New research has found that women with borderline personality disorder are more likely to engage in sexual masochism.
The study examined 60 women with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and 60 women with a personality disorder other than BPD. The researchers found that sexual masochism disorder was 10 times more likely in women with BPD than the other women. Women with BPD were more likely to report fantasizing about being tied up, being whipped and spanked, and being forced to do something.
Sexual masochism disorder, unlike masochism in general, occurs when a person’s masochistic behaviors cause significant psychological, social, or physical harm.
Does this mean sexual masochism disorder is a symptom of BPD? Not necessarily. As the researchers explain, BDP and sexual masochism disorder may “share common risk factors that could explain their co-occurrence.” They found, for instance, that masochistic women with BPD were more likely to have suffered childhood sexual abuse than non-masochistic women.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, Alvaro Frias Ibañez of the University of Ramon-Llull in Barcelona. Read his responses below:
PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?
Ibañez: I usually treat patients with personality disorders in general and borderline personality disorder specifically. Most of these patients reported sado-masochistic sexual experiences in which they adopted the masochistic role. For these patients, similar to other harmful acts such as cutting, they obtained pleasure by receiving such behaviors.
What should the average person take away from your study?
While sexual sado-masochistic behaviors may represent benign acts, it is likely that sado-masochistic disorder may somehow reflect an underlying emotional disturbance.
Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?
The sample size was relatively small and did not pertain to the general population. Hence, it is possible that sado-masochistic sexual disorder may not be a psychological disturbance per se.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Based on my clinical experience, clinicians should address whether borderline patients may have sado-masochistic sexual disorder, specifically in order to avoid forthcoming sexual risk behaviors and also as a manner to treat with trauma-related symptomatology.
The study, “Is There a Relationship Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Sexual Masochism in Women?” was also co-authored by Laura González, Cárol Palma, and Núria Farriols.