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Objectives: We theorize that sexual arousal by dominance and submission may be connected to a reproduction strategy respecting a reached social dominance rank (a common reproduction strategy in socially living mammals), while the preference for "bondage" may be derived from an opportunistic strategy when being unable to compete for hierarchic rank (an alternative reproductive strategy that co-occurs frequently with the above-named main strategy). The answers to questions dealing with hierarchy in character should correlate exclusively with sexual arousal connected to any kind of expression of a hierarchy, but not with bondage. Design and settings: The data were obtained from young adults (157 males and 183 females aged 18-20, with mean 18.4 years) via questionnaires. Results: Seven out of eight questions dealing with hierarchy correlated with sexual arousal by dominance and submission in men (Spearman's r=0.169-0.313; p<0.05 - p<0.001), two questions correlated with sexual arousal by dominance and submission in women (Spearman's r=0.32-0.166, p<0.001, p<0.05). THE MAIN FINDINGS: The questions dealing with hierarchy correlated with sexual arousal by dominance and submission while no answers correlated with bondage, neither in men nor in women. Conclusion: The preference for sexual arousal by dominance and submission may be connected to strategy respecting rank, while the preference for "bondage" may be derived from an opportunistic strategy that may be essential for possible partner problems solution. From the evolutionary biology point of view, these patterns of sadomasochistic sex appear as adaptive rather than as pathology.
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Neuroendocrinol Lett 2012; 33(6):636– 642
Neuroendocrinology Letters Volume 33 No. 6 2012
Evolutional background of dominance/submissivity
in sex and bondage: the two strategies?
Eva J1, Ludek B 2, Jaroslav F 3
1 Department of
Biology, J.E. Purkynje University, Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic
2 Department of
Ethology, Institute of Animal Science, Prague, Czech Republic
3 Biology Section, Faculty of Sciences, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Correspondence to: Eva Jozifkova, PhD.
Department of Biology, J.E. Purkyně University in Usti nad Labem,
Za valcovnou 1000/8, Usti nad Labem, 400 96, Czech Republic.
: +420 475283617; : +420 475 283 622; -:
Submitted: 2012-06-10 Accepted: 2012-08-11 Published online: 2012-11-15
Key words: sex; evolution; sadism; sex behavior; hierarchy; dominance;
evolution; strategy; BDSM; bondage
Neuroendocrinol Lett 2012; 33(6):636642 PMID: 23160222 NEL330612A02 © 2012 Neuroendocrinology Letters
OBJECTIVES: We theorize that sexual arousal by dominance and submission may
be connected to a reproduction strategy respecting a reached social dominance
rank (a common reproduction strategy in socially living mammals), while the
preference for “bondage” may be derived from an opportunistic strategy when
being unable to compete for hierarchic rank (an alternative reproductive strategy
that co-occurs frequently with the above-named main strategy). The answers to
questions dealing with hierarchy in character should correlate exclusively with
sexual arousal connected to any kind of expression of a hierarchy, but not with
DESIGN AND SETT INGS: The data were obtained from young adults (157 males
and 183 females aged 18–20, with mean 18.4 years) via questionnaires.
Results: Seven out of eight questions dealing with hierarchy correlated with
sexual arousal by dominance and submission in men (Spearman’s r=0.169–0.313;
p<0.05 – p<0.001), two questions correlated with sexual arousal by dominance
and submission in women (Spearmans r=0.32–0.166, p<0.001, p<0.05).
THE MAIN F INDINGS: The questions dealing with hierarchy correlated with
sexual arousal by dominance and submission while no answers correlated with
bondage, neither in men nor in women.
CONCLUS ION: The preference for sexual arousal by dominance and submission
may be connected to strategy respecting rank, while the preference for “bondage”
may be derived from an opportunistic strategy that may be essential for possible
partner problems solution. From the evolutionary biology point of view, these
patterns of sadomasochistic sex appear as adaptive rather than as pathology.
Neuroendocrinology Letters Vol. 33 No. 6 2012 • Article available online:
The two strategies?
The diverse independent behavioral patterns of sado-
masochistic sex
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders, masochists are aroused by being
humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer
(American Psychiatric Association 2000). The list of
the named activities (humiliation, beating, binding)
is in good accordance with further analyses of sexual
practices (Alison et al. 2001) disclosing that the phe-
nomenon called “sadomasochistic sex” may include
diverse and distinct sexual preferences of practitioners.
Interpreting the results obtained by questioning Finnish
sadomasochistic sex practitioners, Alison et al. (2001)
distinguished several independent facets, namely admin-
istration of pain, (ritualistic) humiliation, bodily restric-
tion and hypermasculinity. These facets are in good
accordance with the terms used by active practitioners
of sadomasochistic sex themselves. The participants dis-
tinguish between S/M (sadism and masochism, involve-
ment of strong physical stimuli); D/s sex (dominance
and submissivity in sex – the emphasis is on manifesta-
tion of hierarchical disparity between partners, strong
physical stimuli are not necessary (Hoff 2006; Kolmes
et al. 2006); bondage (the use of physically-restraining
devices or materials that have sexual significance for at
least one partner (Ernulf & Innala 1995)); and leathersex
(eroticization of the macho, masculine image, symbol-
ized by wearing leather clothing and costumes derived
from the cowboy, motorcycle rebel, etc., typical for gay
subculture (Weinberg 2006)). The practitioners with
preference for a particular subset even gather in diverse
groups of interest in both real life and cyberspace.
