If you’re a dominant or a submissive, Femdom may benefit your mental health.
Abstract. In this post I present the background of bdsm research as it relates to mental health. The limited research suggests benefits of bdsm activities. It does not separate types of lifestyle arrangements from the occasional use of sex toys in the bedroom. It is my contention that if we break out the type of bdsm lifestyle activity, we will find significant differences between mental health benefits of each of the lifestyle and gender/sexual preferences. Femdom, in particular, is against cultural norms including those of the bdsm community itself. The femdom lifestyle is more likely to be kept in the ‘closet’ than other bdsm practices because of the lack of acceptance. Lifestyle Femdom often creates stress for both dominant and submissive partners when it is exposed to the general community. It is from this situation that I believe the lifestyle produces the opposite effect on participant’s mental health rather than the benefits that mainstream bdsm practitioners may receive.
Technical review of key literature.
Despite the increasing acceptance of #bdsm to the general population (i.e. ’50 Shades’), there is little improvement in the fetishes that are adopted by gender, role-reversal or of sexual minorities such as GLBT and Femdom. Much of the scant research about bdsm practices either does not discern between the type of sexual or gender orientation or assumes all bdsm is largely activity between heterosexual couples (despite a huge population of MM-leather participants who continue to define the roles and rituals of bdsm play).
BDSM that is not mainstream may still have the same level of ostracism and shunning to participants as it has had before. Femdom in particular challenges basic cultural and social norms. It is likely that participants will feel as outcasts to all but the bdsm community itself. Many may still stay ‘in the closet’ while others will endure criticism for having been outed. For dominants, they may have a conflicted personality. They see themselves as naturally dominant but often succumb to a passive role and subvert their dominance. Submissive men are frequent targets of dominant males who see submission as a sign of weakness.
With this background, it is not surprising that some believe that Femdom is a disease that must be treated.
Is femdom a mental disorder?
From Fetishes and the DSM: When Is a Kink a Mental Health Issue?
DSM-V treats unusual sexual behavior differently than previous versions of the manual…[it] is largely silent on behavior, and defines fetishes as problematic only when they cause significant distress…for those who are blissfully dedicated to feet, bondage, or garter belts, the manual no longer defines the behavior itself as a problem. Instead, the so-called disorder is partially in the eye of the beholder. If your sexual fetish causes serious problems in your romantic relationships or significant personal distress, it may be time to consult a professional.
Many psychiatrists and psychologists take the opinion “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” when it comes to harmless paraphilias (kink) that is performed in the privacy of the bedroom (such as the use of sex-toys). Therapists are reluctant to treat people who are at odds with the dominant culture as there is no lasting relief available.
There are some who believe dominance in women is against the natural order.
In Sexually Dominant Women and the Men who Desire Them
times have changed as women are now somewhat freer to assert their dominance over men in all phases of life, but not without a struggle. The author claimed that many societies are having an extremely hard time allowing for this exchange of power and control to happen…particularly in a sexual context
“social anxiety” sets in when women act or are even perceived to be more dominant and powerful than men…and men passive and weak
A pivotal article that summarizes the benefits of bdsm to mental health to the majority (heterosexual) population is listed below.
from Mental Health Benefits of BDSM
The Wismeijer study reports:
We did not have any findings suggesting that people who practice BDSM have a damaged psychological profile or have some sort of psychopathology or personality disorder…
BDSM practitioners don’t appear to be more troubled than the general population. They were more extroverted, more open to new experiences and more conscientious than vanilla participants; they were also less neurotic, a personality trait marked by anxiety. BDSM aficionados also scored lower than the general public on rejection sensitivity
They tend to be more aware of their sexual needs and desires than vanilla people, he said, which could translate to less frustration in bed and in relationships. Coming to terms with their unusual sexual predilections and choosing to live the BDSM lifestyle may also take hard psychological work that translates to positive mental health
Femdom also takes a similar amount of psychological work provided participants are fully into the lifestyle. If they have doubts that are raised by the lack of acceptance, they may not work as hard as their counterparts but settle for a “bdsm lite” (such as #FLR).
Bondage, in particular, presents a threshold for femdom lifestylers. Couples and poly groups may view LTR benefits more important than practices that involve binding a submissive because they expect an egalitarian relationship to prevail over time.
Many males who are in the lifestyle still go to prodommes because of the lack of satisfaction in their relationships.
The Joy of Consent
from the study, Kinky people are mentally and emotionally healthy , one of the authors, R. Cramer remarked:
“Contrary to popular perceptions, our study shows kinky persons are largely mentally healthy when it comes to conditions such as depression, anxiety and suicide.”
Role playing and re-enactment games in a consensual setting are healthy outlets that negate the guilt and shame that come from repression. Focusing on exchange between consenting partners means folks can work through a variety of issues about power and control, providing cathartic, positive experiences that help heal the wounds of negative events.
Many in the femdom lifestyle enjoy similar benefits of the consent ethic. Women who dominate can control the sexual activity of their partner(s) as well as other living arrangements. Both male and female Submissives feel they have some control over the range and extent of bdsm activities that their dominant may practice.
In this sense, consent is beneficial to femdom participants because it is limited to the participants and may be insulated from the social norms that oppose it.
Trust and Intimacy
The increased intensity of BDSM intensifies the trust and intimacy between partners. When experiences are positive and consensual, the higher the intensity and risk, the more trust is required.
In lifestyle femdom, the intensity and risk tends to level off to what the participants will want to live with for the duration of the relationship (see previous posts about relationship equilibrium). Levels are determined in part by the acceptance in the general community they live in. The amount of trust may not be as great as it is in prodomme experience.
Intense sexual practices involve even more intense chemical release, including vasopressin and oxytocin, which promote human bonding. Dopamine and serotonin levels are also increased by sex, and even more intense in BDSM sex. This pair is vital to stress reduction and good mental health.
Intensity of the bdsm experience may be subdued to the social constraints of the community that participants live in. Some males want short B&D sessions from professionals to get the hormonal levels they prefer.
Summary. Participants in femdom lifestyle relationships may not receive the same level of benefits that other bdsm lifestyles do. Many may still seek out professional services to supplement their “leveled” experiences with their lifestyle partners.
Future research. I strongly suggest future research does not lump all bdsm practices (including incidental kink) together as one as has been done so far. Practitioners need more research into the particular bdsm lifestyles to be effective.