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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.
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Deviant Behavior
ISSN: 0163-9625 (Print) 1521-0456 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/udbh20
Sexual Arousal by Dominance and Submissiveness
in the General Population: How Many, How
Strongly, and Why?
Eva Jozifkova
To cite this article: Eva Jozifkova (2018): Sexual Arousal by Dominance and Submissiveness
in the General Population: How Many, How Strongly, and Why?, Deviant Behavior, DOI:
10.1080/01639625.2017.1410607
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2017.1410607
Published online: 06 Feb 2018.
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Sexual Arousal by Dominance and Submissiveness in the General
Population: How Many, How Strongly, and Why?
Eva Jozifkova
Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, J.E. Purkyne University in Usti nad Labem, Usti nad Labem, Czech
Republic
ABSTRACT
Sexual arousal by dominance and submissiveness was long considered as
pathology. Surprisingly, approximately half of respondents (n= 673) were
excited by their partners submission or their own submission. A strong
preference was found in 8.2% of respondents. Respondents of 6.1% were
not even excited by equality, but only by disparity. The respondents dif-
fered 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.
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 21 March 2017
Accepted 7 May 2017
Introduction
The term BDSMrefers to consensual sexual activities. The acronym consists of (1) B for bondage
or B&D for bondage and discipline (2) D/s for sexual arousal by dominance and submission, and (3)
SM for sadism and masochism in the strong physical stimuli are involved (Cross and Matheson
2006; Hoff 2006; Kolmes, Stock, and Moser 2006; Richters et al. 2003; Weinberg 2006).
Practitioners of BDSM sex are not classified as suffering from a disorder in the new diagnostic
manuals Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-V (Moran 2013). On the
other hand, Diagnostic manual International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 10 (World Health
Organization 2010) places (even consensual) BDSM in Mental and Behavioral Disorders, subchapter
Disorders of Sexual Preference. However up to the present day, four European states (Denmark
1995, Sweden 2009, Norway 2010, and Finland 2011) have fully respected this minority sexual
preference by removing sadomasochism from their ICD 10 (Revise F65 2009).
Approach to BDSM should be based on three essential facts: (1) how many people are sexually
aroused by such stimuli 2) how strongly these people prefer stimuli which are connected to BDSM, and
(3) why people have such a preference. Powls and Davies (2012) summarized four older studies reporting
that more than 50% of respondents were aroused by fantasies or activities classified as BDSM. On the
other hand, in an Australian study only 1.8% of people (2.2% of men, 1.3% of women), who had had a
sexual partner in a previous year, confessed a BDSM involvement (Richters et al. 2008).
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). Generally, a higher-ranked individual
provides lower-ranking individual high quality genes and/or resources while a lower-ranked indivi-
dual provides higher ranging individuals a chance to mate (see (Alcock 2013; Davies, Krebs, and
CONTACT Eva Jozifkova eva.jozifkova@ujep.cz;evasmid@centrum.cz dept. Biology, Faculty of Science, J.E. Purkyne
University in Usti nad Labem, Za Valcovnou 1000/8, Usti nad Labem 40096, Czech Republic.
© Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
DEVIANT BEHAVIOR
https://doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2017.1410607
West 2012) for more). Therefore, the sexual preferences linked to such strategy should be very
common.
Here we discover how many people and how deeply they were involved in sexual arousal by
dominance and submissiveness in respondents from the general population. We hope that such findings
may reveal whether this behavior is rather pathological or rather normal under given conditions.
Method
Respondents were introduced to the research by means of an email survey in The Czech Republic,
European Union. Emails with questionnaires were sent by the email account provider as a part of
our advertising campaign. Data were collected anonymously within a few months in 2013.
The provider guaranteed to send 50,000 emails to each part of The Czech Republic. Out of 903
respondents who started to fill out the questionnaire, 803 people completed it. Only respondents of
two age cohorts (2534 years and 3544 years) who were not sexually aroused by the same gender
and/or who did not live with a same gender partner were included in the analysis.
Questionnaire
Respondents answered according to their situation and experiences in regard to their former, current
or future partner, number of children, number of siblings and parentssiblings, relationships
between partners and between parents, attractiveness, sexual preference, and socioeconomic status.
Respondents either chose a specific detail (or a range) offered by the choice of answers or they
provided specific details with respect to an answer. Most questions related to attitudes and opinions
and were categorized on a five-level scale.
