Whips & Chains Excite Me

Whips & Chains Excite Me: BDSM, Social Acceptance and the Sexual Double Standard – Abbey Elder, Cory L. Pedersen, & Arleigh J. Reichl

BDSM (Bondage, Dominance/Discipline, Sadism/Masochism/Sadomasochism) is a marginalized, and relatively rare sexual practice, often considered “taboo” or “deviant”. Although awareness surrounding the BDSM community is growing through public exposure to BDSM-inspired media (everything from fashion trends, to “50 Shades of Grey” to Rihanna’s song “S&M”), practitioners continue to experience discrimination and social stigma.

This study evaluated gender-roles and exposure to normative information as factors in the social acceptance of both BDSM as a practice, and individuals who engage in Dominant-submissive (D/s) relationships.  It was hypothesized that 1) women in a position of dominance would be evaluated as more socially acceptable than men in a position of dominance, and 2) exposure to information that normalizes the relationship of a D/s couple would increase evaluations of social acceptability for D/s behaviour as a variant of healthy sexuality.

The results of the study did not indicate that female dominants are preferred over male dominants, however, exposure to normative information did have an effect on female participants; among women only, the presence of a normative interview significantly increased social acceptance of BDSM practices, when a female was in a position of dominance.  Results also indicated that 24% of participants reported that they had engaged in BDSM activity, which is more than double the recorded averages (10%) in previous studies. This may indicate an increase in acceptance of the practice, or changes in attitudes regarding reporting BDSM practices.

Poster presented at the Association for Psychological Sciences Annual Convention, San Francisco, 2014.