Psychology of BDSM Players

Regrets wrong doing. Man having a duh moment

When Fifty Shades of Grey came out it quickly became a book surrounded by controversy. To a majority of mainstream readers it was a titillating adventure filled with concepts that were foreign and sex that was taboo. To most of us in the BDSM world it was, at best, a trashy romance novel. However, there are some pros and cons to the book series and movie.

What did they get right?

Well, they pointed out a few things that can be a part of a D/s relationship. Things like negotiation, consent, use of safewords and contracts. Now, obviously this was a work of fiction and for them to go into the real details of these things would have probably bored the reader/moviegoer. However, at least they were touched upon in some way.

What did they get wrong?

One of the biggest things to jump out at me as I read the three book series was how the main character, Christian Grey, was depicted as the product of childhood abuse and the implication that it was the abuse that lead him down the path of BDSM. There is a huge stereotype that those of us into kink or BDSM are somehow damaged or are a product of physical and/or psychological abuse. The books are feeding right into this misconception.
Research has actually shown that folks into BDSM are not only healthy and no more likely to have suffered child abuse or sexual trauma than anyone else, but they are often (or in certain areas) healthier than mainstream society!

BDSMers that have undergone studies actually test somewhat less neurotic than others. They are also shown to be slightly more conscientious, more extroverted, and (not surprisingly) more open to new experiences.
As more studies are conducted, there is a growing amount of evidence that those who practice BDSM should NOT be associated with inadequate development due to trauma or other reasons. This should be viewed more as a lifestyle and/or recreation than an expression of psychopathological processes.

In addition, there have been studies that prove that BDSM play actually decreases stress hormones. So it’s actually good for your emotional well being – along with increasing a sense of intimacy with your partner.
So with that, take Fifty Shades as it’s meant to be – a romance novel/series. If you enjoyed reading it – wonderful. Just don’t generalize Christian Grey’s history of child abuse to BDSM practitioners in general. BDSM isn’t about abuse – it is simply another way consenting adults live their life, express themselves, and/or enjoy one another.

Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.

Comments

  1. my girlfriend loved those books-but now that she’s gotten more kinky she can see the difference. it’s annoying that nost of the public won’t ever understand.

  2. Warlock1935 says:

    I kept wondering why the supposedly experience come was trying to convert straight girl into a Submissive when she obviously didn’t the fantasy or the inclination.
    For the love of Mike, in the movie she DUMPED him four times!
    What kind of a Dom would put up with that? For that matter, what kind of self respecting Vanilla man would keep chasing after her?
    And then there’s the contract he wanted her to sign before they were even really started? The saying comes to me: “Just DO Me!”
    My experience with submissive women is that they are seldom mentally fragile. They want to be taken on hand and controlled, and show a remarkable level of courage. Personally, long before I let a girl into my life I gently and verbally test her to see whether she is my type, or just THINKS she is. After all, there are all kinds of different lifestyles under the heading of kink, and pursuing someone who’s feelings and inclinations aren’t a match isn’t likely to turn out well.

  3. Yes Warlock1935 – underneath any D/s dynamic is an actual relationship. It’s important to get to know your partner as a human being as well as how they identify, etc. Even if your D/s dynamic is platonic – it is still important to get along with and understand one another! 🙂

  4. Great article! Love the comments on the healthiness of the BDSM community vis-a-vis the so-called “normal” community. That said, I still think Fifty Shades of Grey was a freaking hot novel!

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