Up 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.

How Women's Erotica Distorts True Intimacy

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.

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