5 BDSM Myths Your Average Health Professional Actually BELIEVES

Warning: The ignorance of some counsellors, psychologists and health professionals WILL shock you.

You may be shocked at the BDSM and bondage myths that many of our mental health professionals continue to perpetuate, despite the removal of kinky sex as a pathology in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5); and the large body of research casting alternative sexual practices in a psychologically healthy light.

I think there is a great need for people (including counselors and health professionals) to know and understand about alternative relationship styles and alternative sexual behaviors/minorities so there’s less stigma and unnecessary judgment upon those who choose to engage in unconventional relationship dynamics.

This article aims to highlight the ways in which the erroneous and outdated beliefs about non-normative sexual behaviors and relationship dynamics perpetuate the marginalization of and stigma towards sexual minorities such as BDSM practitioners by the very people who are supposed to be “helping” them.

5 Myths About BDSM Your Average Health Professional Actually Believes To Be True:

MYTH 1. People Who Are Into BDSM Are Disturbed, Mentally Unstable, With Personality Disorders and Underlying Psychopathology.

WRONG! Science says kinksters are in better psychological shape than the general population.

Research indicates that BDSM is actually associated with BETTER mental health, with people into kinky sex having a more favorable psychological makeup than non-BDSM practitioners. A 2013 Netherlands study conducted by Dr. Andreas Wismeijer measuring personality dimensions of 902 BDSM practitioners and 434 non-BDSM people, actually found that those into BDSM were of better psychological health compared to those not into a bit of kink.

The findings of the study revealed that aside from having better overall psychological well-being than sexually normative people, BDSM aficionados were more conscientious, socially engaging, adventurous and open to trying new things than non-kinky people; and less neurotic, less closed-off and less paranoid of social rejection than non-BDSM people.

What the researchers concluded as a result of the findings in this study: BDSM should be viewed as a recreational leisure as opposed to an expression of psycho-pathological processes.

What The Experts Are Saying:

Sex therapist and neuroscientist Nan Wise who spends her days studying the brain at orgasm, argues that despite the pervasive mainstream misconception that the need for sexual novelty indicates pathology, diversity in lovemaking and creative sexual play actually makes for a healthier and more flexible brain. According to Wise, “having a brain that helps you seek out new experiences and new rewards on an ongoing basis results is a healthy pleasure system.”

Former President of the Australian Psychological Society Associate Professor Amanda Gordon, a Sydney based psychologist asserts that BDSM is a sexual behavior of personal choice and NOT a psychological condition.

Licensed Sexologist, sex therapist and psychologist Dr. Michael Aaron from USA believes that the reasons why kinky people are better off mentally than non-kinky people can be attributed to their lower levels of neuroticism and higher levels of openness to new experiences than the general public.

Dr. Aaron’s interpretation: “those who practice or incorporate BDSM into their sexual lives are less internally conflicted (and so less conflicted about their sexuality) and less rigid and more psychologically fluid (so they are more open to trying new things).”

MYTH 2. BDSM is a Destructive and Unhealthy Relationship Dynamic Based on Abuse.

WRONG! BDSM is all about safety, sanity and consent (aka the mantra for BDSM).

The cycle of domestic violence is:
Abuse—Guilt—Excuses—Honeymoon—Planning—Setup—Abuse

The cycle of BDSM is:
Communication—Agreement—Scene-play—Aftercare—Debrief—Communication

In BDSM relationships, the terms and conditions of punishments including infliction of pain, roles, rewards and expectations are decided upon equally by both parties within the dynamic and well before any action is taken. There is also a safe word that is agreed upon and respected at all times, in keeping with the BDSM mantra: “safe, sane and consensual.”

In an abusive relationship, the abused person has no idea of what to expect and never knows when the next abuse will occur. Abusive relationships unlike BDSM dynamics also find the abuser commonly making themselves out to be the victim, and the victim having no idea of what is expected of them.

What The Experts Are Saying:

Researcher and New York-based psychologist Dr. Alexis Conason says that making a clear distinction between BDSM and psychological and or physical abuse is of critical importance.

According to Dr. Conason whose private practice focuses on working with people experiencing sexual issues and body image , “BDSM DOES NOT involve emotional or physical abuse”, and “BDSM is characterized by a safe and playful arrangement between two consenting adult partners.”

World renowned sex and relationships researcher Dr. Pepper Schwartz affirms this notion, declaring that genuine BDSM relationships DO NOT involve abuse. According to Schwartz, BDSM relationships are “more negotiated than 99 percent of the sexual relationships I know.”

Dr. Virginia S Wood who specializes in working with trauma-victims also concurs emphasizing: “BDSM relationship and an abusive relationship are not the same thing.”

MYTH 3. Anyone Who Wants to Inflict or Receive Pain or Be Controlled and Dominated In Their Relationship Must Have Come From A Broken and Bad Home and Been Abused in Childhood.

