Kink and Mental Health
Updated: Jul 31, 2020
Kink and Mental Health: Positives, Negatives, and Research
The relationship between kink and mental health is nonlinear. Everyone has a different understanding of how kink has changed—or not changed—their mental health. However, research has shown correlations between a person's mental health and their involvement in kink.
The TASHRA 2016 Kink Health Survey asked kinky people—
"Do you feel that your involvement in kink has affected your mental health, either positively or negatively?"
78.1% said that yes, kink has affected their mental health. Of those, 85.16% said it had affected their mental health positively, while 1.1% said negatively, and 13.67% said both positively and negatively. Thus, the majority of folks engaged in kink have had their wellbeing affected by this involvement, and of that population, the majority has seen positive changes.
Kink’s positive effects on well-being may include self-acceptance, positive relations, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth. One survey response exemplifying these effects said—
“My relationship with my current primary involves very cathartic scenes, often with him breaking through the barriers that I put up, and ending with really good, deep emotional release. Afterward, he will hold me and rock me, making me feel as though I have someone who cares about the way I am, for the first time in my life. I have had trust issues, and an inability to let myself be openly vulnerable due to an absent mother and an emotionally neglectful father. I have taken care of myself from a very young age (grade school) and have never allowed someone to take care of me until him. Our relationship began as a simple D/s one, but has evolved into a Daddy Dom/girl very naturally… no one has ever taken me in hand before, nurturing and guiding.” —Anonymous
In opposition to such positive effects, negative impacts may fall under three themes—issues within the kink community or within power relationships, difficulties connecting with other kinky people, and issues with others outside the community. Feelings of jealousy, shame, stress, isolation, and fear may be evoked. Another survey response demonstrating these rather complex negative effects said—
“I deal with strong feelings of self-loathing and a belief I am ‘bad.’ Having dominant desires towards someone can reinforce those strong feelings. However, in an actual scene, I am able to use communication and mutual trust to remind myself I am not ‘bad.’” — 20-year-old white male/transgender/genderqueer with kink identities as a top, switch, and dominant.
Yes, there is a risk of negative mental health impacts when experimenting with kink. However, there are also significant and long-lasting positive impacts for those immersed in the kink lifestyle. To further understand the relationship between kink and mental health, we must engage in extensive research with a diverse sample population that is inclusive of the vast majority of kinky folks.
We hope you will support TASHRA's ongoing research to learn more.