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People stigmatize BDSM practitioners more than gay/lesbian population – study

The general population still stigmatizes people who engage in BDSM (or bondage/discipline dominance/submission sadism/masochism) practices, even more than members of the LGBTQIA community.

Photo by Maria Vlasova from Unsplash.com

The general population still stigmatizes people who engage in BDSM (or bondage/discipline dominance/submission sadism/masochism) practices, even more than members of the LGBTQIA community.

This is according to a study – “Perceptions of and stigma toward BDSM practitioners” by Ashley A. Hansen-Brown and Sabrina E. Jefferson – that appeared in Current Psychology.

While pop culture representations of BDSM could serve to normalize these sexual behaviors and lead to a more open dialogue about sex, they can also spread misconceptions about the nature of BDSM, potentially leading to further stigma. This study seeks to understand how the stigma towards the BDSM community compares to the stigma toward the LGBTQ community.

For this study that sought to understand how the stigma towards the BDSM community compared to the stigma toward the LGBTQIA community, the researchers utilized a sample of 257 participants recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Exclusion criteria included identifying as a BDSM practitioner or identifying as gay or lesbian. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three target conditions: BDSM practitioners, gay/lesbian people, or people in romantic relationships. Participants answered demographic questions, a question about how they are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and completed measures on stigmatization towards the target group.

The study’s results showed that BDSM practitioners faced higher levels of stigma than lesbian or gay people. This level of stigma was not significantly affected by the participants age, gender, or level of COVID-19 stress. The study also found that stigma toward people who are lesbian or gay was lower than stigma toward BDSM practitioners, but higher than stigma shown toward the control group of people in romantic relationships.

This study’s findings are actually consistent with previous researches that showed a strong stigma toward people who partake in BDSM. This suggests that significantly less progress has been made in regard to pathologizing BDSM than pathologizing homosexuality.

“Perhaps the most critical future research direction is to examine how to reduce this stigma. Stigmatization correlates with negative health outcomes; thus, it is plausible that BDSM practitioners are at risk for this in a similar way as the gay/lesbian population,” the researchers said.

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