However, a more accurate analysis of the phe-
nomenon may be blurred by co-occurrence of some
preferences. At least a part of sadomasochistic sex prac-
titioners claim to be aroused by hierarchical disparity
rather than by strong physical stimuli or pain (Cross
& Matheson 2006). When focusing on bondage, 33%
of subjects mentioned sadomasochism, which either
occurred simultaneously with sexual bondage or was
perceived as a part of it in their messages posted to
internet discussions (Ernulf & Innala 1995). Another
effect may play a role. Sadism and masochism are
treated as sociological phenomena, dependent upon
meanings which are culturally produced, learned and
reinforced by participation in the sadomasochistic sub-
culture (Weinberg 2006). Thus, the subjects may first
learn about the practice and then include the practice
into their sexual behavior. For example, masochists
may practice bondage as a strong stimulus providing
sexual pleasure, whereas D/s sex participants may use
the practice to overemphasize dominance. In addi-
tion, many subjects may practice mild bondage to
enrich their sexual repertoire independently of their
sexual orientation. It follows that mere co-occurrence
of specific sexual behaviors does not imply a common
evolutionary background of the behaviors. Indeed, the
distinct form of sexual behavior may be derived from
distinct individual mating strategies (Hirsch & Paul
1996; Thornhill & Palmer 2000). Thus the analysis of a
possible evolutionary background of the phenomenon
may help to understand the phenomenon.
Arousal by hierarchy disparity and fitness
Sexual arousal by overemphasized hierarchy (e.g.
dominatrix-slave play) may originate in a successful
reproductive strategy. This hypothesis was recently sup-
ported by Jozifkova and Konvicka (2009), who found,
in a modern middle-class population, that markers of
reproductive success (the number and gender of rela-
tives and self-reported attractiveness) correlated with
sexual arousal by higher- or lower- ranking partner
(when compared to respondents’ hierarchic rank,
measured by questions similar to questions 3 and 4 in
Table 1), despite the low average number of offspring in
modern humans. Specifically, arousal by lower-ranking
partner correlated positively with the proportion of
males in relatives and with self-reported attractiveness;
arousal by higher-ranking partner correlated positively
with self-attractiveness. The proportion of males in
relatives is supposed to be connected to increased fit-
ness, because a male in good condition can have more
offspring than a female in good condition (extension
of the Trivers-Willard hypothesis (Trivers & Willard
1973)). Attractiveness may allow one to reach a high
quality partner (Buss & Shackelford 2008; Gangestad &
Thornhill 2003). Thus, sexual arousal by lower- and/or
higher-ranking partner appeared to be a manifestation
of a successful reproductive strategy, and hence natural
human behavior.
How exactly can sexual arousal by lower- and/or
higher-ranking partner increase reproductive success?
Arousal by a higher-ranking male likely facilitates
mating with a partner possessing good genes (Gan-
gestad et al. 2004; Simmons et al. 2004) or/and access
to resources (Llaurens et al. 2009). There is evidence
of advantages of such behavior in humans (Fieder et
al. 2005; Mealey 1985). Attractive males usually guard
their female partners less than unattractive ones (Kokko
& Morrell 2005). Theoretically, women are expected to
lower their infidelity when paired with high quality
males (Weatherhead & Boag 1995). This view is sup-
ported by the finding that human males tend to prevent
infidelity by increased displays of dominance (Goetz &
Shackelford 2009).
Importantly, it is advantageous for both lower-rank-
ing females and males to couple with higher-rankers
of the opposite sex when considering genes/resources.
While analyzing a possible explanation for the prefer-
ence of higher-ranking females for lower-ranking males
(i.e., the arousal of (some) women by male submissive-
ness), we found that hierarchically disparate pairs had
an increased number of offspring independently of the
higher-ranking gender in a European urban population
Copyright © 2012 Neuroendocrinology Letters ISSN 0172–780X
Eva Jozifkova, Ludek Bartos, Jaroslav Flegr
(data in preparation). This pattern may be caused by
increased within-pair cooperation and cohesion, but
regardless of its cause, the connection between court-
ship and social hierarchy is evident. For example, the
markers of dominance in men and markers of submis-
sivity in women (e.g. eye movements, body orienta-
tion) are apparent in nonverbal communication during
courtship (Burke & Sulikowski 2010; Henley 1995;
Moore 2010).
The main and the alternative mating strategy
The possibility that a polygamous mating system (more
specifically, polygyny) favoring dominant males had
been widespread in prehistoric human populations
has received support from various areas (Dupanloup
et al. 2003; Potts 1997). Polygyny is still permitted in
certain cultures throughout the world, especially in
Africa and the Islamic world (Sanderson 2001), Aus-
tralian Aboriginal communities (Chisholm & Burbank
1991), etc. In virtually all societies, polygynous men are
almost invariably men of high social rank (Einon 1998),
and the same applies to men practicing serial polygyny
(Lockard & Adams 1981). Reproductive success varies
more prominently in males under polygamy (Einon
1998) when compared to males under monogamy. The
shift from polygyny to monogamy appears to be a rela-
tively recent phenomenon, as indicated by analysis of
Y-chromosome diversity, suggesting that for millennia,
a small fraction of men may have contributed a large
fraction of the Y-chromosome pool at every generation
in various parts of the world (Dupanloup et al. 2003;
Kayser et al. 2003).
