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It has been generally thought that the practice of bondage-discipline, dominance-submission, sadism-masochism (BDSM) is in some form associated with psychopathology. However, several more recent studies suggest a relative good psychological health of BDSM practitioners. The aim of this study was to compare scores of BDSM practitioners and a control group on various fundamental psychological characteristics. For this aim, 902 BDSM and 434 control participants completely filled out online questionnaires. Associations were examined using χ2 tests of independence with φ and Cramer's V as effect size measures and eta or Pearson's correlation. Group differences were tested using analysis of covariance, with partial η2 as effect size measure. A priori contrasts were tested using α = 0.01 to correct for multiple testing; for all other tests we used α = 0.05, two tailed. The study used Big Five personality dimensions (NEO Five-Factor Inventory), attachment styles (Attachment Styles Questionnaire), rejection sensitivity (Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire), and subjective well-being (World Health Organization-Five Well-being Index). The results mostly suggest favorable psychological characteristics of BDSM practitioners compared with the control group; BDSM practitioners were less neurotic, more extraverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, less rejection sensitive, had higher subjective well-being, yet were less agreeable. Comparing the four groups, if differences were observed, BDSM scores were generally more favorably for those with a dominant than a submissive role, with least favorable scores for controls. We conclude that BDSM may be thought of as a recreational leisure, rather than the expression of psychopathological processes. Wismeijer AAJ and van Assen MALM. Psychological characteristics of BDSM practitioners. J Sex Med 2013;10:1943–1952.
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Psychological Characteristics of BDSM Practitioners
Andreas A.J. Wismeijer, PhD* and Marcel A.L.M. van Assen, PhD
*Department of Clinical Psychology, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands; Department of Methodology and
Statistics, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands
DOI: 10.1111/jsm.12192
ABSTRACT
Introduction. It has been generally thought that the practice of bondage-discipline, dominance-submission, sadism-
masochism (BDSM) is in some form associated with psychopathology. However, several more recent studies suggest
a relative good psychological health of BDSM practitioners.
Aim. The aim of this study was to compare scores of BDSM practitioners and a control group on various
fundamental psychological characteristics.
Methods. For this aim, 902 BDSM and 434 control participants completely filled out online questionnaires.
Associations were examined using c2tests of independence with jand Cramer’s V as effect size measures and eta or
Pearson’s correlation. Group differences were tested using analysis of covariance, with partial h2as effect size
measure. A priori contrasts were tested using a=0.01 to correct for multiple testing; for all other tests we used
a=0.05, two tailed.
Main Outcome Measures. The study used Big Five personality dimensions (NEO Five-Factor Inventory), attach-
ment styles (Attachment Styles Questionnaire), rejection sensitivity (Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire), and
subjective well-being (World Health Organization-Five Well-being Index).
Results. The results mostly suggest favorable psychological characteristics of BDSM practitioners compared with
the control group; BDSM practitioners were less neurotic, more extraverted, more open to new experiences, more
conscientious, less rejection sensitive, had higher subjective well-being, yet were less agreeable. Comparing the four
groups, if differences were observed, BDSM scores were generally more favorably for those with a dominant than a
submissive role, with least favorable scores for controls.
Conclusion. We conclude that BDSM may be thought of as a recreational leisure, rather than the expression of
psychopathological processes. Wismeijer AAJ and van Assen MALM. Psychological characteristics of BDSM
practitioners. J Sex Med 2013;10:1943–1952.
Key Words. BDSM; SM; Recreational Leisure; Paraphilia; Personality; Attachment; Subjective Well-Being
Introduction
BDSM is a sexual practice characterized by
suppression, physical restriction, practicing
role playing games, power exchange, and some-
times even the administration of pain [1,2]. BDSM
is an acronym for bondage-discipline, dominance-
submission, sadism-masochism [3], and encom-
passes a broad range of sexual behaviors [4]. The
interests of BDSM participants also diverge: some
are only attracted to a limited range of BDSM
activities (such as bondage), while others may have
broad and more flexible BDSM preferences [5].
Various roles can be distinguished during BDSM
sessions, such as the dominant role (or the “dom”;
the person that exerts control), the submissive role
(“sub”; the person that gives up control), or
switching between both roles depending on the
occasion (“switches”).
Although most laypersons think of BDSM as a
form of erotic behavior, most BDSM practitioners
participate in BDSM activities for sensory pleasure
and not so much for erotic pleasure [6]. BDSM is
often misconceived to be “all about pain” [7],
whereas it is more about games and play charac-
terized by power, and humiliation. An implicit
assumption in much past and recent BDSM
research has been that the practice of BDSM is in
some form associated with psychopathology [8,9],
and that participants are vulnerable to abuse [10].
Reprints are not available from the authors.
1943
© 2013 International Society for Sexual Medicine J Sex Med 2013;10:1943–1952
This view stems from the psychopathology/
medical-model contention at the end of the 19th
century [9,11], and is still predominant in some
contexts. For instance, BDSM is to some degree
still pathologized in the upcoming fifth edition of
the American Psychological Association Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual because it will consider
sexual masochism and sexual sadism as paraphilias,
and as paraphilic disorders if they cause distress
or impairment to self or others (http://www.
dsm5.org).
There is, however, also evidence pointing at the
relative good psychological health of those
involved in BDSM activities [5,12–14]. These
findings led Newmahr to conclude that BDSM
should be regarded as a recreational leisure activity
rather than a deviant/pathological activity [6].
Notwithstanding, little has changed since Moser
stated that “the lack of understanding of BDSM
has lead to many misconceptions as well as fear,
which may further alienate those who are active in
the lifestyle” [15] (in Stiles and Clark [16], p. 159).
