Humanism, Sex & Bondage

Of Bondage and Humanism

Why are we so turned on by abusive sexual images? Should we be?

My Heart and My Body are Connected - Humanist Sex

My friend and fellow Humanist Toni Van Pelt wrote an essay about her thoughts on the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. (See: http://instituteforscienceandhumanvalues.com/index_htm_files/An%20enforcement%20tool%20final.pdf)

As a Humanist, I am all for individuals exploring their sexuality in whatever way they want. What they do and choose to do with other consenting adults is their business, not mine. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions on whether or not any given particular sexual pursuit will lead to happiness or not.

In the case of bondage and submission, more and more I am turned off by it. By definition submissive relationships are not humanistic. Humanistic relationships are consensual, respectful, compassionate and responsible. 

Yes, I understand that a person can voluntarily consent to a nonconsensual sexual relationship. But that doesn’t change the fact that in the moment, consent is absent.

But it’s not just the question of consent. It’s also a problem for me that submission degrades and debases the individual being sexually submissive (and again – I understand that not all submission is like this – but … a lot of the porn and fantasy on submission IS).  Sexual submission rarely seems like it is respectful or compassionate. Regardless of what the submissive gets out of the relationship, it seems abusive to me.

And in the case of 50 Shades of Grey – the biggest problem is not the sexual games that are played, but that the relationship itself is unhealthy. If someone cannot find sexual pleasure unless they physically hurt another person, something is wrong with that person!

I liked Toni’s essay because it raises the question, have we been conditioned to be turned on by abuse?  Have we been enculturated to not only tolerate sexual violence, but to celebrate it?

Again, I’m not opposed to consenting adults doing whatever it is they want to do together. But I’m also aware that not all pursuits of pleasure lead to happiness – or even to pleasure. If we want people to have happy healthy sexual relationships – don’t we have to define what that means?

Toni asks an excellent question – “What would be truly sexually pleasurable to women without violence and degradation?”  Perhaps we should find out.