In the mating systems in which individuals pair,
separate and re-pair repeatedly (i.e. serial monogamy),
some males still monopolize more than one females
reproductive life span, thus leaving other males effec-
tively mateless. Males who cannot secure females
through standard methods may seek alternatives,
such as (but not only) rape, to ensure gene passage
into future generations (Starks & Blackie 2000). Such
a tactic seems to be opportunistic. Still, predisposition
towards alternative male mating strategies may contain
a genetic component, or may be influenced by maternal
effects (Hews et al. 1997). It has already been suggested
that human males may adopt the “quality strategy”, a
long-term pair bond with considerable paternal invest-
ment, or the “quantity” strategy, short-term bonds with
little paternal investment (Hirsch & Paul 1996). Genetic
polymorphism for alternative mating behavior has been
reported in various taxa (Boul et al. 2007; Hews et al.
1997). Also in humans, evolutionary forces have influ-
enced the foundations of interpersonal relationships
(Bleske & Buss 2000; Gangestad & Simpson 2000).
In the nonhuman world, alternative male mating
strategies appear to be relatively common across
taxa (Taborsky 1994; Taborsky 2001). If mates can be
monopolized through dominance, males may invest
in primary access to fertilization by adopting a “bour-
geois” or “courting” strategy (Taborsky 1994). These are
also called “primary access males” sensu Reynolds in
Taborsky (Taborsky 1994). Those unable to compete
for dominance may employ alternative ‘‘parasitic’’ or
“sneaking” tactics, evading the reproductive monopoly
of other males and forcing or stealing fertilization (e.g.
(Dominey 1984; Healey & Prince 1998).
Hirsch and Paul’s (Hirsch & Paul 1996) “quality”
strategy, a long-term pair bond (Gangestad & Simpson
2000), may reflect the ability to monopolize the mate
through dominance. Individuals involved in the “domi-
nance principle” should respect principles of social
hierarchy, preferring signals of mate quality closely
associated with dominance. On the other hand, the
alternative mating tactics, “quantity” strategy (Hirsch
& Paul 1996), an “opportunistic principle” in this study,
should involve not only disposition to romantic rela-
tionships (Furlow et al. 1998), but, to a much larger
extent, opportunistic approaches such as rape (McKib-
bin et al. 2008; Starks & Blackie 2000) and other sexual
practices including various forms of physical restriction
(Alison et al. 2001).
Tested hypothesis
In this study we propose the existence of at least two
possible alternatives in mating strategy in humans.
We investigated the consequences of possible
human alternative mating strategies resulting from
previous human evolution, applying a division of the
human reproductive system into monopolizing part-
ners (“dominance principle”) and alternative mating
tactics (“opportunistic principle”). If the division of
human reproductive strategies into the “dominance
and “opportunistic” principles is valid, then the strate-
gies should be heritable. We may predict then, that the
answers to questions dealing with hierarchy in char-
acter should correlate exclusively with sexual arousal
connected to any kind of expression of a hierarchy but
not with bondage. One may expect more pronounced
divisions in males than in females.
Sexual arousal by dominance/submissivity and bond-
age may be derived from distinct mating strategies – the
dominance” strategy and the “opportunistic” strat-
egy. Based on this assumption, we expect the answers
to questions dealing with hierarchy to correlate with
reported sexual arousal by dominate/dominated but
not with a reported preference of binding/bound.
The studied population consisted of 340 last-year stu-
dents (157 men and 183 women) from 15 high school
classes (in two cases, two classes, and in two cases, three
classes, from the same school, one class specializing in
arts, one containing the best students, who received
Neuroendocrinology Letters Vol. 33 No. 6 2012 • Article available online:
The two strategies?
met their lifelong partners yet, and whose partnership
preferences were not yet biased by experiences of later
adult life.
This study was a part of a larger project. The respon-
dents completed an original questionnaire containing
95 questions altogether. For this study we selected 12
questions (Table 1). The respondents scored the ques-
tions on a scale ranging from 1 to 7.
Main Outcome Measures
A score sum of questions focused on bondage (1 and
2 in Table 1) and a score sum of questions focused on
Tab. 1. Questionnaire used and definition of the scoring the
No Question
1 During sexual intercourse I would like to bind my partner’s
hands with a silk scarf
absolutely no 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 absolutely yes
2 During sexual intercourse I would like my partner to bind my
hands with a silk scarf
absolutely no 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 absolutely yes
3 When watching a movie or reading a book I would be
aroused with a situation in which a partner would be
behaving equally to his partner rather than lower-ranking
Equally 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 lower-ranking
4 When watching a movie or reading a book I would be
aroused with a situation in which a partner would be
behaving equally to his partner rather than higher-ranking
Equally 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 higher-ranking
5 In my future relationship, my partner will submit to my
absolutely yes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 absolutely no
6 In my future relationship will persist an equality between the
partners 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 one of the partners will have to
7 In my future relationship, my partners and I will have a fixed
rank relationship 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 our roles may change in
due time
8 I will be pleased being successful to force my partner to do
absolutely yes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 absolutely no
9 If there is no chance to win the conflict or disputation
I do not avoid it 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 I do avoid it
10 I often keep control of the conversation when socializing
with others
frequently 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 rarely
11 Other people (colleagues or friends) often submit to my
frequently 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 rarely
12 It would be a pleasure for me to force my friends/colleagues
to do something
absolutely yes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 absolutely no
more detailed education since the fifth level of their
basic school) in Prague, Czech Republic. The age of
the students ranged from 18 (222 respondents) to 19
(112 respondents) to 20 (6 respondents). The students
were asked to voluntarily participate in human natural
behavior research and instructed to feel free to termi-
nate their participation in the study. In case they did
not want to answer a particular question, they were
instructed to skip it rather than provide false infor-
mation. The respondents signed an informed consent
form. The data were collected anonymously.
