Beating the Boundaries: An Exploration of BDSM as Religioning

Robertson, Alison R (2017). Beating the Boundaries: An Exploration of BDSM as Religioning. PhD thesis The Open University.



The focus of this research is an exploration of BDSM experience as it emerges from the complex interactions of kink activities and relationships. It argues that practices which are ostensibly not religious can be understood as contributing to personal processes of religioning. Enriching debates about living religion, I offer the idea of gestalt as a tool to address the question of how examples of a given practice which is a part of religioning might be distinguished from those where it is not. A gestalt is something felt to be more or other than the sum of its constituent parts; it is an emergent, felt quality that is neither perceptual nor cognitive. A sense of gestalt arises unpredictably from an individual's whole experience of a given phenomenon as it is integrated into their world and, when it appears, it changes the value, significance and meaning of the phenomenon. Thus, kink experience is presented as a crucible where personal outcomes and meaning can be distilled from the concentrated matter therein. I argue that the significance of a given experience is not located solely within any intrinsic quality ascribed to it, rather, it is in what the experiencer subsequently constructs from the refined experience.

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