On Vulnerability, Sex, and Women’s Erotica

How Women's Erotica Distorts True IntimacyUp in my neck of the woods, in Ontario, our license plates switched over a couple of years ago to the format four letters and three numbers. And every time a particular community office in the Ministry of Transportation needs more license plates, they get sent 1000 at a time–a complete run of a certain four letter pattern. So about 10 years ago Belleville, where I live, got AFVL. Drive around town and you’ll see all kinds of AFVL license plates.

Well, Ontario has worked through all of the As and we’re now on Bs. And Kingston, close to our little town, got sent the BDSM license plates. I’m not sure why someone higher up allowed them through. Surely somebody must have said, “Ummm, perhaps that’s not the best combination.” But there you go. And right next door to my aunt is a family with a huge mini van and a ton of kids and a license plate that begins with BDSM.

(For those of you who may not know why this is so bad, BDSM are the acronyms for a particular sexual practice that involves bondage and inflicting pain. And I’m not getting any more detailed than that.)

Anyway, the thought of all these minivans driving around advertising this got me thinking last week: BDSM has really become mainstream. It used to be a fetish, whispered about in “bad” circles. Certainly no one talked about it in polite company. It was taboo. It was twisted. It was warped.

Yet it is also the primary plotline of most women’s erotica today, including the harmful 50 Shades of Grey series, which I have written about at length.

Why? What’s the allure?

Now I do think a part of the allure to that series is that deep inside people like “traditional” roles. We women like having a man who is a MAN, who leads, and men like having a woman who submits. And hence the current BDSM acts this out in the extreme, because we’re not getting it in relationship. That’s been written about at length, and I won’t add to that commentary here, because I have something slightly different to add to the conversation, and it’s this:

Deep inside, we know that sex is supposed to be a deeply intimate experience.

It is not supposed to only be physical; there’s supposed to be an emotional and spiritual element to it as well. We’re supposed to truly “know” each other when we make love. In fact, it’s part of “knowing” each other. Trust and vulnerability, then, become part of a healthy, intimate sexual relationship. In order for it to work well, we have to be able to trust our spouse, and to be vulnerable enough to tell him what we actually want. We have to be able to open up. And that’s all part of what makes sex great.

There’s that one person that you are totally vulnerable with. You bare your soul with them in a way that you don’t with anyone else. It’s completely private, and completely exclusive, and completely vulnerable.

We’re hard wired for that.

But what happens if sex becomes only about the physical, and not about the other connections? If sex is taken outside of the marriage context, then there’s no more real spiritual intimacy because there’s no commitment. And that means that at heart there can’t be true vulnerability. You don’t know if you’re connected to this person for life, so you don’t have real trust.

That doesn’t mean that people who aren’t married never really enjoy sex; obviously people can have a truly pleasurable time physically. But there will always be something missing.

And what is that something? It’s that trust and vulnerability connection.

Where does BDSM come into all of this? The whole theme of BDSM is that you become truly vulnerable to someone else. You take on a uniquely vulnerable position with one other person–something you don’t do with others. There’s a level of trust there. The difference is that it’s focused almost entirely on the physical. And as you become physically vulnerable, it takes on an emotional and spiritual bond, too–even if that bond is warped.

So why is BDSM so attractive to so many?

I think it’s because people are searching for that vulnerability and trust connection.

And when they can’t find it in their sexual relationship (because it really is only available in a committed marriage), then they take on a pseudo-vulnerability and a pseudo-trust by confining sex to the physical, and not emotional or spiritual, realm. It’s trying to experience that immense closeness that we all know sex is supposed to give us without actually committing to someone for life.

I’m not saying that married people never engage in this, by the way; I’m just saying that the reason that it has become so attractive to so many is because it attempts to fill a very real sexual need and drive that God gave us in a whole other way. It’s as if everybody knows there’s something missing with run of the mill sex outside of marriage, so they’re trying to search for that missing something without actually doing it the way that God said to in the first place: keep sex inside of a committed, marriage relationship.

It’s pseudo-vulnerability and pseudo-trust.

