This is part six of a seven part series on
LGBTQ+ themes and the Bible
The seven themes are:
- The Closet/Coming Out
- Queer/Alternative Family
- Transition & Transitioning
- Drag & Disguise
- Non-Procreative Sex Positive Stories
- Breaking Norms: Gender/Social/Class
Photo by Fausto García on Unsplash
Many religious leaders have demonized the sex LGBTQ people enjoy. They have shamed us about our sexual desires and lovemaking and sexual pleasure. They have told us sex is only for procreation. They are wrong.
Sex has so many purposes in our lives. Straight elderly couples who can no longer procreate can still recreate, and they do! Sex gives pleasures, deepens intimacy, and releases endorphins that promote our mental and emotional health.
Sex and erotic play take many forms. It is not all about penetration and producing offspring. In looking at LGBTQ-friendly Bible stories, I choose to include stories about sex in the Bible–particularly non-procreative, non-penetrative sex.
The story of Delilah and Samson provides a steamy, erotic, and intimate glimpse into the romance and sex acts of two people in a taboo relationship. Their relationship is forbidden by their families and by their countries.
In the telling of the story and in many subsequent sermons by Christian ministers, Delilah gets a bad rap, but I feel empathy for Delilah. Consider Judges 14 & the threats Samson’s first wife faced from her male leaders.
On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband to explain the riddle to us, or we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?”
Delilah has to answer to this same bunch of thugs, who think nothing of destroying her and her family if she doesn’t comply.
The writer portrays Delilah as a nagging wife. She wears Samson out. She’s judged as being more loyal to her country then to her partner. They present her as yet another difficult woman in the text, like the wives of Potiphar & Lot. But the extreme pressure she is under gets overlooked.
In Judges 16 what unfolds is a series of play dates between Samson and Delilah. They are being monitored the entire time. The eyes of voyeurs are always on them. Like in a spy movie where the room is bugged and and the characters constantly watched on video, these two have to be careful about what they say and do.
” The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, ‘See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.'”
Delilah must find out the secret of Samson’s strength. We can only imagine what happens to her if she cannot produce this intel for her countrymen. Over the next several scenes, Samson and Delilah engage in a series of BDSM sex play.
Delilah says to Samson, ‘Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”
The first night he says: If anyone ties me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man. He then goes to sleep, or pretends to sleep, and she ties him up.
With men hidden in the room, she calls to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snaps the bowstrings as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered. (verse 9)
The next time they are together he says, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” Again he “falls asleep,” she ties him up, and “Samson the Philistines are upon you!”
The next time he says, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric and tightened it with the pin.
Notice we are getting closer to the truth, and their play in the bedroom becomes even more intimate as she leans over him and weaves his hair. Is it possible she whispers to him things the people spying on them cannot hear? But once again “The Philistines are upon you!” and we learn this is not the secret of his strength.
Delilah’s countrymen are likely losing patience. Maybe they are no longer offering a reward; instead they probably threatened her and her family with torture and death.
As an actor, I know you can say a line in multiple ways. The director may tell you to play Delilah as a nagging wife: “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.”
A good director though will look for tension in the text–say the line but have your voice, body, eyes say something else. “Samson, it’s no use. I can’t find a way out of this. I don’t want to betray you. We are trapped.”
The writer of Judges inserts, “With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.” Sure but if he is so sick of her, why does he keep going back? What is he looking for? Why is he reneging on his responsibility to rule Israel and instead pursues this relationship with a Philistine woman? Besides the sex, what does he find in Delilah’s home and company that draws him?
Finally, “So he told her everything. ‘No razor has ever been used on my head,’ he said, ‘because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.'” He becomes vulnerable in her hands. He gives away his secret knowing that she will have no choice but to play her part and cut his hair.
I wonder how the intimacy of s&m leads to a deeper intimacy. Under constant surveillance & state pressure on Delilah, Samson reveals his secret knowing the consequences. Did their sex play lead to self-sacrifice?
The participants who attended the LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Hour provide more examples of Non-Procreative Sex Positive Stories
- Ruth & Boaz
- Mary & Joseph (Particularly in Roman Catholic traditions, the church teaches Joseph and Mary did not have procreative sex yet they remained a couple. What sort of physical intimacy did they share?)
- David & Jonathan (One way to read this relationship is on of deep affection and physical intimacy. They spent time together, said vows to each other, and enjoyed each other physically.)
- Song of Songs (An extraordinary celebration of erotic love.)
- Jesus and the Sex Worker (In the text the disciples and people in the house are scandalized by Jesus allowing the sex worker to give him a foot massage–a highly erotic and intimate act.)
What about you? What stories from the Bible do you want to add to the list of Transition/Transitioning stories. Leave you thoughts in the comments below.
Many thanks to Wild Goose and the folks who attended the workshop!
IF you want to hear more alternative readings to the Bible, check out the monthly podcast I co-host with Liam Hooper: The Bible Bash Podcast! available wherever you listen to podcasts.
Featured Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash