The participants of this survey indicated that they participated in a much wider variety of activities than has been acknowledged in academic research of kink behaviors. Out of the 126 erotic stimuli provided in this survey, the women in this sample willingly participated in an average of 57.72 activities with a SD of 22.47. The number of activities participants engaged in ranged from 1 to 121. This does not include the additional 72 categories created by the “other” fill-in responses.
BDSM-Related Behaviors: Physical and Psychological Stimuli
Table 2 shows the percentage of the women who indicated that they participated in the 62 BDSM-related behaviors provided in the survey. The column “Doing to and/or Done to you” indicates the percentage of the women who participated in the activity in either role whereas the column “Participated (in any form)” also includes responses from “Observing Activity.”
The majority of participants enjoyed many kinds of tactile sensations, such as touching (caress, cuddle, massage, tickle), kissing/licking/sucking, grooming, applying (body paint, chocolate, oil, food, etc.), ice play, candle wax play, and using feathers/fur. The two activities that had the highest response rate for erotic and sensual pleasure from the entire survey were touching and kissing. As evidenced by these results, the category of “sensation play without the necessity of pain” is a common phenomenon found among these participants.
It has been noted in previous community-based research that behaviors that may cause pain but are relatively safe tended to be more common than more extreme or dangerous behaviors (described by Moser and Levitt as “more likely to cause medical problems”) (Breslow et al., 1985; Moser & Levitt, 1987). This was consistent with the present findings. Some of the most common among these activities included spanking, hair pulling, biting, and scratching/leaving marks/abrasion. More than half (and in some cases nearly all) of the participants reported that they participated in the following activities, which could be described as “sadomasochism”: breast play (slap, clothespins, etc.), paddling, hickeys, flogging, genital play (slap, kick, clothespins, etc.), pinching, using clothespins/clamps, whipping, and caning.
Some of the more extreme activities (i.e., those with a greater potential to elicit pain or cause physical or psychological damage), while participated in by fewer people, tended to have a higher proportion of women observing these activities for sensual or erotic pleasure. It is possible that more dangerous activities have higher erotic value for the sake of fantasy as opposed to physically experiencing them (i.e., perhaps people do not want to risk harm to themselves or their partners, but are still aroused by fantasized danger). Another possible explanation is that these activities are performed by fewer people because they take a certain amount of training, skill, experience or equipment rather than because of a lack of interest.
The present survey explored psychological components of BDSM behaviors and included 12 activities that could fit this description. The majority of the women from this sample indicated that they participated in at least one of the following activities for their own sensual or erotic pleasure: physical humiliation, deprivation, punishment (physical), breath play, obedience/training, verbal abuse/humiliation, other forced activities, and service-oriented submission/domestic service.
The psychological component of kink is also demonstrated in part by the significant number of women from this sample (n = 1384; 87.59 %) who participated in at least one of the 10 role-play scenarios presented (in any form). As shown in Table 3, the three most popular role-play scenarios were Master/slave fantasy,Footnote 2 danger fantasy, and jobs/occupation play. The columns with “in either role” indicate the percentage of women from this subsample who participated in the role play scenario regardless of which role they took whereas the columns with “Participated (in any form)” combined answers from any of their roles and from observing.
The present results support the idea that bondage is one of the more preferred activities. In fact, more than 85 % of the participants indicated that they have used bondage toys for sensual or erotic pleasure. There was almost no difference between the number of participants of light bondage and moderate bondage (each at over 80 %), which were defined in this survey as “Able to get out if you wanted to” and “Can’t get out on own, but with body mobility,” respectively. More than half of the participants engaged in stringent/extreme bondage (immobilized).
Exhibitionistic and Voyeuristic Behaviors
More than half of the survey sample (n = 887; 56.14 %) indicated that they participated in at least one of the five categories of exhibitionistic behavior (erotic pleasure from being observed) listed in the survey. As shown in Table 4, the majority of this subsample enjoyed showing bare breasts, followed by engaging in public sex, being naked, acting out sexual fantasy/role play, and showing genitals. More than one half of the participants indicated that they posed for erotic images and/or that they shared erotic images of themselves with others for their own sensual or erotic pleasure (see Table 5 for details). As shown in Table 6, most of the participants (82.78 %) indicated that they created or observed at least one of the following forms of erotica for their own sensual or erotic pleasure: erotic literature, sexual pornography, and observing performances and nude paintings, among others.
Many women who responded to this survey reported voyeuristic tendencies from observing others (in a non-clinical sense). When asked if they received sensual or erotic pleasure by observing any of the 96 activities, 1366 (86.46 %) of the 1580 surveyed responded affirmatively, with each of the 96 activities being observed at least once. Receiving pleasure by observing may be a more common phenomenon among women than previously considered.
A total of 1192 (75.44 %) women indicated that they have been sexually aroused by an object in at least one of the five categories of objects presented in the survey. Clothing, specific body part(s), and fabrics were the most popular categories of this subsample, as shown in Table 7. This study does not address the degree of preference or fixation a participant may have with a particular fetish or fetishes, but rather, takes a non-clinical approach to arousal by objects not specifically designed for sexual response.