WRONG! Research shows BDSM practitioners had just as good an upbringing as anyone else!

Research consistently shows that BDSM isn’t some pathological alarm bell sounding a past history of physical and or sexual abuse- but merely a sexual inclination to gravitate towards alternative and novelty sexual behaviors outside the norm.

A 2007 Australian national telephone survey investigating the sexual behaviors of approximately 20, 0000 Australians, found that BDSM practitioners were NOT any more likely than non-BDSM practitioners to have suffered from any past sexual issues, abuse, coercion or anxiety than anyone else.

Research findings from a 2008 Finnish study investigating homosexual BDSM also showed that kink-enthusiasts WERE NOT more likely to come from dysfunctional families than their non-kinky counterparts. According to Professor Richters, what was monumental in the national telephone study was that the findings helped to DISPROVE the regnant stereotype that those into B&D were “dysfunctional” and somehow damaged in their childhood.

What The Experts Are Saying:

Australian sexual health and behavioral researcher Professor Julie Richters declares that BDSM is a sexual interest and an attraction to a sexual subculture, and NOT a symptom of psychopathology or past abuse, and should be therefore seen as a “hobby.”

According to Dr. Conason, the majority of BDSM practitioners engage in kinky sexual practices “because they enjoy it and it is fun and pleasurable for them, not because they are acting out a pattern of abuse.”

MYTH 4. People Into Weird Sex Are Deeply Miserable On The Inside.

WRONG! Science tells us people into BDSM are actually happier!

A 2015 study published in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality found that both dominant and submissive BDSM practitioners reported that their chosen forms of alternative sexual practices gave them: sexual arousal and pleasure, novelty, enjoyment, personal growth, psychological release, enhanced romantic relationships, and a feeling of being free from their everyday roles and being able to be themselves. (Not exactly a recipe for misery or torment to me).

The 2007 Australian study found that not only does having a spanking fetish make men happier, it makes both men and women more likely to venture out of their comfort zone with a greater willingness to engage in experimental activities (activating parts of the brain associated with good feelings and a sense of wellbeing and pleasure). The study also showed couples who relish in BDSM and role-play games in bed report being happier than their vanilla counterparts.

A 2009 study conducted at the Northern Illinois University and Pisa University Italy which was published in New Scientist Magazine entitled Spank Together Stay Together found that couples who get busy with S&M reported feeling a greater sense of closeness to one another after engaging in a BDSM scene.

All this happiness, closeness, bonding, pleasure, enjoyment and arousal, (and in between getting or giving out routine floggings and ritual candle wax burnings), begs the question as to how do BDSM lovers possibly have the time to entertain misery?

What The Experts Are Saying:

Dr. Aaron explains that the fundamental reason behind why people who practice BDSM are happier and mentally healthy is because they are embracing their authentic selves and not repressing any part of their true nature. (We all know how much research there is our there linking authenticity to happiness and general psychological health and wellbeing).

American psychiatrist Dr. George Brown clearly states, “Sexual preferences that seem unusual to another person or health care practitioner DO NOT constitute pathology simply because they are unusual”, and goes on to say that within the context of two consenting adults, no harm or concern of psychological condition is valid.

Sharing his interpretation of the 2013 research findings from Netherlands, American sexologist Dr. Aaron commented that kinky lovers are individuals who are “more aware of their desires and do not try to repress them.” So in other words, they practice self-acceptance and self-love as well as BDSM which promotes overall psychological well-being and happiness.

MYTH 5. Any Adult Who Talks or Acts Like A Baby in Relationships is Imitating Pedophilia and of Questionable Mental Capacity.

WRONG! Research indicates baby talk shows stronger intimate bonds in relationships and acting like a baby has nothing to do with pedophilia or an attraction to children.

A report by Bombar and Littig published in 2005 found that couples who indulged in baby talking were more secure and less avoidant in their relationship as baby talking promotes emotional bonding as well as the expressing and nurturing of intimate and deep psychological bonds between lovers.

The authors reported that 22% of intimacy attachment is correlated with talking like a baby.  The study also revealed that baby talkers tended be less avoidant and more secure in their attachments with their friends also.

Baby talk between lovers is considered by psychologists to be a “healthy indulgence”; and talking like a baby to an intimate partner, according to scientists, is a valid form of communication of intimate attachment whereby couples are essentially reactivating primal circuits of attachment and reinforcing intimacy and connection.

Baby talk also provides a platform for lovers to step outside the restrictive limits of their normal self to activate play and fantasy, reducing stress.  Psychologists say that the couples who both use high pitched voices, lisps and engage in exclusive and intimate infantile communication serve to foster greater trust and intimacy in their relationship.

