|University of Alabama and University of Central Florida researchers surveyed over 800 kinky people recruited by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) and found they were mentally and emotionally healthy.
“I was curious about the stereotypes from a mental health standpoint and we found that these kinky people are well functioning, with little mental health concerns,” says Tess M. Gemberling, M.A., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Alabama. “They also have healthy romantic relationships.”
The study, “Psychological Functioning and Violence Victimization and Perpetration in BDSM Practitioners from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom,” also investigated people’s preferences for BDSM activities and fantasies, and explored whether violence is perpetuated against kinky people. It joins a growing body of research that refutes the stereotype that people who are kinky are inherently dangerous to themselves and others, which is at the root of the discrimination and persecution that kinky people experience.
“I wanted to explore more about how the stereotypes interface with reality,” says Matt R. Nobles, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Central Florida. “Although more than half of the people in this study have been victims of violence or aggression, extremely few had perpetrated such themselves.”
In the study, 7.7% of participants reported they had been victims of a BDSM-based hate crime, while 10.2% of participants reported they had been victims of an LGBT-based hate crime.
“Parallel to my work with sexual minorities, my interest is in looking at the nature of identity and mental health in a vulnerable group of people,” says Robert J. Cramer, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Alabama. “Contrary to popular perceptions, our study shows kinky persons are largely mentally healthy when it comes to conditions such as depression, anxiety and suicide.”
The study also confirms that for these kinksters it’s primarily about consensual power exchange, with 98% preferring to take a specific power exchange role during BDSM. The most commonly reported practices were spanking, slapping and biting, and the use of sexual toys and equipment.
“Lawmakers can help by legally recognizing informed consent as the basis of healthy BDSM behavior,” says Susan Wright, spokesperson for NCSF. “BDSM is intended to be a mutually beneficial experience that is done by consenting adults.”