Purposeful Pain: A Comparison of BDSM Participants and Individuals who Engage in Non-Suicidal Self-Injury
Anyone who engages in consensual masochism has probably encountered someone with the bias that those of us who enjoy receiving pain are actually engaging in self-harm by proxy, or that we are reenacting some sort of trauma from our past.
This may be true for some people, but as a masochist who has a history of non-suicidal self-injury and childhood (physical) abuse, I know that what motivates me to engage in masochistic activities differs from why I engage in self-injury. I do not engage in BDSM because I am trying to overcome a past trauma or harbour some latent desire to be abused.
Purposeful pain is not a mental disorder
Masochism has been removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, ed 5 (except when it becomes a hindrance to the daily lives of the practitioners).
At the same time, there was a suggestion to label Non-Suicidal Self-Injury behaviour as a disorder. NSSI Disorder was not added in the most recent edition of the DSM, however, it was listed as a “Condition for Further Study”.
I have some experience in this
I know that what I experience when I am cuffed to a cross is not the same as when I scratch (my NSSI behaviour of compulsion). My mental state is very different when I engage in either activity. However, the association between BDSM masochistic interest and non-suicidal self-injury exists and it is still something that I encounter in clinical settings, even with the recent changes to the Mental Health Bible.
As I said in Episode 10, it is important that we, BDSM practitioners, participate in studies so that our experiences become a part of the research that will bring understanding to the medical field. We need to be the voice behind the narrative of what we are all about. On Wednesday, December 14th, I have the pleasure to speak with Dr Markie Twist from the University of Wisconsin-Stout about the results of their recent survey entitled “Differences between BDSM Participants and Individuals who Engage in Non-Suicidal Self-Injury”.
Dr Twist was a co-principal investigator of this study, which set out to “understand the similarities and differences between the motivations, relational experiences, childhood histories, and characteristics of individuals who engage in intense BDSM sensation play and those who do or have engaged in non-suicidal self-injury behaviour. Specifically, the research study aims to understand the reasons and motivations behind these behaviours, as well as the personality characteristics of those who engage in these behaviours.” (from the Purpose and Background of the study)
Dr Twist and their team presented the findings last month at The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Conference (SSSS2016) in Phoenix, Arizona. I am including a link to the presentation slides, for those who are interested in reading more.
During the show, we will be talking about what motivated Dr Twist to research this topic, as well as the methodology used by the research team to demonstrate and evaluate the differences between consensual masochism and self-harm. Of course, we will also discuss the findings of the study, including how these groups (BDSM and NSSI) measured up against a normed group.
Please join Dr Twist and me December 14th at 7 pm eastern.
- Dr. Twist’s Website – added March 1, 2017
- Dr. Twist’s Academia Page
- Twitter: @Dr_Markie_Twist
- SSSS2016 Presentation: Purposeful Pain: A Comparison of BDSM Participants and Individuals who Engage in Non-Suicidal Self-Injury
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