The State of the BDSM Communities Report

The first State of the BDSM Communities survey ended on January 5. As promised, I’m back to give you the data and short analyses of what the 10 questions revealed. At the end of the results, there is a general round-up of the survey itself, plus constructive criticism submitted by voters who felt other issues and problems should have been addressed.

Note on Permissions: these data and all accompanying images are free to the Community and others who would like to share, republish or analyze the results independently. The only restriction on use is that you must credit the survey to gloriabrame.com.

Going in order.

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The first question was the most popular one, with 715 votes. A majority 43% of voters said they had more BDSM in 2017 than the trailing two years. One possible reason for this could be the number of new people entering the Scene. Another possibility is that some people dealt with the social stresses of 2017 by seeking erotic relief and partying more. Not far behind, though, were 36% of voters who say they played less. Is it possible that this second group dealt with stress by withdrawing from play? Could be. Stress is paradoxical, depressing some people and energizing other. Either way, when it comes to BDSM fun, increasing our activity is the leading trend. Finally, one-fifth (20%) of voters saw no change in the quantity of their BDSM play, for reasons that probably depend on whether they are sexually active in the first place and whether their relationship dynamics with their primary partners dictate the choices they make.

 

The BDSM Communities may have played more, but in terms of BDSM events, attendance is somewhat evenly spread out among the possible answers given. A slight up-trend of 4% shows that more people are coming out to events but even more interesting is the 14% of voters who didn’t consider the question applicable to their experience. That likely represents a percentage of people who can’t attend events (whether for health, geographic or financial reasons) and probably even more people who choose not to interact with the public side of the BDSM scene for any other reasons.

 

40% of people skipped BDSM education this year. This number probably includes the 14% (from the previous question) who didn’t feel BDSM events are applicable to their experience. Other components of this 40% are likely folks who have attended so many over time that they’ve stopped going and people who don’t feel that education is part of their BDSM journey. Almost as many people (39%) did attend at least one BDSM education event, with 21% of us regularly going to BDSM classes and workshops. So overall, 60% of the respondent Community pursued educational opportunities this past year, which means that the interest in Community-based teaching remains a powerful current in the seas of kink.

 

Votes were all over the map on whether people had chances for hands-on BDSM experiences last year. One-quarter of respondents say they are in lifestyle relationships and engage as a part of their daily lives. You can compare that to the 28% who only get to do BDSM every few months. Weekly and monthly players combined make up another 24% of voters, and people who didn’t do BDSM or did it only one time add up to 22%. So give or take a few percentage points, we’re pretty much divided into four camps on this issue, without any significant trends one way or another.

 

 

No doubt of a trend here: over three-quarters of voters want more BDSM in their life in 2018! Another 19% say they are open to the idea if the opportunity is right. That is a whopping 97% of all voters who are open to new or more BDSM experiences. It’s downright inspirational to know how much people love their BDSM intimacy. Now, sure, maybe it’s to be expected that humans always want more and better sex. But I think it speaks volumes about the particular rewards of doing BDSM. Perhaps BDSMers are, by nature, hedonistic adventurers eager to expand their erotic potentials and experience the exquisite relief of kink. Perhaps there are specific benefits to doing BDSM that people want to reap, from intimacy to ecstasy. However analyzed, close to 100% of us want to do more BDSM and that is a testament to our Communities’ collective thirst for the joys of BDSM.

 

We love our toys, don’t we? 53% of voters say they added to their BDSM toy chests in 2017, 16% of us shelled out big bucks on BDSM equipment, and 9% of voters are avid BDSM toy shoppers. Add all three categories up, and 70% of voters invested serious money in 2017 on BDSM merchandise that promises adult pleasure. Included in that number are probably a number of people who add to their erotic toyboxes even during times when they’re not doing partnered BDSM, a subset of whom are most likely using toys for masturbatory BDSM. I like the idea of people using their BDSM toys until they are all worn out and replacing them. Fun times! On the other hand, one-fifth (21%) of us didn’t spend on adult toys at all. Maybe because some of us have all the toys we want? Or possibly others of us already own more toys than we ever needed or wanted in the first place? (It happens!) One of my 60-something friends recently said that he’s outgrown toys altogether and seldom uses them anymore, so maybe a few people share his feelings. And, of course, there are people who never needed toys to live out their scenes or fetishes in the first place so no need for them to shop for the doodads so many of us are obsessed with. With 70% of voters spending on toys, though, it’s clear that acquiring BDSM goodies is a leading trend.

 

An avid interest in experimenting with fetishes placed third in this survey, with only one quarter (26% to be precise) of us actively pursuing new and different fetishes. The majority (38%) didn’t explore any new fetishes and 31% of us experimented with a new fetish as part of a social experience or event hook-up, but may not have tried it otherwise. Still, breaking it down into “who did and who didn’t,” 43% of us did not explore a new fetish in 2017, while 57% of us did. As a Community, we trended towards a strong interest in — or at least an open attitude about — breaking new fetish ground.