The targeted group represents a homogeneous popu-
lation of European young urban adults, who had already
attained their first experiences with sex, but have not
Tab. 2. Spearman correlation matrix among “bonding, “bonded”,
“dominate, and “dominated” for females (N=173).
Bound Dominate Dominated
Binding 0.678*** 0.269*** 0.184*
Bound 0.371*** 0.210**
Dominate 0.428***
* p<0.05, ** p<0.01, *** p<0.001
Tab. 3. Spearman correlation matrix among “bonding, “bonded”,
“dominate, and “dominated” for males (N = 146)
Bound Dominate Dominated
Binding 0.747*** 0.067 0.093
Bound 0.095 0.003
Dominate 0.508***
*** p<0.001
Tab. 4. Spearman correlation coefficients between Dominance/
Bondage and other eight questions according to sex of the
Question No
from Table 1
Correlation Coefficients
Dominance Opportunism Dominance Opportunism
5 0.033 0.007 –0.236** 0.118
6 0.32*** 0.036 0.313*** 0.045
7 0.111 0.128 0.183* 0.012
8 –0.1320.047 –0.178* 0.065
9 0.089 0.003 –0.169* 0.118
10 0.005 0.036 –0.196* 0.11
11 –0.036 0.098 –0.146†† 0.133
12 –0.166* 0.059 –0.164* 0.127
* p<0.05, ** p<0.01, *** p<0.001, † p=0.08, †† p=0.07
Copyright © 2012 Neuroendocrinology Letters ISSN 0172–780X
Eva Jozifkova, Ludek Bartos, Jaroslav Flegr
dominance/submissivity (3 and 4 in Table 1) were cor-
related with eight questions dealing with hierarchy
(Table 4).
All data were analyzed with the aid of SAS version 9.1.3.
For clustering we used PROC RANK (SAS software).
It partitions the original values into a defined number
of groups, with the smallest values receiving a quartile
value of 0 and the largest values receiving a quartile
value of the number-of-groups minus 1. The Spearman
rank correlations were computed in PROC CORR.
The data from 319 respondents (146 men and 173
women) were analyzed. When the questionnaire was
not complete in the answers analyzed, answers of that
person were omitted from the analysis.
Two questions, 3 and 4 in Table 1, focused on domi-
nance (referred to further as “dominate” and “domi-
nated”), representing the “dominance principle” and
two questions, 1 and 2 n Table 1, focused on bondage
(referred to further as “binding” and “bound”), repre-
senting the predicted “opportunistic principle.
We calculated a Spearman coefficient matrix for
females (Table 2) and males (Table 3). In both sexes there
was a high correlation between “binding” and “bound,
and between “dominate” and “dominated” despite their
assumed contrasting meaning. When using cluster
analysis in both sexes, one cluster was based on ques-
tions of “dominate” and “dominated,” while the other
one was based on “binding” and “bound” (Figure 1). It
led us to discern between two different phenomena via
calculating two variables.
We established a variable “Dominance” that was a
score sum of “dominate” and “dominated,” and a vari-
able “Opportunism” that was a score sum of “binding”
and “bound.
We used these two new variables for further testing
and calculated Spearman correlation coefficients with
the scores of the rest of the questions (Table 1, ques-
tions 5 to 12).
Spearmans correlation coefficients between “Domi-
nance” or “Opportunism” and eight questions, split
according to the sex of the respondents, are shown in
Table 4. There were differences in the relationships
between male and female respondents. While there was
a significant or nearly significant correlation between
“Dominance” and all eight other questions for male
respondents, this was the case in only three out of eight
questions for female respondents. On the other hand,
either for males or females, no significant correlation
was found between “Opportunism” and any of the eight
questions. “Dominance” and “Opportunism” were cor-
related in females (rs=0.379, N=173, p<0.0001), but not
males (rs=0.107, N=146, p=0.20).
Although the restriction of locomotion may dem-
onstrate dominance in the cultural context, the pres-
ent study documents that a tendency to bind or to be
bound during sexual activity may represent a different
behavioral pattern that was not derived from hierarchy
between partners in a substantial part of population.
This supports previous findings of Alison et al. (2001),
who reported that bondage was associated with physi-
cal restriction, but not with ritualistic humiliation. This
is in line with our original expectations, and we suggest
the pattern may reflect the existence of distinct repro-
ductive strategies in humans.
As predicted, at least for males, the variable “Domi-
nance” correlated or nearly correlated with all eight
questions that focused on hierarchical disparity
between partners, while the variable “Opportunism
did not correlate with any of them. The correlation
coefficients for “Dominance” were significant though
1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.0
Fig. 1. Cluster analysis applied on questions “binding”, “bound”, “dominate”, and
“dominated” for respondents.
Neuroendocrinology Letters Vol. 33 No. 6 2012 • Article available online:
The two strategies?
not very high. The strength of the correlations may
be masked by various proximate factors (e.g. personal
experience, life history, attitude, cultural background)
(Furlow et al. 1998; Hawley 1999; Renaud & Byers
2005), which could interact with the varied individuals
natural tendency.
In women, the differences were less obvious. Only
two hierarchical disparity questions correlated sig-
nificantly with “Dominance. Nevertheless, the male
and female responses agreed with regard to question
6 (Table 1), asking for the expectation that “one of the
partners will have to subordinate. It must be noted
that some of the known female reproductive strategies
cannot bring benefit while avoiding cost without being
discrete. Cuckoldry as a strategy (Goetz & Shackelford
2009; Kaighobadi & Shackelford 2008) and concealed
ovulation (Roberts et al. 2004) are good examples.
