Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Whether you're exploring Buddhism for the first time or you're already on the path, feel free to ask questions of any kind here.

Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby YesheDron'May » Tue Feb 07, 2012 7:01 pm

Karma Yeshe Gyaltsen wrote:The precepts are designed to guide our actions until we develop the insight to act in a wholesome way intrinsically.

Actions can be evaluated based upon the criteria : Do they further awareness?, Do they further Compassion? If they do then the follow up question is Do they lead to insight?

It is indeed possible that if the first two are present in so-called BDSM activities, then insight could occur. However that insight would shine a light on the unwholesome conditioning that lead to the activity in the first place, so, in that case the activity would be theraputic.

People rarely ask, or acknowledge, " How am I being masochistic in my daily activities?" "To what extent am I being self defeating?" (the irony of this is not lost on me from a Buddhist perspective)

I would propose that the Buddhist path is designed to lead us out of masochistic or self defeating mind states, and their accompanying activities.

If BDSM activities lead to this insight, then they are wholesome. If, however, they act to reinforce these tendencies, though pandering to unconscious mind states they become unwholesome.

I would venture that the vast majority of BSDM activities fall into the latter category.


I agree that the majority of activity's fall into the later catagory , I think its sad that such a rich arena for exploration is not used more often for the benifit of beings . Most people don't want to give up there kinks . All the meditation in the world is just wall papering over what needs to be dealt with but when you are willing to look and really see , thats when real and lasting peace can be found Yeshe
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Bhavana » Wed Feb 08, 2012 4:13 am

YesheDron'May wrote:
Bhavana wrote:
ronnewmexico wrote:There do exist animals that do have sex of the violent sort, perhaps cats may be a example and perhaps in the extreem are black widow spiders whose females devour the male in sexual act.


Pretty neat system! ;)

Without divulging too much information about myself, I will say that I know a bit about the psychology behind this subject - but I know very little about how it relates to buddhism. There are men - and possibly some women - who have the interest in BDSM, but whose wives or girlfriends do not. Lucky (?) is the man who does find a woman (that he doesn't have to pay) that will help him act out these fantasies. The problem is, the fantasy can range from light bondage to some pretty depraved stuff. And it can be like an addiction - always needing stronger and harder stuff to get the same pleasure.

BDSM can be a lucrative business for those who choose to get involved as "mistresses." I am not sure of all that the original poster gets involved in, but I can tell you from experience that the mind set of some of the customers I knew who were turned on and needed this kind of entertainment is pretty dark. However, the money was awesome, and as long as there is no sex (which most slaves don't want anyway) it is legal. Much of it is just game play. I saw it from both ends, and the dominant ones had some fantasies that I won't even repeat here. It was so bad that it got to the point where I would only take the clients who wanted ME to be in charge (though really, I was never "in charge", it was them, who by their payment of me, who were running the show) but even with them, those who do "bottom", the central need to be humiliated in often the most disgusting way speaks to me of someone with some major issues. Maybe they have found a way to live a seemingly normal life around this need, but I tell you, these people were among the ugliest and saddest human beings I have ever known. Again, i am not talking about the fluffy practice of getting tied up or spanked. Compared to what I have seen, that stuff is just milk and cookies to me. I have met some creepy, frightening people - and maybe the most scary thing is that they are not street people, or the weirdo in the alley in the trenchcoat - these are doctors and lawyers and indian chiefs, fathers and politicians...they can be anybody. But my point is that although most of them are not bad people, the overall general feeling one gets from what they do, the essence you feel in the presence of their needs, is dark and ugly. I used to even have nightmares about some of them.

And yeah, lots of people who went on to do sex killings had these types of interests. Ted Bundy was a Peeping Tom in his early days, and he liked violent pornography. In my opinion, this stuff is generally NOT healthy, regardless of your faith.

PS - by the way, this was a loooong time ago that I was involved in this stuff. I am mostly a good girl now. Mostly.