And it’s transforming the whole way that sexual relationships are now seen in the wider culture.

I just find it sad that it’s all become so mainstream, because going down that road will never really fill and satisfy. Pseudo-vulnerability cannot replace true emotional and spiritual vulnerability. That you can only get from marriage, and unlike BDSM, that truly is a beautiful relationship.


  1. So honestly, here’s what drives me batty about the BDSM discussion: Women who would utterly freak at anything that reeks of sexism, glass ceiling, treating women like sex objects, etc. give this practice a pass because it’s in sexual realm. I just don’t get that. If it’s not okay to whip a woman two steps down the hallway, why is it okay in the bedroom?

    I’m not naive. I’ve researched these practices quite a bit. I logically understand the appeal of them. But I simply don’t understand why the slightest mistreatment of a woman is bad form…unless she’s on a pile of sheets and has a “safe word.”
    J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) recently posted…Swimsuit Shopping (without Weeping and Wailing)My Profile

  2. Satan is a master of lies, deceit, and counterfeits, and clearly, sex outside of a one-man, one-woman marriage (and everything that goes with it) is one of his biggest “projects.” I think even as believers, we often don’t fully comprehend the domino effect of consequences when God’s design is mocked and treated like a disposable product.

  3. ButterflyWings says:

    I don’t know if it’s just the headache I’ve had all day and I’m not following, but Sheila are you saying BDSM is bad within marriage if both members of the couple enjoy it?

    • ButterflyWings, as I said in my book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I am very reluctant to call different sexual practices “sin” within marriage if they are between just two people, do not involve a third party (or porn, which is a third party), and are mutually agreed upon. I don’t think the Bible speaks specifically to many of these things, and so I don’t want to be legalistic and call things definitely sin. That’s not my job.

      At the same time, we are told in 1 Corinthians that “everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” I believe that many things that couples currently do in the bedroom, including BDSM, would fall under this umbrella. If sex ultimately is to help us feel truly intimate, and truly like one, then I don’t think a sexual practice that involves hurting or humiliating another can be part of that.

      Sex is very closely linked with our souls. It is supposed to be truly beautiful. God created intimacy to be an amazing, beautiful, awesome experience. But because it is so close to our souls, it is also the most common place of attack. And so much of sex has become warped so that it is no longer beautiful. It may be exciting, but it isn’t beautiful. It isn’t something that brings us closer to each other or increases intimacy, but instead it becomes something that pulls us in to a different view of intimacy than the one that I think God intended.

      That’s my concern. And I’d just encourage every couple to take an honest look at what they do in the bedroom, and ask, “are we really making love? Or are we just chasing the next, biggest excitement?” Because research has shown that true excitement, and real physical pleasure, is far more often tied to a truly intimate experience than it is to pushing boundaries to the extreme in the bedroom.

      I’m not against excitement at all (and I’m working on a product to spice up the bedroom); but I am worried that much of what we pass off as just “exciting” actually changes the very nature of intimacy.

      • What if your husband doesn’t know how to make love? What if he gets quiet, not as involved, and it’s just physical? Weve entertained erotica for so long in our marriage that my husband thinks that’s making love or at least more enjoyable than making love. He is not very emotional or lovy dovy. How can I encourage my husband to be more about “making the love” than the raunchy sex were used to?
        Jill recently posted…Breaking Soul TIesMy Profile