In the questionnaire, people who were sexually excited when their partner was submissive (answers:
definitely yes,rather yes) but were not excited by a dominant partner (answers: definitely not,
rather not,andneither yes nor no)weremarkedasDom. Other respondents were excited by their
submission to their partner (answers: definitely yes,rather yes) but were not excited by their
partnerssubmission(answers:definitely not,rather not,andneither yes nor no). They were
marked as Sub. The group without any sexual preference of this kind was described as No. Within
this group, individuals either ranked themselves neither yes nor no, or were not excited by these types
of preferences (answers: rather notand definitely not). People who were excited by both their own
submission and their partners submission were included in the group Both. Respondents who replied
to one or both answers Idontknowwere excluded from the analysis.
Respondents
Out of 673 respondents, 4 (0.6%) people had completed elementary education, 51 (7.6%) had
secondary education without graduation, 290 (43.1%) respondents had secondary education followed
by graduation (UK A level), 79 (11.7%) had higher education to Bachelors degree level, and 249
(37.0%) had academic education to at least Masters degree level.
A total of 25 (3.7%) respondents considered their financial situation significantly below average,
83 (12.3%) respondents considered their situation below average, 292 (43.4%) average, 223 (33.1%)
moderately above average, and 50 (7.4%) significantly above average.
A Total of 6 (0.9%) respondents did not agree that they have a good social status, 71 (10.5%)
rather, 250 (37.1%) answered neither yes nor no, 306 (45.5%) rather agreed, and 40 (5.9%)
respondents fully agreed.
2E. JOZIFKOVA
Statistics
Data were analyzed with IBM SPSS Statistic 20 and 21. Data normality was assessed using Shapiro
Wilkstest and the KolmogorovSmirnov test with Lilliefors Significance Correction. We used
Pearsons chi-squared test (non-parametric test) to analyze the data.
Results
Out of 673 respondents 51.1% of men and 39.4% of women (45.9% of all respondents) were sexually
aroused by dominant or/and submissive partner (Table 1).
Sexual arousal by dominance and submission: Gender differences
A higher number of men than women were excited by their own submission and/or their partners
submission (n= 673, χ
2
= 9.100, d.f.=1,P= 0.003) (Table 1).
When comparing the number of men with the number of women in individual hierarchical groups
(Sub,Dom,andBoth), frequencies differed (n= 309, χ
2
= 140.718, d.f.=2,P= 0.0001). Men were
more excited by their dominance than their submission, but women were excited by their own
submission rather than their partners submission (n= 233, χ
2
= 121.056, d.f.=1,P= 0.0001). Almost
one third of men who got excited by a disparity in hierarchy were sexually aroused by both their own
submission and their partners submission. Women were much less excited by both their own submis-
sion and their partners submission than men (n= 309, χ
2
= 14.077; d.f.=1,P= 0.0001). (Table 1)
Sexual arousal by dominance and submission: Age differences
Men aged 2534 did not differ from men aged 3544 in their sexual preference for hierarchy
(n= 376, χ
2
= 1.944, d.f.=1,P= 0.163). Women in the age category of 2534 years had a tendency
to prefer hierarchy disparity more than women between the ages of 3544 years (45.6% to 34.9%;
n= 297, χ
2
= 3.482, d.f.=1,P= 0.062)). (Table 2)
Table 1. Sexual arousal by dominance and submission.
Men Women All
%(n)%(n)%(n)
No 48.9 (184) 60.6 (180) 54.1 (364)
Dom 28.7 (108) 3.4 (10) 17.4 (118)
Sub 6.1 (23) 31.0 (92) 17.1 (115)
Both 16.2 (61) 5.1 (15) 11.3 (76)
Percentages and number of respondents who were excited by their partners submission (Dom), by their own submission (Sub), by
both their partners submission and their own submission (Both), and by no such preference (No).
Table 2. Sexual arousal by dominance and submission age differences.
Men Women
Age 2534 Age 3544 Age 2534 Age 3544
%(n)%(n)%(n)%(n)
No 53.2 (83) 45.9 (101) 54.4 (68) 65.1 (112)
Dom 22.4 (35) 33.2 (73) 5.6 (7) 1.7 (3)
Sub 7.7 (12) 5.0 (11) 34.4 (43) 28.5 (49)
Both 16.7 (26) 15.9 (35) 5.6 (7) 4.7 (8)
Percentages and number of respondents of two age cohorts who were excited by their partners submission (Dom), by their own
submission (Sub), by both their partners submission and their own submission (Both), and by no such preference (No).
