University of Alabama and University of Central Florida researchers surveyed over 800 kinky people recruited by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) and found they were mentally and emotionally healthy.
“I was curious about the stereotypes from a mental health standpoint and we found that these kinky people are well functioning, with little mental health concerns,” says Tess M. Gemberling, M.A., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Alabama. “They also have healthy romantic relationships.”
“I wanted to explore more about how the stereotypes interface with reality,” says Matt R. Nobles, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Central Florida. “Although more than half of the people in this study have been victims of violence or aggression, extremely few had perpetrated such themselves.”
In the study, 7.7% of participants reported they had been victims of a BDSM-based hate crime, while 10.2% of participants reported they had been victims of an LGBT-based hate crime.
“Parallel to my work with sexual minorities, my interest is in looking at the nature of identity and mental health in a vulnerable group of people,” says Robert J. Cramer, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Alabama. “Contrary to popular perceptions, our study shows kinky persons are largely mentally healthy when it comes to conditions such as depression, anxiety and suicide.”
The study also confirms that for these kinksters it’s primarily about consensual power exchange, with 98% preferring to take a specific power exchange role during BDSM. The most commonly reported practices were spanking, slapping and biting, and the use of sexual toys and equipment.
“Lawmakers can help by legally recognizing informed consent as the basis of healthy BDSM behavior,” says Susan Wright, spokesperson for NCSF. “BDSM is intended to be a mutually beneficial experience that is done by consenting adults.”
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom launched the Consent Violations Survey in 2014 to gather details about consent violations in a BDSM context. We asked about: the severity of the violations, who is being violated, where they were violated, the relationship and intent of those involved, the power dynamic at the time of the violation, as well as information about false accusations and from people who have committed consent violations. This survey was intended to expand on the info gathered through the first NCSF Consent Counts Survey in 2012 that gauged attitudes about consent in a power exchange context.
A total of 1,307 people (29% of 4,503 respondents) reported that their pre-negotiated limits and/or their safeword have been violated. Among those who reported why they thought it had happened, approximately 1 in 3 involved manipulation or coercion (345 people/8% of 4,503 respondents), and another 1 in 4 said they were attacked by a predator (245 people/5% of 4,503 respondents). Nearly 1 in 3 said the consent violation was caused by an accident, miscommunication, or a lack of skills or knowledge (310 people/7% of the respondents). 71 people said it was part of their dynamic and they were ultimately okay with it (1.5% of the respondents), while 27 people said it was a result of alcohol.
The majority, 70% of the people who said their consent was violated (775/1098), reported their first violation occurred before or within the first three years of their participation in the BDSM community. In all, one-fourth of the people whose pre-negotiated limits were violated said it happened before they started to participate on BDSM websites or attended a BDSM meeting, club, munch, party or event.
As for what happened, the largest percentage of participants said that they were nonconsensually penetrated in the vagina by a penis, finger or dildo (29%). One-fourth said they were touched nonconsensually in a way that violated their pre-negotiated limits, while one in five said they were touched on the genitals or breasts, penetrated in the ass by a penis/finger or dildo, punched or humiliated.
Twenty-nine people (2.7% of the 1,041 people who answered the question) say that they reported the consent violation to the police. 96 people experienced an injury that required medical attention (2% of the total survey respondents and 7% of the number of people who reported a safeword or limit violation). One-half of one percent (0.5%) of the survey respondents (23 people) reported receiving a serious physical injury that was life-threatening or serious enough to cause dysfunction in an organ or limb.
In addition, nearly 36% of the respondents reported being touched without permission at a BDSM meeting, club, munch, party or event.
Out of 4,578 respondents, only 7 people reported they had been falsely accused and reported to the police (0.1% of the sample). Just over 3% of the respondents (140) say they have been falsely accused within the BDSM community of touching someone without permission at an event or party. Just over 3% (137 people) reported they’ve been falsely accused of violating someone’s pre-negotiated limits in a BDSM scene.
For the complete analysis, go to: https://ncsfreedom.org/images/stories/2015_Survey_PDFs_ETC/Consent%20Violations%20Survey%20analysis.pdf
The survey questions were created by Susan Wright, M.A., Co-Principal Investigator, National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, and Russell J. Stambaugh, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator. Derrell Cox, M.A., Department of Anthropology, Center for Applied Social Research at University of Oklahoma, assisted in the analysis and is the statistician. This project has been reviewed and endorsed by a community advisory board of the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS), a community-based research support organization which includes members of alternative sexualities communities.
National Consent Month embraces the freedom of expression achieved when informed consent is present.
Join us in participating in an event or workshop during the month of September that highlights the importance of consent. Check out the consent workshops happening in September on the Consent Month Calendar.
NCSF hopes to collect thousands of signatures and plans to submit our petition in September prior to the next meeting of the American Law Institute which is considering making changes in the Model Penal Code provisions relating to sexual assault.