Considering calls for research on how BDSM is
experienced by its participants [10], and that “the
stigma attached to BDSM is tremendous and the
myths and negative press associated with BDSM
are rampant” ([16], p. 159), it is striking that little
is known about the basic psychological character-
istics of this subgroup. In what way do BDSM
practitioners differ from a non-BDSM control
group? To answer this question we assessed, using
self-reports, the five most important basic dimen-
sions of personality (the Big Five), rejection sensi-
tivity, attachment style, and level of subjective
well-being in a sample of BDSM participants and a
sample of non-BDSM controls, and compared
their scores.
First we review earlier studies that investigated
several demographic, psychosocial, and psycho-
sexual characteristics of BDSM participants. Then
we turn our focus to the main variables of this
study: the basic psychological dimensions of
personality, attachment, rejection sensitivity, and
subjective well-being. Our focus will be on the
associations between these variables and the
BDSM roles we consider in this study (Dom,
Switch, Sub) and the non-BDSM control group.
As there is hardly any theory or empirical findings
regarding the associations between practicing
BDSM and the psychological variables examined
in this study, all associations except one are exam-
ined exploratively. The exception is the relation
between BDSM participation and subjective well-
being, which has been studied previously.
Demographic, Psychosocial, and Psychosexual
Characteristics of BDSM Participants
Various studies were conducted mapping the
sociodemographic characteristics of BDSM prac-
titioners [2,14,17]. Arguably the most important
empirical study on demographic and psychosexual
characteristics of BDSM participants was con-
ducted by Richters et al. [5] Using representative
data drawn from a national Australian survey, they
assessed a host of sociodemographic and sexuality
variables such as likelihood of a history of sexual
coercion, sexual preferences and experience, and
subjective well-being. From the 19,370 surveyed
respondents, 1.8% (2.2% of the men and 1.3%
of the women) reported participation in BDSM
activities. Comparing these individuals with
respondents that had no BDSM experience
showed that BDSM practitioners were not more
likely to have been coerced into sexual activity in
the past and that BDSM participation was not
associated with elevated levels of psychological
distress or sexual difficulties. Others reported
similar results [18–20]. These findings are impor-
tant because they assessed BDSM and non-BDSM
samples on both nonclinical and clinical variables.
However, to the best of our knowledge, no study
has mapped the basic and normal personality traits
and attachment styles of BDSM participants.
Considering scores on normal and basic human
characteristics of BDSM practitioners and com-
paring them to non-BDSM controls allow for a
better estimate of the normality or abnormality of
the BDSM participants relative to non-BDSM
controls.
Five-Factor Model of Personality
In the last two decades, an increasing volume of
research has examined personality factors in sexu-
ality [21]. The relation between personality and
sexual practices is usually studied using narrow
personality traits (such as self-esteem, sensation
seeking, etc) that are limited in generalizability, as
opposed to using broader traits that give a more
general overview of one’s psychological makeup
[22]. A variety of personality traits and theories
have been proposed over the last decades, yet there
is no theory of personality that has received more
consensus than the five-factor (Big Five) model of
personality. The model consists of the higher-
order dimensions: Neuroticism, Extraversion,
Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Con-
scientiousness [23].
The Big Five dimensions have to some
extent been studied in relation to normal sexuality.
1944 Wismeijer and van Assen
J Sex Med 2013;10:1943–1952
Neuroticism was negatively related to both marital
stability and marital satisfaction [24]. Extraversion
was positively associated with sexual attractiveness,
and Agreeableness was negatively associated with
erotophilic disposition (describing oneself as
obscene and vulgar) [21]. Openness to Experience
positively predicted sexual attitudes and knowl-
edge, and Conscientiousness was negatively asso-
ciated with sexual liberal attitudes and promiscuity
[25]. Actual participation in BDSM activities likely
requires awareness and acceptance of one’s own
sexual orientation. BDSM participation may also
be regarded a liberal sexual choice involving new
and unusual experiences [6]. Given aforemen-
tioned findings, it is likely to find meaningful rela-
tions between the Big Five and BDSM behavior.
However, as there are no published empirical find-
ings linking personality directly to BDSM, we
choose to examine the associations exploratively.
Rejection Sensitivity
A narrow personality trait that may be of particular
importance to a BDSM population is rejection
sensitivity. Rejection sensitivity is characterized by
the overestimation of the possibility to be rejected
by others and of the emotional impact that will
occur following rejection [26]. Feldman and
Downey found that rejection sensitivity is the
expression of both the avoidant and anxious pat-
terns of insecure attachment behavior [27]. As
being rejected, dominated, and abused or raped
are common themes of BDSM practices and
fantasy role-play, it is relevant to examine how
rejection sensitivity scores are distributed over the
BDSM subgroups in comparison with the control
group.
Attachment Style
Attachment is the persistent and emotionally sig-
nificant affectional bond that individuals form with
others [28]. One’s attachment style develops in the
first interactions with significant others during
infancy and childhood, and subsequently guides
stable predictions about future interpersonal and
sexual interactions and instances of possible rejec-
tion [29,30]. There are various ways to classify
attachment styles based on the distinction between
secure and insecure attachment. A widely used
instrument to assess five dimensions of attachment
is the Attachment Styles Questionnaire (ASQ)
[31]. This questionnaire assesses five dimensions
of attachment that can be combined into three
attachment styles: Secure Attachment (consisting
of the Confidence in Relationships dimension),
Avoidant Attachment (consisting of the Discom-
fort with Closeness and Relationships as Second-
ary dimensions), and Anxious Attachment (Need
for Approval and Preoccupation dimensions).
Research by Hazan et al. [32] showed that
Secure Attachment is related to experiencing plea-
sure in a variety of sexual behaviors and openness
to exploration in terms of sexual behavior. In addi-
tion, securely attached people are more likely to
give a partner control during sexual intercourse, as
they are more comfortable and experienced with
relationships involving mutual trust and has been
shown to be negatively associated with engaging in
sex to please one’s partner [33], thereby reducing
insecurity [34,35]. Given these relations between
attachment and sexual practices, it is obvious to
compare attachment scores of BDSM participants
with those of a non-BDSM control group.