DEVIANT BEHAVIOR 3
Women aged 2534 did not differ from men of the same age (n= 281, χ
2
= 0.4; d.f.=1,
P= 0.842), while women aged 2534 less preferred hierarchy disparity than men of the age (34.9
54.1%; n= 392, χ
2
= 14.353; d.f.=1,P= 0.0001). (Table 2)
The number of men in the hierarchical groups (Sub, Dom, and Both) did not differ between the
two age categories (n= 192, χ
2
= 3.943, d.f.=2,P= 0.139). Nor did the number of women (n= 117,
χ
2
= 1.982, d.f.=2,P= 0.371). (Table 2)
Sexual arousal by dominance and submission: Strength of the preferences
Generally, out of these 673 people, 8.2% (55) people answered definitely yes, to the question about
being sexually aroused by their own submission or their partners submission. Two respondents
(0.3%) revealed their preference for BDSM sex in open-ended questions I have another (sexual)
preferenceand Your other notions.
Equality
Generally, out of 673 people, 41 (6.1%) were excited by their submission or their partnerssubmis-
sion but were not excited by gender equality. Fourteen men in the Domgroup, six men in the
Subgroup, one man in the Bothgroup, and one man in the Nogroup answered rather not
excited by equality. Three men chose Definitely not excitedin the Domgroup and two men in
the Bothgroup. twelve women in the Subgroup and one woman in the Bothgroups were
rather notexcited by equality. Two women (Subgroup and Domgroup) were definitely not
excited by the equal partner. See Table 3 for percentages and number of answers to the question
about being sexually aroused by an equal partner in the Hierarchyand Nogroup of respondents.
Discussion
Sexual arousal by dominance and submissiveness was found to be frequent. Out of 673 respondents
51.1% of men and 39.4% of women (45.9% of all respondents) were sexually aroused by dominant
or/and submissive partner (Table 1). The same proportion of men and women interested in
hierarchy disparity unconsciously showed their preference for disparity by clicking on the symbol
(Jozifkova and Flegr 2006)(Table 4).
As such a frequent occurrence suggests sexual arousal by dominance and submission may
represent an important mechanism of the mating strategy in humans. In accordance with common
reproductive strategy, markers for improved reproductive success, which are related to increased
social dominance, were found in humans. For example, in the past, high-ranking Mormons used to
have multiple wives because a wife was given to them with every increase in rank (Mealey 1985).
Table 3. Sexual arousal by equality.
Gender equality
Hierarchygroup Nogroup
%(n)%(n)
Definitely yes 30.4 (94) 51.9 (189)
Rather yes 35.3 (109) 30.2 (110)
Neither yes nor no 20.7 (64) 17.3 (63)
Rather not 11.0 (34) 0.3 (1)
Definitely not 2.3 (7) 0
Not sure 0.3 (1) 0.3 (1)
Percentages and number of answers to the question about being sexually aroused by an equal partner in
Hierarchyand Nogroup of respondents. Hierarchygroup consists of respondents who were excited by
their partners submission (Dom), by their own submission (Sub), by both their partners submission and their
own submission (Both). Nogroup of respondents shows no such preference.
4E. JOZIFKOVA
These Mormons also had more children (Fieder et al. 2005), just like contemporary male university
employees in leading positions (Mealey 1985). Striking results were found in modern populations
where the number of offspring may be influenced by contraceptive use. In Montréal, Quebec, men of
high social status had increased copulation frequency, equaling to a higher potential fertility (Perusse
1993). Women reported more frequent and earlier-timed orgasms when mated to masculine and
dominant men(Puts et al. 2012). Thus the sexual arousal by dominance and submissiveness may
have a biological base.
Theoretically, there might be also an effect of social equality in an egalitarian society where disparities
are not strengthened. The conflict between mating strategy and modern ethics might drive the need for a
symbolic emphasis of dominance and submission between sexual partners. In highly developed areas,
educated personas (for more see (Connolly 2006; Sandnabba et al. 2002; Wismeijer and van Assen 2013))
may seek a safe and harmless expression of mating strategy via ritualized sexual fantasy.
Connolly (2006) reported that the majority of males fell along the dominant end of the spectrum
whereas the majority of females fell along the submissive end of the spectrum. Similar results were found
in this study. Men were more excited by their dominance than their submission, but women were excited
by their own submission rather than their partners submission. On the other hand, the study provides
evidence of women who were aroused by male submission, and men who were aroused by female
dominance. The higher proportion of sexually dominant men and sexually submissive women corre-
sponds with the above-mentioned mating strategy. Interestingly, we find increased reproductive success
in a parental pair of dominant men and submissive women as well as in pairs consisting of dominant
women and submissive men in westernized urban populations (Jozifkova, Konvicka, and Flegr 2014). It
seems that sexual arousal by dominance or submissiveness may help its bearer independently of his or
her gender. Nevertheless, sexual arousal by dominance or submissiveness may help its bearer only if he or
she can find a matching partner.