Well now that you have judged everyone and found them creepy and frightening . I guess I should point out that a whole bunch of this stuff is about accepting yourself and others for who you or they are .The first step is loving yourself . Allot of people who adictively repeat sexual paterns are driven by a need to untangle the knot or pain behind it .Somtimes things are not what they seem . Although the end result may be sexual what caused the knot in the first place may not be . Surprisingly this is very often the case . If you try to achieve things spirtually without first sorting through all your knots they will always be there to pull you down and upset your apple cart .It really is important to learn to love yourself and others and sort through what makes you who you are .All the achievements and initiations and empowerments in the world won't add up to a single grain of rice if you can't look yourself in the mirror and love yourself for who you are . Yeshe :soapbox:


Hmmm...I think you are judging me for being judgmental. But yeah, I confess, I do feel sort of judgmental towards grown men whose fantasies involve bondage and sex with 6 year olds, or maybe it's the kicks they got from talking about cutting up a woman's sexual parts with a razor blade. Hell yeah, it gave me the creeps to think they were out there in the world, thinking that way, maybe one of them lives right next door to you, and babysits your kids on Friday nights. You would have no idea if that were the case, and these people ARE out there. Maybe some of them don't get past the stage of fantasizing - but some do. That is frightening to me, that's for sure.

My point was, these are not happy or healthy people, and this sort of fantasizing can be addictive and escalate. Getting involved in this stuff is not always such a great thing, especially at these levels.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby MrDistracted » Wed Feb 08, 2012 9:00 am

[quote="YesheDron'May]The first step is loving yourself . Allot of people who adictively repeat sexual paterns are driven by a need to untangle the knot or pain behind it .Somtimes things are not what they seem . Although the end result may be sexual what caused the knot in the first place may not be . Surprisingly this is very often the case . If you try to achieve things spirtually without first sorting through all your knots they will always be there to pull you down and upset your apple cart .It really is important to learn to love yourself and others and sort through what makes you who you are .All the achievements and initiations and empowerments in the world won't add up to a single grain of rice if you can't look yourself in the mirror and love yourself for who you are . Yeshe :soapbox:[/quote]


Maybe.
But maybe 'loving oneself for who you are' in some cases is also a great way of not dealing with an issue when one has seen that an issue is there.
I've met so many people in the BDSM scene who are very charming, intelligent and all about accepting and loving who they are, lots of talk about exploring their dark sides and pushing boundaries and developing high levels of trust etc. But in those conversations every one knows, however nicely it is dressed up, that what is going on is just the search for kicks and fixes, the stuff addiction is made of.
Personally i'm not shocked about people's kinks or what they get up to sexually. I've seen a lot of colourful things. But I've also heard a lot of charming and gentle words that seek to justify negative and self destructive emotions, and 'loving myself for who I am' or 'just being true to myself' are pretty common ones.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby yadave » Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:25 am

These topics are fun. They make you think and are more visceral than a debate over sutras.

Seems to me the best sex and intimacy is proportional to my vulnerability, openness, awakeness. Perhaps, especially for men who are culturally encouraged not to cry from youth, being tied up helps one feel vulnerable but this seems unnecessary for anyone with a meditation practice, especially if one is lucky to share this practice with a significant other. BDSM raises psychological questions as others have explained. Maybe try dropping the BDSM story lines, then drop your identity, then be your lover, then let us know how that went.

Regards,
Dave.

P.S. There's an interesting guideline I recently came across: if it feels bad it probably is. ;)
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Skydancer » Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:12 am

I didn't think I would stumble upon a topic like this. Anyway, I didn't read all the replies, but I have given this issue a lot of thought and have researched it quite a bit. I had a girlfriend (now ex-) who recently became very interested in BDSM scene. Because I don't have many prejudices and I'm very open to new things I said, "OK, let's try and see how it goes." [Fast forward a few months] From my experience with BDSM as a Buddhist I can tell you it does not work if you wish to achieve any significant level of realization. If you just do meditation and a few prayers here and there I guess it's no big deal.

When you actively engage in BDSM your mind becomes perverted, filled with deviant sexual thoughts, and unstable. You see, BDSM is not like ordinary sex; it's like sex on steroids and it comes with a price (if you're a spiritual person). Some of BDSM practices are quite extreme and these are, I think, in direct conflict with some of the Buddhist precepts (non-harming, tantric respect for women, sexual misconduct). For example, my GF liked to be beaten, degraded, abused, humiliated, raped etc. Before becoming a Vajrayana Buddhist I had been involved in Hindu tantra, and because of that I've always had high regard for women (I see them as embodiment of Shakti/Goddess). It just does not work. How can one uphold Buddhist vows and at the same time beat the shit out of someone so that it leaves bloody marks on partner's body for weeks? And even worse: it leaves marks on your mind. If hard-core kinky sex was so innocent, don't you think spiritual masters would be OK with their students indulging in it? On top of that it is well known that people in BDSM scene are promiscuous and adulterous (= very bad karma). My excursion to BDSM world didn't bring me any good things, except for realization that it is very bad (to put it mildly) for any serious spiritual practitioner. After I quit BDSM my mind became pliable and workable again.

