Full Title: Purposeful Pain: A Comparison of BDSM Participants and Individuals who Engage in Non-Suicidal Self-Injury
Anyone who engages in consensual masochism has probably encountered someone with the bias that those of us who enjoy receiving pain is actually engaging in self-harm by proxy, or that we are reenacting some sort of trauma from our past. This may be true for some people, but as a masochist who has a history of nonsuicidal self-injury and childhood (physical) abuse, I know that what motivates me to engage in masochistic activities differs from why I engage in self-injury. I do not engage in BDSM because I am trying to overcome a past trauma or harbour some latent desire to be abused.
I know that what I experience when I am cuffed to a cross is not the same as when I scratch (my NSSI behaviour of compulsion). My mental state is very different when I engage in either activity. However, the association between BDSM masochistic interest and nonsuicidal self-injury exists and it is still something that I encounter in clinical settings, even with the recent changes to the Mental Health Bible.
As I said in Episode 10, it is important that we, BDSM practitioners, participate in studies so that our experiences become a part of the research that will bring understanding to the medical field. We need to be the voice behind the narrative of what we are all about. In this episode, I have the pleasure to speak with Dr Markie Twist from the University of Wisconsin-Stout about the results of their recent survey entitled “Differences between BDSM Participants and Individuals who Engage in Non-Suicidal Self-Injury”. Dr Twist was a co-principal investigator of this study, which set out to
” …understand the similarities and differences between the motivations, relational experiences, childhood histories, and characteristics of individuals who engage in intense BDSM sensation play and those who do or have engaged in nonsuicidal self-injury behaviour. Specifically, the research study aims to understand the reasons and motivations behind these behaviours, as well as the personality characteristics of those who engage in these behaviours.” (from the Purpose and Background of the study)
Dr Markie and their team presented the findings last month at The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Conference (SSSS2016) in Phoenix, Arizona. I am including a link to the presentation slides, for those who are interested in reading more.
During the show, we will be talking about what motivated Dr Markie to research this topic, as well as the methodology used by the research team to demonstrate and evaluate the differences between consensual masochism and self-harm. Of course, we will also discuss the findings of the study, including how these groups (BDSM and NSSI) measured up against a normed group.
Markie Louise Christianson Twist, Ph.D., is the Program Coordinator of the Graduate Certificate in Sex Therapy Program, and Associate Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department and Marriage and Family Therapy Program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Dr Twist is also an Affiliate of the Wisconsin HOPE (Harvesting Opportunities for Postsecondary Education) Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Markie is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (IA, NV) and Mental Health Counselor (IA), American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Clinical Fellow and Approved Supervisor, and an American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists Certified Sexuality Educator. Markie is the co-author of the book, The Couple and Family Technology Framework: Intimate Relationships in a Digital Age, and has published over 50 articles, 10 book chapters, and presented over 150 times in various venues. Markie serves as the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy Virtual Issues Editor, and is an editorial board member for the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy: An International Forum, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, and the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy. Dr Twist’s research primarily focuses on: people whose sexual, gender, erotic, and relational orientations have been minoritized; professional mentoring and scholarly collaborative relationships; family and ecological sustainability; couple and family technology studies; and couples and family therapy technological practices.
Dr Twists’s Website