Many bondage-discipline, domination-submission, sadomasochism (BDSM) practitioners identify as primarily dominant or primarily submissive. In the current study, BDSM practitioners with self-identified preferences for dominance or for submission described the traits that they feel make them well suited for their preferred BDSM role, their perceptions of benefits and challenges of BDSM generally, and the benefits and challenges of their preferred role. Semi-structured interviews were completed with 9 dominants and 12 submissives and explored using thematic analysis. Participants described dominants as empathic and nurturing, desiring and able to take control, and attentive and responsible, while submissives were characterized as willing to give up control and having a desire to please. Interviewees described ways in which their BDSM role fit with their overall personality, as well as incongruities between their role in BDSM play and their day-to-day personas. The general benefits of BDSM mentioned by the participants for both roles were pleasure from pleasuring others, physical pleasure and arousal, fun, variety, and going beyond vanilla, personal growth, improved romantic relationships, community, psychological release, freedom from day-to-day roles, and being yourself. Participants also discussed the dominant-specific benefits of control or power, rewards, and confidence, and the submissive-specific benefit of giving up control. In addition to the shared challenges and risks of stigma, relationship problems, and accepting desires reported, dominant-specific issues of more work and responsibility and possessive submissives, and submissive-specific issues of vulnerability, bad dominants, and following orders and accepting decisions were addressed by participants. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.


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pp. 49-62
Launched on MUSE
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