Are Bondage/Discipline/Sadism/Masochism practices moral?


My query pertains to the practice of "Bondage and Discipline","Dominance and Submission", "Sadism and Masochism", which collectively make up the acronym "BDSM". Specifically, I am curious whether or not the Bible has anything to say on the morality of "Master/Slave (Dominant/Submissive)" relationships? Quite frequently, elements of pain are involved in these types of relationships. Some methods of inflicting pain can be physical, while other methods can be mental (verbal humiliation, for example). While some individuals involved in these kinds of relationships derive some type of pleasure or gratification directly as a result of the physical or mental inflictions, the people that I have encountered place much more emphasis on the lordship of the master over the slave. That is to say, the master commands the utmost obedience from his slave in any and all aspects of their relationship, which the master will clearly outline for the slave from the onset of their relationship. Any kind of disobedience on the part of the slave will be punished at the master's discretion. Additionally, a staple of many Master/Slave relationships involves the wearing of some type of "collar" by the slave in order to signify ownership to the master. A literal collar may be worn by the slave in private settings, but for larger part of the slave's time, a symbolic collar such as a pendant or necklace will be worn by the slave at all times.

I am acquainted with individuals who are in the practice of Master/Slave relationships, are married, and in even some cases are currently raising fine children. The relationship is kept between only the husband and the wife and to my knowledge those couples who practice this and have children keep that particular aspect of their relationship secret from their children.

My apologies if this sounds a bit like a rant. Anyhow, your thoughts are appreciated, and have a good evening.


The relationship of a husband and wife is that of companions. "Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant" (Malachi 2:14). It is not a parent / child relationship where the parent is training a child in the proper way to live. Husbands are not instructed to train their wives. It is not the relationship of a master to a slave. A marriage is a covenant freely entered into by equals. Nor is it a relationship where evil-doing is punished by the husband. The problem with the concept of a husband disciplining his wife is that it changes the relationship between the husband and wife into one never intended by God.

"You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered" (I Peter 3:7).

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

Jesus specifically forbade Christians from taking a dictator role. "But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28). Among Christians, we submit to each other, "submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:21).

Husbands do have the leadership in the family, but God's idea of a leader is a person who goes first while others follow. It is not the idea of a person pushing, demanding, or controlling what other people do. See Leadership where this is discussed at length. In the same way submission is not a role someone is forced into complying with another person's every whim. Submission is being willing to follow another because you see benefits in where the other person is going. See Submission for an extended discussion.

That someone manages to do some good while doing wrong in other areas is not a justification for the wrong. I have a hard time picturing a more unloving relationship. "Love does no harm to a neighbor" (Romans 13:10), but these type of relationships revolve around one person doing either physical or mental harm to another purely for the enjoyment of it.