Kinky because I’m a Christian

I was at a kinky cocktail hour talking to someone I’d never met before and somehow the topic of religion came up. I wish I remembered what preceded this statement, but I told him I was kinky because I was a Christian. It’s an odd thing to say, but whenever I think about it, it still feels true. Basically what I mean is that the aspects of my personality shaped by my faith are the same as (or at least greatly overlap with) the reasons that kink appeals to me. I want to identify some of these reasons, but first I want to explain what I mean by kinky.

When I think about what it means to be kinky, I’m recalling a variety of experiences I’ve had with other people that consider themselves kinky, so it’s a self-perpetuating label. Whenever people outside of the kink community ask what being kinky means, I find myself slightly apprehensive about providing an answer because it’s so vague and subjective. Merriam Webster’s definition of kinky is “relating to, having, or appealing to unconventional tastes especially in sex; also :  sexually deviant.” Of course, what is considered unconventional is continually evolving and cannot be objectively defined.

Self-identified kinksters hold social functions, such as cocktail hours or workshops. There are private parties where people participate in kink-related activities like shibari: the art of rope or boot blacking. There are public BDSM dungeons (usually member’s only, but anyone is allowed to apply for membership). There are conferences and events that bring in nationally recognized speakers and teachers: burning-man-style camping events or conferences held in hotels. And then, of course, there’s bedroom kink—play times in the privacy of one’s home—but even these private instances are often thoughtfully discussed later within a larger group. Conversations abound about things like technique, social aspects, and the psychology of kink. In these discussions one tends to use one’s own experiences. For several years now, I’ve participated in the kink community in Bloomington, Indiana and Chicago, and have traveled to other events throughout the Midwest. I consider myself a kinkster less so because I participate in kink than because I feel like I belong to the community.

Kink is its own subculture, and like any subculture, it takes on its own set of norms, social rules and values. When I think about the truth of the statement “I’m kinky because I’m a Christian,” I also mean that the values I find within kink complement the values I find within my faith.

When I speak of kinky people, I’m specifically drawing from my experiences of people within the public kink community. There are plenty of people out there are completely private about their unconventional sexual practices, but I don’t know much about them or what they value or if there’s a norm there.

Similarly, when I speak of Christians or Christianity, I’m talking about the evangelical and mainline communities that I grew up in or now belong to. Christianity is thought about and experienced by millions of people in very different ways. I’m resigned to talking about it the ways that I have personally experienced and seen it lived out in a mostly Midwestern white middle class environment. I hope some truth extends beyond my bubble, though.

All that said, here’s a few of the similarities I find within my experiences of kink and Christianity:

Both foster awareness

Christians live with an innate and robust sense of purpose: to serve others, to commune with and worship God, to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” This sense of purpose creates an awareness of our actions and our surroundings. Christians (those really living out a faith) tend to be intentional and reflective.

People within the kink community also tend to be reflective. They participate in activities that use the body, mind, heart, and sometimes even soul. Pain and pleasure are purposeful – they are goals in and of themselves, but they are also gateways to deeper connections with others, to self-knowledge, and spiritual highs.

Both my faith and my participation in kink have enhanced my appreciation for the sensuality of life.

Both are service and others-oriented

Jesus asked us to serve our neighbor, to wash each other’s feet. My dad often says that the opposite of Christianity isn’t some form of Satanism, but selfishness.

The best dominants, in my opinion, are people who see topping others as a service. What can I do to or for another person to bring them pleasure, even if it means including pain or respectfully pushing their limits?

The people who seem selfish in their endeavors—who are demeaning to their partners or seem to only care about what someone else can do for them—they don’t get very far in the community (or they learn to hide their motives), because this isn’t what the community values.

Both value community

As followers of Christ taking seriously the call to care for the widows and the poor, we are called to value community. Paul calls us collectively the body of Christ and wrote that each member matters.

The kink community is often home to social outcasts: people thought strange for what they enjoy, or perhaps even people drawn to the strange because the normal hasn’t worked for them. This gets difficult at times. There’s a lot of social awkwardness at events. But I love the fact that—at its best—the community strives to be inclusive.

The Christian communities I’m drawn to are intentionally welcoming and inclusive. All are welcome. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that that is God’s primary message and goal: for all to feel loved and welcome at God’s table.

In many ways, this is a goal in the kink community as well. I’ve never seen a night where kinksters feed the homeless or take in refugees, but there is a staunch political commitment to inclusivity: to being welcoming and considerate of trans folks or people struggling with histories of abuse. The kink community offers to be a place of healing and a place of safety. It doesn’t always meet these goals—it often attracts predators as well. Of course, the church historically hasn’t been a safe place for everyone either.

All of these virtues are ideals that are sometimes met, sometimes not. But I’m drawn to both communities because they are virtues both strive for.

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