Five Scientific Facts You Should Know About BDSM Sex And Those Who Practice It

BDSM (which stands for bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism) is a widely misunderstood set of sexual practices. There are a lot of myths and stereotypes out there about both the people who are into BDSM, as well as what it is that they do sexually. Unfortunately, popular media depictions of BDSM (e.g., Fifty Shades of Grey) have only served to reinforce many of these misconceptions. In light of this, here's what you really need to know about BDSM according to the science:

1.) Although fantasies about BDSM have long been considered to be rare or unusual, research does not support this characterization. In fact, it turns out that BDSM fantasies are quite common among both men and women. Check out this infographic for a look at some of the data.

2.) Persons who practice BDSM are often presumed to have psychological problems, or that they're "fifty shades of f*cked up" like the title character in Fifty Shades of Grey. In reality, however, research finds that people who are into BDSM appear to be just as psychologically healthy as people with more traditional sexual interests. This appears to be true for both dominants and submissives, which means that neither role is necessarily a sign of problems.

3.) When it comes to the origins of BDSM interests, they are often thought to stem from some childhood trauma (e.g., sexual abuse) or to develop around the time of one's first sexual experience; however, neither of these appears to be true. Indeed, studies have found that adults with BDSM interests do not have an increased likelihood of reporting childhood sexual victimization. In addition, a recent study of BDSM practitioners found that a majority reported that their interests did not develop until adulthood (age 22 on average), which was well after their first sexual experience.

4.) Contrary to popular belief, activities that lead to extreme pain (e.g., cutting, piercing, electric shocks) are quite rare in BDSM sex. For most BDSM practitioners, their activities involve mild or symbolic pain that poses no real risk of harm or danger. Most people who are into BDSM subscribe to the notion of "safe, sane, and consensual."

5.) Although sexual sadism and masochism technically appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), they do not constitute diagnosable disorders unless one's urges or behaviors cause psychological distress to the individual or they lead to victimization of others. The vast majority of people who have BDSM interests are therefore not considered to have mental disorders because their interests are not causing problems in their lives and are only taking place between consenting adults.

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[1] Richters, J., de Visser, R. O., Rissel, C. E., Grulich, A. E., & Smith, A. M. A. (2008). Demographic and psychosocial features of participants in bondage and discipline, 'sadomasochism' or dominance and submission (BDSM): Data from a national survey. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5, 1660-1668.

Image Source: 123RF.com/Bernd Juergens

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