Subjective Well-Being
It is generally thought by the lay public that
BDSM practitioners may be psychologically
damaged and even dangerous [5,36]. However,
studies examining the psychosocial functioning of
BDSM practitioners found that BDSM partici-
pants exhibited higher, rather than lower, levels of
subjective well-being compared with non-BDSM
practitioners [5,12–14]. Indeed, male BDSM prac-
titioners (but not female) were significantly less
likely to report psychological distress [5]. We
therefore hypothesize that BDSM participants will
score higher on subjective well-being than the
control group.
Materials and Methods
Participants and Procedure
The BDSM respondents responded to a call
posted on the largest BDSM web forum in The
Netherlands, http://www.bdsmzaken.nl, to partici-
pate in the study. A superficial introduction to the
study was provided online (a study mapping the
psychology of the practice of BDSM), and those
interested in participating could click on a link
leading to the online questionnaire. Respondents
could anonymously fill out the questionnaire
including scales concerning psychological charac-
teristics, a question on their preferred role during
BDSM (dom, switch, or sub), and some additional
questions on BDSM behavior. In total 1,571 sub-
jects started filling out the questionnaire, of which
902 subjects (57.4%) had no missing values. This
subsample was used for analysis and consisted of
Exploring BDSM 1945
J Sex Med 2013;10:1943–1952
464 males (51.3%) and 438 females (48.6%). Men
(M =45.5, standard deviation [SD] =11.12) were
significantly older than women (M =37.05,
SD =10.8) (t[900] =11.5, P<0.001, two tailed).
Respondents of the control group responded to
a call to participate in online secrecy research.
People were made aware of our study by a call in a
popular Dutch women’s magazine (the “Viva”), in
newspaper interviews of the first author on his
secrecy research, via the website of the university
or via http://www.geheimenvan.nl, a Dutch
website that allows visitors to post their personal
secrets. We did not disclose the purpose of the
study in any of these calls and simply called it a
“study about human behavior.” Those interested
could click on a link leading to an online test
battery that contained the same scales that were
administered to the BDSM participants, a control
question asking if the repondent has had any
BDSM experience, and various other scales that
are not used in this study. The questionnaire was
designed so that one could only proceed to the
next question if the preceding question was
answered. Of the 2,775 participants who started
filling out the test battery, 448 (16.1%) had no
missing values on the scales used in this study. Of
these, 14 respondents indicated having had previ-
ous BDSM experience (3.1%) and were excluded
from the analyses. The final group consisted of
434 participants of which 129 were male (29.7%)
and 305 were female (70.3%). The male controls
(M =40.3, SD =14.4) were significantly older
than the female controls (M =34.1, SD =13.0)
(t[432] =4.3, P<0.001, two tailed).
Measures
Attachment was assessed using the Dutch version of
the ASQ [31]. The ASQ consists of 40 items that
are rated on a five-point Likert scales ranking from
1 (“totally disagree”) to 5 (“totally agree”). The
ASQ asks about perceptions on themselves and
relationships and has five subscales (Confidence in
Relationships, Discomfort with Closeness, Rela-
tionships as Secondary, Need for Approval, and
Preoccupation). Using these five subscales, the
three major attachment styles can be constructed:
Secure Attachment (using the Confidence in
Relationships subscale), Avoidant Attachment
(summing the subscales Discomfort with Close-
ness and Relationships as Secondary), and Anxious
Attachment (summing the subscales Need for
Approval and Preoccupation). An item example of
Relationships as Secondary is “My relationships
with others are generally superficial.” Guttman’s
l2showed good reliability for both groups
(BDSM/controls) for the five subscales (0.72 to
0.83 for BDSM, and 0.71 to 0.83 for controls), as
well as for the three styles Secure Attachment
(0.77/0.82), Avoidant Attachment (0.86/0.86), and
Anxious Attachment (0.86/0.84). Guttman’s l2is,
just as the more widely known Cronbach’s a,a
lower bound estimate of the reliability of a scale,
but l2yields both a higher and more accurate
estimate of the reliability compared with Cron-
bach’s a[37].
Personality was assessed using the NEO Five
Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI), the 60-item short
version of the NEO Personality Inventory [38].
The NEO-FFI consist of five 12-item subscales:
Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeable-
ness, and Conscientiousness. The items are rated
on a five-point Likert scale ranking from 1 (“not at
all applicable to me”) to 5 (“very applicable to
me”). An item example of Neuroticism is “I rarely
feel lonely or sad.” The NEO FFI displayed good
reliability: Guttman’s l2showed good reliability
for both groups on the five dimensions, ranging
from 0.71 (for Conscientiousness in the control
group) to 0.88 (for Neuroticism in the control
group).
Rejection sensitivity was measured with the
Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire (RSQ) [26].
The RSQ assesses anxious expectations of rejec-
tion from significant others and consists of 16 sce-
nario’s that are rated on a six-point Likert scale
ranking from 1 (“not at all”) to 5 (“very much”).
For each scenario, the respondent indicates his or
her degree of concern or anxiety about the
outcome, as well as the perceived likelihood of
that outcome. A scenario example is “How
worried or anxious will you be if your classmate
won’t lend you his notes?” and subsequently “Do
you expect that this person will lend you his
notes?”. The RSQ showed good reliability: Gutt-
man’s l2was 0.89 in both the BDSM and the
control group.
Subjective well-being was measured using the
World Health Organization-Five Well-being
Index (WHO-5) [39]. By means of five items, par-
ticipants were asked how they had felt in the last 2
weeks, expressing their feeling using answer cat-
egories “not at all” (score 0), “sometimes” (score
1), “less than half of the time” (score 2), “more
than half of the time” (score 3), “most of the time”
(score 4), “constantly” (score 5). Guttman’s l2for
the WHO-5 was 0.85 in the BDSM group and
0.87 in the control group.
