For those of you who haven’t heard, this past June, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom(NCSF) announced on their website that BDSM is no longer considered a mental disorder, which means it will no longer show up in the DSM-5, the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which is compiled by the American Psychiatric Association. This is great news for anyone who practices any form of the lifestyle because a long time stigma of people who participate in the lifestyle are mentally ill has officially been removed. Let me give you a bit of history about BDSM and the DSM.
Sadism and Masochism, both very large aspects of the lifestyle have been in the DSM ever since 1952 and 1968, respectively. In 1994, in the DSM-IV, new criteria was added to both diagnoses of sadism and masochism. What was added was this: “The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviours must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning to be considered a disorder.”
With this kind of description, pretty much everyone could be considered having a mental disorder. Thankfully, there were two individuals, Charles Allen Moser and Peggy Kleinplatz spoke up saying that the negative stigma of BDSM leads to most major distress, which is a very valid point. Fear of being rejected by friends and family, fear of losing a job, or being made a target for public ridicule does play a role in our lives. It may not be something that we’re constantly dreading, but it’s one that’s always there none the less. In the update of the DSM-IV, the DSM-IV-TR, a change was made to the description. It states that “sadomasochism had to be the sole source of sexual gratification for a six month period and either cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functionality”. Not really much of an improvement because still, that covers a rather large amount of people. Sadomasochism has also been classified as a mental disorder in the ICD, which is the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, which is maintained by the World Health Organization, or WHO for short. It was stated in the ICD-10 that sadomasochism is a disorder of of sexual preference and “ a preference for sexual activity which involves the infliction of pain or humiliation, or bondage. If the subject prefers to be the recipient of such stimulation this is called masochism; if the provider, sadism. Often an individual obtains sexual excitement from both sadistic and masochistic activities.” But since then, there have been several European countries that have removed sadomasochism from their list of mental disorders and also a group working towards getting this diagnosis removed.
Enough of the technical jargon. I know what’s above is a lot to comprehend, but like with anything else, it’s important to know the history, where we’ve come from and to see how far we’ve come. This is a huge win that sadomasochism and BDSM is no longer considered a mental disorder. With this happening, a huge stigma has officially been lifted off those of us who live this kind of life. More recently, there have been several articles published in major sources that have shown that being in a power-exchange based relationship isn’t such a terrible thing and has several benefits to all parties involved. In February 2013, The New York Times ran an article about how BDSM isn’t such the hush-hush topic it once was. The New York Post ran an article in May of this year saying that BDSM practitioners aren’t as “neurotic” as our vanilla counterparts and last but not least, Reuters.com ran an article about a study showing that people who participate in the lifestyle don’t suffer from a mental disorder. I really suggest checking out the articles, they’re a great read and a lot easier to understand than what comes out of a medical textbook, unless that’s your thing.
Even though the negative stigma that surrounds BDSM hasn’t been completely lifted with the decision of the American Psychiatric Association, it is a huge step in the right direction. I know that in my lifetime, BDSM will still be a taboo subject and one of controversy, but with education, hopefully one day that will all change.