Home Sex & Relationships Bedroom The Psychology Behind BDSM: Why Some People Enjoy It?

The Psychology Behind BDSM: Why Some People Enjoy It?

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Ever since “Fifty Shades of Grey” surfaced, people have been wondering about BDSM.

Should you give it a go? Is there something mentally wrong with people who enjoy BDSM? Why do people like it?

There's a lot of shady ground around this sexual practice.

As with any other sexual kink, once it became more popular (mostly thanks to the aforementioned phenomenally popular book), more discussions started spreading which, of course, has spawned some controversial claims.

But psychologists have dived into the subject as well, giving us a bit clearer understanding on why some people are driven to BDSM and why they enjoy it.

What BDSM actually means?

To understand why people enjoy BDSM, it's essential to understand what BDSM actually means.

BDSM is an “umbrella term” that covers many different subcategories:

  • B & D – Bondage and Discipline
  • D & S – Domination and Submission
  • S & M – Sadism & Masochism

BDSM can cover a wide range of erotic activities and it's not so easy to define it clearly anymore. One aspect remains though: in BDSM, one of the parties is dominant and the other submissive. Essentially, it's a role-playing game where one party takes control over the other, often using physical restraints a.k.a bondage, humiliation or something else.

As Dr. Marty Klein explains: “It can involve equipment; it can involve restraints; it can involve pre-determined scripts and roles; it can involve temporary, intense moments of pain. Or it can involve none of these.” According to Klein, even just looks and words can matter in this context.

BDSM is often thought to involve pain, but that's not actually true. The real pillars of BDSM situations are trust, communication, and safety. BDSM activities require complete trust in each other – without it, it's not possible to enjoy the experience. Communication is another key – even so much that according to Klein, BDSM can involve way more talking than actual sexual activity.

Safety is another especially important component. Both partners have agreed on certain rules and they respect that. Neither participant crosses those lines ever. BDSM is not about torture or pain – it's never coercive or impulsive.

“BDSM is about trust, not pain; about surrender, not powerlessness; about dominance, not selfishness; and about expanding the conventional definitions of sex,” explained Klein further.

And most importantly – it's always consenting and follows strict rules that the participants have agreed upon.

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Is BDSM normal or is it a sign of mental health problems?

Because of the strong social stigma, many have debated whether BDSM is even “normal”. Some health professionals have viewed this practice as perverse and even today, it's assumed that people who participate in BDSM have either psychological issues or are acting this way because of past sexual abuse.

However, research proves that belief to be wrong. One 2008 study revealed that people who had participated in BDSM were not more unhappy or anxious and they were no more likely to have been coerced into doing the sexual activities.

BDSM might be a bit more of a mainstream topic thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey but actually, it's still fairly feared subject since the stigma doesn't seem to go away. Even though many don't want to talk about it, BDSM is pretty common – one 2017 Belgian study found that half of the participants had participated in BDSM. An earlier study found that about 2% of sexually active people had engaged in BDSM.

No matter what the actual numbers are, it's clear that BDSM is actually a common kink and there's absolutely nothing wrong with fantasizing about BDSM or engaging in it. The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) labels sadism and masochism as mental disorders only if these caused the person significant stress or the other party didn't consent.

So, as long as BDSM is practiced between people who are both consenting, it's a completely normal activity which isn't in any way “deviant” or “wrong”.

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Why some people enjoy BDSM?

BDSM might be a fairly common kink, but what exactly makes people want to try it or practice it regularly?

Researchers have tried finding the answer but so far, most of the studies are somewhat inconclusive. However, it has been noted that people who practice BDSM tend to be:

  • more extraverted
  • open to new experiences/more open-minded
  • less neurotic
  • less sensitive to rejection
  • happier in general
  • higher in subjective well-being
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BDSM is liked among those who like sexual experimentation

Openness and willingness to try new – and unconventional – things seem to be one of the strongest personality traits present in those who participate in BDSM. Some studies have also concluded that BDSM participants tend to have more active sexual life in general – they like to try different sexual practices, group sex, they might have many partners and they're generally experimenting more with different sexual aspects.

General willingness to try various new sexual experiences is one of the main reasons why people try BDSM too – it's a new exciting experience for them.

Love discipline and rules? BDSM might be for you

What makes BDSM especially fascinating is the fact that it's not spontaneous – it's an elaborate act that involves various rules and requires both participants to follow those rules strictly.

That's why BDSM might be enjoyed by people who like self-discipline and order, rather than spontaneity. People who enjoy BDSM also enjoy boundaries and rules in their life outside of the bedroom – either following the rules or imposing the rules on others (a.k.a either being submissive or dominant).

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It's a way to act out your inner desires in a controlled safe environment

Dominance is generally warmly welcomed – most don't like bossy and demanding people. Those who, deep inside, are dominant might, therefore, feel pressured by the society to push back their dominance. The same goes for submissive behavior: those who are more agreeable in nature might sometimes feel pushed around in life, so they act tougher than they'd like.

BDSM roleplay enables both sides to act out those desires they'd normally push aside. The dominant party can be bossy and demanding, the submissive party can act out their agreeable side. In a way, BDSM helps to cope with the pressure society can put on you since you don't have to push down your emotions. Instead, you can release all of that in a safe environment where no one is judging you.

BDSM also enables to try the other role. If you're naturally dominant but would like to feel submissive instead or if you're submissive but would like to experiment having control, this is a great place to try it without any risks or consequences.

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It's liberating, empowering and enables to experience your fantasies

The reasons why people try BDSM vary, but many agree on the same: it's a freeing experience. When you're dealing with stressful situations in life, BDSM can provide an outlet where you can let go of control, at least for that little while, and feel completely free – free of any responsibility and stress derived from responsibilities.

At the same time, being in control over someone else and their body can make you feel very empowered. BDSM is empowering not only personally, but it can also strengthen the relationship. As a submissive side, you'll literally trust your life in someone else's hands which is as romantic as it gets.

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At the same time, the dominant side knows that there's someone who just trusted themselves completely in his hands. What could be more romantic than knowing that you can trust your partner 100%?

Role-play has also a big role to play in BDSM since, essentially, that's what BDSM is – erotic role-play. BDSM helps to get away from the daily stress for a while and act like someone else. Playing out your fantasies through an erotic role-play can give your relationship a great fun boost and decrease stress in general as well.

BDSM is one of the most stigmatized sexual activities out there, having tons of myths circling around it. However, it doesn't mean pain and it's never related to violence. Instead, it's a romantic and erotic way to interact with your partner and forget about daily worries for a while.

And yes, there's absolutely nothing wrong with trying it – it can be beneficial for both your's and your relationship's happiness.

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