1946 Wismeijer and van Assen
J Sex Med 2013;10:1943–1952
Data Analytic Strategy
First, the associations between the background
characteristics gender, age, and education were
examined using c2tests of independence and jand
Cramer’s V as effect size measures. Then the asso-
ciations of background characteristics with psy-
chological characteristics were examined using
eta (for education) or Pearson’s correlation (for
gender and age). Associations among psychologi-
cal characteristics were also examined using
Pearson’s correlation. All these analyses were
conducted for the BDSM and control group
separately.
The association between gender and BDSM
roles in the BDSM sample was tested using the c2
test of independence. The effect of group (control,
Sub, Switch, Dom) on psychological characteris-
tics, controlled for the effect of gender, age, and
education, was tested using analysis of covariance
(ANCOVA), with partial h2as effect size measure.
Preliminary analyses showed that nonlinear effects
of age and interaction effects with education were
not significant, hence these effects were not
included in the analyses. If the gender ¥group
effect was significant, the ANCOVA was carried
out for men and women separately, otherwise the
ANCOVA was carried out on the data of both
sexes combined. Finally, seven a priori contrasts
were tested comparing the BDSM group with the
control group (1), each of the BDSM groups with
the control group (3), and the BDSM groups
among each other (3).
All analyses were carried out using SPSS
(PASW) 17.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA),
using two-tailed tests. The seven contrasts were
tested using a=0.01 to correct for multiple
testing, whereas all other tests were tested using
a=0.05.
Results
The proportion of female respondents in the
control group (71.2%) was higher than in the
BDSM group (48.6%) (c2(1) =71.1, P<0.001,
j=0.22). The average age of the participants in
the control group (35.8 years, SD =13.4 years) was
lower than in the BDSM group (41.4 years,
SD =11.8 years). Whereas the average age in the
BDSM group was comparable with the average
age of the Dutch population (41.1 years), the SD
of age was smaller in both groups than in the
general population. Finally, the distribution of
educational levels was different across the two
groups (c2(3) =27.8, P<0.001, V =0.14), with
more participants of the BDSM group having had
higher education (70.1%) than the control group
(61.3%). Both groups were more highly educated
than the general Dutch population (34%).
The first three rows and columns of Table 1
present the associations of the background charac-
teristics gender, age, and education with the psy-
chological characteristics in the control and
BDSM group, respectively. Many associations
were significant, although most effects were small
(0.1) to medium (0.3). Because the background
characteristics were different across the two
groups and had an effect on the psychological
characteristics, we controlled for their effects
when testing the effects of BDSM group on the
psychological characteristics.
The scores on the attachment scales were
mostly strongly associated to each other (some
correlations of 0.5 or even stronger). Associations
among the personality scales were small to
medium, with the exception of the strong negative
correlations between Neuroticism and Extraver-
sion (-0.55 and -0.44), and Neuroticism and Con-
scientiousness (-0.39 and -0.40), in the control
and BDSM group, respectively. Some of the per-
sonality scales were also strongly correlated to the
attachment scales. Whereas Openness to Experi-
ence and Conscientiousness had generally small to
medium correlations with the attachment scales
(<0.3), Agreeableness, Extraversion, and in par-
ticular Neuroticism, had strong correlations with
some attachment scales (0.5 or higher). Rejection
Sensitivity was strongly associated to the attach-
ment scales Neuroticism and Extraversion, but
weakly to the other personality scales. Finally,
Subjective Well-being had medium to strong
negative associations with the attachment scales
and Rejection Sensitivity, a strong negative asso-
ciation with Neuroticism, a medium to strong
positive association with Extraversion, and a small
to medium association with Agreeableness.
The association of BDSM role and gender was
strong and significant (c2(2) =202.15, P<0.001,
V=0.47). Among the men 33.4%, 18.3%, and
48.3%, were Sub, Switch, or Dom, respectively,
whereas these percentages were 75.6%, 16.4%,
and 8% for women. Hence, relatively more men
assumed the dominant role and relatively more
women assumed the submissive role.
Columns 3 to 6 of Table 2 present the averages
on the psychological characteristics for all groups.
The result of the test of the effect of group after
controlling for the effects of sex, age, and gender,
is presented in the penultimate column, with the
Exploring BDSM 1947
J Sex Med 2013;10:1943–1952
corresponding effect size (Partial h2) presented in
the last column. No effect of group on attachment
scales Discomfort with Closeness and Preoccupa-
tion was found. The effects on the other attach-
ment scales were small (0.006) to medium (0.038),
with the exception of the effect on Need for
Approval for males, which was medium to strong
(0.089). BDSM group had an effect on all person-
ality scales, with small (e.g., 0.008 on Extraversion)
to medium (with 0.045 being the strongest effect
on Openness to Experience) effect sizes. Finally,
effect of group on Rejection Sensitivity was small
to medium (0.022) and small on Subjective Well-
being (0.008).
Table 3 summarizes the results of seven a priori
contrasts comparing the adjusted averages of
groups on psychological characteristics after con-
trolling for the effect of gender, age, and educa-
tion. For reasons of transparency, only results of
significant contrasts are presented. No results are
shown for Discomfort with Closeness, Avoidant
Attachment, and Preoccupation because no con-
trast was significant for these three attachment
scales at the 0.01 level.
Overall, from the 56 contrasts on attachment
variables, 25 were significant and all of them
showed the same pattern; if scores were different,
then the control group had the lowest scores, fol-
lowed by the subs, the switches, and finally the
doms with the highest scores on attachment. For
instance, the female control group scored lower on
Confidence in Relationships compared with the
female doms, switches, subs, and the collapsed
female BDSM group, whereas the male doms
scored higher than the male subs (first row
Table 3).
