Is BDSM a Sexual Orientation or Serious Leisure?
Purpose of Review
This review summarizes recent empirical and theoretical scholarship pertaining to two primary ways that BDSM is conceptualized, specifically as a unique sexual orientation or as a form of leisure experience. This review helps clinicians understand how BDSM is currently positioned by scholars and by some within the BDSM community.
Recent studies have found strong support for both the sexual orientation and leisure perspectives, distinctly. The sexual orientation approach currently focuses on a somewhat narrow segment of highly invested BDSM participants, while the leisure approach accounts for a broad range of diverse participation and experience.
BDSM can be understood as both an orientation and as leisure for many but not all participants. Both perspectives share the same underlying multidisciplinary substrate. Although the emphases of the orientation and leisure approaches are different to some degree, the sexual orientation perspective (OP) and the serious leisure perspective (SLP) seem to account equally well for sexual identity centered on BDSM. Understanding both perspectives provides a more complete understanding of the variation and complexity of BDSM.
KeywordsBDSM Leisure Serious leisure perspective Sexual configurations theory Sexual orientation
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
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