BDSM

What Is BDSM?

BDSM is an umbrella term for a wide range of sexual practices that involve physical bondage, the giving or receiving of pain, submissive roleplay, and/or other related activities. The acronym is a combination of Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism.

Depictions of BDSM-type sexual acts have been found in art and literature from around the world dating back hundreds of years. But until the latter part of the 20th century, many people, particularly in the Western world, believed that an interest in BDSM reflected mental illness, sexual deviance, or a history of abuse or sexual trauma.

More recent research, however, has suggested that people who engage in BDSM (also sometimes referred to as kink) are no more likely to be mentally unwell than the rest of the population. Though BDSM typically involves aspects of pain, humiliation, physical restraint, and/or an apparent lack of control, it is not synonymous with abusive relationships or sexual practices. For those who self-identify as BDSM practitioners, consent from all parties is paramount to the practice, as is open dialogue and clear rules about what is acceptable and what is not.

Many people—including some mental health professionals—still hold negative views about BDSM practices and the people who willingly engage in them. But the rise of the Internet—as well as the explosion of BDSM-related media, including the Fifty Shades books and films—has brought BDSM into the public consciousness, rendered it more socially acceptable, and allowed those interested in it to connect with one another more easily, and engage more openly.

BDSM and Mental Health

To many, the idea of voluntarily being hurt, tied up, or called names during sex is unimaginable; as a result, many have long assumed that those who do desire such practices must have something wrong with them. This may be further compounded in cultures in which speaking openly about sex is frowned upon or that mandate a more traditional view of sexuality.

But recent psychological research has tended to conclude that there is nothing inherently mentally unhealthy about mutually consensual BDSM activities. A national survey of Australian adults, for instance, found that those who participated in BDSM were no more likely than others to have experienced sexual abuse or to be unhappy or anxious; a Dutch study found that BDSM practitioners were actually less neurotic, more conscientious, less sensitive to rejection, and showed greater subjective well-being than a control group.

Many who engage in BDSM within the context of romantic relationships also report that it brings them closer to their partner(s). Part of that benefit, many report, are increased feelings of trust that result from setting and respecting boundaries, as well as the emotional safety that comes from being able to explore less conventional sexual interests without judgment.

Recent Posts