BDSM practitioners report less sexual problems than the general population, study finds

Active participants in the BDSM community tend to report less sexual problems than the general population, according to new research in The Journal of Sex Medicine.

The new study also indicates that people who adopt different roles tend to report different levels of sexual satisfaction.

“As sexologists and researchers, we are very interested in sexual behavior in all its forms and shapes,” said study author Filippo M. Nimbi of Sapienza University of Rome and the Institute of Clinical Sexology.

“In recent years, we had the possibility to meet some BDSM organizations and talk together about sexual health, and we realized that there is a big hole in the scientific data regarding this interesting topic, which is usually filled by stereotypes and false beliefs. So we decided to do our best to understand a little bit more about BDSM practices.”

In their study, the researchers compared 266 consensual BDSM practitioners to 200 matched control participants. They found that men were more likely to assume a dominant role, whereas women were more likely to assume a submissive role. Nearly 30% of the participants considered themselves switches — meaning someone who is willing to assume either role.

Men and women who considered themselves dominant or switches tended to report higher sexual satisfaction and less sexual dysfunction compared to the submissive and control groups.

“The main message we wanted to share is that BDSM is not pathology or paraphilia, and has nothing to do with psychological problems. Moreover, we discovered that people that follow their own sexual fantasies in this field (while being respectful of others and supported by a community) are more sexually satisfied and report less sexual problems,” Nimbi told PsyPost.

The BDSM participants reported low levels of distress related to their sexual lifestyle. But the researchers noted that they were recruited from various BDSM communities, which could have skewed the results.

“The findings are based on an online survey that was mainly shared among BDSM Italian organizations. So we cannot say anything clear about private BDSMers who are not in touch with the community. There are few studies on BDSM and still a lot of work to do. Future research should focus on understanding what are the sexual health needs of this population and how we can address them as sexologists,” Nimbi explained.

“We usually think of BDSM as something kinky and far from our daily lives, but I strongly disagree. Personally, I am conducting a new research on sexual desire and erotic fantasies in the Italian general population and one of the aims of the study is to understand how common and satisfying BDSM fantasies and practices are. What can I say at this stage is that the first results seem to be very interesting and promising.”

The study, “Are Role and Gender Related to Sexual Function and Satisfaction in Men and Women Practicing BDSM?“, was authored by Daniela Botta, Filippo Maria Nimbi, Francesca Tripodi, Marco Silvaggi, and Chiara Simonelli.