BDSM – A New Sexual Orientation?

The word’ sexual orientation’ is mostly used about becoming lesbian, gay, transsexual or bisexual (LGBT). This effective concept -‘ sexual orientation’ – pioneered courageously by users of the LGBT community, has inspired people, within the last fifty years or so, to consider themselves as not bad, or even sick, but just different.

Readers may remember that it is not all that long since homosexuality was considered a form of sickness. Until 1973 Homosexuality was mentioned in the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) being a psychopathology: a type of mental illness. The underlying assumption here was that individuals that are gay had a problem with them. While there are of course nevertheless people that think this, it is not frequently seen in this way, at minimum in the USA and UK.

A lot of people have read of S&M, or SM (in case you are among the few who hasn’t, it stands for Masochism and Sadism). Fewer have heard of D/s (submission and domination), but most comprehensive acronym which is in general use by individuals who take part in these pursuits is BDSM (the B is for bondage). In case you Google BDSM you will find a great deal of porn websites, some community web sites run by members of the BDSM group, sites of vendors of BDSM gear (fetish apparel, specialist fetters & restraints, whips and so on).

However for all those looking for serious exploration into the prevalence and experience of people who indulge in BDSM with consenting adults, there is not a lot around. And yet these practices seem quietly to be sneaking their way into our consciousness, with an expanding stream of posts and documentaries that, while they’re not serious academic work, are usually not purely porn.

The internet, TV and mainstream magazines are offering media for folks who are perfectly great, and’ ordinary’ (whatever that means) to reveal that they get off on BDSM pursuits. In these articles and Tv shows, participants generally do not appear to feel there is anything that you do not like about them, or they have anything to apologise for about their sexual practices. However, most BDSM-ers feel uncertain about just how they may be judged for their activities by, say, employers, friends, family and health professionals. In effect, then, it seems many BDSM ers think of themselves as not sick, but as having another sexual orientation.

If we imagine BDSM as a sexual orientation then what would be the implications of this? The following is a general list.

BDSM is not evidence of some sort of emotional damage (e.g. trauma or perhaps abusive parenting)

People can’t be counselled or even otherwise’ treated’ from getting into BDSM
People should not be discriminated against for getting into BDSM
People are not in certain way’ ill’ if they are into BDSM
People are not in some way’ bad’ in case they’re into BDSM

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Those who do see BDSM as a form of sickness may still find support in the DSM, where recreation concerning, for example’ the struggling or humiliation of oneself or perhaps one’s partner’ are classified as a paraphilia: a form of psychological disorder. But this is a grey area because there is a systematic ambiguity about whether’ suffering’ or’ humiliation’ in just a mutually consensual roleplay circumstance is what’s meant here. The BDSM players who’re on our Internet sites, or TV screens, or who’re running companies around BDSM are chatting about exactly it mutually consensual game, as opposed to real, non consensual torture or humiliation.

For therapists who may come across prospects that show with BDSM related issues, I let you to consider the bullet points above, and also to see if any of these statements conflicts with attitudes you may have kept about BDSM. I invite you to entertain the idea of BDSM like a sexual orientation.

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