It’s official- BDSM players are normal

The Journal of Sexual Medicine recently published some Australian research showing that BDSM practitioners are no more likely than their vanilla counterparts to have been coerced into sexual activity and are no more likely to be unhappy or anxious. In fact, men who engage in BDSM scored significantly lower on a scale of psychological distress than other men. Plus, the folks who had explored BDSM were more likely to have tried a wide range of sexual activities, which is a crucial part of discovering your sexuality and personal likes & dislikes. Here’s a link to the abstract.

While the survey was taken in Australia and therefore might show different results than a similar survey in the US might (although I doubt it), it’s wonderful to finally have peer-reviewed research that demonstrates what folks in the BDSM world have long known. Engaging in BDSM doesn’t mean that you’re crazy, sick or a freak.

Part of the problem that SM players face is that there are, in fact, people who do engage in clinically sadistic or masochistic behaviors that cause harm to themselves or others. People who are unfamiliar with SM often confuse the consensual forms of SM with abuse. But here’s a hint- consent of everyone involved. For some reason, medical and mental health professionals often miss out on that.

I don’t expect this research to dramatically change the minds of everyone who’s convinced that BDSM is bad. But it’s an amazingly important first step.

For a really good look at the issues surrounding BDSM from a clinical perspective, I highly recommend the book Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures.

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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