Beyond Vanilla: Benefits and Drawbacks of BDSM

By: Loren West 

If you have ever listened to Rihanna’s song S&M and thought to yourself “You know what Rhi Rhi? Chains and whips excite me too!,” then BDSM might just be the paraphilia you need to spice up your love life! Here is a little bit of information about BDSM and the benefits and drawbacks members of the BDSM community have identified.


However, before diving into the benefits and drawbacks, it is important to first have an understanding of what BDSM is. BDSM stands for bondage-discipline (e.g., the act of using restraints), dominance-submission (e.g., the giving and taking of control), and sadomasochism (e.g., the giving or receiving of physical or psychological pain, which includes more mild forms like light whipping, flogging, or gagging to more extreme forms like electric shock) (Hébert & Weaver, 2015). Despite the methods used, it is important to note that those involved work hard to ensure that all activities are “safe, sane, and consensual”, the mantra of the BDSM community. (Lehmiller, 2014, p. 336-337).

Now that we know a little more about BDSM and and to help with your decision to try it for yourself, it may be useful to know the benefits and problems associated with BDSM. Lucky for us, Hébert and Weaver (2015) conducted a study on this topic by interviewing 21 adults who identified as members of the BDSM community (nine of which identified as dominant and 12 as submissive). Below is a summary of their results:


The first benefit identified for both dominants and submissives is the opportunity to please their partner. Participants in the study reported that for both partners, pleasure and arousal was valued and important in their relationship. Benefit number two was that BDSM is fun! Participants stated that participating in sexual activity that was not “vanilla” was exciting and that there are so many ways that one can get involved. This exciting new activity promoted personal growth through the act of experimenting and receiving encouragement  from their partner and resulted in increased intimacy and commitment in their relationship. Finally, participants also said that they enjoyed gaining a new sense of confidence through their BDSM play (Hébert & Weaver, 2015).



Despite the plethora of advantages to engaging in BDSM, several challenges were also exposed. First, the stigma that goes with being a member of the BDSM community was seen as a major drawback.  Many members of the community report hiding their involvement in BDSM for fear of humiliation or retaliation. Furthermore, many reported that BDSM also took a toll on their relationships because it proved difficult to find someone with the same tastes. Finally, some submissives reported that it was hard to be vulnerable and give up their control to the dominant. (Hébert & Weaver, 2015).

Now that you have a basic understanding of BDSM and the potential positives and negatives associated with this type of play, you can introduce some new toys to your routine or create your own playroom that would make Christian Grey jealous! But remember, keep it safe, sane, and consensual!

For more information on BDSM see:

Hébert, A., & Weaver, A. (2015). Perks, problems, and the people who play: A qualitative exploration of dominant and submissive BDSM roles. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 24, 49-62.

Lehmiller, Justin J. (2014). The psychology of human sexuality. UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.