Bondage is Good for Your Health

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Surprising results have emerged from a Dutch study that suggests that those who practice BDSM (bondage, dominance/submission and sadomasochism) are more psychologically healthy than those with ‘standard’ sexual preferences. The research, recently published by The Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that those who participated in BDSM scored better on personality and psychological tests. We have always been supportive of the BDSM community and celebrated upon reading the results, particularly as the research is somewhat at odds with the general assumption of the public that BDSM is associated with psychopathy, personality or mental disorders.

The researchers devised the tests to assess a number of psychological aspects.

  • The five main elements of personality: neuroticism, extraversion, and openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
  • The level of rejection sensitivity (based on whether a person overestimates the possibility of being rejected by others, as well as the emotional impact following rejection).
  • The type of attachment style (the persistent and emotionally significant bond that individuals form with others).
  • Lastly, subjective wellbeing.

Participants also completed a survey, which had sections on confidence in relationships, discomfort with closeness, relationships as secondary dimensions (e.g. whether their relationships are shallow and superficial), the need for approval and, finally, preoccupation.

Dr Andreas Wismeijer from Tilburg University, who carried out the research, found that, in terms of psychological health, those with these fetishes were not so different from those without.  Further to this, where there was a difference, it generally showed that they had better levels of psychological wellbeing.

Dr Wismeijer asked, in total, 902 BDSM practitioners and 434 non-BDSM participants to complete a series of online psychological questionnaires. They were unaware that it had any link to their sexual behaviour only that it was about ‘human behaviour’. The results showed that, compared to the Non-Fetish group, those with BDSM preferences were on the whole less neurotic and less sensitive to being rejected. They were more extraverted and conscientious and open to new experiences. Overall it showed that they had a greater sense of wellbeing.

From these results the researchers correctly concluded that BDSM is not a manifestation of any psychopathological disorder or process. Rather, it should be seen in ‘recreational leisure’ terms.

The results of the research went further than this and showed the psychological make-up between those who were dominant and those who were submissive.  Their sexual role seemed to mirror their personality.  Those who were dominant were more confident and most balanced and those who were submissive were the least.  Interestingly, the submissive candidates still had more favourable results that the general population on mental health, and overall they largely scored higher.  Dr Wismeijer said of the research, ‘Within the BDSM community, [submissives] were always perceived as the most vulnerable, but still, there was not one finding in which the submissives scored less favourably than the controls’.

However, critics of the research say that it only provides a snapshot of how the candidates who took part in this survey were feeling at a single point in time. There are many factors that go into health, and the questionnaires used by the researchers did not assess whether the participants had been diagnosed with any physical or mental health conditions.

We hope that this latest research will only help to strengthen the BDSM community and encourage older critics of such practices to reconsider. It’s another little step towards a wider community that is accepting of all it’s members, whatever their bedroom preferences are.

Picture by Tom Woolridge.

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