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I am interested in research on slave-master relationships within the BDSM spectrum. This questions concerns people who do not just engage in BDSM recreationally, but rater define their relationship by this type of relationship.

Master-slave relationships is one of reciprocated devotion and requires much forethought in planning activities. This includes both psychological and physical punishments, play and games. Many people take their roles in their relationship very seriously. There are clearly defined rules and boundaries that must be respected. This is held in high regard amongst the community.

Is it possible for non-BDSM relationships to learn anything from slave-master relationships?

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It is a very good point, as we grow into adulthood We are molded into a mindset that does close off , freedom , and possibly our true nature Learning and understanding different ways of living can open our minds and set you free BDSM has made me whole It has taught me , life should be an experiment Roles should be challenged My needs as a master, are not more important or of higher respect than the needs of my servants They are prideful , and deserve the respect of any human being Their choices , on their way of life are theirs !! " be true to thyself " –  user3966 Dec 11 '13 at 17:40

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

BDSM relationships are generally very clear on the respective roles of the individuals. Thus, they provide a refuge from the "war of the sexes" that is being fought in most non-BDSM relationships.

In non-BDSM relationships today, men and women are usually extremely confused about their roles. Men and women both have difficulties accepting women as (co)providers; both partners are expected to partake in child-rearing and household chores, which does not relieve one partner from the tedium of the job, but double the stress by leading to conflicts and an unclear diffusion of responsibility; sex is a minefield where men are afraid to "use" their women, and women can no longer "let go"; etc.

BDSM relationships are reactionary in that they return to the clarity and emotional safety of pre-feminist relationships, only without the patriarchal roles. As both Skippy (user3267) in her question and MingYue in his answer have described, BDSM relationships are often less about specific forms of sexuality, but about a specific from of relationship: one with clearly defined roles, and both partners being able to relax and be themselves in the secure knowledge of what is expected of them, how to behave, and where the limits of their agreement lie – because every relationship is a contract, only non-BDSM relationships make the mistake of tabooing this fact and clogging the free flow of an honest exchange with a thick layer of romantic spirituality.

What non-BDSM relationships can learn from BDSM relationships is to communicate clearly, to define the roles of each partner, and to stop feeling guilty about not loving in a politically correct way. Equal rights don't apply inside the bedroom.


Since there has been some debate concerning the dangers and pathology of sadism, I would like to append a paraphrase of a section in a textbook on sexual deviance (Fiedler, 2004, p. 267f.):

Research has shown that an inclination to sexual sadism is a mostly safe and harmless preference. Practices of sexual sadism are usally performed with the utmost caution and care, so that injury or trauma is extremely rare (Scott, 1983; Weinberg & Kamel, 1983).

Studies with persons egaging in sadistic practices with their partners have repeatedly found that these persons are socially well integrated, valued by their friends and neighbors and successful (Spengler, 1977; 1979; Scott, 1983; Moser & Levitt, 1987; Baumeister & Butler, 1997). Some authors attest that the social adjustment and psychic health of individuals engaging in sadistic practices with their partners are above average.

Since an inclination towards sexual masochism is about four times as common as an inclination towards sexual sadism (Baumeister & Butler, 1992), we may conclude that some persons practicing sadism in their relationships are not sadistic at all but rather complying with the needs of their loved ones.

In sum, a majority of persons performing sadism in their relationships have no psychological disorder.

Sources:

  • Baumeister, R. F., & Butler, J. L. (1997). Sexual masochism: Deviance without pathology. In D. R. Laws & W. T. O'Donohue (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment (pp. 225-239). New York: Guilford.
  • Fiedler, P. (2004). Sexuelle Orientierung und sexuelle Abweichung [Sexual Orientation and Sexual Deviance]. Weinheim: Beltz.
  • Moser, C., & Levitt, E. E. (1987). An exploratory-descriptive study of a sadomasochistically oriented sample. Journal of Sex Research, 23, 322-337.
  • Scott, G. G. (1983). Erotic power: An exploraton of dominance and submission. Secausus, NJ: Citadel.
  • Spengler, A. (1977). Manifest sadomasochism of males: Results of an empirical study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 6, 441-456.
  • Spengler, A. (1979). Sadomasochisten und ihre Subkulturen. Frankfurt: Campus.
  • Weinberg, T. S., & Kamel, W. L. (Eds.) (1983). S and M: Studies in sadomasochism. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus.
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I disagree with this answer because it seems to promote paraphilia -1 –  caseyr547 Jan 30 at 7:21
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@caseyr547 How so? Where in my answer do I promote getting aroused by atypical objects, situations or behaviors? I rather promote the opposite: to allow yourself to enjoy the stereotypical female and male roles (if you want to). –  what Jan 30 at 7:45
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No, I find advantages in clear role definitions. I say in a master/slave relationship roles are clearly defined and this helps the partners relax and enjoy their sexuality. I do not say that it must necessarily be a master/slave relationship, and especially I don't endorse any other BDSM practices like inducing pain. My whole argument is about clearly defined roles, nothing else is mentioned or recommended in my answer. –  what Jan 30 at 8:18
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Are there any scientific papers that support any of those statements? –  caseyr547 Jan 30 at 9:07
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Which statements? That feminism has caused disorientation because it destroyed fixed role models? That's common knowledge. At least it is here, where it is being discussed in newspapers, talk shows and in new-feminist publications. That equal rights do not apply inside the bedroom? That is the law. As long as sex is consensual, it does not have to follow common morality. It is no crime to whip your boyfriend, if he wants it. –  what Jan 30 at 13:57