“Opportunism” realized as “taking a chance” or more
specifically “to allow somebody to take the opportu-
nity” must be practiced secretly, too. Thus the strategy
may exist independently of the gender of its bearers, but
the genders may differ in the ways in how the strategy is
manifested and brings expected benefit. Moreover, the
male and female preference for “Opportunism” may be
The variation among males in lifetime reproductive
success is striking. In still naturally living human popu-
lations, such as in New Guinea, an extreme patrilocality
and/or biased reproductive success in males has been
reported. It has resulted in low levels of Y-chromosome
diversity contrasting with high levels of mtDNA diver-
sity reported for the same populations (Kayser et al.
2003). Thus, male affinity to bondage could represent
a male manifestation of opportunistic mating strategy.
This strategy, in some aspects related to the strategy of
sneakers (Taborsky 1994; 2001) or rapists (e.g. McKib-
bin et al. 2008), can be beneficial when rare and dis-
advantageous when common. Otherwise long-term
coexistence of two strategies could not be possible
(e.g. Gross 1996). In the same vein, the female affinity
to bondage could be an adaptive strategy in situations
when opportunistic males are rare and therefore the
sons with genes for this strategy are expected to have
a high level of fitness (McKibbin et al. 2008). And/or,
it can be speculated that a woman’s affinity to bondage,
not affected by the dominance principle, might be asso-
ciated with an ancient tendency to obtain good genes
from outside the local society.
As showed in Table 2, the respondents may prefer
both “Opportunism” and “Dominance. Certainly a
portion of respondents may view bondage as a mani-
festation of hierarchical disparity between partners or
they may feel aroused by any “kinky” sexual behavior.
Finally, a possibility of co-occurrence of the two tac-
tics (“Opportunism” and “Dominance”) in a single
individual that can manifest under different conditions
(e.g. conditional strategy (Alcock 2001)) should be
The questions referring to binding and being bound
correlated highly and so did questions referring to dom-
inate and being dominated. This could be interpreted
in several ways. First, a portion of the respondents
may be sexually aroused just by binding or dominat-
ing independently of active/passive or dominant/sub-
missive role. Alternatively, the respondents may be
unconscious of their concrete specific role due to being
young and inexperienced. Or, the substantial portion of
respondents may be attracted by both active and pas-
sive or dominant and submissive roles. A large portion
of sadomasochistic sex practitioners called “switches
are attracted by both sadism and masochism, or both
dominance and submissivity (Cross & Matheson 2006;
Levitt et al. 1994; Sandnabba et al. 1999). Thus the cor-
relation may reflect the reality.
Sexual practices such as to bind or to be bound during
sexual intercourse are usually interpreted as being
linked to dominance. Although it may be used to stress
dominance/submissivity, the preference for bondage
in a substantial part of the population may represent
behaviour originating from different adaptive behav-
ioral patterns than sexual arousal by dominance/sub-
missivity. Arousal by dominance/submission may be
connected to dominance strategy respecting hierar-
chy rank, whereas the preference for “bondage” may
be derived from an opportunistic strategy. This find-
ing should be consulted when dealing with problems
connected to behavior and partner relations of sexual
minorities. Regarding the existence of different repro-
ductive strategies, various sexual practices in humans,
including sadomasochistic oriented behavior, appear as
adaptive rather than deviant.
The authors deeply thank Dr. M. Konvicka, Ph.D., at
the University of South Bohemia. Help with improving
English was provided by Professor Thomas S. Wein-
berg, Ph.D of Buffalo State College, Professor Raymond
A. Eve of the University of Texas at Arlington, and
Matthew Sweney. The study was supported by grants
from the Czech Ministry of Education and Sports
(0021620828), the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech
Republic (MZE0002701404), J.E. Purkynje University
(5322115000101) and the Grant Agency of the Czech
Republic (P407/12/P616).
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... Lerntheoretisch wird Sadomasochismus auf die Prinzipien der klassischen und operanten Konditionierung zurückgeführt (Vetter, 2007 (Jozifkova, 2018;Jozifkova, Bartos, & Flegr, 2012;Jozifkova & Konvicka, 2009 (Jozifkova, 2018). Konkrete Erfahrungen mit Sadomasochismus geben 10% an, wenn die Erhebung online stattfindet (YouGov & Stern, 2016). ...
... Ist die Zusammenfassung von Sadismus und Masochismus als Sadomasochismus jedoch sinnvoll? Grundsätzlich ist davon auszugehen, dass es z.B. andere Emotionen auslöst jemanden zu schlagen, als selbst geschlagen zu werden (Elb, 2018 (Jozifkova et al., 2012;Weierstall & Giebel, 2017 (Jozifkova, 2018;Runtz et al., 2013). Von den männlichen Sadomasochisten sind bei Konrad und Daschek (2004) 44% sadistisch, 21% masochistisch und 35% Switcher. ...
... Sadisten könnten auch außerhalb der Sexualität eine dominierende Rolle bevorzugen. Zumindest bei Männern geht Sadismus auch mit der Präferenz für hierarchische Beziehungen einher (Jozifkova et al., 2012). Nach Ahlers (2010), der jedoch nur Männer untersuchte, empfinden 29% Sadismus sexuell erregend. ...
