In a recent episode of his Ask Pastor John podcast, pastor and theologian John Piper weighed in on whether it is permissible for married couples to engage in sexual role-playing.
The discussion came in response to three anonymous listener questions, which included some sensitive details. One listener explained her moral dilemma, saying, “My husband likes to use role-playing in the bedroom, and various levels of bondage and dominance…To the far extreme, he likes to fantasize that he is raping me.”
The listener went on to say, “But he’s a very nice person outside of the bedroom. He only asks if he can play out the fantasy in bed. What should I do?”
Another question came from a husband: “Pastor John, my wife recently told me she was unfaithful to me and hasn’t had an emotional connection to me in sex or in general since we got married three years ago. She wants to engage in domineering sexual acts that I see as sinful. She thinks I’m too boring in bed…How do I respond?”
In his response, Piper did not address the concerns of sexual consent or possible domestic abuse, which the details of these questions seemed to reveal. Instead, he focused more broadly on the topic of sexual role-playing, denouncing any form of it.
“First, fantasizing sin is sin. Playing out a situation or behavior in your mind because of its pleasure that is sinful—a sinful situation or a sinful behavior if you did it outwardly—is sin in your mind,” Piper stated, rooting his argument in the words of Matthew 5:27–29, where Jesus preaches that looking on a woman with lustful intent is as sinful as adultery.
Piper explained, “In other words, Jesus’ standard of holiness is not merely a standard of bodily deeds, but also of mental delights.”
Piper offered examples to illustrate what he meant. “If you mutually agree to playact a rape, it is sin. If you mutually agree to pretend you are having sex in Times Square with a thousand people watching, it is sin. If you mutually agree to pretend that you are two strangers who happened upon each other in the woods and have sex, you are sinning.”