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God Vibes Pt 3: “That Twit Ought to Have Her Bottom Slippered”

March 28, 2010

image via feministing

Lately I’ve been debating what site to tackle next in my Christian Sex Industry series.  I’ve had a lot of fun with Book 22, and it led me to numerous other sites that hand out advice about the do’s and don’ts of Christian bedrooms.  But all those other sites got set aside yesterday when Mary Bullstonecraft pointed me to a movement called Christian Domestic Discipline.

At first glance, this appeared to both of us to be a Christian version of BDSM.  After all, it describes the Domestic Discipline relationship as “one in which one partner is given authority over the other.”  That phrase alone is gender-neutral and could apply to any number of secular BDSM couples.  And the website promises that “The application and practise of DD in each marriage is as unique as the individuals who make up that marriage.”  Again, this is true of most couples who practice BDSM.  There is no singular rulebook, no standard required format.  A BDSM partnership requires negotiation and understanding between individual couples to establish boundaries and preferences.  The nature of a dom/sub relationship will change with each new partner.  It may even change over time between long-standing partners, as their relationship develops and their interests shift.

After the first few paragraphs, though, it becomes clear that this site is about something else entirely.  Rather than utilizing the dom/sub relationship for mutual fun and pleasure, practitioners of CDD want to establish clear lines of domestic authority based on patriarchal, evangelical notions of gender roles.   In other words, CDD isn’t about sex at all.  It’s about domestic abuse.  And the difference lies in what CDD practitioners call “Nonconsensual Consent:”

Nonconsensual Consent is a viewpoint oft utilised in Christian Domestic Discipline marriages. The concept of nonconsensual consent means that consent is given once in the beginning for the duration of the relationship, rather than specifically for each individual instance discipline is to be carried out. She is giving consent for him to discipline her at some future time when, at that specific moment, she is non-consenting.

It is based upon consent when the wife is in a calm, relaxed state of mind, not emotionally charged, as she may be during a maritial arguement [sic]. Essentially, the wife is giving her husband permission to decide when, where, how, how often, and under what circumstances he may discipline her based on the parameters they have agreed upon in their prior discussions. A wife may withdraw or amend that consent at any time, other than just before, during, or just after discipline.”

I’ll let that sink in for a second.

Need it again?  The practitioners of CDD believe that “consent is given once in the beginning for the duration of the relationship.”  Period.  No backsies.  I realize that at the end of the quote there is a line about how “A wife may withdraw or amend that consent at any time,” but somehow I’m not buying it.  Because everything I read before that quote implies just the opposite: that once a woman has consented to live in a CDD marriage, she can’t take it back.  She can be spanked.  She can be forced to write lines.  She can be denied “a favorite privilege.”  All at the whim of her husband.  And she only has to consent once.  Period.

And note that her consent must be attained during a time when she is “not emotionally charged.”  Although she can technically “withdraw consent at any time,” the phrase “any time” does not include the periods immediately before or immediately following the application of discipline.  She can only change her mind when she is in a “calm, relaxed state of mind.”  And guess who gets to decide what constitutes a “calm, relaxed state.”  Her husband!

Oh, and she also can’t withdraw consent during discipline.  I’m assuming this means there’s no such thing as a safe word in CDD.  If he goes too far and hurts her more than she’s willing to be hurt?  Too bad.  She can’t ask him to stop.  Because she’d be too “emotionally charged” to make a rational decision about how much pain she’s in.  So much for bodily autonomy!

Why the one-time consent rule?  Because it prevents domestic conflict:

“This prevents many of the escalations of conflict which otherwise might ensue. This system removes the temptation for the wife to attempt to extricate herself from discipline which she may in her heart truly feel she has earned. It also reduces the likelihood of the husband ignoring unacceptable attitudes or behaviours simply because he doesn’t feel like arguing with her about the discipline she has earned.”

That’s another of the many reasons why CDD cannot pretend to be part of the BDSM community.  BDSM is not about solving conflicts in relationships.  It isn’t about who takes out the garbage.  It’s about fun and pleasure between two equally consenting partners.  CDD isn’t about pleasure at all.  At least not for the wife.  It’s honestly and truly about punishment – about using physical violence and emotional abuse (writing lines??? Seriously??) to keep a woman in her place, to make her submit to the will of her husband.

Also?  The language here veers frighteningly close to the language used by rape apologists when they attempt to identify rape as One Big Misunderstanding.  CDD encourages husbands to “read between the lines” and to know their wives well enough that they can tell when “Stop” really means “Don’t stop now!”

My biggest problem with CDD, though, is a problem I’ve encountered over and over again in my research of Christian Sex Websites.  When a couple is in doubt about something, they are encouraged to pray for guidance:

“If your wife has not explicity requested CDD, but she has made implicit comments similar to the ones mentioned above, and if you believe that CDD is a tool which may help strengthen your marriage, I suggest your next step would be prayer. Pray for wisdom for both of you, pray for God’s guidance, pray for help in humbling yourself, and pray for God to help her be willing to put aside her pride, fear, or control issues and trust you and trust God. Perhaps CDD would be a good fit for your marriage.”

Pray to God.  Don’t ask your wife.  Don’t talk to her, communicate with her, ask her how she’s really feeling.  Just pray to God.  Because in evangelical Christianity, God is always the final authority.  And, conveniently, you can claim that God said just about anything.  Whereas you can’t claim that your wife said “yes,” when what she really said was “Hell, no.”

Using a voiceless god as an excuse for malevolent behavior is another extension of the myth of the “Decent Guy.”  CDD practitioners want us to believe that their faith, their bargains with God, preclude any judgment of their actions.  Because they are Christian, they must be “Decent Guys,” and their actions must therefore be interpreted as decent – even when those actions include spousal abuse.  Even when those actions include deliberately interpreting “no” as “yes.”

(A note to readers: I’d really love to hear from some BDSM community members on this.  I wanted to talk more about how this is NOT BDSM, but as someone with little experience in the community, I feel like I’m not really the appropriate authority.  Also of note to readers, if you want to read about an actual, caring BDSM relationship rather than a Christian bullshit one, check out our Blog Friend Britni.  She’s an excellent sex blogger who writes beautifully about the dom/sub relationship.)

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. marybullstonecraft permalink*
    March 28, 2010 1:23 pm

    “The application and practise of DD in each marriage is as unique as the individuals who make up that marriage.”

    Except, this part is bullshit, because they not only repudiate any and all same-sex partnerships, as well as any Female-Dom/Male-Sub relationships. Also, WTF?

  2. March 29, 2010 2:07 pm

    Oh, wow. Okay, this is pretty much a justification for abuse, just like Father’s Rights groups and such. Fancy language that tries to make it sound like something it isn’t. The thing that struck me the most when reading this, that proves that this is NOT BDSM, was “nonconsensual consent.” The BDSM lifestyle practices CONSENSUAL NONCONSENT. These are not the same thing. CNC involves consenting ahead of time, usually at the beginning of the realtionship when boundaries and limits are discussed, to “nonconsensual” activities. However, they are NOT nonconsensual, because the participant has consented to these things at an earlier date. And most BDSM couples have a safeword so that if they really don’t want that to be happening, it can be used and stopped. CNC is most often referenced in things like rape play.

    Nonconsensual consent seems to be the opposite of that. It’s NOT consent, because it explicitly states that it’s nonconsensual. However, you seemed to bristle at the fact that the wife only needs to consent once, but in the BDSM lifestyle, CNC works that way, too, for the most part. You consent to the dynamic and activities once, and it can change at any time.

    An interesting aside about punishment: you quote the article as saying, “This system removes the temptation for the wife to attempt to extricate herself from discipline which she may in her heart truly feel she has earned.” Most submissives, if they have “acted up” or been “bad,” will accept their punishment willingly and readily, because they know that they “deserved” it for violating whatever rule or protocol that exists in their relationship. Even if the punishment is unpleasant, if the submissive knows/feels like they deserve it, they will take it without question.

    HOWEVER, most submissives enjoy the punishment. They enjoy the mental aspect of the physical punishment reinforcing their submissive role, of giving that control of punishing and reinforcing rules to their Dominant. There’s also the masochistic aspect of physical punishment, and many submissives enjoy physical pain to at least some extent, and so the punishment is pleasurable on some level, as well. In CDD, I’m not seeing the enjoyment of the punishment that the wife receives in the way that I see the ways that a submissive enjoys at least some aspect of the punishment from their Dominant. Unless, of course, we’re supposed to think that the wife enjoys it because it pleases her husband and prevents conflicts. But then, it would be more like BDSM.