If I remember correctly, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche said in one of his interviews that all beings wish to avoid suffering. Then the interviewer told him that there are certain people in the West that like to suffer. Rinpoche got a funny look on his face and said something like: "OK, except for some very, very strange people." So my advice (which comes form personal experience) would be: stay away from BDSM - it is a road that lead to lower realms. If you want a healthy dose of adrenaline rush go sport climbing or bungee jumping.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Thundering Cloud » Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:08 pm

Like the previous respondent, I haven't read through all of the many replies to this thread, but have given the topic some substantial thought. So, FWIW, here's my $0.02... and my apologies if the perspective I offer is a duplicate of one offered previously.

"BDSM" is a very broad term. Really it is just a name. What it means and what it stands for and what it involves vary from one person to the next. From my perspective, the point of BDSM is not the pain or bondage itself -- these are a means to an end -- the point is to build an unusually deep and instinctual trust between those engaged. The exact mechanisms by which this occurs are difficult to explain, and difficult to understand for those who don't already gravitate to that type of experience. Blanket judgments of BDSM should be seen precisely as such.

More broadly, though, from a Buddhist perspective (as I understand it), any sexual desires are indicators of ignorance, and can be potentially engrossing to the point of largely directing one's incarnations and experience. BDSM is no exception to this. However, as I think of it, the point of spiritual practice is not to suppress such desires, but to uproot them, to eliminate their cause and make them vanish. To someone who sees clearly enough, indulgence vs abstinence in sexual pleasures is a non-issue; they are simply no longer interested in such things, the same way that kids outgrow their old toys.

Having said that, I personally do not see things so clearly as to be disinterested. :tongue: Nonetheless, I would suggest that deliberate abstinence by itself misses the point. :rules: If one is seeking spiritual clarity, it might be helpful to abstain for the express purpose of obtaining a more detached perspective on sexual desires, just as with any other activity or practice one is engaged in. Taking a step back can have a centering effect and improve perspective.

I understand the prohibition of "sexual misconduct" to point more towards things such as rape, voyeurism, etc... that is, misconduct that happens to be sexually motivated.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Skydancer » Sat Feb 25, 2012 11:24 am

@Thundering Cloud, good post. It's similar to what Tilopa said: “The problem is not enjoyment; the problem is attachment.”
What I have noticed in my own life is that as I'm progressing on my dharma path I'm becoming less and less interested in samsaric activity and I ask myself, what could I possibly gain in indulging in such an activity?

the point is to build an unusually deep and instinctual trust between those engaged

But it's good to be aware where this interest in BDSM and in such a relationship stems from. I think @wisdom's theory (see his earlier posts in this thread) is correct in that in most cases interest in BDSM (and/or in other similar practices) seems to have pathological background.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Feb 25, 2012 3:32 pm

the point is to build an unusually deep and instinctual trust between those engaged
I imagine that's the point for non-BDSM relationships too, so why add the "ethically questionable" factor into the equation?
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Thundering Cloud » Sat Feb 25, 2012 11:28 pm

Skydancer wrote:But it's good to be aware where this interest in BDSM and in such a relationship stems from. I think @wisdom's theory (see his earlier posts in this thread) is correct in that in most cases interest in BDSM (and/or in other similar practices) seems to have pathological background.


Thanks for the reply. ^_^ I found @wisdom's theory -- it makes sense that traumatic experiences could result in such tendencies, and a fetishized desire to relive aspects of the trauma. In such a case though, I would add that if practiced properly (IMHO), BDSM is more than merely a means to repeat traumatic experiences in a vicious cycle. The key is that the repeated experience is occurring in the context of people who genuinely love and care for each other's well-being. Because of this (and in fact, contingent upon this), with each repetition the malice of the traumatic experience is gradually disassociated from the specific details of the experience, and the trauma is gradually deconstructed. The catch, of course, is that it is very easy to become attached to the intense emotional releases associated with this deconstruction process, and then BDSM can become the sort of vicious cycle that I think @wisdom was referring to.

I suppose what I'm trying to get at is that the reasons one is drawn to a particular type of experience (in general) to begin with are not quite the same as the reasons that one clings to that experience and makes it cyclic. Suppressing the latter impulses might be helpful to gain a better perspective and get out of the cycle. Suppressing the former impulses can very easily become a form of aversion. And they can be tough to tell apart. So although such fetishes as BDSM are problematic in their way, as @wisdom noted, I don't advocate simple abstinence from them because there are some who could only understand such advocation as preaching aversion. If one's interests in BDSM are not extreme / clearly dangerous, then I favor more of a "proceed with caution" approach, where the critical step is to make sure you're always making progress, learning more about yourself (or, more aptly, learning more about what is not your self, and how it works, and where it comes from...). Take a step back periodically to make sure you're moving forward and not in a circle, and try not to let the heights of emotional intensity sway your judgment for too long, basically. Always try to come back to center.

