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Play, Pain and Religion

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Play, Pain and Religion is the first consideration of the practices associated with BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism and masochism) in the context of religious studies scholarship. The focus is an exploration of BDSM experience as it emerges from the complex interactions of kink activities and relationship. Experiences categorised by BDSM practitioners as ‘religious’ and ‘spiritual’ are commonly described in the same terms, and given the same value, as descriptions of experiences which are not so categorised. Play, Pain and Religion examines practitioner accounts of BDSM experience alongside those practitioners’ personal identification with these terms. This book argues that the significance of a given experience is not located solely within any intrinsic quality ascribed to it but in subsequent constructions around the nature and meaning of the event. It examines some such constructions, moving away from absolute definitions of religion or religions to consider the religious as an active process of meaning-, world- and story-making. By using this ‘religioning’ framework, this book examines ways in which BDSM can potentially be used in such processes. Play, Pain and Religion is a valuable resource for scholars of religion and of kink, for people interested in the complexities of ascribing meaning and value to human behaviour, and for kinksters interested in their own kink and why it is they do what they do.

Published: Jul 27, 2021

Section Chapter Authors
List of Figures Alison Robertson
Chapter 1
Introduction: Processes of Religioning Alison Robertson
Chapter 2
Setting the Scene Alison Robertson
Chapter 3
What it is that we do: Experiential Accounts of Play Alison Robertson
Chapter 4
The Play Experience (1): Making Play-Spaces Alison Robertson
Chapter 5
The Play Experience (2): Inside Play-Spaces Alison Robertson
Chapter 6
Subcultural Identity: Kink in Context and in Clothes Alison Robertson
Chapter 7
Kinky Bodies Alison Robertson
Chapter 8
Exploring the Edge Alison Robertson
Chapter 9
Kink Ritualizing Alison Robertson
Chapter 10
Conclusion: Gestalt Kink, Gestalt Religion Alison Robertson
Appendix A
A Kink Glossary Alison Robertson
Appendix B
Research Participants Alison Robertson
End Matter
References Alison Robertson
Index Alison Robertson


Broadens the approach to the study of BDSM by emphasizing the need to encounter BDSM on its own terms and beyond its associations in popular imagination, namely, that its primary function is sexual gratification. ... Engaging and accessible, and it will especially interest non-specialists given its breadth of subject matter.
Reading Religion