There is nothing to be learned from paraphilias which cannot be found in a healthy sexual environment. They hold no exclusive knowledge. Just like you may have learned something from a psychotic episode it doesn't make the psychosis the only possible form of learning that material. (Though under psychosis artists have made beautiful art)

BDSM as a Paraphilia (see general definition of Paraphilia by Merk and DSM below but generally speaking an isolated weekend of BDSM is not paraphilia but if it becomes consuming the only method of arousal then it might qualify as paraphilia according to Dr. Bailey) is difficult to treat but with long term psychiatry and psychotherapy there is hope, especially for mild cases like you describe. Possible treatments include modification of sexual dysfunction/desire through medication (positive modification of sexual ability or negative modification depending on the type of disorder), empathy training and aversion therapy.

Paraphilias are frequent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies or behaviors that involve inanimate objects, children or nonconsenting adults, or suffering or humiliation of oneself or the partner.

Sexual arousal may depend on one of the above. Once these arousal patterns are established, usually in late childhood or near puberty, they are often lifelong.

Some degree of variety in sexual activity is very common in healthy adult sexual relationships and fantasies. When people mutually agree to engage in them, noninjurious sexual behaviors of an unusual nature may be part of a loving and caring relationship. When taken to the extreme, however, such sexual behaviors are paraphilias—psychosexual disorders that seriously impair the capacity for affectionate, reciprocal sexual activity. Partners of people with a paraphilia may feel like an object or as if they are unimportant or unnecessary in the sexual relationship. Paraphilias cause significant distress and interfere with functioning. Distress may result from other people's reactions or from guilt about doing something socially unacceptable.

-Paraphilias from the Merk Manual

A. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving acts (real, not simulated) in which the psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation) of the victim is sexually exciting to the person.

B. The person has acted on these urges with a nonconsenting person, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.

-DSM IV-TR Sexual Sadism

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How would you see that your description of BDSM as a paraphilia relates to whether individuals who do not practice BDSM can learn anything from those who do? –  Jeromy Anglim Jan 30 at 8:01
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No worries. I think the edit makes your position a lot clearer. I imagine some people who practice BDSM would take offence at the implicit claim that they need to be treated. Are you not concerned that you may be imposing your own frame of reference on what is normal on to others? –  Jeromy Anglim Jan 30 at 8:09
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Wow, even as a non-practitioner I am offended by the prejudices expressed in your answer. -1 –  what Jan 30 at 8:16
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Nobody here is talking about BDSM being the "only way a person can become aroused" here except you. Please cite the section of the DSM that "would say they are abnormal" on that basis alone, or retract your statement if you find that the DSM requires more than one such criterion, as it does for most disorders. –  Nick Stauner Jan 30 at 13:28
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casey - What you are quoting refers to NONCONSENSUAL... The very basis of BDSM relations is that it be "safe, sane, and consensual." Any deviation from that is not accepted in the BDSM world. BDSM partnerships tend to be well-thought out and communicated, MUCH more so than "traditional" relationships. Roles are defined and agreed to ahead of time. Most non-BDSM relationships only WISH their communication were as strong as this. –  user4351 Feb 6 at 3:17

I do not think so is the short answer. I belong to a minority of men who are submissives to a female Master. She does not treat me as a slave and does not expect me to do anything I am uncomfortable with. I do all the housecleaning, her laundry, cook her meals and generally serve her in whatever fashion that gives her pleasure. I do so out of love of her. She is mentally tougher and more like a man in business thinking and dealing but very much a woman. It took her awhile to accept that she was the much stronger personality and that anyone could want to devote their life to her and serve her. I consider her my Master and refer to her as Master. She considers herself Master and has a name she has given me that we use privately. I also consider myself to be her property for her use and for her pleasure. At no time however does she treat me like a slave or administer punishment etc. It is nothing like what I have read about Master-Slave relationships in BDSM.

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This is extremely interesting. But I admit that I don't understand how your answer leads to the conclusion that non-BDSM relationships cannot learn from BDSM relationships. I think there is a lot to learn for non-BDSM relationships from your example. To me the only thing that distinguishes your relationship from a traditional relationship is that the male and female roles are reversed and that you call your partner "Master". Read my answer to see what I learn from it. –  what Sep 15 '13 at 18:46
    
Can't say as I've learned anything from this personally, but I'd be amazed if most others wouldn't either. It is quite an interesting perspective you've shared with us. I'd +1 it if I didn't agree with @what fully, and I wonder if maybe you meant that you do think non-BDSM relationships can learn from dominance-based relationships like yours? I certainly think so, even based on your answer alone! –  Nick Stauner Feb 6 at 7:45

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