The earlier research was conducted using an internet trap in Czech respondents (Jozifkova and
Flegr 2006)(Table 4). Within the trap, respondents chose between several web pages which were
accessed by clicking on the symbol of couples displayed on entrance doors. Considering hier-
archical disparity (preference for dominance and submissiveness), the results of this earlier research
correspond with our current study. However, in contrast to men, women responded to the schemes
Dom × Sub (dominance or submissiveness) in the trap differently from how they responded in the
questionnaire in the current study.
The sum of respondents who were excited by sexual hierarchical disparity did not differ between
men and women aged 2534 (45.646.8%). Surprisingly, women aged 3544 preferred their own
submission and/or their partners submission less than men of that age (34.954.1%)(Table 2).
Table 4. Comparison with an internet trap study (Jozifkova and Flegr 2006).
Men Women
Questionnaire Symbol (Jozifkova and Flegr 2006) Questionnaire Symbol (Jozifkova and Flegr 2006)
%%%%
No 48.9 49.6 60.6 59.7
Dom + Sub + Both 51.1 50.4 39.4 40.3
Dom 28.7 36.6 3.4 19.8
Sub 6.1 13.8 31.0 20.5
Both 16.2 5.1
Comparison of the percentages of respondents who were excited by their partners submission (Dom), by their own submission
(Sub), by both their partners submission and their own submission (Both), and by no such preference (No) with earlier research
done by clicking on the symbols on the Internet (Jozifkova and Flegr 2006). The percentage of questioned respondents who
were sexually excited by hierarchy disparity (Dom + Sub + Both) and who had no such preference (No) did not differ from trap
study based on symbols (data were analyzed for both genders independently: men: n=745, χ
2
= 0.032, d.f.=1, P=0.858;
women: n=686, χ
2
= 0.636, d.f.=1,P=0.425). However, the trap did not permit a choice of both the dominant and the
submissive partner. Since we have performed the recent survey, we can calculate the percentage of men preferring both if we
sum the differences between the percentages in the former study (Internet trap) and the current study (questionnaire): (13.8
6.1) + (36.628.7) = 15.6. This result is similar to the percentage of these men found in our current study (16.2%).
DEVIANT BEHAVIOR 5
Women aged 3544 seemed to have a much less marked preference for hierarchical disparity in their
sexual life or they might have been too shy to report their preferences linked to sexual deviation.
We compared our results with a study by another research group that also investigated sexual
preferences for hierarchical disparity. Wismeijer and van Assen (2013) recruited their respondents
on BDSM web forum in The Netherlands. The division of preferred hierarchical disparity was
similar to the division of these preferences in Dutch respondents interested in BDSM sex in
women but there were statistical differences in men (Table 5). However, this difference might be a
result of a bias, because submissive men, who have difficulties in finding a partner in the general
population, might be present among BDSM respondents with a higher frequency. Surprisingly, no
such phenomenon was found in dominant women. This finding suggests that the factors that
influence gathering in BDSM communities are different for men and women.
A total of 8.2% (55) people answered definitely yes, to the question about being sexually aroused
by their own submission or their partners submission, which may reflect the size of the minority with
a strong preference for hierarchical disparity between sexual partners. Surprisingly, only 6.1% (41) of
respondents were excited by hierarchical disparity but not by equality. This observation supports the
idea of Bezreh, Weinberg, and Eedgar (2012), which suggests that the general population should be
educated about this sexual preference in the same way that it is educated about homosexuality.
We can conclude that 8.2% of respondents displayed a strong preference for dominance and
submission. Among these respondents, such a preference may be fundamental for 6.1% of people.
Later, some of these people may learn that this preference is classified as BDSM and practitioners are
called BDSMers. In our study, two (0.3%) of our respondents openly confessed to BDSM practices.
These respondents revealed their BDSM preference in open-ended questions. We did not ask them
about their BDSM sexual preference directly (see Method for more).