Regarding personality, 18 out of 35 contrasts
were significant. The BDSM group scored higher
than the control group on Extraversion, Openness
to Experience, and Conscientiousness, and lower
on Neuroticism and Agreeableness. For Neuroti-
cism, the doms scored lower than all other groups,
whereas the other groups did not differ from each
other. On Extraversion, the only difference we
found was that subs were more extravert than the
control group. The control group scored lower
than each BDSM group on Openness to Experi-
ence, and both the switches and doms scored
higher than the subs. With respect to Agreeable-
ness, the doms scored lower than both the subs and
the control group.
On Conscientiousness both the subs and doms
scored higher than the control group. Concerning
Rejection Sensitivity, the control group scored
Table 1 Correlations between variables for control group and BDSM group separately
_1 _2 _3 _4 _5 _6 _7 _8 _9 _10 _11 _12 _13 _14 _15 _16 _17
Gender_1-0.20-0.12* 0.02 -0.170.140.11* -0.06 0.140.15-0.01 0.150.220.03 0.03 -0.11
Age_2-0.36— 0.370.23-0.11* -0.17-0.23-0.18-0.15-0.22-0.260.02 -0.07 0.150.22-0.150.10*
Education_30.18 0.13 0.15* 0.12* 0.14* 0.12 0.15* 0.14* 0.190.150.260.190.150.07 0.15*
Confidence in Relationships_40.01 0.09 0.14-0.57-0.42-0.64-0.56-0.58-0.66-0.670.650.01 0.350.37-0.660.51
Discomfort with Closeness_50.04 -0.06 0.09* -0.59— 0.550.480.460.930.520.49-0.500.09 -0.52-0.170.40-0.35
Relations as Secondary_6-0.19-0.03 0.09 -0.370.50— 0.420.830.810.440.39-0.33-0.07 -0.62-0.06 -0.34-0.28
Need for Approval_70.13-0.220.15-0.560.510.47— 0.640.520.890.72-0.42-0.09 -0.28-0.290.54-0.46
Preoccupation_80.06 -0.08* 0.13-0.500.440.320.61— 0.480.920.69-0.31-0.02 -0.350.690.47-0.53
Avoidant Attachment Style_9-0.05 -0.06 0.09 -0.580.920.790.570.45— 0.550.51-0.490.03 -0.63-0.150.43-0.37
Anxious Attachment Style_10 0.10-0.160.15-0.590.530.430.880.910.56— 0.77-0.40-0.06 -0.35-0.30-0.56-0.55
Neuroticism_11 0.21-0.200.17-0.580.390.260.660.630.390.72-0.55-0.05 -0.32-0.390.62-0.68
Extraversion_12 0.11-0.08* 0.10* 0.57-0.47-0.26-0.32-0.32-0.45-0.36-0.44 0.02 0.300.36-0.500.44
Openness to Experience_13 0.13-0.01 0.250.16-0.10-0.26-0.19-0.08* -0.19-0.14-0.06 -0.15 0.02 -0.18-0.02 -0.02
Agreeableness_14 0.260.03 0.09 0.30-0.41-0.46-0.11-0.21-0.49-0.18-0.180.300.13— 0.17-0.290.26
Conscientiousness_15 -0.10* 0.120.08 0.30-0.10-0.01 -0.28-0.21-0.08* -0.27-0.400.29-0.06 0.05 -0.350.26
Rejection Sensitivity_16 0.15-0.100.15-0.580.420.300.590.530.430.630.59-0.35-0.07 -0.12-0.29-0.43
Subjective Well-being_17 -0.100.120.110.53-0.36-0.24-0.46-0.52-0.36-0.55-0.620.460.08* 0.190.35-0.45
*P<0.05, P<0.01. P<0.001
Notes. Upper right triangle presents correlations between variables for the control group; lower left triangle presents correlations between variables for the BDSM group.
BDSM =bondage-discipline, dominance-submission, sadism-masochism
1948 Wismeijer and van Assen
J Sex Med 2013;10:1943–1952
higher than the BDSM group, with both the
control group and subs scoring higher than the
doms. Finally, the BDSM group scored higher on
Subjective Well-being, with the doms scoring
higher than the control group.
Discussion
With this study we aimed to contribute to
the BDSM literature that until now has shown
a predominant focus on sociodemographic, psy-
chosocial, and sexual characteristics of BDSM
practitioners. Information on core psychological
characteristics of BDSM practitioners is missing,
in spite of the ongoing and heated debate of
whether BDSM participation should be regarded
as deviant, pathological psychosexual behavior, or
rather as a recreational leisure activity. The aim of
this study was therefore to compare a sample of the
most commonly distinguished groups of BDSM
participants (subs, switches, and doms) with a
sample of non-BDSM participating controls on
several normal and basic human characteristics,
such as the Big Five personality, attachment, rejec-
tion sensitivity, and subjective well-being.
Regarding the major personality dimensions,
our findings suggest that BDSM participants as a
group are, compared with non-BDSM partici-
pants, less neurotic, more extraverted, more open
to new experiences, more conscientious, yet less
agreeable. BDSM participants also were less rejec-
tion sensitive, whereas female BDSM participants
had more confidence in their relationships, had a
lower need for approval, and were less anxiously
attached compared with non-BDSM participants.
Finally, the subjective well-being of BDSM par-
ticipants was higher than that of the control group.