  3. March 29, 2010 2:18 pm

    There was actually a great article about this recently in, oh, where was it … ah:
    Snyder-Hall, R. Claire. 2008. “The Ideology of Wifely Submission: A Challenge for Feminism?.” Politics & Gender 4(04): 563-586.
    http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=2734128

    Abstract: “This article examines the writings of women who explicitly embrace wifely submission, including those who advocate corporal punishment. Through a close reading of primary sources, the article seeks to illuminate the biblical literalist theology that underlies the ideology of wifely submission and to explain the reasons why many heterosexual women find such an ideology appealing. While many readers might be tempted to dismiss such women as antifeminist, the question of desire that their writing raises goes to the heart of a major challenge faced by contemporary feminist theory, which since the “sex wars” often remains divided between those who accept whatever women choose as feminist and those who stand in judgment of other women’s choices. This article uses the case of wifely submission to examine the problem of desire, the concept of consent, and the benefits and limitations of “choice” discourse within feminist theory. It argues for a middle-ground approach that respects women as agents in their own lives, while also engaging them in reflective conversation about desire and its ramifications.”

    Perhaps not surprisingly, CDD types actively reject any identification with those sordid, secular, sinful BDSM types, apparently.

  4. marybullstonecraft permalink*
    March 29, 2010 6:29 pm

    Britni: I think your reply is really helpful (and informative!) for distinguishing this from BDSM, especially in your discussion of the relationship between CNC, enjoyment and safe words. I think the key to what bothers ME about CDD (I can’t speak for QueenGeorge) is that, unlike in
    dom/sub relationships, there’s no room EVER for any kind of no on the part of the woman. And, importantly for me (and this is the other part of the CDD thing I find particularly troubling), it’s always the woman in the sub role–and because there’s this disavowal of the BDSM CNC framework (or even, I’m betting for many people, knowledge or how alternative arrangements like this might work), it’s easy to reinforce the idea that this is just ‘how things are done,’ instead of a choice that one might consent to or not.

    x. trapnel: Thanks for the tip, that looks like an interesting article.

    • March 29, 2010 10:07 pm

      There are BDSM relationships that involve being a “no limits slave,” in which the submissive/slave can never say no, and has no safeword. This scares me, to a large extent, yet I’ve heard it explained really well by someone that said that she got to know her Master well, limits, likes, dislikes, etc. were discussed before they got involved, and she is his no limits slave because she trusts him implicitly. The way she puts it, “I am a no limits slave, but he is not a no limits Master.”

      Some good posts that have been written about that are here and here that I really like. But again, in reading these posts, the love, trust, and affection that these “slaves” have for their Masters/Daddies/Dominants really comes through their words. I don’t get that from these CDD descriptions at all.

  5. March 30, 2010 9:50 am

    NP, here’s an unlicensed copy for folks w/o access: http://ifile.it/nv0bao4

  6. March 30, 2010 4:38 pm

    Two things, as someone who lectures about BDSM and has been in a BDSM relationship for 17 years now:

    1. “However, you seemed to bristle at the fact that the wife only needs to consent once, but in the BDSM lifestyle, CNC works that way, too, for the most part. You consent to the dynamic and activities once, and it can change at any time.”

    I honestly don’t know anyone who only negotiates CNC once, and then that’s it. The majority of BDSM folks that I know and hang out with may have an over-arching tone to the relationship, but if a scene is going to include things like using “No!” to mean “Yes!” those things get talked about a lot. Repeatedly. Plus, punishing bottoms (subs don’t necessarily bottom and vice versa) isn’t in any way at all nonconsensual. Trust me. When a bottom “breaks a rule” in a scene, that’s consenting to the punishment. Unless the safeword comes out, then it stops or it’s assault.

    I think the lack of safeword and ongoing negotiation is the thing that bothers me the most about CDD.

    2. There is no such thing as a “No Limits” sub. Everyone has limits, even if it’s just, as my husband put it to someone who asked about that once, “So, I can break your arm? No? That’s a limit.”

    There are people who live in 24/7 BDSM relationships, but as most folks will tell you, to live in one of those successfully takes a very particular type of person. I’m not going to say that they are necessarily bad, because I’ve seen at least one relationship like that help someone. But the whole idea makes me exceptionally uncomfortable in general. It’s like taking Co-dependency to zen levels.

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