The American Psychiatric Association has depathologized kinky sex – including cross-dressing, fetishes, and BDSM – in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Now the paraphilias are considered to be “unusual sexual interests,” while those who have sex with children or people who haven’t consented, or who deliberately cause harm to themselves or others, may be diagnosed with a Paraphilic Disorder.
“The APA has made it clear that being kinky is not a mental disorder,” says Susan Wright, Spokesperson for NCSF. “That means people no longer have to fear being diagnosed as mentally ill just because they belong to a BDSM group. We’ve already seen the impact – NCSF immediately saw a sharp rise in the success rate of child custody cases for kinky parents after the proposed DSM-5 criteria was released three years ago.”
NCSF would like to thank everyone who participated in signing our DSM Revision Petition and for telling the APA about their own stories of discrimination and persecution. NCSF also thanks every member of the APA Paraphilias Subworkgroup for responding to our concerns, and drawing a hard line between consensual adult kinky sex and those who willfully engage in nonconsensual or harmful activities.
NCSF is proud to build on the work of kink-aware professionals who have come before us, including Race Bannon and Guy Baldwin, who helped make seminal changes in the DSM-IV in 1994.
The following are some statements about the various paraphilias in the DSM-5. Although highly clinical in language, they show the APA’s intent to not demand treatment for healthy consenting adult sexual expression:
“A paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder, and a paraphilia by itself does not necessarily justify or require clinical intervention.” p. 686
“In contrast, if they declare no distress, exemplified by anxiety, obsessions, guilt or shame, about these paraphilic impulses, and are not hampered by them in pursuing other personal goals, they could be ascertained as having masochistic sexual interest but should not be diagnosed with a sexual masochism disorder.” p. 694
“Many individuals who self-identify as fetishist practitioners do not necessarily report clinical impairment in association with their fetish-associated behaviors. Such individuals could be considered as having a fetish but not fetishistic disorder.” p. 701
“Clinical assessment of distress or impairment, like clinical assessment of transvestic sexual arousal, is usually dependent on the individual’s self-report.” p. 703
NCSF relies entirely on your donations to advance the rights of consenting adults and to do advocacy like our DSM Revision Project. Please donate now!
But it generated a seven-year legal battle so bitter it ended up in federal court.
And when it was finally done Thursday evening, Gold Coast resident Kim O’Brien didn’t get a single cent out of the multi-millionaire ex-husband she’d sued for allegedly holding her against her will as a “sex slave.”
A jury took just four hours to reject the 52-year-old’s claims that wealthy Wisconsin businessman Kevin Anderson, 57, intentionally emotionally abused her and tied her up, gagged, beat and raped her during an unwanted introduction to the world of bondage, submission and sadomasochism on their California honeymoon in 2005.
The four men and four women jurors instead found it more likely that O’Brien was a “gold digger... motivated by greed” who’d enjoyed kinky sex and had lied about the abuse, as Anderson’s lawyer argued.
O’Brien — who endured repeated innuendos during the two-week trial suggesting she was a prostitute, and was shown naked, bound, blindfolded and spanked in humiliating photos displayed for jurors — pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows as the verdict was announced.
Wearing dark sunglasses, she quickly left the courthouse without comment. Her ex-husband had already returned to Wisconsin and was not in court to hear the verdict.
Earlier Thursday, lawyers for both sides told competing accounts of the couple’s deeply dysfunctional romance, which began when they met in Aspen, Colo., in 2000, saw Anderson shower O’Brien with luxury gifts and expensive trips before he proposed in a Michigan Avenue church in 2005, and ended in divorce soon after.
Representing O’Brien, Dean Dickie said during his closing argument that “whenever there is an allegation or an accusation between a man and a woman about what happened in the privacy of their bedroom ... inevitably it turns into ‘it was all the woman’s fault, and the man was the victim of something that was made up.’”