Together, these findings suggest that BDSM prac-
titioners are characterized by greater psychologi-
cal and interpersonal strength and autonomy,
rather than by psychological maladaptive charac-
teristics. However, effect sizes were generally weak
to medium, and differences among BDSM roles
were observed. Overall, a picture emerges of the
Table 2 Means and standard deviations for all dependent variables for all groups,§including F-tests and partial h
BDSM Control FPartial h2
Variable** Sub Switch Dom
Confidence in Relationships
F=5.45, P=0.001
28.05 (5.64) 28.93 (6.02) 30.11 (4.77) 29.16 (5.97) 3.23* 0.016
28.93 (5.64) 30.36 (4.89) 31.06 (5.88) 27.48 (6.27) 7.460.029
Discomfort with Closeness
F=0.44, P=0.723
31.35 (7.79) 30.20 (7.19) 30.68 (6.72) 32.14 (7.34) 1.66 0.004
Relations as Secondary
F=2.12, P=0.096
13.94 (4.77) 13.50 (4.61) 13.38 (4.32) 13.77 (4.54) 6.620.014
Need for Approval
F=3.96, P=0.008
19.99 (5.66) 18.80 (5.18) 15.96 (4.45) 19.08 (4.91) 19.230.089
19.77 (5.35) 18.21 (5.18) 16.57 (5.47) 20.72 (5.15) 8.740.034
Preoccupation
F=1.53, P=0.204
23.40 (6.29) 22.85 (6.19) 21.77 (5.93) 23.05 (6.14) 1.71 0.004
Avoidant Attachment
F=0.716, P=0.543
45.29 (10.97) 43.69 (10.20) 44.06 (9.65) 45.90 (10.52) 2.91* 0.006
Anxious Attachment
F=2.82, P=0.038
43.25 (11.25) 41.64 (9.89) 37.82 (9.20) 41.11 (9.49) 7.780.038
43.24 (10.33) 41.07 (10.29) 37.77 (10.71) 44.17 (10.30) 4.470.018
Neuroticism
F=1.52, P=0.208
30.31 (8.56) 29.23 (7.47) 24.41 (6.51) 31.26 (9.38) 16.160.033
Extraversion
F=1.77, P=0.151
40.40 (7.69) 40.15 (8.04) 40.05 (7.67) 39.00 (8.33) 3.73* 0.008
Openness to Experience
F=2.26, P=0.079
43.57 (7.13) 44.99 (6.09) 44.92 (6.48) 41.98 (6.99) 22.370.045
Agreeableness
F=1.18, P=0.318
44.86 (5.99) 43.64 (6.46) 41.92 (6.15) 45.30 (5.93) 8.650.018
Conscientiousness
F=1.12, P=0.340
44.71 (7.14) 43.60 (7.72) 45.77 (7.33) 42.17 (7.69) 9.380.019
Rejection Sensitivity
F=0.52, P=0.671
5.41 (2.52) 4.87 (2.12) 4.19 (1.80) 5.43 (2.44) 10.250.022
Subjective Well-being
F=0.81, P=0.488
14.54 (5.19) 14.66 (5.04) 16.02 (4.94) 13.69 (5.64) 3.76* 0.008
*P<0.05, P<0.01, P<0.001
§Unadjusted means and standard deviations are presented. In case of a significant group ¥gender interaction, results are presented for both genders.
The F-test and partial h2are of the test of the effect of group after controlling for the effects of gender, age, and education. Each F-test has df1=3, and a very
high df2.
**The F-test and significance correspond to the test of the interaction effect of group ¥gender, after controlling for the effects of group, gender, age, and education.
Each F-test has df1=3, and a very high df2.
BDSM =bondage-discipline, dominance-submission, sadism-masochism; Dom =dominant; Sub =submissive
Exploring BDSM 1949
J Sex Med 2013;10:1943–1952
psychological characteristics of the average BDSM
practitioner that, compared with non-BDSM
practitioners, is quite favorable. These findings
corroborate earlier findings [5,18,20,40].
Attachment processes are mostly genetically
determined in combination with diffusely acting
experiences over a prolonged period of time in
early childhood [41]. A popular assumption
regarding attachment and BDSM is that the pref-
erence for BDSM activities is likely the result of
having a history of traumatic (sexual) experiences
or being generally insecurely attached [9]. This
view is particularly strongly held regarding female
BDSM participants and especially regarding
female subs. Our results contest this view; if dif-
ferences in attachment were found, the control
group had the lowest attachment scores, whereas
the doms scored highest. In addition, the subs
scored either similar to or better than the control
group on attachment. Hence we conclude that our
data do not support the persistent assumption that
BDSM is associated with inadequate developmen-
tal attachment processes (either because of a
history of sexual violence or because of other
reasons). We do not have an explanation for
the higher attachment scores of doms compared
with subs.
Our results replicate earlier studies showing
that BDSM participation is associated with a
higher level of subjective well-being [5,18,40].
One’s subjective well-being has been shown to be
affected by being conscient about one’s own sexual
identity and desires and being able to adequately
and explicitly communicate these to sexual part-
ners [42]. As BDSM play requires the explicit
consent of the players regarding the type of actions
to be performed, their duration and intensity, and
therefore involves careful scrutiny and communi-
cation of one’s own sexual desires and needs, this
may be one possible explanation for the positive
association between BDSM practitioning and sub-
jective well-being.
Several limitations warrant caution when inter-
preting these findings. First, although the online
BDSM questionnaire was accessible for everybody
interested in participating in the study, likely the
far majority of respondents responded to the
call at http://www.bdsmzaken.nl, the largest
Dutch online community for BDSM participants.
This may have caused a possible selection bias.
Table 3 Results of a priori contrasts in the ANCOVAs
BDSM vs.
Control
Dom vs.
Control
Switch vs.
Control
Sub vs.
Control
Sub vs.
Switch
Sub vs.
Dom
Switch vs.
