"...the Son of Man came not to be served,
but to serve...

"...the Son of Man came not to be served, <br> but to serve...
...and to give His life as a ransom for many."
--Matthew 20:28

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Marriage, Gender Roles and Ephesians 5&6

Okay, folks. This is one of the biggies. I apologize in advance for the length, but please stick with me here. This is foundational.

I've been putting this post off for some time in the hopes that at some point I would get really inspired and write these ideas perfectly. Well, the other day I wrote an e-mail to a fellow on one of the Yahoo! Groups I'm a member of and I thought I laid it out pretty well. Maybe not perfectly, but well enough to get started. Well enough that I got to the end and said, "Whew! I really don't want to re-write that for a ruddy blog post!" So, here you have it, in all its copied and pasted glory.

Gender roles are a big deal among many Christians, but thy are an especially big deal among Christians who practice D/s and BDSM. The cause for this is that, whist frantically searching the pages of their Bibles for Scriptural "justification" for being interested in these things, what should leap first to the eyes of well-intentioned believers but, "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord." And on the eleventh day, the Lord said, "Let religious misogyny and bigotry flow forth from every corner of the Church!"

I think not.

I will talk more (probably much more) about the pitfalls and problems in the "Christian BDSM" and "Christian Domestic Discipline" subcultures in the future. Right now, let's stick to a little thing I like to call (to gank a book title) "reading the Bible for all it's worth." That is to say, I feel that far too many people - Christian and otherwise - read Bible passages purely at face value. This either causes them to say, "Well, that makes no sense!" and throw the book away or to say, "Well, gee...if God says that's the way it is, that's the way it is." and throw reason away.

There is another way.

Now, many people will go to the original Hebrew and Greek and seek meaning by trying to understand the nuances of those languages (or by just pointing to paricular definitions that suit their ends). This is not sufficient in itself either. When seeking to understand the Bible, I need to ask "Who wrote this? Who were they writing to? In what historical and cultural epoch were they writing? What was their intent?" and "What principles can be derrived here that most accurately reflect how the passage's intended meaning has impact in today's context?"

Do I always do this? No. But the following is one ongoing effort to understand. The passage I'll be discussing runs from the end of Ephesians 5 into the beginning of Ephesians 6. This is one of the most commonly quoted "Wives, submit..." passages. This is also just my opinion - what I think I see happening in the text and what makes the most logical sense to me. I reserve the right to be completely wrong. If you disagree, I still love you. :)

First, here's the text, taken from one of my favourite translations, the NET Bible.

5:22 31 Wives, submit 32 to your husbands as to the Lord, 5:23 because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church – he himself being the savior of the body. 5:24 But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 5:25 Husbands, love your 33 wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 5:26 to sanctify her by cleansing her 34 with the washing of the water by the word, 5:27 so that he 35 may present the church to himself as glorious – not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. 36 5:28 In the same way 37 husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 5:29 For no one has ever hated his own body 38 but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, 5:30 for we are members of his body. 39 5:31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become 40 one flesh. 41 5:32 This mystery is great – but I am actually 42 speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 5:33 Nevertheless, 43 each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, 44 and the wife must 45 respect 46 her husband.

6:1 Children, 1 obey your parents in the Lord 2 for this is right. 6:2Honor your father and mother, 3 which is the first commandment accompanied by a promise, namely, 6:3that it may go 4 well with you and that you will live 5 a long time on the earth. 6

6:4 Fathers, 7 do not provoke your children to anger, 8 but raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

6:5 Slaves, 9 obey your human masters 10 with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart as to Christ, 6:6 not like those who do their work only when someone is watching 11 – as people-pleasers – but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart. 12 6:7 Obey 13 with enthusiasm, as though serving the Lord 14 and not people, 6:8 because you know that each person, whether slave or free, if he does something good, this 15 will be rewarded by the Lord.

6:9 Masters, 16 treat your slaves 17 the same way, 18 giving up the use of threats, 19 because you know that both you and they have the same master in heaven, 20 and there is no favoritism with him.

