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Alexandra Tyler, LCSW, CCH

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Mental Health Benefits of BDSM and Kink

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

 

I recently came across a Huffington Post article titled: "BDSM Correlated With Better Mental Health." It was based on a scientific study, "Psychological Characteristics of BDSM Practitioners" by Andreas A.J. Wismeijer, PhD* and Marcel A.L.M. van Assen, PhD†

 

Based the research findings, BDSM and Kink enthusiasts had better mental health on a number of well established measures of mental health than their non-BDSM/Kink counterparts. According to the article, they “were found to be less neurotic, more open, more aware of and sensitive to rejection, more secure in their relationships and have better overall well-being,” when compared to a non-BDSM or Kink control group (the “vanilla” group.) They also found that dominants scored better than switches, switches scored better than submissives, and submissives scored better than the vanilla control group.

 

They went on the theorize that this could be because, “they tend to be more aware of and communicative about their sexual desires, or because they have done some 'hard psychological work' to accept and live with sexual needs that are beyond the scope of what is often considered socially acceptable to discuss in the mainstream.” This last part is referring to coping with and overcoming the negative internal and external effects of oppression.

 

I can  certainly attest that the topics of communication and oppression/acceptance were prominent topics at the Sex Down South conference this last weekend. I obviously couldn’t attend every workshop, but most of the workshops I attended had to do with either communication skills, or acceptance/oppression.  

 

Here are some of the workshops I attended. “Become a Sexual Communication Ninja: How to Talk About your Sex Life and Start Getting What You Want” by Amy Jo Goddard. This was obviously about communication. And also, “Introduction to Play Parties,” by The Sexual Liberation Collective was about communicating sexual desires, communicating enthusiastic consent, discussing safe sex practices, negotiating sexual and/or BDSM activities, communicating your prefered gender pronouns and more. “Making Open Relationships Work,” by Tristan Taormino author of “Opening Up,” was about communication as well as doing some of the psychologically “hard work.”

 

“Navigating Kink Within Oppression,” by Yosenio V Lewis, Ignacio G Rivera, and Hussain Turk

was a wonderful workshop that covered many forms of oppression in depth and what we can do to address this oppression constructively. “Asexuality in a World of Sex,” by Melissa Avery-Weir

was informative and encouraged a positive embracing of diversity (specifically the asexual identity.) And finally, “Our Intimate Selves: Examining Sex, Gender, Orientation, Intimacy, Relationship Styles and Sexual Behavior” by Lee Harrington was provocative and informative.


I attended a few other workshops that I will cover in future blog posts. But it is very clear to me that communication skills and overcoming oppression are central topics in the kink and BDSM community and according to research, may explain better mental health scores for BDSM and Kink enthusiasts.

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