A breakthrough study of BDSM at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada was published in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality this past August. The researchers, Ali Hébert and Angela Weaver, looked at the differences between dominants and submissives.
For those of us in the community, their results were not very surprising, but the results were a surprise to the academic researchers. In almost every measure of psychological health and personality traits, both dominants and submissive are well within the general normal range of society. (See, I knew we weren’t freaks.)
While dominants scored higher on “desire for control” and “extroversion” than submissives, these scores were still well within overall social norms. Conversely, submissives, scored higher on “emotionality” than dominants, but again, all scores were within social norms.
On key traits, such as empathy and willingness to compromise, dominants and submissives are the same, to the surprise of the researchers. (Clearly, they have never negotiated a scene or participated in aftercare.) In discussing their results, the authors came to the realization that BDSM is about people playing with the fantasy of control, “rather than something people with abnormal levels of desire for control feel compelled to do.”
The study also had a host of interesting demographics, shown below.