquishing control, others include inflicting/receiving pain, and then there are some that combine several sensations. Regardless of the differences that exist among the subtypes, there is one thing they all have in common (other than the specific division of roles). The feature they share is the essence of BDSM — a consensual sexual relationship between adults. It is the very thing that differentiates BDSM from abuse.

Safety is the primary rule of BDSM. That is why, if practiced correctly, it does not pose any danger to a person’s physical, mental, or emotional health. However, despite the fact that the concept of BDSM is against harmful behavior, the stigma of engaging in it remains. In fact, some even go so far as to ask themselves — is BDSM sinful?

The Controversy of BDSM: Religion and Kinks

As we have already stated, BDSM represents an unconventional sexual relationship between consenting adults. Couples who are into BDSM are often in loving, long-term relationships. They are respectful of one another and do not seem to be any different from any regular couple you may know. However, when it comes to sex, they prefer not to engage in romantic love-making. Instead, they prefer power exchange play and enjoy tying each other up. People often refer to them as kinky because of their unusual sexual preferences. You may be (or wish to be) in such a relationship. But if you are religious, your affinities may seem to collide with your religious beliefs. Finally, you are probably left wondering — is BDSM bad?

Before your thoughts spiral out of control and you begin imagining yourself engulfed by the eternal flames of hell, let us reassure you that you are not a sinner for engaging in BDSM. Your sexual desires are a part of who you are, but they do not define you as a person. You are not harming any of God’s creatures by practicing BDSM. Instead, you are simply enjoying yourself and pleasuring the person you love and care about. Finally, marriage and BDSM do not exclude each other, as sex (kinky or regular) is an integral component of every marriage.

Christianity and BDSM

Christianity rests on love and kindness, much like every other religion. It is not about seeking to exclude anyone, but rather about accepting differences. It is about being true to yourself as well as respecting others and honoring their wishes. However, even though Christianity is the largest religion in the world and over two millennia old, the question of sex in regards to it remains somewhat unclear. It is not like that because of the lack of information, but because people still perceive the subject as taboo. They avoid talking about sex and instead keep wondering about its status in Christianity rather than reading the Bible and answering their own questions. The confusion continues, passing on from generation to generation.

In actual fact, Christian postulates about sex are quite straightforward. According to the religion, a couple ought to refrain from practicing sex until marriage. Christianity considers sex out of wedlock to be wrong because it views procreation as its primary purpose. Where does that leave BDSM?

As it turns out, the Bible does not mention BDSM at all. It has several simple rules about sex, as you have seen, but it does not address BDSM or any of its subtypes. The unclear status of BDSM in Christianity is a double-edged sword. The way you will perceive it depends entirely on you. On the one hand, you can let it confuse you further. On the other, you can choose to apply the rules that regard sex in general to it. If you choose the latter option, you have answered your question — to a Christian, BDSM is treated by the Bible the same way sex is.

Judaism and BDSM

Although it may seem strange, there is a group of Jewish people who seek to establish a connection between their religion and BDSM. Those Jewish BDSM aficionados believe that certain postulates of Judaism have affected their sexual preferences. As it turns out, sex, or more specifically, kinky sex, is not as taboo for Jews as it is for Christians. Additionally, there is an age factor in practicing BDSM and addressing it in the Jewish community. While baby boomers and millennials are quite open to the subject, generation X does not seem to be too interested in it.

There seem to be numerous Jewish people within the BDSM community. There is a Jewish-oriented thread on Fetlife, a social network for the community that counts over 2,000 participants. The thread has sparked a lot of discussion, leading up to the conclusion that kinky Jewish people feel like they belong in the BDSM community. They even commonly incorporate specific passages from the Torah in their plays. Some of them have stated that BDSM feels natural to them because they can relate to the concept, citing bondage, slavery, and redemption as common themes of the Passover story.

Since Torah is essentially the Old Testament, Judaism does not address sex any more than Christianity does. Therefore, it does not deal with BDSM in any way. However, Jewish people who are into it seem to have found a way to connect their religion, or more precisely, their people’s history, to the subculture. Even though physical violence is against Jewish religious laws, BDSM does not appear to be off-limits, since it involves numerous sensations other than pain. To sum it up, as long as you do not ridicule your religion, you are not a sinner for practicing BDSM.