NCSF has urged the ALI Committee to treat BDSM under a category they define as “sexual contact” even if there is no contact with the breasts or genitals. Under the ALI’s draft proposal, “sexual contact” is not a crime if consent is given for such contact. If consent is not given, sexual contact is a misdemeanor, not a felony. Such treatment of BDSM—as not a crime if consensual and as a misdemeanor if nonconsensual—would be fully consistent with the concept that BDSM is intended to be a mutually pleasurable activity rather than an act of violence. If a rape is committed in a BDSM encounter then it can be prosecuted as felony sexual assault and the fact that BDSM activities were also included will reduce the confusion for prosecutors and courts. Judgment can be made solely in the context of whether there was consent for each act that was committed.
A further benefit of our proposal would be that a person who is injured in a nonconsensual BDSM incident would have the shelter of “rape shield” rules, which prohibit introduction of evidence of prior acts and provides the victim anonymity. This protection applies to complaints in sexual assault cases, but not in criminal assault cases. People who are assaulted in a BDSM context typically choose not to report what happened to the police because they will be outed as kinky by the public court documents and they may even face media exposure if their assailant is charged with criminal assault rather than sexual assault.
But first we need to persuade the ALI to agree with our proposal, or at least something like our proposal.
Petition to the American Law Institute:
Consent should be a Defense for BDSM activities
I urge the American Law Institute in its consideration of proposals to revise the Model Penal Code (MPC) provisions relating to sexual assault, to provide in the MPC that prosecutions arising from BDSM (bondage, discipline, Dominance & Submission and sadomasochism) conduct be pursued as “sexual contact” rather than as criminal assault. I believe this is appropriate because consensual BDSM is intended to be a mutually pleasurable erotic activity and not a violent assault by one person against another. Criminal prosecution may be appropriate if consent is not given, but consent should be allowed as a defense.
National Consent Month embraces the freedom of expression that comes with informed consent.
Join us by dedicating one of your events or workshops during the month of September to consent. Let us know the date of your event, and we'll put it on our calendar and publicize it on our social media.
Get your “Got Consent?” T-shirts, mugs and dog tags in the NCSF shop!
Submit photos of your Consent Month celebration to our Consent Photo Contest. We’ll post the photos and award the winner top billing on our Consent Month website for the rest of the year. You’ll also be featured in an NCSF media campaign about Consent Month.
Consent Month is proudly sponsored by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and the Arizona Power Exchange.
Thank you for celebrating September as Consent Month!
NCSF thanks AASECT for allowing us to produce A Taste of Kink with the AASECT Alt Sex SIG at their annual conference this past weekend in Minneapolis. 109 members received 3 Continuing Education credits for attending the event which showed demonstrations of BDSM activities and allowed participants to "taste" the sensation.
It was an exciting event that has been years in the making by the kink-aware sex educators, counselors and therapists of AASECT. Attendees had the opportunity to talk to kinky people about their relationships, and how and why they enjoy BDSM and fetishes.
Thank you to all the MN kink volunteers who gave generously of themselves, welcoming the AASECT members into the inner workings of our community!
NCSF’s Incident Reporting & Response received 54 requests for assistance from individuals, groups and businesses in January, February and March. NCSF maintains the confidentiality of those who come to us for help. However we balance that need with the need to report the services we are providing and to provide the community with a record of where the need is the greatest. Here is a breakdown of the cases we assisted on in the first quarter of 2015:
There were 18 requests for assistance with incidents involving criminal law. 12 of those requests were from survivors of a kink-related assault/sexual assault who needed assistance in connecting with kink-aware victim services, education of law enforcement, investigators and prosecutors. 5 were requests for kink-aware defense attorneys and expert witnesses knowledgeable about BDSM vs. abuse. The other incident involved obscenity law.
13 professionals and organizations asked NCSF for information and resources to assist in them in providing their services to kinky clients. These included victim services, medical clinics, therapists, prosecutors and college professors. We also provided information and resources to 2 kink activists to assist in their training of professionals in their area.
There were 12 requests for help involving BDSM and swing groups. 6 groups asked for advice on banning members and dealing with consent violations. 4 groups asked for assistance in setting up a club and dealing with zoning. 2 groups needed assistance with reporters who wanted to attend one of their events.
There were 8 requests for help with child custody in which BDSM was brought in to contest custody. That is an increase from the 4th quarter of 2014 in which there were 6 requests for help with child custody. We assisted in family court cases in Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Georgia, Arkansas and Canada.
There were 2 requests for help with kink-related discrimination. One person is being denied hospital visitation and the other needed help finding a kink-aware therapist in her area.
Civil law incidents
Only 1 request for help with a threatened outing, involving their FetLife profile.
If you need NCSF’s help because of discrimination or to remove kink as a barrier to service, please contact our Incident Reporting & Response today! Email