Researchers claim BDSM can help people achieve ‘altered states of consciousness’
Engaging in kinky sex may send you into an altered state of consciousness and even unlock your inner creativity, according to a new study.
Using a small sample of participants from the kink-focused social network Fetlife, researchers investigated the mind-altering effects of BDSM – bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism.
Not only were these activities found to produce two types of altered states, but research suggests BDSM also reduces psychological stress, improves moods, and increases sexual arousal.
While previous studies have attempted to investigate this phenomena, no other research has actually put it to the test, the researchers explain in a paper published to the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice.
So, researchers from the Science of BDSM Research Team at Northern Illinois University recruited seven pairs of self-identified ‘switches’ – people who were willing to be randomly assigned to either a top or bottom role in a BDSM scene.
This way, the researchers explain, the differences observed in the study could be better attributed to the role rather than the individual.
Fourteen people participated in total, with 10 women and four men between the ages of 23 and 64.
For the experiments, the participants partook in seven scenes which involved everything from gentle touching and communication to striking, bondage, and fetish dress.
Each of the participants provided five saliva samples throughout the experiments, and were asked to complete three Stroop tests, involving words and colours: one prior to their assignment, one before the scene, and one after it had ended.
The test measured for an altered state of consciousness aligned with Dietrich’s transient hypofrontality, which relates to daydreaming, runner’s high, meditation, and even some drug highs.
Along with this, the participants were also given a measure of mental ‘flow’ following each scene, using the Flow State Scale ranging from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree.’
Flow is a nine-dimensional altered state conceptualized by Csikszentmihalyi, and is achieved during ‘optimal experiences,’ the researchers explain.
The dimensions of flow include ‘challenge-skill balance, action-awareness merging, clear goals, unambiguous feedback, concentration on task, sense of control, loss of self-consciousness, time transformation,’ and feelings of intrinsic reward.
The experiments revealed that the bottom role and the top role in BDSM are each associated with a distinct altered state of consciousness, both of which have previously been tied to creativity.
According to the researchers, ‘topping’ is linked to the state which aligned with Csikszentmihalyi’s flow, while ‘bottoming’ is associated with both Dietrich’s transient hypofrontality and some aspects of flow.
The team says these activities also reduced stress and negative affect in the participants, and increased sexual arousal.
While BDSM has long been a stigmatized practice, the authors say the finding support the idea that there are numerous factors driving these preferences that do not relate to mental disorder.
‘The results contribute to a growing body of evidence that individuals pursue BDSM for nonpathological reasons,’ the researchers conclude, ‘including the pleasant altered states of consciousness these activities are theorized to produce.’
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