  4. Shelia,
    Here’s my two cents. Disconnect. The reason why those books are appealing to women is they just want to quite frankly escape their lives, dishes, diapers, duty. Leaves many women feeling very unsexy, purposeless, bored. The movie Unfaithful portrays that well, I am not encouraging any of you to see that movie but many years ago while I was living life for me and not for Jesus I did see it, I related to her on every level, I wanted to feel alive, free. While I loved my husband, I had a greater sex drive than he, I wanted it more as an escape from our life but I didn’t get it, sex with him was still in our house, on our bed, with our kids banging on the door. See, I knew him well, there was no mystery anymore, our sex life wasn’t spontaneous, flirty, sexy, it was scheduled, squeezed in, I felt like we didn’t excite one another anymore, been there, seen that. I didn’t want to be understood or even make love, I just wanted that raw passion you get with a stranger, one who doesn’t leave his crap on the floor or the one who you don’t stress about how your going to pay the bills, take out the trash, pay for the kids college. I wanted disconnect from real life. That sound sad? In that context it is sad, however its the truth. Most women I know that read, watch that stuff feel that way. There is a nature in us that wants to wander and even flat out run from Gods design for sex. Somewhere deep down in side we think He’s holding out on us, we let our emotions rule us and decide matters taken into our own hands will satisfy. We are looking for escape because we don’t trust God. The world has left us feeling entitled and we go off in pursuit of it to our own detriment. I know it because I lived it and then slapped a Jesus bumper sticker on it in attempt to justify it. After all, a little porn or erotica would only improve our sex life, wrong! It left me dissatisfied with the man God blessed me with and our marriage paid the price.Thankfully, I now live a surrendered life to Christ and that means everything is surrendered. I’m not burdened by my life anymore, I’m blessed by it. I pursue my husband daily out of a genuine desire to please him, love him, serve him, know him. My identity isn’t wrapped up in him or my emotions, its in Christ. I can now give freely to my husband all of me because its in my possession now. I am complete in Christ. My body belongs to my husband and seeing how I’m “creative” I spice things up more than he does, but its always in a way that would not offend the Holy Spirit who lives in both of us. Being whole in Christ and living fully surrendered creates incredible intimacy within a marriage. What a fool I was to think I knew better than God;)

    • Marie, your response has just blessed my heart and spoken to many issues in my life at the moment. I really pray I can move from here “See, I knew him well, there was no mystery anymore, our sex life wasn’t spontaneous, flirty, sexy, it was scheduled, squeezed in, I felt like we didn’t excite one another anymore, been there, seen that. I didn’t want to be understood or even make love, I just wanted that raw passion you get with a stranger…” to here “I can now give freely to my husband all of me because its in my possession now. I am complete in Christ. My body belongs to my husband and seeing how I’m “creative” I spice things up more than he does, but its always in a way that would not offend the Holy Spirit who lives in both of us. Being whole in Christ and living fully surrendered creates incredible intimacy within a marriage”. Its a very long story but I am glad there is someone who has been through it and came out of it.

    • Wow. Just wow. That couldn’t have spoke to me more clearly. So… HOW did you get from one place to the other. I want to be where you are now. I want to desire my husband. I want to surrender to Christ. I’m a believer and I’ve been a faithful wife for 18 yrs. I’m just going through the motions. I want to be a better wife and better person.

  5. Spot on, sister girl. The trust part of the BDSM counterpart is the most alluring aspect of the whole thing, but the “kink” of it, is what lures men in to participate. It’s been my experience when a woman simply explains what kind of sex she wants, she doesn’t often get it. Maybe it’s because she’s putting too many stipulations on it. Who knows? Now I like to get lost in fantasy as much as the next person and I think that it can be a healthy element in a relationship as long as it does not supercede, essentially, what the marriage relationhip is about. Thank you for addressing this.
    Jill recently posted…Breaking Soul TIesMy Profile

  6. Wow did I need to read this. My hubby and I are really struggling in this area. He had a one night stand almost 5 years ago and recently I caught him replying to craigslist adds. I feel convicted to not give up on our marriage but at the same time feel so angry because I have never turned him down, EVER. I am always available and I would do anything he wanted. I have always been the initiator/aggressor with the higher sex drive and I just could not believe he was looking elsewhere. But I know there are other issues involved in this that I am not revealing here. But I need prayer in this area because in my head the way to keep him is to spice it up and that means doing whatever he wants and quite frankly what I want as a result of reading so much erotica and viewing it too. It definitely is not healthy and while we may have some mind blowing moments, there is no intimacy. I feel obsessed about this right now in my marriage & would love to be delivered from this sin and for my marriage to get back on track to true intimacy.

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  1. […] than making it a beautiful thing. I’ve known of couples, for instance, who have decided to try reading erotica together, because at least that’s not looking at porn. But erotica almost always involves couples who […]

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