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Research examines how gender and several facets of narcissism predict sexual-sadism arousal. According to Back et al. (2013) facet „admiration“ aims to boost and facet „rivalry“ protect the narcissistic-grandiose self. Both facets refer to grandiose naricissism, nevertheless associations between rivalry and malignant-vulnerable narcissism are obvious. Naricisstic achievement motive seems to be a meaningful theoretical addition. Watts, Nagel, Latzman and Lilienfeld (2019) demonstrate there are some single facets that aren´t associated with sadism. This research assumes narcissists use sadism to gain self-affirmation. Therefore especial correlations between sadism and admiration are expected. In this online-survey sadism is quantified by „Sadomasochism-Checklist“ (Weierstall & Giebel, 2017). Naricissism is operationalized by „Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire“ (Back et al. 2013) and successful narcissism (Shiban, 2019). The sample (N = 346) includes notably percentage of homo- and bisexual participants. In multiple regression model gender has major effect. Admiration and rivalry predict sadism smiliar to each other. Successful narcissism has no significant effect. Data analysis also confirms there are no correlation between sadism and clinical parameters. Findings illustrate narcissism basically include vulnerable-malignant and grandiose facets, so both predict sadism evenly. Despite correlation between sexual self-affirmation and sadism there are presumably further functions. All in all results could be interpreted either by conditioning paradigmas or psychoanalytically by grandiose and destructive impulses. Otherwise sadism could be a predisposed mating-strategy, which is adaptive within a dominant-narcissistic personality.
... Nevertheless, it demonstrates that different BDSM activities are not necessarily all present in each interaction and that certain clusterings can be established. In this line, Jozifkova et al 30 suggested that D/s dynamics and affinity with bondage are 2 separate play strategies, although both may co-occur. Weierstall and Giebel 31 recently developed a sadomasochism checklist containing a submission scale and a dominant scale, each containing 24 items with 6 different factors: domination, use of toys, soft play, beatings, breath play, and play involving bodily fluids. ...
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Background: BDSM (Bondage and discipline, Dominance and submission, and Sadism and Masochism) increasingly receives attention from the scientific community. Where earlier research efforts mainly focused on epidemiological characteristics, psychological and biological factors driving BDSM preferences have recently gained interest as well. Aim and Methods: The current systematic review brings together all the existing literature on BDSM from a biopsychosocial perspective. Results: Biological factors like gender identity, sex hormone levels and the neurological constitution of the brain’s pain and reward systems influence BDSM orientation. With regard to psychological factors, both personality traits (f.i. higher levels of openness or extraversion) and the presence of a personality disorder have been associated to a heightened BDSM interest, although only limited supporting evidence is available. Additionally, sensation seeking levels and impulsivity seem to contribute, as they presumably guide one’s drive to explore new and/or more intense kinks. As attachment styles impact couple dynamics they also influence willingness to explore limits in a BDSM context. Lastly, education levels impact relational and/or sexual dynamics. Strengths and Limitations: The limitations of the current review reflect those of the topical scientific literature. Although the number of studies focused on all aspects of BDSM is exponentially growing, most of these are only descriptive and very few focus on underlying driving processes. Conclusion: From this biopsychosocial perspective, we offer a dimensional approach while integrating the factors driving the onset and evolution of BDSM interests.
... Women of a young age that participated in these studies generally preferred sexual hierarchical disparity over older women (Jozifkova et al., 2012;Holvoet et al. 2017). As the age of the participants increased, the submission scores decreased. ...
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Evolutionary science tends to describe human sexual behaviour in outdated terms, not taking into account the highly complex and nuanced relationship between individuals in a society. One behaviour that is exclusive to humans is the use of BDSM (Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism) during sexual practices. Due to books like Fifty Shades of Grey flying off the shelves, there has been a growing interest in the explanations behind non-conventional sex, most of which are explored in this paper. The first part consists of a Literature Review, where a wide overview of the theoretical explanations behind BDSM is given, both from a traditional evolutionary theory perspective (including sexual-selection-based and hormone-centric explanations) and from the standpoint of newer evolutionary theories like Rational Choice Theory. Other more critical explanations are also briefly presented. The second part consists of a systematic review, where a descriptive table of previous papers’ findings is displayed, where a summary of the significant correlations and associations can be found, as well as the design and sample details of each study. A strong significance is found for sexual orientation, age, and sex. A number of connections are made from the systematic review findings to the theories in the literature review, putting these proximate causes in an ultimate evolutionary perspective. However, a larger amount of unbiased research on other aspects of BDSM (that are not the hierarchical disparity) must be conducted in the future Keywords: BDSM, sadomasochism, dominance, sexual behaviour, evolutionary psychology, mating strategies, ultimate explanations, prosociality
... An evolutionary explanation considers the biological base of these preferences. Sexual arousal by dominance and submissiveness may be a manifestation of a mating strategy which would lead to an increase in reproductive success (Jozifkova, Bartos, and Flegr 2012;Jozifkova and Konvicka 2009;Jozifkova, Konvicka, and Flegr 2014). Previous research confirmed the connection between sexual arousal by a dominant or submissive partner and higher self-reported attractiveness, as well as the higher number of offspring (Jozifkova and Konvicka 2009). ...
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Sexual arousal by dominance and submissiveness was long considered as pathology. Surprisingly, approximately half of respondents (n = 673) were excited by their partner’s submission or their own submission. A strong preference was found in 8.2% of respondents. 6.1% of respondents were not even excited by equality, but only by disparity. The respondents differed in the type of disparity that they prefer, and how strongly they preferred this disparity. We suggest that sexual arousal by dominance and submissiveness is related to a common mating strategy.
... Sexual arousal by dominance and submission could be the aforementioned mating strategy (Jozifkova & Konvicka, 2009;Jozifkova et al. 2012). Therefore, bearers of this strategy should have some evolutionary advantage such as enhanced reproductive success conferred by higher number of male relatives and by increased physical attractiveness (Jozifkova & Konvicka, 2009 This study scrutinizes the hypothesis that sexual arousal by hierarchical disparity is a manifestation of a mating strategy by comparing number of offspring, self-reported attractiveness, and social status of the study participants. ...
