Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Do whips and ’cuffs mean a better relationship?

What's the secret to feeling less neurotic and more secure in a relationship?

The answer might just be a pair of handcuffs or cat o' nine tails.

According to a recent study, people who practise bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM) responded better to various personality and psychological questions concerning human behaviour than those whose sexual practices are considered "vanilla."

Story continues below advertisement

The idea that BDSM activities could do good (assuming they don't do harm) seems especially surprising in light of the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which includes BDSM for the first time as an unusual sexual fixation (or paraphilia).

The American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5 is considered the most comprehensive resource on mental disorders.

Yet the study, first published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, suggests that kinky sexual proclivities can result in a stronger sense of well-being.

Of the 1,336 people who answered the questionnaire, 902 defined themselves as BDSM practitioners.

"We did not have any findings suggesting that people who practise BDSM have a damaged psychological profile or have some sort of psychopathology or personality disorder," Andreas Wismeijer told LiveScience.

Examining the psychological health of BDSM followers was not the original goal for Wismeijer, a researcher at the Nyenrode Business University. While studying the psychology of secrets and secrecy at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, he ended up using members of the largest local BDSM Web forum as his test population.

An article in the New York Post on Wismeijer's findings also points out that the DSM-5 has a "checkered history" as far as labelling sexual preferences. "In the DSM-1, printed in 1952, homosexuality was listed as a sociopathic personality disturbance, and it wasn't removed from the DSM-2 until its seventh printing in 1974."

Story continues below advertisement

Wismeijer says that his research should encourage mental health professionals to be more accepting of BDSM practitioners.

In his mind, BDSM better warrants the label of "lifestyle choice." You know, like vegetarians. Or marathoners.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to