Monthly Archives: March 2015

Is BDSM Healthy?

BDSM has recently come to the attention of mainstream America; many have heard of it through the popular novel “Fifty Shades of Grey”, written by E.L. James. The book’s content is very “risque” and includes aspects of human sexuality that have not been popularized or even decriminalized until now; the BDSM community have been pathologized in therapeutic settings for many years now, especially in the United States where currently it is legal too invoke electroshock therapy for people who are fetishists or considered a sexual minority. However, abroad in France specifically, there is a history of literature that endorses flagellation and other subsets of erotic activity deemed “too provocative” for American media and its people to see. In contrast to the mainstream culture’s attitude towards BDSM there are a great deal of empirical data that supports the notion of BDSM practices being a healthy avenue in which an individual can explore his or her sexuality.

This brings about the question of whether or not BDSM is a healthy erotic practice for people to use.

In America we have a history of prudence that is often endorsed through the media, arguably the largest rhetorical platform that exists, especially for the generations with higher exposure to televisions, video games, and the internet.  This is what contributed to the negative or shocked expressions that people had when they first heard of a book called “Fifty Shades of Grey” about the D/S relationship  between a wealthy businessman named “Christian Grey” and a 22 year old undergraduate student named “Anastasia Steele”. Although both the book and the movie (of the same name) were a mainstream success, the BDSM community has problems with the book as it does not accurately capture the spirit of how they view BDSM: a healthy avenue in which an individual can explore his or her sexuality (Smash).

BDSM is an acronym for Bondage and dominance, and Sadomasochism or Sadism and Masochism (Psychology Today). These acronyms are compounded in order to denote an array of erotic activities that can be done within the context of interpersonal relationships. B/D stands for Bondage and Dominance. D/S stands for Dominance and Submission. S/M stands for either “sadomasochism” or “sadism and masochism”.

“Unhealthy” Aspects of BDSM

One could argue that BDSM is a way to push the agenda of the patriarchy within the confines of interpersonal relationships; since male domination is so prominent and maintained through laws and institutions in the United States, it is no surprise that this sense of male superiority would bleed through to more intimate parts of a BDSM practitioner’s life. For instance, in BDSM there is a ‘dominant’ and a ‘submissive’, or a ‘top’ and a ‘bottom’. These roles imply two things: (1) that BDSM endorses what are considered to be characteristics of a masculine society, such as competition, achievement or success (2) That there is a constant power dynamic between the two people who are interacting. The United States ranks highly in masculinity and individualism, (62 and 91, respectively) meaning that they place high priority on masculine traits such as success, achievement and competition, as well as looking out for oneself (The Hofstede Centre). The masculinity of the culture is in direct competition with other cultures that consider themselves ‘feminine’ and ‘collectivist’ which champion companionship and working in groups while looking out for others (The Hofstede Centre). Radical feminists would argue that sadism and masochism is a mode of sexual expression that makes woman feel as if they are free women when in reality they are only perpetuating the influence of male domination within intimate settings, or patriarchal sadism. As Dee Graham suggests in “Loving to Survive”, sexual submission can be likened to Stockholm Syndrome, in which females form their sexual identity around the notion of submissiveness in order to survive and accommodate male sexuality, which is associated with dominance. She likens the development of female sexuality to the development of Stockholm Syndrome, which is formed amongst those who are dependent on their captors (Graham). The parallels are clearly drawn out, from how women are to be dependent on men in US society, and how women’s magazines are a lot like the survival manuals given to women who are victims of Stockholm Syndrome, both in which result in resonating with the male gaze and winning them over for what the book or literature will advertise as ”in the interest of the woman” . Because of this women (especially submissives) come to eroticize their own fear (Graham). And this phenomenon, according to Sheila Jeffreys, contributes to the eroticization and glamorization of male dominance in the form of sexuality. She implies that subordination is equivocal to sexual terrorism because a great deal of women that have been abused attempt to lose themselves in scenarios where sadomasochism is involved (Jeffreys).