Dom
Confidence in Relationships Dom
t=2.92
BDSM Dom Switch Sub
t=4.59t=2.99t=3.85t=2.69
Relations as Secondary Control Sub
t=3.32t=4.23
Need for Approval Control Sub Switch
t=4.55t=7.19t=4.34
Control Control Control Sub Sub
t=4.82t=3.81t=3.87t=2.92t=3.15
Anxious Attachment Style Sub Switch
t=4.63t=2.84
Control Control Sub
t=3.25t=2.97t=2.74
Neuroticism Control Control Sub Switch
t=4.09t=6.68t=6.14t=4.23
Extraversion BDSM Sub
t=3.18t=2.86
Openness to Experience BDSM Dom Switch Sub Switch Dom
t=7.72t=7.45t=5.57t=3.93t=2.88t=4.54
Agreeableness Control Control Sub
t=4.17t=5.05t=3.65
Conscientiousness BDSM Dom Sub
t=4.21t=4.06t=4.63
Rejection Sensitivity Control Control Sub
t=3.04t=4.77t=5.22
Subjective Well-being BDSM Dom
t=2.80t=3.30
P<0.01, P<0.001
Notes. Only significant results are reported. Absolute t-values are presented, and the group that scored highest.
BDSM =bondage-discipline, dominance-submission, sadism-masochism; Dom =dominant; Sub =submissive
1950 Wismeijer and van Assen
J Sex Med 2013;10:1943–1952
Similarly, the control group consists mainly of par-
ticipants that responded to a call on http://
www.geheimenvan.nl, a Dutch website where
visitors can anonymously post their biggest secrets
for others to read and comment. The majority of
the visitors of this site are women, which is
reflected in the relatively high percentage of
females in the control group. Hence, caution must
be made before extrapolating the findings to the
general population. We note, however, that it may
never be possible to sample BDSM practitioners
and controls from a comparable population.
Finally, only a limited number of broad BDSM
roles was distinguished in this study (subs,
switches, doms), whereas a host of other role dis-
tinctions could have been made, based on type of
role or specific BDSM activity that is practiced
such as bondage and/or discipline, dominance
and/or submission, including or excluding physical
pain or sexual intercourse, etc. Future research
may further refine the knowledge regarding the
personality profile of BDSM participants by
adopting a more comprehensive measure of per-
sonality, such as the NEO-PI-R [38], a 240-item
questionnaire that not only assesses the five
dimensions of human personality, but also six addi-
tional traits for each dimension.
We showed that the psychological profile of
BDSM participants is characterized by a set of
balanced, autonomous, and beneficial personality
characteristics and a higher level of subjective
well-being compared with non-BDSM partici-
pants. These results, in line with the more recent
literature on psychosocial and clinical characteris-
tics of BDSM participants [43], falsify the view
that BDSM practitioners are psychologically dis-
turbed or characterized by maladaptive psycho-
logical processes or even psychopathology, and
suggest it is unlikely that having experienced one
or more traumatic (sexual) experiences is a major
cause for developing a preference for BDSM
activities. We therefore conclude that these results
favor the view of Newmahr [6] that BDSM may be
thought of as a recreational leisure, rather than the
expression of psychopathological processes.
Corresponding Author: Andreas Anne Johannes Wis-
meijer, PhD, Department of Clinical Psychology,
Tilburg University, Prisma Building, P106a, Warande-
laan 2, PO Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Nether-
lands. Tel: +31 (13) 466-2988; Fax: +31 (13) 466-2067;
E-mail: andreas.wismeijer@icloud.com
Conflict of Interest: The authors report no conflicts of
interest.
Statement of Authorship
Category 1
(a) Conception and Design
Andreas A.J. Wismeijer; Marcel A.L.M. van Assen
(b) Acquisition of Data
Andreas A.J. Wismeijer
(c) Analysis and Interpretation of Data
Marcel A.L.M. van Assen; Andreas A.J. Wismeijer
Category 2
(a) Drafting the Article
Andreas A.J. Wismeijer; Marcel A.L.M. van Assen
(b) Revising It for Intellectual Content
Andreas A.J. Wismeijer; Marcel A.L.M. van Assen
Category 3
(a) Final Approval of the Completed Article
Andreas A.J. Wismeijer; Marcel A.L.M. van Assen
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... BDSM, an acronym for bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism, refers to a sexuality associated with a wide range of "unconventional" stimuli such as the administration of pain, role playing, deliberate humiliation and physical restriction (Rye et al., 2015;Wismeijer & van Assen, 2013). Individuals engaging in BDSM can be classified as a dominant (exerting control over a partner), a submissive (relinquishing control to a dominant) and a switch (alternating between both roles depending on a situation) (Wismeijer & van Assen, 2013). ...
... BDSM, an acronym for bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism, refers to a sexuality associated with a wide range of "unconventional" stimuli such as the administration of pain, role playing, deliberate humiliation and physical restriction (Rye et al., 2015;Wismeijer & van Assen, 2013). Individuals engaging in BDSM can be classified as a dominant (exerting control over a partner), a submissive (relinquishing control to a dominant) and a switch (alternating between both roles depending on a situation) (Wismeijer & van Assen, 2013). Despite being widely diverse in practices, it appears that the administration of pain is a distinctive feature of BDSM as evidenced in the fact that the five most popular activities are bondage, whipping, spanking, nipple torture and paddling respectively (Connolly, 2006). ...
