Friday, January 30, 2009

Christian BDSM: Christian? Yes. Vanilla? Not necessarily.

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #357, January 30, 2009)

I’ve just been on a trip through an alternate universe. It was interesting and educational.

It all started innocently enough. An article in the current Utne Reader (Jan.-Feb. ‘09) dealt with “Sexing Up the Religious Right.” According to the article, religious conservatives have realized that sexual prudery is not a concept that’s going to attract the masses in today’s world. So they now are busily weaving together the concepts of God, traditional marriage and fantastic sex into what they hope will be a winning package. The article makes the point, however, that some devious, deceitful and repressive things are going on underneath the surface, and warns us not to be fooled.

“Well,” your humble columnist thought to himself, “I wonder if anyone is equating BDSM with Christianity?” No, of course not, I said to myself—look at all the Christian groups that for years have been trying to shut down BDSM events.

Nevertheless, I tried an experiment: I typed “Christian BDSM” into my favorite search engine. I hit the jackpot—the search engine returned over 65,000 results.

The very first hit was a blog (<scottishboomerang.wordpress.com/2007/08/18/christian-sado-masochism-a-biblical-view-of-marriage-or-the-sign-of-a-subculture-gone-mad/>) that talked about evangelical Christianity in America as a parallel “Christian Republic” existing next to, but divorced from, the secular American society created by the separation of church and state.

And, apparently, that Christian Republic has some folks into BDSM and other kinds of alternate sexual expression, because further down the list was <christiansandbdsm.com>. After a page proclaiming that the creators of the site believe in Biblical inerrancy, subsequent pages discuss “The Christian Marriage” and “The Christian Husband” before discussing “Christian D/s,” Christian perspectives on Master/slave and Master/sub relationships, and “Christian BDSM,” on which page the authors of the site offer the following conclusion:

“We have not found within Scriptures any condemnation of sexual behaviors or acts of B&D or S&M when practiced by a man and woman within marriage for the purposes of sexual arousal or gratification. Nor do we find these behaviors defined in Scripture as unnatural, abnormal or perverse.”

Next on the hit list is <sexinchrist.com> and a page on “Bondage in Christ—BDSM in a Christian Marriage.” The first paragraph ends with this: “A BDSM relationship between a dominant husband and submissive wife is actually the ideal of marriage set out in Ephesians 5:22-26 taken to its logical conclusion!” Ephesians 5:22 is the familiar verse, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.”

The remainder of the page explains, Bible verse by Bible verse, how BDSM can be part of a Christian marriage. The page’s authors even make the point that it can be Biblical for the husband to submit to the wife in the bedroom—as long as there is “an explicit understanding on the parts of both the husband and wife that they will adopt ‘natural’ roles in the rest of their daily lives. We would counsel against couples living the wife dominant/husband submissive roles ‘24/7’, as this could lead to spiritual confusion.”

Other articles at sexinchrist.com include “Anal sex and God’s Will,” “Oral sex and God’s Will” (in which an eloquent case is made for swallowing), “Fisting and God’s Will,” “Masturbation—God’s Great Gift To Us,” “Threesomes Within a Christian Marriage,” and several more. In some instances, the Bible doesn’t mention the activity (and therefore doesn’t prohibit it); in other instances, the Bible actually mentions an activity in a desirable way (mostly in poetic form in the Song of Solomon). The revisionist theology in all the articles gets high marks for creativity. (I just wish the site was a little less homophobic.)

According to these sites, you see, it isn’t the activities themselves that are scandalous. What’s scandalous is when they’re done outside the bonds of holy matrimony. Even here, the “Threesome” article mentioned above twists itself into pretzels trying to make a three-way sexual encounter not be un-Biblical. If it’s a man, his wife, and another man, that could be a problem, because any time you have two guys together in a sexual situation there might be homoerotic overtones. A man, his wife, and another woman, on the other hand, might be okay. This is because what the Bible says about lesbianism could be interpreted as prohibitions against women being too butch. As long as the lesbianism is the lipstick variety, it is presumed to be permissible.