Much of the talk about this passage centers around the Greek word (hupotasso, if memory serves) that is usually translated as "submit" or "obey." Everyone talks about that word. I really don't care to. I don't think it's the point of the passage at all. I think Paul is interested in re-contextualizing existing Dominant/submissive structures. Look at Ephesians 5&6.

5:22 is the "Wives, submit..." that everyone loves to quote. But 5:21 talks about "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." The passages before are discussing how we live as Christians - not as unwise but as wise (5:15), as children of the Light (5:8).

So, after Paul says Christians should submit to one another in 5:21, in 5:22 he begins listing examples of what submitting to one another looks like. He does this through examples based in everyday authority structures, specifically the authority structures in the home. This makes sense because a statement like "submit to one another" is pretty radical in a society that is so strongly defined by hierarchy.

His examples seem to follow this pattern: "Here's a common authority structure. Now, here's how to live in that structure in Christ." It doesn't stop at the end of Chapter 5. Everyone gets to the end of the chapter and says, "Well, that's all he had to say about marriage!" But chapter breaks are arbitrary structures added to the original text by later editors. Connect the wives and husbands passage with the two following: 6:1-4 talks to parents and children and 6:5-9 addresses slaves and masters. Each passage moves further out from the center of the home and family - the marriage.

It's clear to me that these are three points connected by the same theme - a new understanding of authority and leadership in Christ. These passages are not dictating who is to be in charge, but describing how each member of an extant Dominant/submissive dynamic is to conduct themselves. Let's look at the sections in reverse.

First, "Slaves, obey your masters" (6:5-9). Everyone says the "Wives, submit" section establishes God's plan for marriage. So, is this God's plan for slavery? Modern scholars and pastors usually say, "Well, we don't have slavery in our society, but we can extrapolate this to employer/employee relationships or some such model." No one ever says, "We don't have strictly patriarchal marriages in this society, but we can extrapolate this to a matriarchal or egalitarian marriage model." Why is that? Why treat these two passages so differently? One is God's stamp of approval on marriage, but the other is not God ordaining slavery? It makes no sense.

Secondly, does God need Paul to tell us that slaves are to obey their masters? Is this some new Divine command? Of course not! In Paul's day, slavery was common and slaves were of course expected to obey. Since in Christ there is now neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, early Christians might expect these social structures to need total upheaval. Paul says, however, that Earthly authority structures are a part of the way we live, but as Christians, we can now view authority differently.

This is because God condescended to become human in that Christ, being of one nature with God, did not see equality with God as something to be attained. Rather, he humbled himself and took on the very nature of a slave. He became submissive even unto death on a cross and because of this God has given him a name that is above every name. (I'm here slightly paraphrasing Philippians 2:5-11.)

If Jesus shows that he is Lord of all creation by humbling himself and becoming like a slave, then our understanding of authority must change drastically. As Jesus says in Matthew 20, beginning in verse 25, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. It must not be this way among you! Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Gee, I've seen that on the front page of a blog somewhere...)

Now let's look at the next passage up in Ephesians 6, verses 1-4. Does anyone question that children need to obey their parents? Of course not. It's how they survive and learn. In the same way, no one in Paul's day would have questioned whether wives should obey their husbands. This was their expected cultural role both inside and outside the Jewish world. None of these passages describes a Dominant/submissive dynamic that is unique to Christians or even to the Bible. All of these were commonplace in Paul's day. What's important is the next section of each passage, where Paul sets common assumptions about authority on their heads.

To me, this section follows a pattern of "Description and Prescription." That is, a description of a common authority structure from daily life is given, followed by a prescription for how that structure should look under Christ. To my mind, this is not God commanding all women in every marriage for all time to submit to their husbands. This is God through Paul telling us that Dominant/submissive relationships involve both parties putting the others' needs before their own, regardless of where such a structure is to be found.