Thesis
Cosmetic surgery is a thriving industry worldwide and Thailand is one of the market leaders. However, research which has explored issues concerning cosmetic surgery largely focuses on that of females. Moreover, it revolves around surveying clients, either quantitatively or qualitatively, rather than investigating the text which they consume. Even among the studies examining such text, they are predominantly conducted with the text published in offline media and within a Western context. Therefore, the current study seeks to address such knowledge gaps by concentrating on online texts which male clients possibly consult for cosmetic surgery in Thailand. Since it is required by law that cosmetic surgery be conducted within authorised medical establishments, Thai cosmetic hospitals play a vital role in pursuing particular discursive strategies to communicate with clients. It is those strategies which the present study intends to investigate. To be exact, it intends to answer the following research questions: (1) What discursive strategies are employed by Thai cosmetic hospitals to propagate the ideologies about cosmetic surgery for masculinity enhancement? and (2) How do such strategies operate? To answer the first question, the present study employs Van Dijk’s conception of the ideological square. It consists of how to: (1) emphasise our good things, (2) de-emphasise our bad things, (3) emphasise their bad things and (4) de-emphasise their good things. This framework is useful in providing a general principle of how hospitals are likely to communicate with clients. However, an additional issue may arise with regard to, for example, in which way hospitals actually emphasise the good things of cosmetic surgery. Such an issue connects with the second research question. Hence, the other framework, Taylor’s six-segment message strategy model, comes into play by functioning as a specific tool to answer it. The model consists of the ego, social, sensory, routine, acute need, and ration message strategies. Methodologically, the present study utilises a corpus-assisted discourse analysis which amalgamates a quantitative method (the identification of significant keywords and collocations) into a qualitative analysis (the investigation of data extracts containing those significant lexical items). The corpus consists of the English version of webpage content belonging to 20 Thai hospitals with a total number of 73,168 words. The findings reveal that, firstly, to emphasise the good things of cosmetic surgery, hospitals implement the ego, social, sensory and ration strategies. Secondly, to de-emphasise the bad things of post-operative complications, hospitals employ the ration strategy. Thirdly, to emphasise the bad things of not undergoing cosmetic surgery, hospitals adopt the ego strategy. Fourthly, to de-emphasise the good things of other means which are perceived as a rival to cosmetic surgery, hospitals pursue the ego and ration strategies. Overall, a preponderance of these strategies revolves around the notion of masculinity, which is conceptualised as the ideology concerning how to feel like a man, act like a man and have a body touted as a man. The current study makes a theoretical and practical contribution. Theoretically, it is among the first which triangulates the discourse and the communication frameworks to analyse gender-related discourse pertaining to cosmetic surgery for masculinity enhancement in the Thai context. Practically, it hopes to raise awareness and promote media literacy among male clients about how cosmetic hospitals manifest and medicalise the ideology of masculinity via their online platforms.
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The grievance fueled violence paradigm encompasses various forms of targeted violence but has not yet been extended to the theoretical discussion of sexual violence. In this article, we argue that a wide range of sexual offenses can be usefully conceptualized as forms of grievance fueled violence. Indeed, our assertion that sexual violence is often grievance fueled is unoriginal. More than 40 years of sexual offending research has discussed the pseudosexual nature of much sexual offending, and themes of anger, power, and control – themes that draw clear parallels to the grievance fueled violence paradigm. Therefore, we consider the opportunities for theoretical and practical advancement through the merging of ideas and concepts from the two fields. We examine the scope of grievance in the context of understanding sexual violence, and we look to the role of grievance in the trajectory toward both sexual and nonsexual violence, as well as factors that might distinguish grievance fueled sexual from nonsexual violence. Finally, we discuss future research directions and make recommendations for clinical practice. Specifically, we suggest that grievance represents a promising treatment target where risk is identified for both sexual and nonsexual violence.
... Various authors point out that submission (adaptation, accommodation and subjugation to the other) does not imply pathology. 37 However, symptomatic submission has been shown to correlate with depressive symptoms [38][39][40] and also appears to be related to attachment disorganization and/or control strategies. 41 It has additionally been related to associated behaviors of hostility, 38,42 social anxiety, 43 guilt 44 and even paranoid beliefs. ...
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Background: There is a degree of affective interdependence that is considered normal and only becomes pathological if it causes excessive suffering, both for the subject and for those close to them. Our objective was to introduce and psychometrically validate a short and effective affective dependency scale, the Affective Dependence Scale (ADS-9). Methods: We used a sample of 762 participants (clinical: emotional dependent subjects n = 212, comparison: non-emotionally-dependent addicted subjects n = 272, and general population n = 278) to assess the factor structure, the psychological construct validity and the measurement invariance for the ADS-9 by means of independent exploratory factor analyses for each sample group and subsequent multigroup confirmatory factor analyses. Results: Our results confirm that ADS-9 is a psychometrically consistent instrument, with construct and clinical validity, as well as configural, metric and scalar invariance across different sample groups (clinical, comparison and general population). A hypothesized two-dimensional structure was confirmed by means of factor analyses. Both sub-scales of this abbreviated form, Submission and Craving, showed a good agreement with the previously validated Relationships and Sentimental Dependencies Inventory (IRIDS-100). Conclusion: The ADS-9 is a brief instrument that appears to reliably detect the dependent and pathological components of affective dependence. It consists of two sub-scales, describing Submission (adaptation, accommodation, and subjugation) and Craving (imperative need for the other with the presence of disturbing states). We suggest that it is a versatile scale that may be useful for clinicians and researchers.
... La présence d'un faible lien entre l'attachement anxieux et la domination sexuelle soutient les résultats de TenBrink et al. (2021). Les résultats contradictoires deWismeijer and van Assen (2013), auprès d'un échantillon de personnes pratiquant le BDSM (attachement anxieux plus faible), pourraient souligner la spécificité de cette sous-culture.La présence de quelques liens faibles avec la violence au sein de la relation intime supporte également la distinction entre les DPS et les comportements de violence. Un intérêt envers la domination sexuelle est faiblement lié à davantage de perpétration de violence sexuelle et physique au sein de la relation intime. ...
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“BDSM” refers to various forms of sexuality that incorporate restraint, pressure, sensation, training, and elements of both erotic and non-erotic power exchange between the involved parties. BDSM’s ideas and development were not accepted by the majority and are often associated with mental illnesses. However, recent western research suggested that BDSM practices may benefit its practitioners. This study aimed to unearth the life wisdom of three female kinky in Hong Kong. It employed a narrative inquiry informed by narrative therapy techniques. Results concluded four themes based on the development of their life wisdom through engaging as a submissive in a D/s relationship. The four themes were: (1) enriching identity in BDSM relationships, (2) shaping a preferred locus of control, (3) gaining sexual autonomy through BDSM and (4) healing with BDSM interactions. This study provided insights, implementations, and suggestions for social work practice and research in BDSM contexts.
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