Dear Jewrotica #12 – BDSM Redux

Dear Jewrotica

Rated R

Dear Jewrotica,

Do you have any actual text (halakhah etc) sources related to BDSM? I can’t seem to find anything.

-Anonymous, Midatlantic

Dear Jewrotica

Lauren Stein

Lauren Stein

Dear Anonymous,

It is said that you will find everything under the sun in the Torah. If that is true, then you will certainly find a few things about BDSM. You just need to know how to look.

BDSM stands for Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism.

Let’s start with Bondage. To see what the Torah has to say about Bondage, read Sh’mot. All of it. And even much of the books after it. You will find that the Torah has a LOT to say about slavery. In fact, we’re commanded to think about it every day.

On a spiritual level, it is said that the most problematic thing about our slavery in Egypt is not the physical hardship, but the lack of free will involved. We didn’t choose to be slaves. We had forgotten that we ever weren’t slaves. We just stopped making choices for ourselves. So when it comes to the adage “Consent is sexy,” consent is very much a Jewish value!

On a physical level, there comes a point when a slave can choose whether he wants to be free or continue being a slave. (See Sh’mot 21: 1-11 for more about slavery to a Jewish master.)

On a psychological level, with so much talk and ancestral experience of slavery, it’s no wonder a Jew would be drawn into it! Bondage is our middle name.

When it comes to role-playing scenes such as Dominance and Submission, the Torah reflects such play in a positive light. Here’s a fun role-play: disguise yourself as a prostitute and hide somewhere that you know your intended will pass by. This is what Tamar did in B’reishit 38: 13-26. I don’t want to give away the ending, but Tamar’s life is in Judah’s hands.

And for an extra slice of S&M, why not try role-playing a captured woman of war? See D’varim 21: 10-14

All this is just looking at the first five books! There’s more to be found in the rest of Tanakh. For example, look at Purim, with its masquerade tale of a sceptre-raising king and his hidden queen. Their relationship is fraught with enough power play and psychological trips to make Fifty Shades blush! How’d you like to have a gallows built in your backyard while you continue your palatial drama, which includes having a man literally throwing himself into your lap, begging for mercy?

There’s enough BDSM imagery in Judaism to inspire every holiday. Look here for a Passover Haggadah for the BDSM community.

On a final note, the S in BDSM can stand for another value: Safety. Because we know that it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. If your partner does lose an eye, Judaism has a provision for that: compensate him with the value of an eye (Sh’mot 21: 22-17 and commentaries). Ditto for a tooth. So when you use Jewish texts to fuel your BDSM fantasy, don’t forget your safety word! (I recommend Hamantaschen.)

Caveat: Lauren is not a posek. This is meant as a jumping-off point for research, not the end of it. Lauren is very grateful to The Complete Tanach with Rashi’s Commentary for a searchable online Torah text.

Lauren Stein is an Expressive Arts Therapist and Improviser. She enhances lives by bringing out the holy sparks of Fun and Humour. Find her at http://improvtherapist.wordpress.com For more Jewrotica material by Lauren, read Falling In Love With Rabbis in Love.

For the first Dear Jewrotica to feature BDSM, click here.

Dear Jewrotica is an advice column hosted by the Jewrotica staff. We answer questions about sex, sexual health, relationships, romance and other topics as they relate to the Jewish community, culture and tradition. Confidentiality is respected, and we'll do our best to tackle your questions with knowledge, sensitivity and tact.
  • Sender

    Anonymous:

    For more of a halachic perspective on BDSM as practiced between a husband wife, you can look at Maimonides, Mishnah Torah, Laws of Forbidden Relations (Isurei Biah), Chapter 21, Laws 10 and 13. In Law 10, Maimonides rules that a man may do whatever he wishes with his wife — he may have sex with her anytime he wishes, he may kiss any part of her that he wishes, and he may have sex with her “the normal way or the not-normal way.”

    In Law 13, Maimonides forbids, however, a man from having sex with his wife while thinking of another, while drunk, while fighting, out of hate, and not “against her will when she is afraid of him.”

    This is by no means intended as an exhaustive list of halachic sources, but it is a start.