Interest in BDSM appears to be relatively common in the Norwegian population, which suggests “it can be considered to constitute ‘normal’ sexuality,” according to new findings published in The Journal of Sex Research. The study also found that BDSM practitioners tend to be more satisfied with their sex life, and are no more or less likely than non-practitioners to be satisfied with their romantic relationship.
“BDSM is an area of sexuality that is both understudied and stigmatized,” said study author Jenna Marie Strizzi, an assistant professor at the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen.
Previous research has recruited participants from BDSM events and BDSM-related websites, making it difficult to generalize the results to the larger population. For their new study, the researchers surveyed 4,148 Norwegian adults from Kantar’s Gallup Panel, a sample of 46,000 individuals who are randomly recruited through telephone interviews.
“These data from a large web population allowed for contributing to our scientific understanding of BDSM. Particularly, we can provide information about how common BDSM interests and behaviors are and this is important as there have been only two other previously published population studies,” Strizzi explained.
Approximately 17% of participants reported they could see themselves “being sexually stimulated by ritual games connected to dominance and submission,” while 15.5% reported they could see themselves “being sexually stimulated by using consensual dominance/submission/pain.”
About 11% of participants had tried role-play during sexual activity, while 14.3% said they would like to try role-play but had not. Nearly 10% of participants had engaged in BDSM during sex and 8.9% said they would like to try BDSM but had not.
The findings indicate “that BDSM interests and behaviors are common, as approximately one out of every three participants expressed interest in or had tried BDSM or role play,” Strizzi told PsyPost. “We also found that BDSM interests and behaviors were more common among younger populations, but there were no gender or educational level differences. These findings could indicate a general mainstreaming of BDSM.”
The survey also asked the participants how satisfied they were with their current relationship, how satisfied they were with their sexual life, and how close they felt to their romantic partner.
“We found that participants who had engaged in BDSM behaviors reported significantly higher sexual satisfaction but those who wanted to try role-play but had not yet done so reported lower relationship closeness and sexual satisfaction,” Strizzi said. “We believe that this means that communication about sex and what kind of sexual activities one wants to engage in with their partners is important for relationship quality and sexual satisfaction.”
“Overall, these results can serve to normalize BDSM,” the researcher added.
But it is unclear how well the results generalize outside of the Norwegian population. “This study was conducted in Norway and much of the research on BDSM comes from European, North American, and Australian contexts,” Strizzi said. “Future studies should explore if results are similar in other countries and cultural contexts.”
The study, “BDSM: Does it Hurt or Help Sexual Satisfaction, Relationship Satisfaction, and Relationship Closeness?“, was authored by Jenna Marie Strizzi, Camilla Stine Øverup, Ana Ciprić, Gert Martin Hald, and Bente Træen