Conclusion
This study shows that almost half of people consider as arousing those sexual activities which
are related to hierarchical disparity between partners. Thus, sexual arousal by dominance and
submission is likely to represent an important mechanism in human mating strategy; this fact
indicates a biological basis for these sexual preferences. People differed in the type of disparity
that they preferred, and how strongly they preferred this disparity. A strong preference was
found in 8.2% of respondents. Respondents of 6.1% were not even excited by equality, but only
by disparity. Therefore, rather than being a characteristic of a minority, this preference
represents an intensity scale that is differently expressed in as many as almost half of the
population.
Table 5. Comparison with Dutch respondents interested in BDSM sex (Wismeijer and van Assen 2013).
General population % BDSM respondents (Wismeijer and van Assen 2013)%
Men* Dom 56.2 48.3
Sub 12.0 33.4
Both 31.8 18.3
Women Dom 8.5 8
Sub 78.6 75.6
Both 12.8 16.4
*P= 0.001
Percentages of the Czech general population respondents who were excited by their dominance, their submission and both
dominance and submission compared to Wismeijer and van Assen (2013) findings in Dutch respondents interested in BDSM sex
(464 men, age m = 45.5, SD = 11.12; 438 women, age m = 37.1, SD = 10.8). Respondents with the preference for hierarchy were
excited either by their partners submission (Dom) or by their own submission (Sub); but there were also respondent who were
excited by both preferences (Both). Respondents are separated according their gender and age. The Czech population sample
differed from Dutch BDSM respondents in the portion of respondents with specific preferences in men but they did not differ in
women (men n=656, χ
2
=35.724, d.f.=2, P=0.0001; women: n=555, χ
2
= 0.920, d.f.=2,P=0.631).
6E. JOZIFKOVA
Acknowledgements
Help with English provided by Stephen and Drahomíra Gell, Martina Kolackova, and Mark Omwansa is gratefully
acknowledged. We thank to Professor J. Cihlar from the J.E. Purkyne University in Usti nad Labem for statistical
consulting.
Funding
The study was supported by grants from the Czech Science Foundation GACR P407/12/P616, and GACR 16-01845S.
Notes on contributor
EVA JOZIFKOVA is Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at J.E. Purkyne University in Usti nad Labem,
Czech Republic. She has focused on behavior in the fields of anthropology, psychology, and zoology. Jozifkova has
published articles about possible evolutionary causation of BDSM and fetish preferences, mating strategies, social
hierarchy, and partner violence.
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8E. JOZIFKOVA
... Ženy přitahovali muži, kteří vykazovali znaky vysokého hierarchického postavení, jako je vysoký sociální status (Mealey 1985;Mazur et al. 1994;Fieder et al. 2005), tvář s rysy typickými pro dominantní osoby (Mueller -Mazur 1997;Booth -Mazur 1998), fyzická dominance (Wolff -Puts 2010), maskulinní hlas (Feinberg et al. 2006), a přitahovala je vůně dominantních mužů (Havlicek et al. 2005). Část osob má však opačné preference -některé ženy volí submisivní muže a submisivní muži je sexuálně vzrušují Jozifkova -Kolackova 2017;Jozifkova 2018). Páry, kde se jeden z partnerů podřizoval druhému, měly vyšší reprodukční úspěch nezávisle na pohlaví výše postaveného jedince, takže se z evolučně biologického hlediska jedná o úspěšnou strategii ). ...
... Většinu mužů vzrušovaly submisivní ženy a většinu žen dominantní muži. Avšak 3,4 % žen vzrušovala submisivita mužů a 6,1 % mužů dominance žen (Jozifkova 2018). ...
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Dominanční hierarchie se vyvinula jako adaptace sociálně žijících živočichů na podmínky prostředí. Postavení v dominanční hierarchii výrazně ovlivňuje život a chování člověka i v dnešních moderních evropských a amerických společnostech. Zde 1) stručně vysvětlíme principy a evoluční pozadí dominanční hierarchie z úhlu pohledu behaviorálních věd, 2) popíšeme rysy dominanční hierarchie u člověka, a 3) uvedeme příklady toho, co určuje hierarchické postavení jedince u člověka, jak toto postavení ovlivňuje život jedince a jak se projevuje v chování.Struktura dominanční hierarchie, ustavení hierarchického postavení (rank) a omezení daná tímto postavením jsou předvídatelná. Postavení ovlivňuje život jedince v mnoha směrech (reprodukce, komunikace, zdraví, tok informací, vzorce chování). Pokud chceme plně porozumět chování člověka, jeho rozhodnutím a pocitům, musíme brát v úvahu existence dominanční hierarchie mezi jedinci a mezi skupinami jedinců.