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Objective: Sexual arousal by dominance and submissiveness was long considered a mental disorder. The origin of this sexual preference has not been clearly explained. This study scrutinizes the hypothesis that sexual arousal by hierarchical disparity is a manifestation of mating strategy by comparing number of offspring and self-reported attractiveness of the study participants. Methods: Our data were obtained from the general population via e-mail questionnaire (n=673, age 25-34 years and 35-44 years). Results: Sexually dominant men aged 35-44 years had more biological male children. Both the sexually dominant men aged 35-44 years and sexually submissive women aged 35-44 years perceived themselves as being more attractive. The main findings: Here we show that sexual arousal by dominance and submissiveness confers an increased capacity to pass on genes in the general population. Conclusion: We suggest that sexual arousal by dominance is likely to be the means by which the mating strategy is accomplished. Sexual arousal by dominance and submissiveness is a manifestation of mating strategy because such a behaviour results in an increased reproductive success and thus may lead to the preferential selection of individuals who prefer sexual arousal by hierarchical disparity. This fact explains why the high number of people is excited by sexual fantasies and activities connected to hierarchical disparity. This finding might open up novel insights into some reproductive medicine issues, as well as into such field as partnership therapy and partner violence.
... The close connection between fear and sexual arousal also exists in humans. The fraction of subjects who are sexually aroused by fear, pain and humiliation, or who are even involved in sadomasochistic sexual practices is rather high [8] and it is often suggested that sadomasochistic preferences and activities could increase biologic fitness of individuals [9]. However, the existence of sadomasochism could also be just a side-effect of capacity of co-activation of fearand sex-related circuits in the amygdala. ...
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The parasite Toxoplasma needs to get from its intermediate hosts, e.g. rodents, to its definitive hosts, cats, by predation. To increase the probability of this occurrence, Toxoplasma manipulates the behavior of its hosts, for example, by the demethylation of promoters of certain genes in the host's amygdala. After this modification, the stimuli that normally activate fear-related circuits, e.g. the smell of a cat, or smell of leopards in chimpanzee, start to additionally co-activate sexual arousal-related circuits in the infected rodents. In humans, the increased attraction to masochistic sexual practices was recently observed in a study performed on 36,564 subjects. Here I show that lower rather than higher attraction to sexual masochism and submissiveness among infected subjects is detected if simple univariate tests instead of multivariate tests are applied to the same data. I show and discuss that when analyzing multiple effects of complex stimuli on complex biological systems we need to use multivariate techniques and very large data sets. We must also accept the fact that any single factor usually explains only a small fraction of variability in the focal variable.
Behavioral patterns, including sexual behavioral patterns, are usually understood as biological adaptations increasing the fitness of their carriers. Many parasites, so-called manipulators, are known to induce changes in the behavior of their hosts to increase their own fitness. Such changes are also induced by a parasite of cats, Toxoplasma gondii. The most remarkable change is the fatal attraction phenomenon, the switch of infected mice’s and rat’s native fear of the smell of cats toward an attraction to this smell. The stimuli that activate fear-related circuits in healthy rodents start to also activate sex-related circuits in the infected animals. An analogy of the fatal attraction phenomenon has also been observed in infected humans. Therefore, we tried to test a hypothesis that sexual arousal by fear-, violence-, and danger-related stimuli occurs more frequently in Toxoplasma-infected subjects. A cross-sectional cohort study performed on 36,564 subjects (5,087 Toxoplasma free and 741 Toxoplasma infected) showed that infected and noninfected subjects differ in their sexual behavior, fantasies, and preferences when age, health, and the size of the place where they spent childhood were controlled (F(24, 3719) ¼ 2.800, p < .0001). In agreement with our a priori hypothesis, infected subjects are more often aroused by their own fear, danger, and sexual submission although they practice more conventional sexual activities than Toxoplasma-free subjects. We suggest that the later changes can be related to a decrease in the personality trait of novelty seeking in infected subjects, which is potentially a side effect of increased concentration of dopamine in their brain.
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When practiced consensually, sadomasochistic sex is being increasingly accepted as an alternative sexuality. Here I suggest the possible evolutionary roots of the preferences, draw distinctions between violent, abusive and "healthy" practitioners' partnership, provide clear behavioural markers of the respective situations, and underline some specific problems connected to this sexual preference. Some of the problems are well-known in the community of its practitioners, although they have not yet been described in medical nor scientific sources.
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Researchers studying the proximate (or immediate) causes of sexual coercion have proposed that partner rape is motivated by a man's attempt to dominate and control his partner and that this expression of power is the product of men's social roles. Researchers studying the ultimate (or evolutionary) causes, in contrast, have proposed that partner rape may function as an anti-cuckoldry tactic, with its occurrence related to a man's suspicions of his partner's sexual infidelity. In two studies, we collected data relevant to both perspectives to explore how these variables interact with men's sexual coercion in an intimate relationship. Regression analyses from Study 1 (self-reports from 256 men) and Study 2 (partner-reports from 290 women) indicated that men's sexual coercion of their partners was consistently predicted by female infidelity and men's controlling behavior, suggesting that both variables are necessary to explain men's sexual coercion. Discussion addressed limitations of the current research and highlighted the importance of integrating multiple levels of analysis when studying men's sexual coercion of their intimate partners.
