The term “kink” refers to a community of people and a practice of sexual activities that engage in power exchanges with their partner(s), pain, and/or restraint in a myriad of different contexts, that may or may not occur in an overt sexual context (Meyer & Chen, 2019). “Kink” can be used interchangeably with the acronym BDSM, which stands for bondage, dominance/discipline, sadism/submission, masochism. The overall purpose of this study was to learn more about those who are part of the kink community. This research is important because the current literature on those who engage in kink is relatively small and more information is needed on this population. Findings from this study may help therapists working with kink-oriented clients in the form of more understanding and in the provision of better care. Findings from this study may also contribute to the reduction of stigma associated with this population. I sought to answer the following questions: (1) Do kink members manifest symptoms of psychopathology more than non-kink individuals? And (2) Can interest in kink activities be predicted from variables related to psychopathology? Undergraduate students (n = 159; 110 females, 41 males, 2 trans, 2 “other”, 4 whom did not report their gender) completed questionnaires assessing: interest in kink, maladjustment (symptoms of depression, anxiety, and somatization), sadism, aggressiveness, antisocial behaviors, narcissism, histrionic behaviors, autonomous thinking, and empathy. Results indicated the following: Overall, there were no differences between members of the kink community versus non-kink members on study variables. Additional regression analyses revealed that those interested and open to kink activities tend to be autonomous (or independent) thinkers, less self-centered (i.e., narcissistic), and more concerned with ethics (e.g., obtaining consent for sex) than those not interested in kink activities. However, results also indicated that those interested in kink tend to enjoy attention (i.e., engage in histrionic behaviors). All considered, the data suggest that more individuals are open to, and have engaged in, kink-related sexual activities compared to those who openly self-identify as members of the kink community. Moreover, many of those who are open to and/or have engaged in kink are not necessarily any more pathological with respect to their psychological adjustment compared to non-kink people. With the exception of liking attention, these results suggest that kink members are more independently minded (i.e., concern themselves less for how others think or view them), less self-centered in some aspects, and recognize the importance of ethics, presumably as it relates to obtaining consent for sexual activities with others. Discussions of these results are provided.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Negy, Charles


Bedwell, Jeffrey


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program




Access Status

Open Access

Release Date


Included in

Psychology Commons