... Parker articulates how their interest in the artistry and power within BDSM provides them sexual pleasure that doesn't necessarily revolve around orgasms. Around 45 to 60 percent of people report having fantasies that include dominance or submission, and around 30 percent of people have fantasies that include whipping or spanking (Joyal et al, 2015;Jozifkova, 2018). In a qualitative study of queer folk who practice BDSM, Robin Bauer (2014) found that there was not only a celebration of sexuality and pleasure among the research subjects OR within this group, but a skill in communicating one's desires, fantasies, preferences, and abilities. ...
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In the 2021 edition of Queer STS Forum we collected experiences with queer interventions in education, academia, radio etc. – queer in the broadest sense of the term. These interventions happened in/through teaching, art and research. They posed the question of how to treat each other, how to become an inclusive and caring community, or how to tackle hegemonic, excluding, power-maintaining practices and structures. Contributions in this Forum comprise audios, videos, and texts sharing experience, analysis, and questions.
... Parker articulates how their interest in the artistry and power within BDSM provides them sexual pleasure that doesn't necessarily revolve around orgasms. Around 45 to 60 percent of people report having fantasies that include dominance or submission, and around 30 percent of people have fantasies that include whipping or spanking (Joyal et al, 2015;Jozifkova, 2018). In a qualitative study of queer folk who practice BDSM, Robin Bauer (2014) found that there was not only a celebration of sexuality and pleasure among the research subjects OR within this group, but a skill in communicating one's desires, fantasies, preferences, and abilities. ...
... In the same study, 49% of women and 18% of men reported having been sexually touched in an unwelcome way at least once in their life. Indeed, a growing number of studies clearly demonstrate that many paraphilic behaviors are not atypical in non-clinical samples of participants (Ahlers et al., 2011;Androvicova et al., 2018;Castellini et al., 2018;Dawson et al., 2016;Eagan, 2017;Herbenick et al., 2017;Joyal & Carpentier, 2017;Jozifkova, 2018;Lodi-Smith et al., 2014;Mundy & Cioe, 2019;Noorishad et al., 2019). Approximately half of men recruited in non-clinical populations report having done a paraphilic behavior at least once in their lifetime (especially voyeurism and domination-submission themes; Apostolou & Khalil, 2019;Castellini et al., 2018;Dawson et al., 2016;Holvoet et al., 2017;Joyal & Carpentier, 2017;Noorishad et al., 2019). ...
... "fetishes," role playing or dramatizing erotic scenarios, and other activities that induce heightened states of consciousness, i.e. "headspaces," which is how positive, altered states of consciousness are referred to in kink subcultures. Approximately 45-60% of people in the general population of some Western nations report having fantasies that involve dominance and submission in some fashion (Joyal et al., 2014Jozifkova, 2018, and in terms of behavior, approximately 10% of the general population of some Western nations have engaged in kink 1 The compound acronym "BDSM" is also often used in the literature, denoting bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism and masochism. However, "kink" is a term that comes from the community and has been used for over 90 years (Bienvenu, 1998), whereas BDSM is a more recent term created by scholars and researchers that was adopted by kink communities in the early 1990s. ...
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What is the structure of kink identity? Using a thematic analysis design, our study explored this question through 70 in-person interviews with adults 18 years and older living in Northern California who identified as kinky. Four key themes of kink identity emerged from our analysis: sex, power, headspace, and community. Although there were great variety and diversity in how these four themes were characterized -- both as separate and overlapping themes, we were able to conceptually group these themes into seven discrete subthemes based on how our 70 participants narrativized their kink experiences during interviews: (1) intertwining of kink and sex; (2) intense physical sensations (SM); (3) sensual experiences (fetish); (4) eroticizing power differentials; (5) fluidity vs stability of power role in kink activities and relationships; (6) community connections; and (7) headspace or altered states of consciousness. That our thematic analysis developed into these seven subthemes suggests that kink identity is a multidimensional structure of complex and diverse aspects.