Age-play, whereby one consenting adult partner takes on the role of a much younger person in the relationship, is NOT seen as being at all related to pedophilia by professional psychologists and is an accepted form of sexual or non-sexual consensual role play between adults within the BDSM realm.

Men engaging in age-play whereby their female lover plays the role of a young girl or teenager, DO NOT have an attraction to children, says Clinical Psychologist and Psychoanalyst Dr. Michael Bader, author of best-seller  ‘Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies’ they simply enjoy childlike qualities such as high energy, optimism and a happy -go-lucky nature within adults.  (If only all adults were more in touch with their inner child throughout the lifespan, we’d have a much happier and harmonious world, I say!)

Dr. Angela Lewis, Australian counselor and educator and member of the Australian Counselors Association, who has conducted extensive research on alternative sexual behaviors including the Daddy Dom/Little Girl dynamic emphasized in her publication exploring age-play: “These roles are acted out by adults and are based on consensual agreement.”

While professional psychologists such as Aggrawal and Bader dispute age-play as pedophilia, Dr. Lewis noted that age-players tend to keep their sexual and nonsexual relationship practices “very private given that the first thought of those outside this interest is to label players as having pedophilic tendencies.”

What The experts Are saying:

According to the authors of the 2005 study, baby talk plays a legitimate  role in the process of intimate personal connections between romantic lovers as well and friends.

“Communication intentions accompanying baby talk paralleled the hallmarks of attachment, especially affection and play”, the researchers noted. Kiu Lalezar, PhD, a Pastoral counselor and ordained minister in Bel Air who examines relationships commented “what could be wrong with talking like a baby from time to time if it adds to intimacy and attachment?”

Sexual excitement, According to Dr. Bader In his book, “is loaded with taboos in our culture and is inevitably fraught with conflict and complications.” Dr. Bader believes that age-playing does not signify an attraction to children and is not actually even about children at all. Instead, he says, age-play represents a more subtle connotation of delighting in childlike qualities in adults.

Russel (2011) considers relishing in sexual fantasies and desires to be therapeutic for individuals. Dr. Michael Bader, an advocate for people exploring their fantasies as opposed to surprising them, concurs, saying that indulging in one’s sexual fantasies is psychologically beneficial, NOT destructive.

Bader stands firm in his assertion that sexual desires MUST be explored in whatever form or shape they take, pointing out that “sexual fantasies are the keyhole through which we will be able to see our true selves.”

Director of The Kinsey Institute, Julia Heiman told The Huffington Post that due to the incredibly diverse nature of sexuality, coming in all different forms, it’s better for us to view immense variability as normative.

At the end of the day though, if our mental health professionals, our counselors and our psychologists are the very culprits who are stigmatizing sexual minorities with their ignorant and unabashed incorrect condemnation of BDSM practitioners, then there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

I mean, it wasn’t so long ago that gay and lesbian people were wrongfully marginalized and cruelly vilified by society in exactly the same way.

It’s time to speak out about this. It’s time to start saying “no I won’t be continuing to accept people’s ignorant misconceptions about my sexuality”; and “yes I will start to challenge societal attitudes about BDSM and sexually minority groups.”

I am currently in the process of collecting my own personal research data exploring how societal stigma and negative attitudes towards BDSM impacts on a person’s overall wellbeing, including what they fear most about actually coming out of the proverbial closet.

I’ve received close to 400 survey responses so far from men and women aged between 18 and 64 from 25 different countries across the globe and the findings are both significant and saddening. My research has indicated that the very fears that survey participants reported as being most distressing for them in terms of worrying about being negatively judged by society if they were to reveal their true sexual preferences, are the exact same words and labels that so many health professionals use when  protesting about BDSM.

I look forward to sharing my research findings with you very soon!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

miyayamanouchicounsellor

Miya Yamanouchi is an empowerment counsellor with specialist sexual health training who has extensive experience assisting men and women across Australia to discover and embrace their authentic selves. Miya has practiced in a variety of specialist counselling roles both while undertaking her clinical training and honing her skills as a health professional, including Drug & Alcohol Counsellor (DrugArm Australasia), International Student Counsellor (The Australian Institute of Professional Education), Sexual Health Counsellor (Impotence Australia) and Sex & Relationships Counsellor (The Australasian Institute of Sexual Health Medicine). In addition to her role as a counsellor, Miya is a Reference Group member for The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, a Network Coordinator for The Mental Health Professionals Network, a Blogger for The Kinsey Institute,  and a YourTango Expert for New-York based international sex and relationships online magazine YourTango. Miya is a published author with Penguin Group as well as an inspirational quote writer. Miya’s online articles and motivational quotes have been published across the globe including The Americas, Europe, Asia, and all the way to West Africa (including Women’s Health Magazine, Yahoo!Style, and WordPorn).

 

This article was originally published at YourTango. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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