March 16-22, 2006
Sex : Paper DollOh God Oh God Oh God
Meet The Defenders, a leather-lovin' offshoot of Dignity USA, the nation's oldest advocacy group for GLBT Catholics. The Defenders have chapters in Philadelphia and nine other cities across the country, and believe that, yes indeed, there's room in this life for both kink and the teachings of Christ.
How does one reconcile a love of God with a love of gay leather sex? Is it impious to spend Saturday night licking the boots of a leather daddy and Sunday morning atoning for your sins? Can theistic dogma and doggy style co-exist?
I asked Jim Madden, owner of Gayborhood leather bar The Bike Stop. Madden, who was raised Catholic but renounced religion the day he got his driver's license, says sex and spirituality needn't be mutually exclusive. "I'm still spiritual, got a fear of the Creator, all that stuff," he shrugs, adding that it's antithetical for a marginalized individual to tear down another person on account of their religious beliefs.
When Philadelphia's Defenders host its annual holiday toy drive at The Bike Stop, Madden says you'd be hard-pressed to separate the sinners from the saints. "It's not like they wear rosaries around their necks," he laughs.
The ball-gagged goyim are hardly alone. As a half-Jew, I'm overjoyed to learn there's also a subculture of leather Yehudim. Take Bob, for example, a gay orthodox Sephardic Jew living in New York. Bob's hobbies include watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, translating Jewish liturgy and wearing prayer shawls with biker boots. He thrills at this juxtaposition, and even views some approaches to consensual master/slave relationships as consistent with Jewish values. Never mind the Oedipal overtones and implicit Jewish mother thing; his Sado-Judaism is both brave and refreshing. (And, I'd like to add, not one-fifth as blasphemous as Madonna's take on Kabbalism.)
Also putting the fun in fundamentalism: Leather Pagans, Episcopal spankers, Latter-Day bondage dommes and Hindu ascetics who think pain is the best way to become one with the Absolute. Yahoo's Leatherchurch discussion group provides a "home for anyone who's felt excluded from communities of spirit." Its moderator, Rebecca Brook, notes that if the Second Coming came today, Jesus would be hanging with all sorts of lefties, sinners and misfits. J.C. would be handing out clean syringes with Prevention Point and probably getting down industro-style with DJ Octopussy.
Some leatherfolks say BDSM and religion are distant cousins, each helping its disciples achieve transcendental ecstasy. People getting high on Jesus report the same sort of berserko-endorphin release as dudes getting caned in a fetish dungeon. Early Christians rocked flagellation as a form of punishment for wayward clergyhell, even my parochial-schooled friends recall stories of ruler-wielding nuns. And was it not the religious zealots that trotted out the "No pain, no gain" T-shirts or, more disturbingly, made a martyr out of Mel Gibson?
Kinky Christians, I salute you. Bondage Jews, you give me hope. And to anyone else who has a sex-positive take on religion, I'll see you in heaven.
Questions? Comments? Are you a Mormon with a polyester fetish? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. No phone calls.