Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type

Restricted to Claremont Colleges Dissertation

Degree Name

Religion, PhD

Program

School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Patrick Q. Mason

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Tammi J. Schneider

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Karen Jo Torjesen

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Amanda Pumphrey

Abstract

Submission is an integral part of evangelical identity and is interconnected with theology, gender, and sexuality. The way in which evangelical women interpret and negotiate their positionalities in relation to submission is often perceived as paradoxical which is similar to outsider perspectives of those who are submissive within the framework of S/M among BDSM communities. This dissertation weaves together a transdisciplinary textual analysis and application of feminist and queer theories and theologies to (re)examine and (re)frame submission more broadly as well as evangelical wifely submission through the lens of submission in BDSM. Throughout each chapter, the evangelical practice of wifely submission is analyzed through submission among BDSM communities and Dom/sub relationship dynamics.

Within this dissertation, I offer three key points that provide new insights to the intersections of the fields of religious studies, women’s and gender studies, and sexuality studies that are evident within my research presented in each chapter. First, we must expand our understanding of submission within both religious studies and feminist studies frameworks which is done through my interpretation of queering submission and examining what it means to queer submission. Second, submission cannot be separated from its sexual connotations and those scholars who discuss submission and evangelicalism cannot fully do so without acknowledging the obvious sexual implications regarding wifely submission. Third, including an analysis between the similarities regarding submission as constructed through wifely submission within an evangelical context and submission as developed within the context of BDSM is essential in further expanding our notions of submission. My constructive, applied method of queering submission allows us to (re)conceptualize submission and place two distinctive, seemingly opposite (sub)cultural groups into conversation with one another. This process reveals that there are direct similarities in how critics negatively discuss submission with regards to its combined religious, gendered, and sexual nature and how many scholars inadequately discuss the sexual implications of submission or ignore it altogether.

Throughout the chapters, I discuss how submission functions among intercommunal and intracommunity discourses and debates and how submission is gendered, feminized, and sexualized. I analyze submission through (Christian) sexual ethics and gender-based violence, discuss the convergence of wifely submission and BDSM within cultural constructions on sexual shame and deviance, and intentionally read the evangelical practice of wifely submission as a form of BDSM. I conclude by presenting the results of queering submission and reframing wifely submission by highlighting what this type of research project means for the future of scholarship, relationality, and sexual ethics. Lastly, I propose that this innovative and nuanced (re)reading of wifely submission forces scholars to (re)consider and (re)frame their own assumptions regarding evangelical women, feminism, and submission. Queering (wifely) submission means to strategically interfere with the previous interpretations of these categories in order to intentionally disrupt the cishetero-patriarchal narratives and frameworks that have deeply influenced our past and present understandings of submission. Therefore, queering submission moves us toward an ethic of submission and new understandings of (wifely) submission through the ways in which submission is constructed and implemented in BDSM.

Available for download on Friday, August 08, 2025

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