So, to paraphrase: "Wives, submit to your husbands. That is understood. It's how a wife is expected to honour her husband in our culture. But now you are in Christ, so your submission should be as unto the Lord, for you honour and worship the Lord by loving your husband well in a way that brings him respect. But husbands, you are not to be domineering and disrespectful to your wives as so many in our world are prone to do. Do not abuse your authority. Rather reconize that no one has authority on Earth except that God allows him to have it and you are under Christ's authority. You must indeed love your wives, as is expected, but you must do so as Christ loves us. He gave himself completely for us, surrendered himself to death for us. He is our Lord because he knelt to wash his disciples' feet. You too should follow his example and honour him by loving your wives well."

In today's culture, the passage might read differently. Instead of laying the idea of the submissive wife over universally into all modern marriages, we should recognize that the point of this passage and indeed this whole section is back in verse 5:21: "submit to one another." It seems that this passage is talking about a way of serving one another that supercedes, yet is translated through whatever relational structure we find ourselves in - even those that have a definite hierarchy and authority structure.

Reading this verse today, we might ask, "How does a wife honour her husband in today's culture? How does a husband honour his wife? What does this look like in my marriage relationship and what can I do to love my husbsband or wife well in a way that is relevant for me like this structure was relevant in Paul's day?"

You may find yourself saying, "Well, my husband is my slave," or "My wife is submissive to me." Or you may see other structures evident. All of these can be encompassed by the values espoused here.

The truth is, no two relationships are alike. We function according to certain parameters and negotiations of dominance and submission in every relationship (check out my blog post "D/s - Fixed, Flexible and Fundamental" for more on this) and these parameters and negotiations are as different as the people in each relationship. Even in strongly patriarchal societies - Jewish, Greek, etc. - in many cases, the women are so often the real movers and shakers in the family. They have just worked out the art of getting their way and setting the agenda, making all the decisions and letting the husband believe it was his idea!

In human relationships, different Dominant/submissive structures work best for different people - otherwise we wouldn't still be discussing these things today. The bottom line, though, is love. Whether we are Dominant or submissive, without this we have nothing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Response to Faete

Well, I'm sorry you had trouble commenting, but look what a lovely post it turned into! ;)

I personally love the use of caps and lowercase for Doms and subs. As both a Dominant and a submissive, it does help me get into the right "head space" as you say. I also understand how lowercasing could be assumed to indicate a lack of self-worth to the outside world. But Ziggy lowercases himself all the time and he's doing okay - He has his own comic strip!

Seriously, though, I heartily agree that, though "no slave is greater than his master," a slave or submissive is not "less" than his/her Master or Dominant. And certainly lowercasing personal pronouns is not meant to communicate that. On the contrary, I think it is quite the opposite.

When a sub caps his/her Dominant, the intent is obviously to show respect. So, it's easy for people to believe (and this may be why the practice is falling out of favor with some) that lowercasing is a show of humiliation or scorn. But I see lowercasing as a very important way to respect a submissive's position. Whenever I'm communicating with a sub (as you well know, Faete!) I am always careful to notice if they lowercase themselves. If they do, I make sure I do the same. To do otherwise, to my mind, is an insult because it fails to recognize their honoured place as a submissive.

I believe that submissives and slaves are deserving of honour just as much as Dominants, Masters and Mistresses. This is indeed a Biblical concept, in that Christ demonstrated His authority by humbling Himself. His act of sacrificing His own life was the supreme act of submission, for which God has given him "a name that is above every name." He literally took on the cultural trappings of a slave in order to wash his disciples' feet and told them that the greatest anong them must be the slave of all. So, there is an exalted place for those in submission, a respect they are due.

Paul echoes this too in his words to wives, children and slaves in Ephesians, among other things. But, that's another post altogether. Pardon me as I get ahead of myself!

I can understand aesthetic objections and that such things may not be appropriate for public use. But I am very strict about it when I am in a Dominant position and very careful about it as a submissive because I see it as an underlying show of respect. It's like a way of encoding one's words with honour for the O/other.

So, though I might differ in my use of role-specific lowercasing and caps, I agree with the principles that drive your decision not to. A tiny thing, but a demonstration of the fact that people with the same values can often come to different conclusions. This is a lesson more Christians need to learn. :)

Now, all I need are some non-gendered English perssonal pronouns so I can stop doing the he/she, his/her bit all the time. That one really annoys me!

Thanks again for your thoughtful comment, Faete. Looking forward to your future thoughts!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Comment from Faete

A fellow YouTuber nemed Faete stopped by the other day and tried to leave a great comment on my post "S&M, D/s, M/s, B&D and BDSM" - a post which, in retrospect, should simply have been titled, "Terminology and Acronyms" or something. Anyway, her comment attempt was unsucessful, so she pasted it into an e-mail to me. I decided I would include it here as a post so that more readers would be likely to see it. I like what she has to say and I'll comment on it in my next post. By the way, her YouTube channel can be found HERE. Check it out. And now...Heeeeeere's Faete!

Howdy! Me likey your blog. ;) It's going to take me some time to catch up on it all though! lol. :)

Anyway, I did want to chime in about the whole capitalization topic. Personally, I've never really liked the trend of submissives/slaves/bottoms/etc putting lower case initials or "i" instead of "I". To be honest, it just makes things clunky to read to me when I look and see a whole bunch of o/Our or u/Us or "i"s.

I know a lot of people use this to get themselves into the right headspace. And that's great if it works for them.

Personally though, I can see where the idea came from - and if used in the proper context I feel like it could be fun. For example, if Master wanted me to always do this when I was typing or writing to him, I would. However, I wouldn't write that way in a public forum because it insinuates that I see myself as lower in importance than the rest of the world.

I don't see BDSM like that. I don't see myself as less important than Master.. Just different. In the end, no matter if I like to be *treated* like I am worthless, or an object, or beneath him it doesn't mean I am. At the end of the day, we are both equals because without me being his slave, he would not be my Master. The same is obviously true vice versa.

So, that's my take on it. I'm Faete, not faete. I just wanted to throw that out there because I didn't see anything about *why* some people are getting away from that habit.

Cool blog! :) Keep the good posts coming. :)

Bondslaves of Christ on YouTube!

It's official. My YouTube channel is now going to be updated with video blog content. I've been on YouTube for some time, but had not yet begun creating a presence there in earnest.

The YouTube channel will be an extension of what I'm doing here in the blog. The two will sometimes overlap, sometimes not, but they will always compliment each other.

Check it out HERE and don't forget to SUBSCRIBE!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dominance vs. Domination

I've touched on this before, but I want to re-emphasize something about the language I use when referring to the "Top" position. You will almost never hear me use the words "Dominate" or "Domination." Okay, you'll never hear anything here. You'll only read it. But that's beside the point.

Some years ago, I made an effort to alter my vocabulary and reject the word "Domination" in favor of "Dominance." To me, Domination implies something cruel and crushing. Particularly in the BDSM world, we get the mental image of the sleek black high heel of the Mistress' boot coming down on the poor slaveboy who is in agony - a picture of the power of pain. Domination is a term used in phrases like "World Domination," the dream of every megalomaniacal super villain. To me, it implies something that is taken by force through violence, without caring or love.

Of course, this is based on what I percieve to be the culturally-derrived implication of the word. In the dictionary, there is no real difference between "dominance" and "domination." In fact, dominance is referred to as something in the animal kingdom that is usually achieved by force. But in the human kingdom, for whatever reason, it seems to me that dominance is the gentler term.

The reason I favor this angle on things is because I think the best, truest Dominant earns their position and title. It is a role that comes with a great deal of responsibility and which must be based on and executed with love. Otherwise, there is little left to guard against abuse.

Most of the time, these men who lurk around online and in clubs with arrogant demeanors and floggers on their belts calling themseves "Master" this and "Master" that do not deserve such a title because they have not earned it. Beware of those who seek to Dominate what they do not love.

So, I encourage you, gentle reader - if you agree with me, please join my proverbial bandwagon of terminology rejection. It's a small thing but, in D/s, it's the little things that make all the difference.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dirty Babe...

Okay, I've been thinking about the lyrics to the Justin Timberlake song "Sexyback." Firstly, they're a great example of the appeal of sadomasochism, D/s, BDSM and fetishism in our culture. The reason? What are the lyrics everyone who is familiar with that song knows? Sing along, boys and girls:

Dirty babe,
You see these shackles, baby,
I'm your slave.
I'll let you whip me if I

Just like the popularity of Britney Spears' "I'm a Slave 4 U" a few years back was based in no small part on the fantasy of Britney as a sexy slave saying, "I really want to do what you want me to," the popularity of this particular part of the song reflects the attraction of the sexy slave image.