Overt Sexual Behaviors
Researchers have examined additional erotic activities that are not necessarily defined as BDSM behaviors. Specifically, oral sex, anal sex, rimming, and masturbation have been mentioned in previous studies, and, with the exception of rimming, all have been found to be common among male and female participants (female participants were not asked about rimming in these previous studies) (Breslow et al., 1985; Levitt et al., 1994; Moser & Levitt, 1987; Sandnabba et al., 1999). Participants in this study were queried regarding 24 overt sexual activities and were offered a choice of up to 5 categories for each sexual activity. These categories included “Doing Activity to Women,” “Doing Activity to Men,” “Having Activity Done by Women,” “Having Activity Done by Men,” and “Observing Activity.” In Table 8, the column “Doing, having done, and/or both” indicates the percentage of women from this subsample who participated in the activity in any role whereas the column “Participated (in any form)” also includes responses from “Observe Activity.”
Based on the 1394 participants who responded to the question about overt sexual activities, the present results found that oral sex (cunnilingus and fellatio) and anal sex were among the more common of these activities. In fact, as shown in Table 8, each of the following overt sexual activities was more common than coital sex (penetrating vagina with penis) from this subsample: oral sex, including cunnilingus and fellatio, hand job (stimulating genitals with hands/fingers), and anal sex (stimulating anus with fingers or penis).
Other popular overt sexual activities (between 40 and 88 %) included stimulating vagina with other sex toys, genital-to-genital contact: non-penetrative, ingesting semen, stimulating anus with sex toys, mammary intercourse (rubbing phallic object or penis between breasts), worship (kissing, licking, smelling, enjoying a specific body part), rimming (stimulating anus with mouth), ingesting vaginal fluid, stimulating penis with sex toys (cock rings, sheath, etc.), sucking/licking dildo with mouth, using a strap-on dildo to penetrate vagina, vaginal fisting, using a strap-on dildo to penetrate anus, and foot job (stimulating genitals with feet).
Miscellaneous Erotic Behaviors
Almost all of the 1376 participants who answered the question about additional erotic activities (see Table 9 for details) indicated that they masturbated (solo). Solo masturbation rates were higher in this study (at 86.01 % of the entire sample) as compared to female participants from previous studies, including the Kinsey et al. (1953) study at 62 %, 73 % from the Breslow et al. (1985) study, and 59 % from the Levitt et al. (1994) study. It is difficult to ascertain why this disparity exists. Possibilities include the notion that these women were more likely to be comfortable enough with their sexuality to engage in this behavior, that the taboo of masturbation is less prevalent now than in the past, that these women were more comfortable admitting to this behavior, or that masturbation is more prevalent for women from this particular population. Mutual masturbation (with a partner) and phone sex were also popular activities, followed by sex with inanimate objects, cyber sex (webcam), group sex, anonymous sex/sex with strangers, and swinging.
Female-Specific Erotic Behaviors
The survey included activities that are likely to be unique to females (and therefore had not been addressed in previous quantitative studies about kink behaviors). These activities included hair pulling, breast play, corset training, breast torture, imposed masculinization, showing bare breasts, ingesting vaginal fluid, passing female vaginal fluid from mouth-to-mouth, using a strap-on dildo to penetrate vagina, stimulating vagina with other sex toys, vaginal fisting, mammary intercourse, using a strap-on dildo to penetrate anus, and non-penetrative genital to genital contact. Additional categories from the fill-in responses that also may be unique to women included lactation play (such as adult breastfeeding/adult erotic nursing/drinking or squirting of breast milk), stimulating vagina with breast, blood play using menstrual blood, cunnilingus on menstruating woman, stimulation of g-spot, clitoris, or nipples, double/triple/multiple penetration (vaginal, anal, oral), cuckolding, using one partner to have sexual encounters with another person, squirting vaginal fluid, swallowing and playing with own vaginal fluids, and strap-on cock sucking. Very little data about these activities exist in the scientific literature.
Table 10 shows the percentage of the entire sample that participated in an activity (in any form). When considering all forms of sensual, erotic, and sexual behaviors listed in the survey, the 20 most common activities (in any form) were as follows (in order from most common to least common): touching, kissing/licking/sucking, spanking, hair pulling, biting, scratching/leaving marks/abrasion, use bondage toys, moderate bondage, masturbation (solo), cunnilingus, light bondage, paddling, breast play, hand job, flogging, fellatio, grooming, stimulating anus with fingers or penis, genital play, and ice play. This was somewhat similar to previous research. From their female sample, Levitt et al. (1994) reported “clear preferences for bondage, spanking (the traditional bondage and discipline duo), oral sex, and the master–slave game…” (p. 471). However, in this present sample there were several other activities that were equally as common, or more common, including light sensations/tactile play, masturbation, breast play, and anal play.