Islam and BDSM

Islam may seem to be the most uncompromising religion out of all the major ones. Even though younger generations have found a way to adjust the postulates of their religion to the modern lifestyle, the fact that Islam implies some rather strict rules remains. The majority of them regard the position of women in family and society. Female members of the Muslim community commonly wear a hijab, niqab, burqa, or some other piece of clothing that hides their features from the eyes of strangers. Moreover, their husbands usually accompany them in public. Essentially, according to Islam, women are obliged to respect their fathers, brothers, and, ultimately, husbands.

Nevertheless, as opposed to Christianity and Judaism, Islam openly addresses the subject of BDSM. Not only do Islamic scholars talk about it, but they also claim that their religion does not prohibit it. However, they have specified that there are particular rules that ought to be followed. Muslim BDSM practitioners have to be careful not to physically, mentally, or emotionally harm another person or themselves. Moreover, BDSM in Islamic culture is only allowed if both participants engage in it consensually. Essentially, the religion clearly states that a woman is under no obligation to practice BDSM to please her husband. Additionally, the husband has no right to demand that she does.

Based on the facts, BDSM in Islamic culture does not differ from BDSM in general. The concept emphasizes the importance of safety and consent, drawing the line between kinky sexual behavior and abuse, much like Islam. Therefore, if a married couple willingly chooses to practice BDSM because they both enjoy it, there are no religious laws that forbid it.

Other Religions and BDSM

There are five major religions by world population: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Folk religion. The cited religious groups comprise 84% of the world population, according to the data collected in 2010. We have already addressed two of them, in addition to Judaism, in the context of BDSM. In this chapter, we will list other major religions and briefly explain their views on BDSM.

Hinduism

Aside from being the third largest religion in the world, Hinduism is claimed to be the oldest one. It is mostly present in the Indian subcontinent and some southeastern parts of Asia.

Hinduism treats sex similarly to the way Christianity does. The religion disapproves of sex out of wedlock. Additionally, it views reproduction as its primary purpose, thus, limiting sex to heterosexual couples. When it comes to BDSM, religious Hindu texts do not specifically address it. However, there have been claims that BDSM is similar to tantra, the esoteric doctrine present in Hinduism and Buddhism. Furthermore, we should not disregard the existence of Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian text on eroticism, sexuality, and emotional fulfillment.

Buddhism

Buddhism represents the fourth-largest religion, with more than 520 million followers. The philosophy that is Buddhism represents quite a mystery to the remainder of the world. In the following lines, we will try to demystify it, at least in the context of sex and BDSM.

According to Buddhism, one should not engage in sexual activities that can be harmful to others. It defines such activities as misconduct, citing sex without consent, sex with minors, and sex with people who have chosen to abstain from it as such. Apparently, it does not address BDSM per se.

Folk Religion

Folk religion, also referred to as popular religion, implies expressions of specific religions that are somewhat different from official doctrines of those religions. There are several folk religions, such as Chinese folk religion, Philippine mythology, Folk Christianity, Folk Islam, Folk Judaism, and Folk Hinduism.

Taoism, commonly categorized with Chinese folk religion, views sex as a form of pleasure for both men and women. Actually, practitioners of this religion believe that by engaging in sexual activities, one can attain spiritual advancement. However, BDSM is not explicitly mentioned.

Philippine mythology is followed by Filipinos (over one hundred ethnic peoples that live in the Philippines). Although there is no information regarding BDSM in the context of this religion, there is a Filipino BDSM community based in Manila.

As for Folk Christianity, Folk Islam, Folk Judaism, and Folk Hinduism, they do not appear to be any stricter when it comes to sex than the religions they originated from.

Final Thoughts

As you have seen, BDSM relationships have not been deemed sinful by any dominant religion. While some fail to address the subject, thus allowing you to interpret it the same way you would interpret sex in general, others, such as Islam, openly allow BDSM activities.

Whichever your religion may be, you need to remember that there is one thing all of them have in common. The feature we are referring to is the idea of kindness, which reflects on the way you treat yourself and others. Essentially, every religion suggests that its followers should be good people, emphasizing that as the most important postulate.

That being said, we need to highlight that kindness and BDSM do not exclude one another in any way. In fact, the concept of BDSM relies on safety and consent as its primary rules. Therefore, no BDSM play, no matter how intense it may seem, is done without regard to each participant’s physical, emotional, or mental well-being.

To sum it up, if you wish to incorporate BDSM into your sex life, remember to discuss it with your partner beforehand. Talking every BDSM scene through is what makes the experience pleasurable for both of you while improving your trust in one another. You also need to keep the importance of safe words in mind to avoid harming your partner or being harmed yourself.

Finally, respecting each other and tending to each other’s needs is the crucial rule of both BDSM and most world religions.


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