Kink is Very Healthy!
The Psychological community, outside of those who specialize in sex therapy, is notorious for viewing Kink and BDSM related activities as a pathology (Ortmann and Sprott,). Even the current DSM-5 stipulates that Sadism and Masochism are considered fetishistic and paraphilia and implies that these behaviors are dangerous or pathological. This makes it challenging for kinky clients to find providers who can treat them with proper standard of care. It also ignores the rest of what makes these behaviors pathological. Shindel and Moser (2011) state that, after an extensive literature search, there is no evidence to support the idea that sexual sadism and sexual masochism are associated with any kind of distress (as cited in Birchard, 2015, p. 117). Ortmann and Sprott (2015) support this concept in their exhaustive review of the literature on this topic.
When training other therapists and interns on the study of Kink and alternative sexual, gender, and relationship expression, I often remind them that one of the criteria for pathology is that the behavior is impairing the individual in some way. To date, there have been no studies in the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, or Australia that I could find to prove that BDSM practice and consensual Kink are harmful. In fact, the majority of the research shows that these behaviors are a healthy and natural part of human sexuality. In order to prevent further medical errors in this community, there is a need for educating mental health and medical providers regarding these practices as normal behaviors among the human experience vs. a pathology needing to be treated.
Kink is Healthy, Thus, Keep Your Laws Off of My Body!
However, as humans, we can and have created environments where healthy sexuality could, in fact, become impairing. For example, in many countries such as the United States, consensual Sadomasochism (SM) is illegal. In such a jurisdiction, should an individual be caught and jailed for their sexual play, this could affect every aspect of their lives. Family court is another common battleground where alternative relationships, sexuality, and gender expressions can be used as a tool and create impairment. Susan Griffin (1982) infers that BDSM is seen as a male domination tactic. Let us not also forget that in ethical non-monogamy there are greater risks of sexually transmitted disease, relationship conflicts, and legal struggles. During a BDSM scene, injuries may occur, especially with those new to the lifestyle. There can be impairment associated with Kink, but Kink itself is not pathological. There is little to noclinical data supporting that the practice of kink is impairing to normal functioning.
Birchard, T. (2015). CBT for compulsive sexual behavior: A guide for professionals. Hove, East Sussex: Routledge.
Moser, C. (2009). Health care without shame: A handbook for the sexually diverse and their caregivers. San Francisco, CA: Greenery Press.
Ortman, D. & Sprott, R. (2015). Sexual outsiders: Understanding BDSM sexualities and communities. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.