He said O’Brien had been “psychologically scarred” by being violently held to the terms of a “slave contract” that required her to address her husband as “master” and parade around the house naked, adding that other women would be at risk if Anderson was not held liable.
But representing Anderson, Charles Cole said O’Brien’s account was “a fantasy — it’s a movie script.”
Arguing that O’Brien had lured Anderson into sadomasochism as part of a pre-planned “setup” to later sue him, Cole showed a large naked photo of an apparently unhurt and smiling O’Brien taken hours after the alleged honeymoon assault. ...
What do you call it when a husband beats his wife with a paddle for disobeying him? Some would say domestic abuse. These people say he’s doing God’s work.
The Daily Beast
On a pain scale of one to 10, Chelsea ranks the epidural-free birth of her child as a six. Her husband’s spankings? Those are an eight.
First, he uses his hands for “warm-up” slaps. Then comes a combination of tools based on the specific infraction. The wooden spoon is the least severe; for the worst rule-breaking—like texting while driving (“It could kill me,” Chelsea admits) or moving money between accounts without his permission—she’ll be hit with something else: a hairbrush, a paddle, or a leather strap.
But this isn’t domestic abuse, Chelsea says. This is for Jesus.
Chelsea and her husband Clint, who asked that I use only their first names, belong to a small subculture of religious couples who practice “Christian Domestic Discipline,” a lifestyle that calls for a wife to be completely submissive to her husband. Referred to as CDD by its followers, the practice often includes spanking and other types corporal punishments administered by husbands—and ostensibly ordained by God. While the private nature of the discipline makes it difficult to estimate the number of adherents, activity in several online forums suggests a figure in the low thousands. Devotees call CDD an alternative lifestyle and enthusiastically sing its praises; for critics, it’s nothing but domestic abuse by another name.
Clint was in the room while I talked to Chelsea. They do everything together, including running their blog, Learning DD, which chronicles their exploration of domestic discipline. When Chelsea gets flummoxed by a question, she asks Clint for guidance in a voice so high-pitched that it belies her 28 years: “Honey, how long does the spanking usually last?” (About 5 minutes, Clint says.)
He has left bruises, Chelsea says, but it’s rare, and she attributes them to anemia.
You don’t have to be a Christian to practice domestic discipline, although many of its practitioners say they believe that domestic discipline goes hand in hand with their faith. Specifics of the practice vary by couple, though CDDers all seem to follow a few basic principles. Foremost, that the Bible commands a husband to be the head of the household, and the wife must submit to him, in every way, or face painful chastisement. ...
Jurors were given a peek Wednesday at a sex-slavery contract and documents outlining the basics of sadomasochism in a Gold Coast woman’s lurid lawsuit against her former husband.
Kimberley O’Brien, 52, is suing 57-year-old Kevin Anderson in federal court, claiming he lured her into a violent marriage in which he was the master and she was the slave — allegedly raping her on their honeymoon and leaving her suffering panic attacks.
Anderson denies he sexually assaulted O’Brien and says any sadomasochistic sex was consensual.
On Wednesday, O’Brien took the witness stand as her attorney, Dean Dickie, displayed love letters from Anderson on a projector. In one greeting card, Anderson told O’Brien in 2000: “hope I can make you smile for ever.”
But the letter also showed a strain in their new relationship — about five years before they were married — with Anderson writing: “I don’t know why you don’t call me since I feel as though you don’t love me.”
O’Brien testified that she was avoiding Anderson because she discovered he was still married while dating her.
After showing the love letters, Dickie displayed documents that Anderson allegedly downloaded on his computer in 2002 to research sadomasochism. One of them, titled “Slave Rules,” had a handwritten star next to the passage: “Whenever Master speaks, even when I am speaking, I am to immediately become silent so I may be able to listen intensely to what He has to say.” ...
Being abstinent from drugs and alcohol doesn't mean forsaking fun. A thriving community testifies that kink and sobriety go together like a fist in a leather glove.
What's the link between BDSM—the catchall term for bondage, discipline, domination/ submission, sadism and masochism—and sobriety?