A few things to note: First, unlike the examples in the Utne Reader article, I don’t think the creators of these sites are trying to use sex to win converts to Christianity. Second, while some of the theology on these sites may be challenging, their understanding of BDSM values seems commendably orthodox. Finally, these ideas are not that new—parts of <christiansandbdsm.com> date from 1998.

If we as a community are trying to decriminalize BDSM and get BDSM activities removed from the list of mental illnesses in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), here is a whole new group of people to work with. They are obviously ready to argue with conviction that, according to the Bible, there is nothing wrong with many of the things in which they, and we, take such pleasure.

Friday, January 16, 2009

2008: A Look Back

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #356, January 16, 2009)

A Pivotal Year for Minnesota’s Leather Scene

For the first Leather Life column of 2009, let’s cast a fond backward glance at 2008. Yes, the last part of the year had its problems, among them worldwide economic turmoil and Prop. 8 in California. But before all that, for Minnesota’s leather community plenty of good things happened in 2008. Years from now we, and our community’s successors, may look back on 2008 as a pivotal year in some respects.

February: The Black Guard held their 31st annual Black Frost run in spite of some last-minute logistical problems (not of their making). The club had to expend so much effort dealing with a last-minute hotel change that they weren’t able to present their traditional show during the run.

(We interrupt this look back for a look ahead: The Black Guard of Minneapolis will be presenting Black Frost 32 Feb. 6-8, 2009, and the registration form promises “Yes, we will have a show this year!” There will also be games, a banquet, a bar tour, and a great bunch of guys to meet. Registration deadline is Jan. 24, so hurry. For details and a printable run registration form, visit <www.blackguardmpls.com>.)

April: MSDB inaugurated a new series of monthly education presentations, The LAB. The first class was about wrestling, and topics since have included spanking, flogging, massage and “holiday-themed play piercing.”

May: The Minnesota Storm Patrol presented the club’s second run, Northern Xposure II, which had the distinction of having the spring MACC (Mid-America Conference of Clubs) meeting be a part of the run. May also saw the 30th International Mr. Leather contest in Chicago—unfortunately, without a contestant representing Minnesota. At the end of May, the Knights of Leather held their 20th annual Knights Tournament run and attracted their largest crowd ever. The theme was kinky variations on fairy tales and cartoon characters.

June: The 2008 Minnesota Leather Pride celebration took things to a new level, with a triumphant public unveiling of a new giant leather pride flag right after a tearful retirement/farewell ceremony for the old flag (the flag that first appeared in 1998). The ceremony was probably the most public leather event ever held in Minnesota—it even made the evening news on at least one channel. A video documentary captured the ceremony, along with some behind-the-scenes interviews.

July: The Atons of Minneapolis presented Gopher XVIII, their “Close Encounters”-themed run. That same weekend in Chicago, at the annual Pantheon of Leather Community Service Awards, Minnesota picked up an award (“Large Event of the Year”) for Leather Leadership Conference XI, held in 2007 in Minneapolis (more about this later). Later in the month, a Minnesota Leather History roundtable discussion was presented at Patrick’s Cabaret.

November: Minnesota’s leather community shares a loss with the GLBT community as Pi Bar closes, a victim of the current and continuing economic and financial turmoil.

December: The end of the year brought two traditions: MSDB’s Bizarre Bazaar and the Atons Holiday Fundraiser. It also brought the completion of an ongoing project: the posting of the final podcast from Minnesota’s award-winning Leather Leadership Conference XI (only 20 months after the conference itself). There are a total of 20 episodes, available for listening on your computer or downloading to your iPod or other MP3 player. The cost? Free. The value? Priceless. Find a link to the podcasts at www.leatherleadership.org.

Wow, that was fun! Let’s do it again in 2009! (Without any further bar closings or other financial catastrophes, of course. And how about having someone from Minnesota in the International Mr. Leather contest this year?)

PHOTOS:

June, 2008: Minnesota’s new giant leather pride flag is unfurled for the first time. (From the documentary video “Minnesota’s Giant Leather Pride Flags: Saluting the Old, Unfurling the New.”)

PHOTO CREDIT: Donny Brunner/Mediastash