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On average men live for several years less than women. This is true in all cultures. Because of the universality of the phenomenon, for a long time biological or genetic causes were taken for granted. It was not until the quasi-experimental analyses of the so-called monastic and lifestyle studies that socialization conditions were proven to be a major cause of gender-specific mortality. Gender was thus decomposed from a dimorphism based on genotypic and phenotypic characteristics to a more continuous construct based on the interaction between “sex” and “gender,” i.e., the biological foundations and identity formation. The poles “masculine” and “feminine” are characterized by a changing concept of the gender role in relation to the dimensions of society, sexuality, personality and physique over time from traditional to modern. Even if the polarity itself may be dissolving today due to the increasing importance of transidentity and re-evaluation of disorders of gender development, the traditional gender roles are still effective, not only in terms of mortality but also considering gender-specific morbidity (burden of disease). Reflecting on the meaning of gender is not only relevant as a social discourse but can also make an important contribution to acting in the psychotherapeutic relationship from being a man-woman or non-binary person to acting in a gender-sensitive way with the requirements of a gender-attentive awareness.
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Dominant/submissive role-play (D/s) is associated with specialized roles including Mistress, Master, Slave, Switch, Sadist, and Masochist. The current study uses cluster analysis to provide empirical evidence that no binary opposition or single spectrum constitutes a workable typology of individuals based on their affinities for these roles. The optimality of a particular choice of clustering scheme, including the number of clusters, is established using a replication technique which is presented in detail. A large number (n = 236,353) of individualized results (profiles) generated by the BDSM Test, a popular anonymous web survey, were analyzed. We hypothesize a two-dimensional typology of D/s profiles as the inferential result of our cluster analyses.
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This is the preprint version of a chapter published in: L. A. Craig & R. M. Bartels (Eds.) 2021. Sexual Deviance: Understanding and Managing Deviant Sexual Interest and Paraphilic Disorders. Wiley. https://www.wiley.com/en-gb/Sexual+Deviance%3A+Understanding+and+Managing+Deviant+Sexual+Interests+and+Paraphilic+Disorders-p-9781119705833
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Few studies have systematically examined the relationship between kink behaviors and sexual behaviors, yet even these preliminary studies indicate that the relationship is complex and that there is a notable diversity in how people construct the boundaries of sex and kink and the relationship between them. As part of a grounded theory study of kink identity, the current study examined how 70 kink-identified participants from Northern California discussed their experience and understanding of the relationship between kink and sex in interviews conducted in 2014 and 2015. Findings indicated seven themes: kink flowing into sex, kink as spice for sexual interactions, kink and sex as connection and intimacy, kink and sex as an expression of erotic energy, kink and sex as an expression of power exchange, kink as spiritual, and kink as freedom. Findings indicated that sexual orientation and gender identity may influence how people understand and experience the relationship between kink and sex.
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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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Equality between partners is considering a feature of the functional partnerships in westernized societies. However, the evolutionary consequences of how in-pair hierarchy influences reproduction are less known. Attraction of some high-ranking women towards low-ranking men represents a puzzle. Young urban adults (120 men, 171 women) filled out a questionnaire focused on their sexual preference for higher or lower ranking partners, their future in-pair hierarchy, and hierarchy between their parents. Human pairs with a hierarchic disparity between partners conceive more offspring than pairs of equally-ranking individuals, who, in turn, conceive more offspring than pairs of two dominating partners. Importantly, the higher reproductive success of hierarchically disparate pairs holds, regardless of which sex, male or female, is the dominant one. In addition, the subjects preferring hierarchy disparity in partnerships were with greater probability sexually aroused by such disparity, suggesting that both the partnership preference and the triggers of sexual arousal may reflect a mating strategy. These results challenge the frequently held belief in within-pair equality as a trademark of functional partnerships. It rather appears that existence of some disparity improves within-pair cohesion, facilitating both cooperation between partners and improving the pairs' ability to face societal challenges. The parallel existence of submissivity-dominance hierarchies within human sexes allows for the parallel existence of alternative reproductive strategies, and may form a background for the diversity of mating systems observed in human societies. Arousal of overemphasized dominance/submissiveness may explain sadomasochistic sex, still little understood from the evolutionary psychology point of view.
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It has been hypothesized that female orgasm evolved to facilitate recruitment of high-quality genes for offspring. Supporting evidence indicates that female orgasm promotes conception, although this may be mediated by the timing of female orgasm in relation to male ejaculation. This hypothesis also predicts that women will achieve orgasm more frequently when copulating with high-quality males, but limited data exist to support this prediction. We therefore explored relationships between the timing and frequency of women's orgasms and putative markers of the genetic quality of their mates, including measures of attractiveness, facial symmetry, dominance, and masculinity. We found that women reported more frequent and earlier-timed orgasms when mated to masculine and dominant men—those with high scores on a principal component characterized by high objectively-measured facial masculinity, observer-rated facial masculinity, partner-rated masculinity, and partner-rated dominance. Women reported more frequent orgasm during or after male ejaculation when mated to attractive men—those with high scores on a principal component characterized by high observer-rated and self-rated attractiveness. Putative measures of men's genetic quality did not predict their mates' orgasms from self-masturbation or from non-coital partnered sexual behavior. Overall, these results appear to support a role for female orgasm in sire choice.
