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Thursday, May 28, 2015

50 Shades of Grey: BDSM vs. Submission

I only recently discovered that the 50 Shades story revolves around BDSM—bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism (I feel a little strange just typing those words to be posted on the internet). I never realized this when the books were popular, and it is only with the movie trailers that I figured this out.
         Needless to say, when I learned this, I was shocked. I knew the books were sexual in nature, but that didn’t bother me much—I am well aware of how sexually saturated our culture is. But to find out that the exceptionally popular book series and one of the highest grossing movies of the year is about BDSM was certainly a surprise. 


         Our culture is becoming increasingly tolerant of these sexual habits. For most of history, these practices have been taboo and even forbidden, but they have eased into acceptance—first as interests to be done away from the public-eye in the privacy of one’s bedroom, and even more recently as activities to be proud of and illustrations of one’s individuality. The practice of BDSM is celebrated as a basic human right, and heavy language of “consent” is lavished on. All is fair for those who want to participate, and people should be encouraged to do what pleases them—including domination and submission.
         Interestingly enough, submission is a frequent topic of Scripture. Not in the sense of Judges 19, but in a sacramental and completely holy sense. Submission is seen prototypically in the Godhead by the Son submitting to the Father despite their inherent equality. It is seen in the teachings and life (or more accurately, death) of Christ as well as in the New Testament vision of marriage and family. There is, in this type of submission, also a strong element of consent. This is not masochistic consent, but faithful consent—trusting in the mutual devotion of both parties.
         People do not like this element of Scripture—particularly the submission found in marriage. They see it as backwards and almost barbaric, not keeping with modern standards of equality. But they have no idea what biblical submission really is. It looks nothing like BDSM culture. It doesn’t require that sort of legal consent. Rather, biblical submission is based on the interdependence of those involved, mutual love and respect and self-sacrifice.

Though it may not seem this way, the creation story in Genesis 1 has implications for the Christian response to bondage-sexuality. In the story, all the animals in the world are brought before the man. The man names them, implicitly demonstrating his superiority, and searches among them for a suitable sexual partner. However, the man chooses none of them. The reason is his inherent superiority to the animals—his dominion over them. Instead, he is brought a woman that is taken from his side; she is his equal.
         People are not meant to be in relationships of dominion (bondage, discipline, or sadomasochism). We are meant for relationships where everyone is treated as equal. Moreover, we are meant for even greater things than that. We are meant for relationships of mutual care and interdependence—of biblical submission.
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