This brings about the topic of consent playing a big part in the BDSM realm; consent plays a huge role in one’s psychological, physiological and physical well being. In BDSM, there are three types of consent: temporary, indefinite/long term, and the most controversial one, consensual non-consent. Consensual non-consent can be defined as a type of consent in which one person gives up the ability to prevent what the other person desires to do with or to the other person; it is a type of consent in which the ability to revoke consent is given up (Dictionary of BDSM terms). According to the The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, BDSM is seen as violent, not as sex, and this is why it is not considered the same thing as rape even though some “rape play” occurs within BDSM. In a BDSM case, the act alone is considered assault, even with consent (National Coalition for Sexual Freedom). In the eyes of the law, consent is a factor that can psychologically impair an individual. Consensual non-consent directly opposes Category B Criteria in the DSM-5 which is a section about concerns about sexual paraphillic disorders.

BDSM is still considered a psychiatric disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (Connolly). Pamela H. Connolly conducted a study in which she questions/surveys 32 self  people who self identify as BDSM practitioners and found higher amounts of people who practice Bondage and Dominance rather than Sadomasochism (Connolly). Other findings support that the sadomasochistic aspect of BDSM is the most psychologically harmful because it is linked to violence (Federoff) and homicidal acts.  Sadism, sadomasochism, violence and sex by J. Paul Federoff concludes that the sadomasochism is correlated with violence and this heavily opposes the DSM 5 criteria for paraphillic disorders. It focuses on non-sexual aggression (violence) correlates to people who self- identify as masochists.


Demographic and Psychosocial Features of Participants in Bondage and Discipline, Sadomasochism or Dominance and Submission suggests that BDSM is attractive to a sexual minority and conducted a study in which a tota of 4% of men and women self-identified as practitioners. The findings suggest that it is attractive to a minority of the population that participates in sex, and that BDSM was more common amongst people who were bisexual, gay or lesbian. Also, they found that BDSM practitioners had more sexual intercourse, and were more sexually adventurous, with more fistings, and higher rates of both oral and anal sex (Richters). They also express that men were less psychologically distressed in the BDSM community, and overrall more the practitioners were less neurotic, and experienced less sexual coerciveness.

A study called Consent vs. Coercion: BDSM Interactions Highlight a Fine but Immutable Line conducted by Dulcinea Pitagora concluded that consent is integral to non-pathological BDSM interactions and that coercion is a prominent force in pathological sexual assaults (Pitagora). BDSM helps elucidate the role of power for people and forces them to reflect on power dynamics within intimate settings. According to Pitagora, the renegotiation of sexual activities, mutual definitions given to power roles and activities and agreements about redistribution of power all contribute to BDSM being a cathartic and soothing experience for anyone involved (Pitagoria). This article asserts that the historical pathologization of BDSM has contributed to its being seen as a taboo and continues its analysis in comparing BDSM practices to non-BDSM or mainstream ones and then asserting that the fundamental and universal rule of BDSM is consent itself. This allows it to be a healthy practice that invokes self-awareness and meaning-making powers that are caused by acknowledging the emphasis of a power dynamic.



After conducting thorough research that explored both why BDSM is healthy and why it is not, I would have to conclude that it is. There is a great deal of empirical data that explains why BDSM is healthy. Most of the data that I found that says that BDSM is unhealthy are not recent and are mostly based on snap judgments, meaning that they conclude that people in this sexual minority are sexually deviant and pathological because usually they conduct studies that are biased on people who were sexually abused as children. Most recent studies suggest that it is not a pathological interest; most of the studies emphasize that consent is a universal and fundamental requirement in the BDSM community. The three types of consent that are mentioned above (consensual non consent, indefinite/long term and temporary) are all analyzed and known amongst people in the community according to the BDSM dictionary, and the most controversial one is the one in which one of the participants agrees to revoke his or her ability to prevent what the other person wants. The study by Pitagora that describes BDSM as being a practice that endorses self-awareness and meaning making is also a valid source of information that corraborates my viewpoint because it can be likened to religious or spiritual practices, such as meditation, which has been proven to help people live longer lives, contribute to grey matter in the brain, and generally help with lowering stress levels.

