Are Role and Gender Related to Sexual Function and Satisfaction in Men and Women Practicing BDSM?

Published:February 14, 2019DOI:



      Published studies show good psychological health of people involved in bondage-discipline, dominance-submission, and sadism-masochism (BDSM) activities; nevertheless, there are few studies on characteristics related to gender, role in the BDSM scene, sexual functioning, and satisfaction among BDSM practitioners.


      The aim of this study was to explore gender and role differences, prevalence of sexual complaints, related distress, and sexual satisfaction in BDSM participants compared with the general population.


      A group of 266 Italian consensual BDSM participants (141 men and 125 women) were recruited with a snowball sampling technique. An anonymous protocol, including self-reported ad hoc and validated questionnaires, was used. The control group was composed of 100 men and 100 women who were not significantly different from the BDSM group for the sociodemographic data and were randomly extracted from an Italian database on sexual functioning of the general population.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Self-reported demographic factors, including favorite and most frequent BDSM practices, the Sexual Complaint Screener, and the Sexual Satisfaction Scale, were completed by the participants.


      The mean age of the BDSM group was 41.42 ± 9.61 years old (range 18–74). Data showed a varied outlook of practices, fantasies, rules, and roles. With regard to concerns about BDSM activities (fantasies and behaviors), participants reported a very low self-declared degree of distress. The dominant and switch groups appear to be more satisfied and less concerned about sexuality than the general population and the submissive group. Role in the BDSM scene was the only significant predictor of sexual satisfaction, showing a medium effect size.

      Clinical Implications

      Results from this study could be helpful to inform sexual health care professionals and to reduce the stigma related to the BDSM population.

      Strengths & Limitations

      In general, this study may help to describe better some characteristics related to gender, role, sexual preferences, function, and satisfaction. The main limitation regards the sampling method, which does not allow us to consider the group as representative of BDSM participants in general.


      Data showed a varied outlook of practices, fantasies, rules, and roles in both BDSM men and women. BDSM participants (especially dominant and switch groups) appear to be more satisfied and less concerned about sexuality than the general population. This is an attempt to increase the attention of researchers and health care professionals to this important topic and to improve the care provided to people with specific preferences and behaviors.
      Botta D, Nimbi FM, Tripodi F, et al. Are Role and Gender Related to Sexual Function and Satisfaction in Men and Women Practicing BDSM? J Sex Med 2019;16:463–473.

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