Does the Bible say anything about BDSM?
The acronym BDSM stands for bondage-discipline-sadism-masochism. It is commonly used in reference to sexual relationships that include dominatrix and submissive role-playing between the individuals involved. Due to the illicit nature of this practice, it is not surprising that the Bible does not directly address this activity.
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However, Scripture does frequently and clearly speak about sexual ethics. To begin, sexual relations are designed for marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:1-9).
Second, Scripture speaks about the treatment a husband and wife should have with one another. It includes mutual submission, service, and love (Ephesians 5). Regarding sexual relations, marriage includes faithfulness to one another, as well as not depriving one another (1 Corinthians 7:5) in order to avoid the temptation of adultery or other forms of sexual immorality.
Third, the marriage bed (a term referring to sexual relations) is to be honored by all. Hebrews 13:4 notes, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous."
Further, a married couple becomes "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). The idea is that a husband and wife would treat one another as they wish to be treated. Paul commanded, "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
Based on these and other biblical passages, it is clear that the rough treatment involved in BDSM practices has no place in the life of a Christian. The Bible does not place many restrictions on what a married couple is allowed to do sexually. Adultery (including threesomes, swapping, etc.,) and pornography are clearly identified as sinful. Otherwise a good principle seems to be "mutual consent" (1 Corinthians 7:5). There is nothing inherently wrong, then, in role-playing. However, given the dark aspects of BDSM and its focus on domination and violence, rather than on passionate and self-sacrificial love, it does not have a place in the life of a Christian. Sexual relations should occur only between a married man and woman. And those relations are meant to be a physical expression of the intimacy and oneness of marriage. Sex should be for the benefit of one another, showing love and concern for one another, not demonstrating a desire to dominate.
Those who have or do participate in BDSM practices, however, can find true freedom through Jesus Christ. He came to set captives free: "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1). Christ Himself demonstrated the love we are to have for one another through the washing of His disciples' feet (John 13). In following His example, we are to pursue freedom in Christ and a lifestyle of service to others rather than seeking to control and dominate others.
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