Barker, M., Iantaffi, A., & Gupta, C. (2008). Kinky clients, kinky counselling? The challenges and potentials of BDSM. In L. Moon (Author), Feeling Queer or Queer Feelings: Radical Approaches to Counselling Sex, Sexualities and Genders (pp. 106-124). London: Routledge.
Connolly, P. H. (2006). Psychological Functioning of Bondage/Domination/Sado-Masochism (BDSM) Practitioners. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 18(1), 79-120. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
Federoff, J. P. (2008). Sadism, sadomasochism, sex and violence. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 53(10), 637-646.
Federoff, J. P. (2011). Forensic and Diagnostic Concerns Arising From the Proposed DSM-5 Criteria for Sexual Paraphilic Disorder. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law,39(2), 238-241. Retrieved March 8, 2015, from
Jeffreys, S. (n.d.). How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women’s Movement. Retrieved March 8, 2015, from
National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. (2015, January 7). CONSENT and BDSM: The State of the Law. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
Pitagora, D. (2013). Consent v Coercion: BDSM interactions highlight a Fine but Immutable Line. The New School Psychology Bulletin, 10(01), 1-10. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
Richters, J., Visser, R. O., Rissel, C. E., Grulich, A. E., & Smith, A. M. (2008). Demographic and Psychosocial Features of Participants in Bondage and Discipline, Sadomasochism or Dominance and Submission (BDSM): Data from a National Survey. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5(7), 1660-1668. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.00795.x
Richters, J., Visser, R. O., Rissel, C. E., Grulich, A. E., & Smith, A. M. (2008). Demographic and Psychosocial Features of Participants in Bondage and Discipline, Sadomasochism or Dominance and Submission (BDSM): Data from a National Survey. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5(7), 1660-1668. Retrieved March 8, 2015.

Should Parents be allowed to select the gender or sex of their child?


This is my second blog post and I’m really excited about exploring the topic of gender and sex because it has been a hot topic recently in social media and in most of my classes, and before studying it in school I never really got the opportunity to really learn about the topic enough to where I felt comfortable and familiar with the notions/origins of gender and sexuality and how each operate within American society.

First, let me explain that sex and gender are NOT the same thing.

According to the World Health Organization, sex “refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women” (World Health Organization).

Gender, on the other hand, “refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women” (World Health Organization).

To call something ‘male’ or ‘female’ would be a sex category, and to call something ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ is considered to be a gender category (World Health Organization).

Now that we have established the distinction between gender and sex, it is time to discuss the real matter at hand. The debate is whether parents ought to be allowed to decide the sex or gender of their baby. I would say no and I will explain why.

According to, Gender “is our social and legal status as girls and boys, women and men… [Gender] is how you feel about and express your gender, and culture determines gender roles and what is masculine and feminine” (Planned Parenthood).

But back to the topic at hand! There are a great deal of sources that tell why or why not sex selection is not a viable process; because nature ultimately controls more than humans can. For example, According to the guardian, the probability of having a boy or a girl varies according to when and how one makes love, the environment, and one’s partner. Studies have shown that male conceptions are more likely during spring and wartime and at the beginnings and ends of ovulation periods in women; however female conception are more likely to happen in the middle of ovulation periods.

On the other hand, according to scientists, two ways of selecting the sex of one’s child is through either artificial insemination (AI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Both are very costly processes, in terms of time, money and safety, because one also has to take and know the potential risks of taking fertility drugs. AI has various methods of operation, meaning there are many ways to do it, but the most popular is called intrauterine insemination. For intrauterine insemination, the doctor will place a tube into your uterus and shoot the sperm closer to this area. For IVF, depending on ones age, the doctor will transfer an appropriate number of enbryos (usually its more than one). (Baby Center).

According to Dr. Valerie J. Grant, women who have higher levels of testosterone are more likely to produce boys (Grant). That is to say that women who are more domineering are also more likely to have higher levels of testosterone, and thus will have more boys. Grant studied a sample of 353 women and found that high stress levels in women led to producing more females than males, which explains why there were a lot of wartime data that supported the claim that more women were born during high levels of political turmoil. What Vivienne Perry claimed is that in-vitro fertilization being a viable option in being able to select a gender of a child is far-reaching because there are too many elements outside of human control.