But I think it's interesting to note some subtleties in the lyrics. First, the opening line, "Dirty babe." It's true that much of the attraction of the sexy slave archetype comes from it being seen as "dirty" or "taboo." It's exciting for many people to take the risk of flirting wth what is often referred to as "the dark side" of sexuality. The idea of being risky and naughty can be fun and exciting.

Unfortunately, for many Christians, this causes kinky behaviours to be labeled as sinful or impermissible. This, of course, causes Christians to feel guilty for their interests in D/s, bondage and discipline. While I certainly dislike the idea of these things being seen as "bad" behaviours, it is also important to remember that it really is fun to feel a little naughty sometimes - and that's okay too!

The other line that I often think about is "I'll let you whip me if I misbehave." I can just see a Domme or Mistress standing over him looking quite annoyed and saying, "Oh, you'll let me whip you, will you? Well, how thoughtful!" All I can say is that a boy who talks like that deserves whatever he gets.

It's not the kind of thing any Master or Mistress wants to hear out of a slave's mouth. "I'll let you whip me" - what arrogance! The scene being painted here, however, is not one of serious slavery, but rather just flirting with ideas, archetypes and actions that are fun, sexy and risky. Many in the BDSM community would frown on this, saying he really doesn't deserve to be called a slave. They would say he isn't a "real" slave. Essentially, he's not "one of us."

Well, who cares? In reality, these things are fun to play with. They don't adhere to rules and are not about fitting in with the idiosyncratic notions of a particular subculture. We don't all need to be members of the BDSM cult. Some of us just want to have fun, exploring things relationally and sexually that excite and interest us. And there's no one who can tell us we can't.

Swimmin' in de Nile...


Get it? Sorry.

Denial is a very important concept. I got to thinking about this after watching this video. Dr. Gabrielle Hoff does really insightful interviews with a D/s or BDSM theme in her video series called "Erotic Powerplay". Here, the topic is female dominance, but the concept is universal.

A Dominant must always remember that, in any given moment of D/s interaction, it is the Dominant's desires and agenda that rule. I stress communication a lot and it is good for the submissive to communicate his or her desires, but a subbie mustn't expect the Dominant to give in. At least not right away. you subbies must respect that your Dom/me holds all the cards. That means you won't always get what you want.

In fact, Dom/mes, you have a great deal of power in saying "no." There are few things that teach an over-eager submissive their place better than denying them what they want. A lot of people might readily accept a submissive role thinking, "If I become submissive, maybe He'll spank me," or "I can finally get her to tie me up!" These kinds of a agendas put the submissive's desires before the Dominant's.

As referred to in the video, this is often called "topping from the bottom." It can be a real trap that many people fall into, but it can also indicate some subtle differences between people's tastes. Often, a person wants to be punished or disciplined and that's pretty much it. They are interested in serving the Dominant only in so much as it leads to a spanking or a flogging or some such event. Often, these people are masochists who are really misidentifying themselves (or being misidentified by others) as submissives. This is a possibility all involved must take into account early on. If you try to make a non-submissive masochist into a slave, there will be misery all around - and not the good kind, either! ;)

Of you are dealing with a real submissive, though, there is enormous power in denial. It is actually much more exciting and humbling to be denied what you want than to have it given to you. It may seem counter-intuitive to not give the sub what he/she wants when you are trying to keep them happy, but not giving in is often more gratifying to a submissive heart than whatever it is they think they so desperately desire. You must teach your subbie that Your desires rule. Your sub's desire should be first for your pleasure, your happiness. Then, Dom/mes, when you finally decide to give your little subbie what he/she wants for him/herself - Oh, what a treat! Much subbie love will abound.

So, today's Domming tip: Stay in control. Learn the power of denial. Put your subbie on a string of desire and tug them right along. If they aren't already eating out of your hand, they will be. ;)