Which demographics are the kinkiest?
November 26, 2008 12:55 PM   Subscribe

KinkFilter: Is there currently any sociological research on sexual kinks, specifically long-term BDSM relationships? My friend and I were talking a couple days ago, and we were wondering if D/s dynamics were more common among certain demographics (i.e., college-educated, middle class, particular ethnic groups, certain religions, etc.), and I decided that MeFi might know if anyone was publishing on this stuff.
posted by aliceinreality to Human Relations (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I can't help out with sociological references or published papers, but I've got anecdotes! Someone mentioned to me the other day, "It seems like everyone in this scene is a doctor, lawyer, or engineer."
posted by hwyengr at 1:08 PM on November 26, 2008

Response by poster: That anecdote leans the direction that we were going with our conversation. Maybe I should have just asked people to report in demographically and done MeFi samples. =p
posted by aliceinreality at 1:36 PM on November 26, 2008

You're not going to be able to get good data on this, because certain types of people (socially liberal, younger, &c.) are going to be more likely to be open about their kinks. Whether that means joining groups of likeminded people or simply telling the truth on surveys, some people are never going to discuss the fact that in the privacy of their own bedrooms, they like to do the sorts of things that many others are willing to speak quite candidly about.
posted by decathecting at 2:10 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Status of Kink Studies: Basic Demographics and Statistics Mysteries. Seriously, though, I've never been able to find much scientifically-useful research in this area.

I briefly floated a study like this as a possible thesis idea once, and eventually I came to the conclusion that it would be much too skewed by socially sensitive factors to either a. Get an accurate sample without a large-scale national study, or b. Get approval from an ethics board. Laud Humphrey has been brought up in every research ethics course I've ever been in or near, and I can't imagine many/any sane academics wanting to submit themselves to the torture that would result from proposing a "similar" study with BDSM, no matter what precautions the researcher intended to implement to keep things safe and consensual. There are few safe words that a researcher could write about BDSM without disobeying an ethics comittee.

That's not to say that demographics and a profile can't be put together, but I suspect that it'd have to be taken on as a non-academic/pop-sci task at first--perhaps as part of a non-fiction mass-market book that might soften resistance amongst vanilla academia.
posted by Benjy at 2:42 PM on November 26, 2008

hwyengr: not so, in my experience.

I can't really search for this at work, but I know there have been studies. Search for Gloria Brame, she has done some work in this area. I can't comment on her methodology - decathecting has a point about the inherent error of self-reporting.
posted by desjardins at 3:36 PM on November 26, 2008

More anecdotal stuff:

Amongst my kink friends, there exists a librarian, a factory worker, a truck driver, an IT consultant, an IT executive, a bank administrator, a hospital receptionist, several college students, an electrical engineer, a mechanical engineer, a lawyer, a sex therapist, a musician, a visual artist, an auto parts store clerk, a nurse, a web designer, an owner of a landscaping business, a physics professor, an apartment manager, and a telecom executive.

Most of the people I've encountered in the scene are white, but I don't know if that's self-selecting (there are black BDSM social groups) or if there is bias. I know Christians, Jews, pagans, Buddhists, and atheists, and the proportions don't seem much different than MetaFilter, though the number of pagans seems higher than the general population. The number of Ren Faire types seems ridiculously high to me.

Me, I have a master's degree in urban planning, but I'm currently working in an admin position in higher education. I'm white and a buddhist. I identify as a dominant female.
posted by desjardins at 3:46 PM on November 26, 2008

Oh, my experience is incredibly limited, but I did meet 5 engineers, a lawyer, and a law student at the last function.
posted by hwyengr at 4:19 PM on November 26, 2008

I would imagine the demographic is mainly middle- and upper-class, since the equipment is kind of expensive and you have to have the free time to get into it. But published stuff? I dunno...there's a reason it's largely underground, anonymity and social mores and all that.
posted by ostranenie at 9:34 PM on November 26, 2008

Response by poster: yeah, i didn't expect anything to have been done, really. i just wondered. i had the same reasons for assuming middle/upper class participation as primary, at least in long-term home-bondage type stuff.

thanks, guys, for trying! =)
posted by aliceinreality at 2:08 PM on November 27, 2008

I read some research many years ago (Kinsey? Hite? I can't now remember, and Google's not helping) that showed a correlation between advanced education and a preference for kink, particularly among women. Sorry; can't cite a reference, though.
posted by hot soup girl at 7:10 PM on November 27, 2008

Kinsey is the first sex-preference study I can think of. Of course, any survey like that is likely to be biased. You can try posting in the forums on a place like collarme.com or bondage.com.

My personal theory is that BDSM activities occur fairly frequently in certain types of books, so people who read a lot are more likely to find out about BDSM
posted by Jacen at 8:32 PM on November 29, 2008

Response by poster: Yeah. Kinsey occurred to me too. And I don't think that any survey will be w/o demand characteristics and social desirability errors. I assume that sociologists take that into consideration as well as psychologists do.

Posting in the forums isn't a bad idea, but it also won't really give me a representative sample.

Unfortunately, this is really unconductable research for someone who (presumably) lives really far from any bondage clubs, and in a culture that is really afraid of sex and its trappings.
posted by aliceinreality at 3:53 PM on November 30, 2008

ugh, I wish I were at home, because I *know* there have been master's and phD students who have posted surveys in bondage.com and would be willing to share their results (they did post their real world contact info, after all). I don't know if you can access the forums w/o registering, but it's free to register and the surveys were listed under "society & community" or something like that.

As far as local groups, here you go [probably nsfw, duh]. I can't go to the actual website, so this is just the top result from this google search. (if you search for [city] + bdsm, you usually end up with a lot of crap results. a "munch" is a portmanteau of meeting + lunch, and is what bdsmers call their get-togethers, even though they're not normally around lunchtime.)
posted by desjardins at 12:56 PM on December 1, 2008

Response by poster: oh, thanks, desjardins! i might be willing to post around on forums as research, but i am also a hopelessly overworked history undergrad in her finals weeks, so it might be awhile. X_X
posted by aliceinreality at 9:55 PM on December 1, 2008

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