Can you be clean and sober and still engage kinkily? For those who identify as clean and kink-friendly, the answer is a resounding "Yes, please (may I have another?)." The connection is being borne out as supportive communities of like-minded people are springing up around the country.
The issue goes beyond physical safety; as one woman told me, "who wants to be flogged by a drunk guy?" While a number of interviewees reported they have attended play parties—often in private homes—where alcohol and drugs abound, most organized play parties frown on, or explicitly forbid, such substances and often turn away players who show up intoxicated. (This is also a common complaint of professional dominatrices, who often have to turn away drunks.)
Mollena Williams—a BDSM educator and the co-author of the guidebook Playing Well with Others—founded San Francisco's Safeword, which offers a "12-Step modeled approach to recovery for kink-identified people." She began the group in 2007 in response to her lukewarm reception at traditional AA meetings. She recalled that her tastes were considered to be incompatible with her sobriety: "People are often ready to attribute your desires to do kink or BDSM as part of your addiction." She added that many 12-steppers "equated that high you experience within a scene as a result of a dry drunk. I was accused of substituting one drink for another. They didn't see that for me Kink and Leather were the last bastions of my sobriety!"
The majority of interviewees emphasized the positive effect BDSM has had on their sobriety, going far beyond the realm of the dungeon or kinky world. Theener, a 35-year-old New Yorker who's been kinky since she got a birthday spanking in 2004, feels like she had to "learn how to be kinky all over again" after getting sober in 2008.
"You have to learn how to have fun without alcohol and drugs being the center of your fun," she said. "When I wasn't sober, I wasn't interested in spaces like [S&M club] Paddles and [support and information group] Lesbian Sex Mafia meetings because there wasn't booze. I had to appreciate later that those places were alcohol free." ...
The stark potential consequences of lack of empathy for the Other are illustrated by the Operation Spanner case.
As a result of investigation of another case, the Manchester, England police Obscene Publications Squad came into possession of a video tape they believed depicted acts of nonconsensual sexual torture. Although it is not known precisely which of several videos was seen first, acts included genital piercing, cutting of the scrotum and penis, and acts the defendants described as ‘heavy S&M’. Convinced of the depravity of these acts, and anticipating that ‘snuff’ films were being made, the OPS launched a major investigation. In late 1987, the police descended and arrested ‘dozens’ of gay men in the Manchester S&M scene. Initially, the police were incredulous that the acts depicted on tape were consensual. In the face of indisputable video evidence, and believing that consent would mitigate charges of committing gross bodily harm, 16 defendants, tops and bottoms, plead to charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The authorities took 21 months to proffer charges, but eventually proceeded with the legal claim that British case law in a nineteenth century boxing prosecution disallowed consent as a defense against assault charges. The Spannermen, as they came to be known in the BDSM world, were sentenced to prison terms of up to three years. Many decided to appeal the case, and the attempted defense of consensual BDSM in Britain would drag on for years. After losing in appeals court, the case was heard by the equivalent of the British Supreme Court; 5 Members of Parliament from the House of Lords appointed to hear the case in March of 1993. They refused to overturn the convictions 3-2. Lord Templeton spoke for the majority in ruling:
"In principle there is a difference between violence which is incidental and violence which is inflicted for the indulgence of cruelty. The violence of sadomasochistic encounters involves the indulgence of cruelty by sadists and the degradation of victims. Such violence is injurious to the participants and unpredictably dangerous. I am not prepared to invent a defence of consent for sadomasochistic encounters which breed and glorify cruelty [...]. Society is entitled and bound to protect itself against a cult of violence. Pleasure derived from the infliction of pain is an evil thing. Cruelty is uncivilized."