 

Even if we aren’t experimenting with new fetishes, as a Community, 39% of us played with some people in 2017, 21% of us played with one new person, and 8% of us played with more than 10 new partners. That means that roughly 68% of voters got some quality BDSM time with someone (or someones) new last year, and 8% of that group pushed the new partner envelope with gusto! A solid one-third of us (33%) did not play with anyone new. This group likely includes a lot of monogamous people, but may also include people who didn’t have opportunities, time or energy for BDSM, as well as others who deliberately chose to abstain from BDSM in 2017.

 

The single highest percentage of voters (29%), said that friendship and loyalty is a glue that binds them to the public side of BDSM, while 19% stay connected for the affirmation of socializing with people who share their sexual identity and provide a sense of belonging to a community. BDSM Education is another significant bond: 16% of us are strongly drawn to the learning opportunities and dialogues that take place in the BDSM Communities. Combining these three groups shows that kink communities are vital social institutions for people who would otherwise feel disenfranchised in a straight vanilla world.

Contrary to popular belief that BDSM clubs are “sex clubs,” only 8% of voters said they were mainly drawn by the opportunities to play or watch people play. 11% of voters took a break from the BDSM Community this year, 12% said the question wasn’t relevant to their experience, and 5% expressed bitterness by voting that there’s nothing good about the Community. To add it all up: roughly 28% of voters register some negativity towards the worlds of public/organization-based BDSM, while a huge majority (72%) of voters feel it’s personally meaningful to connect with the organized kink communities.

 

The last question garnered the most debate. People wanted more choices in answers and some felt that more internal threats face us than this survey covered.

As you’ll see in the round-up below, people voiced concerns about specific internal Community conflicts that arose in 2017. During a year of social unrest and political infighting in the US, the BDSM/fetish communities were not immune. A spotlight was cast on the injustices within our ranks, and BDSMer events and leaders witnessing unprecedented divisiveness on issues of racism, male privilege, transphobia and disrespect to minority concerns and complaints. 2017 was a landmark year for angry debates within the Scene as underlying prejudices that have prioritized privileged voices rose to the surface. It has made more people question whether the Community will ever evolve enough to authentically fulfill its historic claims of inclusivity and raises the question of whether Community fragmentation (with people seeking out micro-communities of kink and avoiding the larger BDSM world) is in our future.

The survey shows that 95% of voters overall believe the collective kink communities’ existence is under threat, with only 5% not worried about its stability. That is a shocking trend, showing a huge amount of anxiety around the viability of the BDSM/fetish communities over the long-term. There were two chief concerns, both of which got 26% of the vote: first, that the rapidly changing political environment presents us with new threats from outside; and second that the proliferation of scum seeping into the Community brings new threats from inside. Declining educational opportunities are worrying people too: 14% of voters think we don’t have enough solid mentors/educators to push ethical BDM forward, while 7% are concerned about a dwindling interest in BDSM education. Meanwhile, 12% of voters said that the explosive rate of growth we’ve seen in the size of the communities is diluting the meaning of BDSM and thus altering Community ethos for the worse. Finally, 10% of people said “something else” is threatening us.

The feedback clips below shed light on why 10% of voters felt the survey should have put more emphasis on internal conflicts and the alarming rise in substance abuse that’s putting BDSM lives at risk.

 

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Round-Up and Feedback

Over 12,000 people checked out the survey and over 700 of you voted. The link was also widely shared on social media, plus I got constructive criticism and solid ideas for a future survey. Thank you SO much for your support, shares, votes, and excellent feedback! We did this together.

My original plan was to make this survey an annual thing and do another one at the end of 2018. But you’ve inspired me to think about running a follow-up (or part 2) focused on internal Community issues that gripped us in 2017.

 
Select Voter Comments

Note: Identities protected so people don’t get flamed in their safe spaces.

We saw some astounding (and astoundingly disappointing) developments on questions of racism, transphobia, and misogyny within the BDSM Scene. These issues would definitely be targeted in a follow-up survey.

 

 

Another important comment pointed out that threats to Community stability are coming from all sides, and we need a more nuanced understanding of them.

 

Not sure if this is a gay male question per se but this commentator believes substance abuse is an emerging threat to the health and safety of BDSMers. What makes this especially hard is that the BDSM worlds are a mirror of society — as drug abuse continues to spiral out of control in the US, it becomes harder to convince people that sobriety during BDSM is a cornerstone of SSC and RACK. We definitely need to study and talk about this.

 

Finally, several friends privately contacted me to say that they are struggling with what the Community has become and would like to see more surveys on the internal conflicts. This commentator spoke for many others by saying “my answers would have been a lot different if my community was different.”

 

 

 

 


 

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