This week I gave out a survey on my Instagram blog—@sex_ed_allgrownup – and I want to start today’s post by saying thank you to everyone who took the survey, I was delighted by the results and the interest people showed in the content! Many of you gave thoughtful and well-written comments, and I loved to hear what all of you thought about the subject.
This survey collected information about the participants’ gender and sexuality as well as what position they take on during a BDSM or Kink scene. Here are the majorities: 48% of all participants identified as women, 40% were bisexual, and 40% were switches who leaned towards submission. The reason I included these questions was to gauge who the majority of the survey participants were, if they had any BDSM knowledge experience, and how they might be affected by the questions asked later on in the survey.
The first question posed was if the participants felt that there were some aspects of Kink or BDSM that are locked to one gender/sexual orientation or if they felt that it was harder for certain kinds of people to take part in certain aspects of BDSM or Kink. The majority of participants (48%) said no, but there was still a sizable chunk of participants (a little less than 25%) who said yes. One person commented that they felt that “There is a stereotype that women are submissive” which “permeates all forms of sex”. They went on to say that “the kink community is much less inclined to believe such stereotypes than vanilla circles.”
The next question asked if participants felt that social media/television/etc. had influenced their view of what kinds of people can engage in certain aspects of Kink or BDSM. About 25% of participants believed that it did not, but the majority (60%) believed that it had. One participant clarified that they felt that the media had “incorrectly” influenced their ideas about BDSM and Kink, and another said that they “only ever see white cishet [Cisgender and Heterosexual) couples in which the woman is the sub and the man is the dom.” That same participant continued to say that they felt the BDSM community was portrayed “unrealistically and unhealthily”.
The last few questions involved examples of the kind of views that are normally skewed by media’s portrayals of BDSM and Kink.
The first of these examples asked ‘Were you under the impression that Dominants had to be men and that Submissives had to be women before learning more about BDSM and Kink?” 52% of participants said yes, while 48% said no. The next asked if participants were under the impression that only straight couples could engage in certain BDSM or Kink acts (especially regarding pet play or age play). The majority (76%) said no. The last question asked if participants thought that the sub-culture of BDSM, called Leather, was strictly for gay men to participate in. 60% said no. Though, there were 20% of participants who were unsure, leading me to believe that Leather is not a well-known sub-culture, or that they hadn’t been exposed to Leather in media.
My final question asked participants to share any other aspects of BDSM or Kink that they felt was somehow locked to one specific gender or sexual orientation. Quite a few participants left thoughtful comments, but this one seemed to capture the feelings of a lot of participants. They said “I feel the kink community is very open about who can play what role. However, the slim representation of the community definitely skews the reality of it. It’s broadly pictured [that there is] one type of person for each role, however within the community you will likely find support no matter what you look like or your role.”
I was really impressed and pleased with the results of the survey, and I was happy to see that the many of the common tropes in media regarding BDSM hasn’t influenced as many of my followers as I originally thought. I’m also especially pleased to see that so many participants noted that people who are truly in the BDSM community don’t maintain any of these views.
Unfortunately, each of the examples I gave in the survey are real stereotypes held in place by many facets of media, especially in the wake of movies such as the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise and the Netflix series Bonding. Films and series like these continue to push an unrealistic narrative of BDSM and Kink.
This narrative gives a very singular view of what it means to practice BDSM. Aside from the unsafe practices and borderline abusive BDSM relationships portrayed, it also paints a picture of BDSM being practiced only by hypersexual, white, cisgender, and heterosexual couples or by hypersexual, white, cisgender gay men. The couples are always attractive and fit, and their tango with BDSM begins usually unplanned and undiscussed. There’s very little conversations about safe words and what limits people have before they start a scene if there’s a conversation at all. And aftercare is often neglected or uncomfortable.
Heterosexual couples usually have the man play as the stoic and aggressive dominant, and the woman as the innocent, helpless submissive. Or, if you are a woman and a dominant, you’re usually a payed dominatrix with a harem of obese, older men as your partners, and you are only a dominatrix because you can’t keep a normal relationship or you have intense issues with a father-figure or authority.
Usually though, the heterosexual couples seem to fair much better than their gay counterparts. Gay men are portrayed as borderline nymphomaniacs, with their BDSM scenes either blacked-out and deemed too risqué for the camera, or done in public or at a gay club, emphasizing their overt sexuality. These scenes also tend to be more intense, safe words are ignored entirely, and the scene seems to be more of a battle for dominance than an exchange in power.
Another unfortunate biproduct of how BDSM is shown in media is that certain internet personalities or couples are often lifted higher than others. These couples also tend to be white, attractive, and fit. YouTube communities tend to uplift conventionally attractive women who engage in Kitten or Age Play, and men who are strong and dominant. It also uplifts gay men who are decked in full leather and Puppy gear.
However, on the good side of things, most of these creators are also educators, and their content tends to be inclusive and well-researched. While they may be white, cis, and heterosexual, their content usually isn’t, and their platforms tend to promote diversity more than limit it, even if their fame is partly conditional. There has also been quite a rise in these kinds of kink educators in recent years, channels like Sexplanations, WattstheSafeword, and Femme Forth are among the many creators promoting safe sex and Kink education.
I’m optimistic and excited to see that so many of my followers recognize that within the BDSM community there is no ‘right’ way to look or a ‘right’ way to play. Kink is an open and diverse way to experiment with your sexuality and sensations. I believe that we are slowly beginning to recognize more diverse BDSM creators and educators, especially with apps like Instagram and Tik Tok that provide unique opportunities for diverse people and can promote their content to a large group of people.
I hope that I can explore this way of collecting data again, as the turn-out and participation was incredible and insightful. Once again, thank you to anyone who participated in the poll, I’m eager to hear from you soon.