Another point of confusion, I think, is that in BDSM contexts there is a distinction between "hurting" (defined as: inflicting pain) and "harming" (defined as: inflicting damage), that is often not clear to those who aren't themselves already inclined toward such activities. A loving dominant partner "hurts" their lover but never "harms" them physically or emotionally; their motive is not cruelty. Pain / aversion is applied with precision as a psycho-physiological tool to help their lover transcend personal boundaries, such as traumas. The outward mimicry of those traumas for this purpose can be misleading to the casual observer.

That's my take on it, anyway. ^_^
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Thundering Cloud » Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:35 pm

I realized that the 2nd paragraph on my last reply might not have been phrased very clearly... let me try again:

The causes that draw someone to BDSM in the first place (such as a traumatic experience, under @wisdom's theory) are not quite the same as the causes that make it a cyclic and reinforcing experience (such as attachment to the emotional intensity of the deconstruction of such traumatic experiences). They're related, of course, but not identical. The causes that make it cyclic can actually be uprooted merely by suppressing them, because that breaks the cycle. The causes that lead someone to BDSM in the first place cannot be uprooted this way, but instead must be explored and understood. If they are not understood or are misunderstood, they can only be suppressed / ignored rather than dealt with properly. Because of this, for many the only means of putting "abstinence" into practice is by aversion, by counterbalancing their desires rather than eliminating them. That's why I don't think it makes sense to advocate abstinence, per se; to me it seems better to think of it as an indicator of progress rather than a goal unto itself.

By exploring one's desires for BDSM, one risks becoming engrossed by desires and caught in cyclic causes. Analogously, by loving someone, one risks attachment and dependency. In both cases I'd suggest the key is to mindfully follow the middle path of neither avoiding nor clinging (to the best of one's abilities), and in this way transcend and surpass your circumstances.

On another note, to clarify my earlier reply: My take on the Buddha's prohibition of sexual misconduct is basically as a reminder that sexual desires can have an intoxicating effect, and cause people to "bend the rules" of what they would normally consider proper behavior to justify gratifying those desires. Relatively mild examples of this might be voyeurism or unwanted advances on a coworker, where the perpetrator tends to justify their actions to themselves as harmless or even well-intentioned. In a nutshell, if your sexual desires lead you to do things that you would normally in right frame of mind regard as "wrong" or harmful, then they are disproportionately directing your karma. It's important to make sure that doesn't happen. ^_^

There... that seems a bit clearer... and I think it captures my perspective on the OP, as well. What do you think, does it make sense?
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby ChrisA » Mon Feb 27, 2012 4:34 am

I really don't know if would be considered misconduct if both parties are in agreement though. I am curious about the aspects in regard to the scientific side that shows all animals have this behavior and freely exhibit it. I don't practice BDSM, I would also find it un-Buddhist to abjectly judge a person for doing it. However, If two people emulating the behavior are in agreement with it, then would it ethically constitute any real sense of harm?

My aspect, aside from the scientific perspective of it being a normal human behavior, would be attachment. I would do what I could to learn to generate some form of non-attachment to it. None the less, any way a person wants to get their rocks off (lawfully) is none of my business.

-Chris A.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Nemo » Mon Feb 27, 2012 4:57 am

By your logic murder is normal human behavior. As is BDSM on unwilling participants. Not judging something as pathological as BDSM is at best naive. How is shoving your fist in someones ass sexy? Or making someone hyperventilate in a claustrophobic gas mask and then urinating on them. If you need to resort to this sort of behavior to get your rocks off something is broken. Use some common sense.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Clouds » Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:21 am

I have read this thread, every entry, right after reading (again) Winton Higgins article on Buddhist Sexual Ethics http://www.buddhanet.net/winton_s.htm Some of the characterizations of BDSM or its practitioners in this thread have been remarkable constructs. I was tempted to simply post, please continue to speculate, until you exhaust your need to do so.

But because some of your comments might harm others or yourselves, I feel I have to say more.