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In most social species, position in the male social hierarchy and reproductive success are positively correlated; in humans, however, this relationship is less clear, with studies of traditional societies yielding mixed results. In the most economically advanced human populations, the adaptiveness of status vanishes altogether; social status and fertility are uncorrelated. These findings have been interpreted to suggest that evolutionary principles may not be appropriate for the explanation of human behavior, especially in modern environments. The present study tests the adaptiveness of social status with actual mating and reproductive data in a representative sample of males from an industrial society. Reproductive success, even when assessed by a more reliable measure of actual male fertility than the one commonly used, fails to correlate with social status. In striking contrast, however, status is found to be highly correlated with potential fertility, as estimated from copulation frequency. Status thus accounts for as much as 62% of the variance in this proximate component of fitness. This pattern is remarkably similar to what is found in many traditional societies and would result in a substantial positive relationship between cultural and reproductive success in industrial populations were it not for the novel conditions imposed by contraception and monogamy. Various underlying mechanisms are suggested for these findings, illustrating the value of current behavioral and reproductive data in the study of adaptation. It is concluded that evolutionary explanations of human behavior remain entirely relevant in modern societies.
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This article reviews recent research on sadomasochistically oriented behaviour. Topics include: (a) demographics of individuals who participate in sadomasochistic sex; (b) the sexual characteristics of this group of individuals; (c) sexual behaviours involved and the nature of the underlying relationship of these behaviours to one another; (d) family background; and (e) experiences of childhood sexual abuse. The article ends with a summary of the major é ndings and some suggestions for future research.
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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.
Article
The present study explored the meaning of consensual sadomasochistic (SM) sexual practice to eight SM practitioners (SMPs) in long-term committed relationships, and also examined SMPs opinions about the attitudes of psychotherapists towards SM. Four heterosexual couples involved in SM within their committed relationships were interviewed regarding (1) the nature of the relationship and commitment to partner; (2) particular SM practice; (3) meaning of their sexual orientation within the relationships; and (4) impact of the attitudes of others toward their SM practice. Analysis of the interviews revealed the following results: (1) SM enactments can be healing tools and tools for transformations; (2) SM may be regarded as a type of sexual orientation of which many persons become aware early in life; (3) SM is a distinct subculture; (4) SM relationships and SM community support promote liberation from the repression and judgment of non-SM mainstream society; and (5) some SM practitioners maintain and sustain committed long-term relationships and work through difficult relational issues. Participants reported that most psychotherapists showed negative, uninformed and judgmental attitudes towards SM practice. The negative attitudes ranged from the therapist asking ignorant and judgmental questions to an instance of client abandonment. Some SMPs reported avoiding any reference to SM to their psychotherapist because they feared the therapist's reaction. All eight interviewees believed that there exists a need for greater information in the mental health community regarding the SM sexual orientation. An educational video of 75 minutes length was produced from the videotaped interviews. In this videotaped presentation, the researcher provided a brief introduction to SM (sadomasochism), BD (bondage and discipline) and DS (dominance and submission), explaining terminology and activities. Pertinent segments from participant's interviews followed. Finally, the researcher closed the video with a brief summary. Limitations of the findings were described and discussed, and the following conclusions and recommendations were presented: (1) sadomasochistic sexual practice may be regarded as a sexual orientation similar to homosexuality, and should not be targeted for change in psychotherapy unless requested by the client; (2) unsafe or destructive behavior within the SM context must be addressed in therapy once a trusting therapeutic relationship has been established, based on knowledge of SM practice as well as psychotherapeutic skill; and (3) graduate psychology students would greatly benefit from education that does not pathologize sexually variant behavior such as SM.
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This review explores literature relevant to understanding the psychological well-being of people who have an interest in sexual sadomasochism (SM). It focuses on evaluating the traditional psychiatric and psychodynamic perspectives of SM, which conceptualize SM practitioners as being psychologically unwell. The empirical information reviewed is inconsistent with a number of aspects of the traditional theories of SM. The validity of conceptualizing the majority of SM practitioners as being psychologically unwell is questioned and the negative psychological impact that these traditional theories can have on SM practitioners is noted. The implications for professionals' working with SM-practicing clients is considered.