In her book called “The Truth about Hormones”, Vivienne also spoke about the Trivers Willard Hypothesis, which asserts that high status parents favor sons over daughters and low status parents (economically, popularity), favor daughters (Duncan). Apparently there is a strategy to this theory: poor quality females are more likely to pass on advantageous traits (or any kind of traits) than poor quality males, who re more likely to be rejected and not pass on anything. There are studies from animals like caribou that corroborate this notion (.Also, what best determines a child’s level of educational and economical success is investment by the parents and their resources (Blau and Duncan). Both of these claims utilize Darwinism as a basis of finding a hypothesis and research questions to guide their research. Darwinism is what drives a great deal of the American mentality; objectivity, rationale and reason are often placed high in our society, as showing too much emotion is deemed “immature” or inefficient (Geert-Hofstede). This notion of people being able to create the perfect child is ideal and highly compatible for the American citizen because they were raised in a society that praises “masculine” traits (achievement, competition and success) over feminine ones (caring for others and quality of life) and individualism (looking out for yourself and immediate family) over collectivism (focusing on “we” and a group setting”). Being an individualistic society is compatible with the notion of selecting a child’s gender because it takes into account the idea that one is looking out for oneself and immediate family, ensuring they have a legacy and that their legacy is advantageous over others’.

I believe that one should not be allowed to select the gender or sex of a child because I only personally believe in gender constructs to an extent. Gender expression has a great deal of external objects that the child uses to make an association between their intrinsic gender and the external one that is reflected in society. However, I was not always a child that conformed to girly things, like playing with barbies or playing dress up, or even using my imagination. Since we live in a highly individualistic society, why is it that we must emphasize conformity in terms of gender and sex? Shouldn’t we be allowed to do what we want and express ourselves freely? Plus, according to Vivienne Parry and Valerie Grant, there are a great deal of forces out of our control. Gender is a cultural construct in which society or the culture that a person is raised in decides how the person is to act, think and behave based on an individual’s body parts (WHO). Now since society has that power over an individual and decides how that person is to express themselves, then why should the parents put even more pressure on the child to conform to an idea or mode of expression (whether that be through toys, pasttimes, or other interests) just for them to fulfill a “role” that is not true to the intrinsic self-image of a young boy or girl? After all, there is a community of people whose mental or intrinsic sex is not in unison with the genitalia that they have at birth. This population are known collectively to the rest of the population as the “trans” community (GLAAD), and their presence is emerging in social media venues and in books, movies, and television.

All in all I simply do not believe, nor do I feel comfortable with the notion that parents ought to be allowed to select their child’s sex or gender. In the end, the culture has a greater say in how that person’s life will be and how that person can express themselves, as well as how to act and even think. I also am not comfortable with the notion of parents trying to play God for some sort of Darwinian contrived notion of advantage to pass on to future generations. Plus, there are a great number of cons that are associated with in-vitro fertilization. One single round of in vitro fertilization pre-genetic testing can cost around $20,000. There are numerous side effects to fertility drugs such as weight gain, bloating, etc. Having one’s eggs removed can be very invasive and painful, there will also be unused embryos that one has to decide how to use (donate, research or adoption), in women younger than 35 years old approximately 46% of the time the embryos result in births that are live and then that number goes down drastically as time goes on.

I hope this was as interesting and informative for you as it was for me!


Jasmin Crentsil


Baby Center. (2014). Choosing your baby’s sex: What the scientists say | BabyCenter. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from

Blau, P. M., & Duncan, O. D. (1967). The American occupational structure. New York: Wiley.

Freese, J., & Powell, B. (1999). Sociobiology, Status and Parental Investment in Sons and Daughters: Testing the Trivers Willard Theory. American Journal of Sociology, 104(6), 1704-1743. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from

GLAAD. (2011, September 09). GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender Issues. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from

Grant, V. J. (1996). Sex determination and maternal Dominance. Human Reproduction, 11(11), 2371-2375. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from

Hofstede. (2012, February 3). THE HOFSTEDE CENTRE. Retrieved February 23, 2015, from

Parry, V. (2005). The truth about hormones. London: Atlantic.

Planned Parenthood. (2014). Gender Identity | Stereotypical Masculine & Feminine Traits. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from

World Health Organization. (2015). What do we mean by “sex” and “gender”? Retrieved February 16, 2015, from