Sample Literature Review On Personality Characteristics Associated With Bdsm Orientations

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: Psychology, Personality, Study, Education, Actions, Self-Esteem, Control, Character

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/01/01

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Personality Characteristics Associated with BDSM Orientations

BDSM is a sexual practice whose characteristics include physical restriction, suppression, exchange of power, administration of pain, and practicing games involving exchange of sexual roles. The acronym BDSM can be broken down into several components that include bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadism masochism (Herbert and Weaver, 2014). Use of psychological and physical restraints practices falls under the bondage and discipline components. The domination and submission components involve control and exchange of power. Moreover, sadism and masochism encompass taking pleasure in pain or humiliation of others. BDSM practitioners may identify with one or more of these components in any combination. BDSM mean different things to the practitioners of these sexual practices. Some view it as a form of sexual orientation or identity; to others it is a form of sexual expression while to others it is a lifestyle (Herbert and Weaver, 2014). In current times, the common trend has been to explore the connection between BDSM and personality characteristics. The assumption in much of the previous research about BDSM has associated these sexual practices with psychopathology such as psychological or personal disorders (Wismeijer and Assen, 2013). This has emerged because of the stereotypes that BDSM is associated with which have come to be accepted by the legal and medical practitioners, as well as the general public. Moreover, previous research has consistently suggested that personality characteristics are crucial predictors of differences in sexual behaviors and attitudes (Herbert and Weaver, 2014). Past research that puts into perspective the personality characteristics of practitioners of BDSM is far between. This phenomenon necessitates more research so as to dispel the stereotypes that have persistently been associated with BDSM practitioners and establish the personality characteristics that inform their behavior. This literature review examines the methods, measures, and results of five researches that were focused on analyzing the connection between personality characteristics and BDSM sexual practices. The underlying view is that BDSM sexual practices are influenced by the personality characteristics of the practitioners.
Hebert and Weaver conducted a study in which they used a sample of 270 participants, 190 of whom identified primarily as a bottom, submissive, and/or masochist, and 80 identified primarily as a top, dominant, and / or sadist. Males were 93 and females were 168. Seven were intersexed or transgendered individuals and two participants did not state their gender. The age range of the participants was between 18 and 64 with the mean age being 25. Most were heterosexual representing 61.4%, gay and lesbian comprised 4.9%, and 3% were not sure of their sexual orientation. The measures involved included the demographic survey, Shapiro Control Inventory (SCI) that evaluated the desire for control, Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) that evaluated empathy and HEXACO-60 that evaluated personality traits such as honesty, humility, openness to experience, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness. Other measures taken included the Self-Report Altruism Scale (SRAS), Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, and the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS).
The results show that a majority of the participants engaged in BDSM play with their current romantic partner (86.3%). In addition, 31.4% reported that they engaged in BDSM play with persons who were not their romantic partners. A comparison with normative data was done, and submissives and dominants fell within the normal range for Honesty-Humility, Extraversion, Emotionality, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Moreover, the two orientations fell within the normal range for Self-Esteem, Desire for Control, Empathy, and Life Satisfaction (Herbert and Weaver, 2014). Submissives and Dominants had low scores as compared to normative data on altruism. Moreover, Submissives scored slightly higher than normative data on openness to experience. The dominants scored higher than submissives on extraversion and were found to have higher self-esteem as compared with submissives. In addition, dominants scored higher on life satisfaction than submissives but submissives scored higher on emotionality than dominants. The limitation of this research is that it contained more than twice as many submissives as dominants and hence, dominants were underrepresented. Moreover, male dominants were more than female dominants in the sample. Therefore, there is a need to conduct further research with sufficient representation in each sub-group to better examine gender versus BDSM orientation differences. However, Wismeijer and Assen conducted yet another study that was focused on examining psychological characteristics of BDSM practitioners. This next study compared the scores of BDSM practitioners and a control group on various psychological characteristics. The respondents included in this research included 902 BDSM and 434 control participants completely filling out online questionnaires. The main measures in this study included the subjective wellbeing, rejection sensitivity, attachment styles, and the Big Five personality dimensions. The results suggested psychological characteristics that were favorable for BDSM practitioners compared with participants in the control group. BDSM practitioners were more extraverted, more open to new experiences, had high subjective well-being, and were more conscientious. Moreover, they were less neurotic, less agreeable, and less rejection sensitive. These findings indicate that BDSM arises because of personality traits of the practitioners and it can be thought more as a recreational leisure rather than a result of psychopathological processes (Wismeijer and Assen, 2013). This study only distinguished a limited number of broad BDSM roles encompassing subs, doms, and switches. Hence, it was not representative enough since there are numerous other roles that could be distinguished. This limitation calls for further research that adopts a more comprehensive measure of BDSM roles.
