This week, we’re examining different aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in preparation for the upcoming movie, opening on Feb. 13th.
In the “Fifty Shades of Grey” book, billionaire BDSM sex-god Christian Grey is portrayed as…well, exactly that. But as far as personality goes, he’s shown to be narcissistic (it’s all about him and his pleasure) and obsessive (always harping on Ana’s eating habits), and a total stalker (just happens to show up at Ana’s workplace, a mere 2.5 hours from his home base of Seattle) among other undesirable traits.
A person with no experience or knowledge of BDSM might well believe that these characteristics are typical of a participant in The Lifestyle. That person might have the idea that someone into BDSM is not a “good” person. But this is far from true, as several studies have confirmed. As it turns out, BDSM practitioners possess quite a few beneficial traits:
1. Openness to experimentation:
An Australian study from the University of New South Wales done in 2001-2002, and published by Northern Illinois University in 2008, found that those who participated in BDSM were more sexually adventurous overall. Researchers found that BDSM enthusiasts were more likely to have watched porn, had group sex and/or slept with someone else besides their regular partner within the past year.
2. More socially outgoing:
Related to being sexually adventurous, a 2013 Dutch study found BDSM practitioners to be more extraverted and social (because how else will you find partners for group sex?). They’re also less sensitive to rejection, enabling them to seek out novel (and/or vanilla) experiences with no shame.
3. Less anxious:
The Dutch study also found that BDSM enthusiasts tend to be less neurotic. Roni Jacobson of “The Cut” recently wrote an article in she interviewed doms and subs. During scenes, the doms and subs each reported entering beneficial mental states, such as having “feelings of deep focus and concentration” (termed “topspace”) and an “altered state of consciousness where one feels released from stress and present in the moment” (termed “subspace”), respectively. The mindfulness naturally replaces any anxiety during and after the scene.
4. More relationship closeness and conscientiousness:
A 2009 study by Northern Illinois University found that a good sadomasochism (here abbreviated as SM) scene resulted in decreasing cortisol (stress) and increasing relationship closeness between participants. Likewise, the aftercare (always part of a BDSM scene) also helped aid the closeness:
The increases in relationship closeness combined with the displays of caring and affection observed as part of the SM activities offer support for the modern view that SM, when performed consensually, has the potential to increase intimacy between participants.
The aforementioned Dutch study found that BDSM participants ranked higher on conscientiousness than the non-BDSMer control group. This makes sense, as a mutually satisfying scene involves looking out for your partner every step of the way.
5. Love of language and wordplay:
Kinky sexpert Jean Franzblau of Sexual Esteem with Jean has found, through her own personal experiences, that BDSM enthusiasts are also enthralled with language and wordplay. Even though it might sound harsh to those unfamiliar with The Lifestyle, it’s just part of the scene.
“In the BDSM community, we use very dastardly language. But underneath it, it’s all good,” she said in her “Welcome to Kink” class at the Los Angeles Academy of Sex Education last fall.
6. Holds advanced degrees:
In tandem with loving language and wordplay, Franzblau’s anecdotal data suggests that BDSM practitioners value education, as they are more likely to hold advanced degrees. This would make sense, as education and open-mindedness to new experiences have long thought to be positively correlated.
7. Greater self-acceptance:
Dr. Juliet Richters, author of the University of New South Wales study, told Australia’s “Sydney Morning Herald” that the study’s BDSM participants scored higher on measures of psychological wellbeing. She interpreted that as meaning the participants were happier:
It might just be that they’re more in harmony with themselves because they’re into something unusual and are comfortable with that. There’s a lot to be said for accepting who you are.
With this list in mind, I’d say the benefits far outweigh any risks. Just remember to keep your play safe, sane and consensual.