A number of interesting arguments were made in criticism of the convictions. The routine injuries of sports and other dangerous recreational activities ruled legal in England were compared with the degree of actual damage inflicted on the consenting defendants. The prosecution of defendants as accessories in their own victimization was challenged. All the defendants claimed that they were ignorant of the possibility that they could have been guilty of assault because they thought consent was a defense, a claim of some justice since the case that it wasn’t was largely constructed during the prosecution and appeals. And it was observed that acts of equal severity in heterosexual S&M had been ruled as noncriminal because the defense of consent was allowed, thus creating a double standard inherently discriminatory against homosexual activity.
The prosecution also made some rather novel and cogent points, the most important being that police commonly encountered repeated domestic assault cases in which (mostly female) victims would complain, then recant that domestic violence was consensual. If post traumatic stress or pathological dependency could undermine consent, how were the police to intervene to protect victims of domestic violence? Furthermore, there were a great many more domestic violence cases at risk than S&M prosecutions. This argument helped frame the Lords’ decision that the acts depicted in the videos turned on cruelty, rather than autonomy.
By the time the case was referred to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, a number of BDSM organizations in Britain and the US had taken up the cause of fund-raising for the defense. These organizations, such as SM Pride, and the Spanner Trust, continue today, long after the unanimous adverse human rights court ruling in 1997 that Britain was within its legal rights to make law to protect public morals. Fund raisers for legal defense are held at many BDSM events. ...
Editor's Note: With the release of the latest edition of the mental-health manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM), LiveScience takes a close look at some of the disorders it defines. This series asks the fundamental question: What is normal, and what is not?
Many people would consider a sexual attraction to objects, such as shoes or underwear, abnormal or unnatural. But is it a mental illness? The new edition of the mental-health manual, the DSM-5, offers a conditional answer: It can be, but isn't necessarily.
A fetish may be a multisensory experience as described in both versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Someone with a fetish may smell, taste, rub or insist that a sexual partner wear the object of their attraction. Often, the fetishist — almost always a man — cannot be aroused without these objects. But the newest edition — the DSM-5 — also classifies intense erotic interest in specific body parts, such as feet or hair, as fetishism.
Someone can cross this threshold in a number of ways — for instance, when the attraction causes him significant distress, impairs his ability to function or could lead him to harm others.
The DSM-5 marks this transition by attaching the term "disorder" when an unusual sexual interest crosses these boundaries. So, hypothetically, someone who simply uses shoes to masturbate or whose partner accepts his unusual interest in shoes could be diagnosed with fetishism, but not a fetishistic disorder — unless the fetish crosses the threshold in one of the ways described above.
The label “disorder” is akin to labeling a set of symptoms as a mental illness, which by definition, interferes with normal functioning. ...
The bible of psychiatry says that kinky sex could be problematic, but a new study claims that whips, chains and nipple clamps might actually be good for one's health.
Practitioners of bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM) feel more secure in their relationships, have a higher sense of well-being and are less neurotic than people who prefer tamer sex, according to a new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Beyond that, members of the BDSM community tended to be more extroverted, were more open to new ideas and were less sensitive to rejection, according to study researcher Andreas Wismeijer, a psychologist at Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands who conducted the research while at Tilburg University.
"[BDSM practitioners] either did not differ from the general population and if they differed, they always differed in the more favorable direction," said Wismeijer according to LiveScience.
Wismeijer conducted his research by subjecting 902 BDSM practitioners and 434 non-BDSM participants to questionnaires that examined personality, sensitivity to rejection, style of attachment in relationships and overall well-being.
"We did not have any findings suggesting that people who practice BDSM have a damaged psychological profile or have some sort of psychopathology or personality disorder," Wismeijer said.
While the researcher was reluctant to offer explanations for his findings, he did offer a few hypotheses.
For starters, BDSM practitioners tend to have a heightened awareness of their sexual needs and desires, so they might be able to build less frustrating relationships both inside and outside the bedroom when compared with their more "vanilla" peers.
Along the same lines, Wismeijer also suggested that accepting one's unusual sexual preferences and choosing to live in a societal niche like the BDSM community might involve huge amounts of psychological work, which could translate into positive mental health. ...