Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 313–331 | Cite as

Rethinking Kink: Sadomasochism as Serious Leisure

  • Staci NewmahrEmail author


Based on extensive ethnographic research in a public SM (sadomasochism) community, this paper frames SM as recreation. Drawing on Robert Stebbins’ work on “serious leisure” (1982), I posit that in order to more adequately understand SM as it occurs in this community, we need to shift from mainstream assumptions of SM as (simply) “kinky sex” to a more nuanced perspective. I explore the unique skills required in order to engage in SM, as well as the benefits and rewards that participants derive from it, in order to illustrate that SM can be more usefully understood as serious leisure.


BDSM Sadomasochism Leisure Serious leisure Edgework Sexuality 



For their support and helpful comments on this work, I would like to thank Robert Stebbins, three anonymous reviewers, and Javier Auyero.


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© US Government 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyBuffalo State CollegeBuffaloUSA

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