I have observed within the BDSM microcosm, the full gamut of human capabilities. In my personal experience, casual, part-time dabblers in BDSM may never get beyond the sex or fetish. However most "serious" BDSM practitioners I know beyond superficialities (several hundred people, over the years) tend to have deliberately considered somethings with depth beyond what I have seen in "vanilla" people, even those for whom ethics or spiritual practice are a priority. Those deep considerations I have observed include
* what is/are: authority; consent; harm OR hurt; self or other; desire, fear, love, or other emotions; responsibility; communication; training, discipline, mindfulness; ethics; compassion, care; intimacy; shame, shaming; honesty of self and with others; abuse; impairment of awareness; attachment; acceptance of diversity in paths?
* what is growth in self awareness and skill?

Superficiality is a potential human failing available to "vanilla" people or even to those practicing sexual abstinence. Perhaps "failing" is too strong a word, I am superficial about car care, I know very little about most things except the things which in my life have engaged my attention.

IN BDSM, among the serious practitioners I have known, it is considered unskillful and unacceptable
* to harm another (regardless of consent or ignorance),
* to take what is not negotiated,
* to fail to develop control and awareness,
* to fail to communicate honestly,
* to undertake risk without informed awareness or mindfulness to avoid harm,
* to use intoxicants while negotiating or practicing with others,
* to fail to address consequences, whether intended or accidental.

Does that sound so foreign, so antithetical to Buddhist practice? Does it still sound so "pathological" in comparison to other social practices for intimacy or sexual expression?

And for those of you who might be wondering - no, I was not physically or sexually abused as a child, precociously sexually active, or traumatized by my
first sexual experiences. :) Thank you for caring. -- Were you?

This might be helpful reading; it is not salacious.
http://www.ipgcounseling.com/sites/ipgc ... y_bdsm.pdf
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Thrasymachus » Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:26 am

Damn, I would have hoped that dharma practitioners would have been above such a thread. I don't do BDSM or know any one who does(at least openly). Probably that is the situation for most here, so why bother.

I notice people online have a huge desire to go back and forth about meaningless hypothetical situations which don't affect them, but life is too short.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Clouds » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:14 am

Thrasymachus wrote:Damn, I would have hoped that dharma practitioners would have been above such a thread. I don't do BDSM or know any one who does(at least openly). Probably that is the situation for most here, so why bother.

I notice people online have a huge desire to go back and forth about meaningless hypothetical situations which don't affect them, but life is too short.


Please do identify what is meaningless, hypothetical, below dharma practitioners, and unworthy of "bother"...
the 3rd precept?
sexual ethics in general?
relationship ethics?
or the several persons here who have found the topic meaningful, real, and worthy of attention?

If all of these are meaningless and only hypothetical to you, below you and unworthy of your time, I would urge you to direct your attention elsewhere than to venting your sense of "squirk" or personal repugnance. Life is indeed short.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby LastLegend » Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:37 am

Please do not do BDSM.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Clouds » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:59 am

LastLegend wrote:Please do not do BDSM.


... I will consider your request / suggestion / whatever-that-was, and also why you may feel that such a response was appropriate.

May all achieve compassion.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby LastLegend » Mon Mar 12, 2012 2:16 pm

:anjali: Regular sex is good enough.
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Mar 12, 2012 3:35 pm

LastLegend wrote::anjali: Regular sex is good enough.
Or bad enough! ;)
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Buddhist ethics and BDSM?

Postby Clouds » Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:13 am

LastLegend wrote::anjali: Regular sex is good enough.

[quote=gregkavarnos"]:Or bad enough! ;)[/quote]

And gays used to be told they should just marry and have sex with straights, that was "good enough" -- except it was not good at all for any persons involved. I think that old advice was unethical and ignorant, and was recommending sexual misconduct, by advising the objectified use of someone else sexually in an effort to conform to "normal".

You give no indication you have read my first post, in which I indicate why some of us frankly find the sexual ethics of most serious BDSM practitioners to be superior to those of most others. In my experience, self awareness, responsibility, care, compassion, and honesty commonly reach levels which are not sought by and are even ridiculed by vanilla people, who mistake marriage or sexual abstinence or enforced silence about sexuality, as sexual ethics.

The Buddha did not prohibit sex nor regulate sex except for those persons for whom in compassion He knew it would impair their progress. The 3rd precept is not intended to create universal celibacy or one pattern of right sexuality, no more than the 4th precept is intended to create no more speech. Nor is the 3rd precept intended generate silence, or unmindful sexuality, or one good way of expressing this aspect of human nature.

If considering or discussing this seriously is harmful to you or your practice, don't do it! But one line rejoinders which seem designed to end conversation for others is not helpful to any of us.

However if you can discuss this topic thoughtfully and with the respect I think we owe each other, I would welcome seeing it.
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