Wednesday 26 July 2017

The Science of Kink

Kinky Greetings! This is Kalyss Mercury- Pro-Domme, BDSM educator & kink researcher. I've been working as a Dominatrix for over 15 years now. Years ago, I noticed how many of my clients had strong emotional reactions during discipline sessions. Many times, they were surprised at how the interaction within the session reduced their stress levels and to a certain extent “reset” them to a more stable mood. My curiosity took off and I consulted my kink library for answers. There were plenty of descriptions of the effects I’d noticed, and a few theories explaining them, but the books I had did not go into the scientific testing of these effects and very few cited actual studies cataloguing BDSM activity. A few weeks of research later and I realised there was very little actual research on the psychological effects of BDSM, at least in what was freely available online. Yes, there were some isolated studies here and there. But they mostly focused on describing the population, as for instance, in terms of their mental stability (many good results for us, but that’s another story). According to the Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex (1990), kinksters make up between 5 and 10% of the United States population, a number that could be an underestimation, due to fears of disclosure. Meanwhile, although statistics vary widely between countries and worldwide cities, homosexuality ranges between 5% and 15% of the population. Yet although population percentages are similar, there is about twice as much research being done on homosexuality than on kinky sex. Why is that?

The numerous campaigns promoting homosexual and queer community equality, (including Pride celebrations around the globe and the more recent marriage equality polemic), have raised awareness for gay rights. As an effect, many academics have taken up research within this community and now there is a lot more data concerning important queer issues, such as youth gay suicide. Research results help create systems to address these issues, and counselors, psychologists and other support networks become more aware and better equipped to help members of the community during troubled times. We are still working towards a more transparent psychological support system, but at least we are moving away from the "anti homosexuality treatments” of the 1950's (as described by Smith, Bartlett, & King BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.37984.442419.EE, 2004),

For a majority of kinksters, BDSM is mostly a private interaction, so kink activism is not as vigorous as our flamboyantly fabulous gay pride campaigns. Yet, being a kinkster can also have severe effects on one's life outside the bedroom. The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has campaigned for years to remove psychological diagnoses for consensual kink activities finally with success in 2012 ( Surprisingly, some countries (e.g. United Kingdom) still uphold archaic laws which categorize SM as grievous bodily harm if marks are lasting, even if performed between consenting adults (Check the Spanner Trust for more detailed information: Although there has been a reduction in convictions against kinksters, as for instance in child custody cases, members of the kink community are still subject to prejudice, bullying and stigma simply because of their bedroom proclivities. Although the media loves the fetish style, the taboo is still there. Interestingly, how come thousands of BDSM fiction stories have not “made it” to a mass market, while 50 Shades of Grey, with all its typos and bad grammar went on to sell millions of copies? 50 Shades portrayed BDSM as something that was “cured by love”, implying that BDSM is still widely accepted as a form of “sickness” with the between the lines message: “If you really love someone, you won’t do that to them.” So, while fetish and kink may be more visible and polemic in popular media, for the general population, including the academic world, BDSM acts are still connected to ideas of trauma, disease and dysfunction. This negative stigma is harmful for kinksters as it assumes that we are damaged individuals, and therefor, we must change this perspective!

BDSM needs more activism! But I know plenty of kinky folk that have no interest in taking to the streets to fight for our rights. They may only do kinky activities occasionally, or it is threatening for them to disclose their orientation in public. However, one effective way to do BDSM activism without the need for individuals to come of of the closet is kink research! I have been a kink crusader for years now, so the logical step was to join my curiosity with my academic past, and engage in some kink research myself. My passion for this mission is the strongest ally through the challenge of exploring kink issues within a scientific framework. Because the taboo is still there, I've run into trouble repeatedly in the last year, firstly for finding advisors (many of the professors quickly lost interest in chatting with me once I shared what my thesis topic was about) then for getting ethical approval (my proposals were repeatedly turned down due to my target population –kinksters- being “at risk” and “potentially unstable”). Still, all the work was worthwhile, because now I can reach out to the community so YOU can share YOUR views on BDSM & pain in a completely safe and anonymous way. My current research focuses on whether SM has any beneficial/therapeutic effects and how participants cope with pain within an SM context (and within everyday painful activities). And as part of my master’s thesis, I am collecting views from the kink community through an online survey. (Survey is now closed)

The survey is anonymous and we don't even collect IP addresses in order to protect people's privacy. It takes about 20-30 mins to complete depending on the answer choices.

Not Kinky? Not really into pain? New to the scene? No problem! The survey also collects data on everyday pain activities, as it's important to have a comparative control group in the sample.

And even if you don't recognise these effects or agree with my hypothesis, that's even more reason to participate in the survey. We want the survey to reflect all the opinions from the community. If only my fans do the survey, it will create a biased effect.

The more different people participate, the better the sample will represent of our diverse alternative community!

Thank you for helping advance The Science of Kink!

Hugs & Spanks!

M.K. Mercury

Ps: You can keep up with my research findings by liking the FB page

The Science of Kink project is an initiative to spread the word about past and current research about BDSM & fetish practices. The scientific community is becoming ever more open minded towards studying the kink community and many interesting results are showing up. Knowledge is power, and sharing is caring. Further, the SoK project also reaches out to kinksters to promote participation in ongoing research, most recently for The Benefits of Pain Survey.

 *Article originally published on and at

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