Furthermore, Damon conducted another study that examined if pursuance of a dominant role in sexual practice by men was due to feelings of inadequacy. The study aimed at exploring sexist attitudes in a sample of 342 men who practice sadomasochism. The background information that informed this research is that conceptualization of sexual dominance provides suggestions that men will dominate women in sadomasochism activities as compensation of feelings of inadequacy. The research hypothesized that dominants would score lower on measures of self-esteem than submissives because they want to dominate women as compensation for their feelings of inadequacy. Moreover, the researchers hypothesized that dominants will score higher on measures of sexism as compared to submissives. The results did not either of the hypotheses since it was found out that dominants scored significantly higher in self-esteem and lower in sexism than submissives (Damon, 2003). The higher score on measures of self-esteem in dominants suggests that men are interested in sexual dominance because they possess the personality trait of extraversion, and this is what leads them into this sexual practice. The limitations of this study include conducting two separate measures of self-esteem which indicated similar results whereas only one sexism measure was carried out. Therefore, a second measure of sexism would have helped to corroborate the findings (Damon, 2003). Against this backdrop, it is necessary to carry out further research that has standardized control groups with an equal number of measures for self-esteem and sexism.
The other study that examined the connection between personality traits and BDSM was by Connolly (2006). The objective of this study was to document the general demographic characteristics, social behaviors, and sexual practices of people who engage in BDSM. The method used was administration of a demographic questionnaire and carrying out a comprehensive psychometric test on people who indicated that they engaged in BDSM (Connolly, 2006). The participants were 132 people who had identified themselves as BDSM practitioners, and they had been recruited by e-mail. The sample consisted of 56 females, 73 males, and three transgendered individuals. The findings of the study indicate that approximately equal percentages of the sample were classified as more-or-less dominant and more-or-less submissive (47.6% and 45.9% respectively). Moreover, the majority of males fell along the dominant side of the spectrum and majority of females fell into the submissive category. Majority of participants indicated that engagement in BDSM caused them minimal distress; they scored within normal ranges of depression and there was little evidence of anxiety among the participants. This indicates that engagement in BDSM was influenced by personality characteristics and not psychological disorders. A limitation of this study is that it was not representative enough because all its participants were drawn from Southern California (Connolly, 2006). Therefore, there a necessity of conducting future studies that are comprehensive enough and which involve wide geographical areas.
The final study by Heaven, Crocker, Edwards, Preston, Ward and Woodbridge (2003) had a wide geographical representation since its respondents were 150 undergraduate students coming from numerous geographical areas. The aim of this study was to investigate the links between 12 personality traits of the five major personality domains and sexual attitudes and behaviors. Respondents were 150 undergraduate students with 125 respondents aged between 18 and 24 years completing the study. Out of these 89 were males, and 36 were males. The method used in measuring sexual attitudes was the Multidimensional Sexuality Questionnaire (MSQ) designed to measure 12 aspects of human sexuality. The results of the study showed that males were more likely to participate in group sex as were those high on imagination and low on morality. This suggests that personality traits are responsible for people to engage in BDSM (Heaven et al, 2003). One main limitation of this study was that the number of females was twice the number of males hence creating a possibility for the results to be not representative.
The various studies all point towards the same trend: BDSM sexual practices are influenced by personality traits of the practitioners. Moreover, these sexual practices are common across all genders, races, and ages. All across the several studies reviewed, participants scored within normal ranges of psychological disorders. This suggests that psychological disorders are not the cause of BDSM sexual behaviors and practices. The studies had numerous limitations which need to be addressed in any future research about BDSM to ascertain the connection between BDSM and personality characteristics.

References

Connolly, P.H. (2006). Psychological functioning of bondage/ domination/sado-masochism (BDSM) practitioners. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 18(1), 79–120. http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J056v18n01_05
Damon, W. (2003). Dominance, sexism, and inadequacy: Testing a compensatory conceptualization in a sample of heterosexual men involved in SM. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 14(4), 25–45. http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J056v14n04_02
Heaven, P. C., Crocker, D., Edwards, B., Preston, N., Ward, R., & Woodbridge, N. (2003). Personality and sex. Personality and Individual Differences, 35(2), 411-419.
Hébert, A., & Weaver, A. (2014). An examination of personality characteristics associated with BDSM orientations. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 23(2), 106-115.
Wismeijer, A. A., & Assen, M. A. (2013). Psychological characteristics of BDSM practitioners. The journal of sexual medicine, 10(8), 1943-1952.

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