Whips & Chains Excite Me: BDSM and Social Acceptance in the Context of Normative Influences

  • Abbey Ratcliff-Elder KPU
  • Cory Pedersen KPU
  • Arleigh Reichl KPU
Keywords: BDSM, dominance/submission, gender, sadomasochism, stereotypes, stigma


Although public interest in the BDSM community is increasing, practitioners continue to experience marginalization, as well as a great level of stigma and discrimination stemming from several facets of society. This study examined levels of social acceptance of dominant/submissive relationships when two factors were manipulated: (a) gender of the dominant, and (b) exposure to normalizing information about a D/s relationship. The Attitudes about Sadomasochism Scale (ASMS; Yost, 2010) and a set of original items were used to gather opinions about the BDSM community and D/s relationships, yielding two measures of social acceptance relating to BDSM practices. Two separate ANOVAs revealed partial support for the hypotheses, indicating that female participants reported significantly higher levels of social acceptance when the D/s scene was accompanied by a normative interview about the couple. Suggestions for the development of anti-discrimination programs involving normative information exposure are discussed.

Empirical Articles