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The present study explored the sexual behavior and social adaptation of a sample of male sadomasochists. A total of 164 men who were members of two sadomasochistically‐oriented clubs participated in the study. The numbers of heterosexual male and gay male participants were about equal. A semi‐structured questionnaire containing items related to social, sexual, and psychological aspects of the participants' lives was used. The results showed that the participants were socially well‐adjusted and that sadomasochistic behavior was mainly a facilitative aspect of their sexual lives, most participants being flexible in both sexual activities and sadomasochistic role‐taking. Sadists were more likely to be younger and more sexually active than masochists.
Success, in evolutionary terms, means contributing more surviving offspring to the next generation than competing individuals of the same species in the same population. Human conception is a probabilistic event occurring against a background of frequent, usually infertile sex, which helps bond parents together. Humans have an innate drive for sex and for nurturing their children as they arrive, but they have no biological predisposition for a specific number of children. In preliterate societies, in the absence of artificial means of fertility regulation, pregnancies are spaced several years apart by unconscious physiological mechanisms based on breast-feeding. In preliterate and in preindustrial urban societies, socially successful individuals commonly had larger than average families. Once people have unconstrained access to a range of fertility-regulation options (including safe abortion), family size falls in all groups and in all societies. In such a context, social success tends to be associated with the accumulation of material wealth, rather than with having more children. The argument that development causes fertility decline is flawed because people cannot make choices about family size without realistic access to fertility-regulation technologies, and such access is historically recent and remains geographically limited. Where access to fertility regulation is constrained, the richer and more educated are usually better able than the less privileged to surmount the barriers between them and the needed technologies, hence the common inverse relationship between income and family size. Policies derived from this perspective are discussed.
Difficulties with applying Evolutionarily. Stable Strategy (ESS) methodology and terminology to alternative mating behaviors (in which some males in local populations adopt strikingly different, often non-competitive, behavioral patterns) are reviewed. Definitions for “tactic” (behavioral phenotype) and “strategy” (evolved set of rules for expressing tactics) are given. Inconsistent and incorrect applications of “mixed,” “pure,” and “conditional” ESSs are discussed. Cases of condition-dependent alternative mating tactics are reviewed. Because most alternative behaviors are condition dependent, neither their population-wide nor individual fitness contributions are expected to equal the fitness contributions of “primary” tactics. Individuals should, however, switch tactics at “equal fitness points.” A particular conditional tactic will persist when its maintenance cost (genetic or physiological) is less than its fitness contribution. In only exceptional cases are the fitness contributions of tactics expected to be equal: 1) genetic polymorphisms, 2) stochastic “mixed” ESSs, 3) frequency-dependent choice and, 4) arbitrary assessment. Although alternative tactics may occur in cases of genetic polymorphism or genetic equipotence, most mating tactics probably occur when continuous heritable variation in underlying conditional strategy exists. Selection for genetically influenced “roles” (genetic background) may also uncover apparent heritability.
Over 4,000 dyadic groupings in two large shopping malls were classified by age and sex of individual members as they passed along a well-defined exit path. The observations were carried out at times and places when a demographic cross-section of the city was likely to be seen, and where there were no rigid constraints on the group composition that appeared. The data were subjected to computer analysis, and observed frequencies of specified age-sex dyads were compared by chi-square statistics to expected frequencies based on a binomial distribution. A female mating strategy at ages 21–32 years and two different male strategies at ages 24–32 and 39–50 years were revealed. The observed strategies correlate with the reproductive, marital, and divorce statistics of the locale. The results are discussed in terms of inclusive fitness maximized by a preference for monogamy in females and the practice of serial polygyny by some males.
Because a man’s reproductive capacity in unfettered by pregnancy, lactation amenorrhea, or child care, it generally is assumed that an individual man could have considerably more offspring than an individual woman. The point often is illustrated by comparing the most prolific man and woman in history. This article re-examines the case of the man claimed to be the world’s most prolific father in the light of women’s reproductive strategies and suggests he is unlikely to have fathered all the children attributed to him. Although it is indisputable that where polygamy is commonplace men show a greater variation in reproductive success, except for those few instances in history when men acquired extensive harems, it is unlikely that the extreme ranges of male and female reproductive success were ever very different.
We discuss the female choice and male coercion models of polygyny in light of women's reproductive histories from an Australian Aboriginal community in Southeast Arnhem Land. We reject the female choice model not only because these women seem to have had little choice in their marriages, but also because lifetime reproductive success for women in polygynous marriages was significantly lower than for those in monogamous marriages. Although our data are consistent with the male coercion model, we assert that this model is incomplete because it makes no predictions about the alternative strategies available to women who find themselves unable to maximize numerical measures of reproductive success, nor does it accommodate our finding that in many respects sororal and nonsororal polygyny are as different from each other as they are from monogamy. We discuss the differences among the three marriage types and suggest that: (a) sororally polygynous women may be better able to maximize measures of offspring reproductive value than nonsororally polygynous women and (b) at least in this Aboriginal community, sororal polygyny may have been the optimal compromise between male and female reproductive interests.
Recently, women have been found to prefer the scent of symmetrical men and relatively masculine male faces more during the fertile (late follicular and ovulatory) phases of their menstrual cycles than during their infertile (e.g., luteal) phases. These findings make most theoretical sense if men's symmetry is associated with the masculinity of their faces and, therefore, men's symmetry and facial masculinity tap a shared underlying quality. This study examined associations between masculine facial features and nonfacial body symmetry as well as facial symmetry in samples of 141 men and 154 women. As predicted, a component of facial features that discriminates the sexes and reflects masculinization of the face significantly covaried with symmetry in men. No significant correlation was observed for women. These findings suggest that men's facial masculinity partly advertises underlying developmental stability.