• Alexandra Gold

The Whiteness of BDSM

Reflecting on the Whiteness of BDSM


In a 2020 academic study, the “Overwhelming Whiteness of BDSM: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Racialization in BDSM”, Kat Martinez, Associate Professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver,  explores “the relationship between what researchers have described as inclusive BDSM communities that continue to naturalize the whiteness of BDSM spaces” and reflects on the whiteness of BDSM culture. With 25 BDSM participant interviewees and 32 BDSM online forum participants, this study is a must-read for anyone involved in kink.


Martinez uses “Ahmed’s (2007) theory of the phenomenology of whiteness… as a theoretical tool for assessing how whiteness presents itself within bondage, discipline, dominance/submission, and sadomasochism (BDSM) play.” Ahmed’s theory suggests that we can approach whiteness through the lens of phenomenology—the study of the structures of experience and consciousness. Whiteness could be described "as an ongoing and unfinished history," according to Ahmed.


Martinez writes that research suggests “that the differences between white and racialized BDSM participants in their explanations for the whiteness of BDSM continue to support and privilege the white experience in white BDSM spaces.” Putting whiteness first in BDSM limits who can safely and confidently take an active part in BDSM.


"The whiteness of BDSM is evident in the extant literature dating from the 1970s on, in which most of the authors discussing BDSM appear to identify not only as white, but also westerners” Kat Martinez

Many white people do not recognize their privilege in life, let alone in kink spaces. In Martinez’s study, many white interviewees said that they had not paid attention to race and ethnicity during BDSM interactions. Such racial invisibility reflects the ease in which white folks are able to navigate the kink culture.


"White individuals in this study felt comfortable in BDSM spaces precisely because these spaces were created by and for these bodies" Kat Martinez

Some of the clearest findings included the pattern that racialized individuals (BIPOC) were more comfortable and felt safe participating in the study using online channels compared to public/community spaces; and that White kinksters explained the lack of BIPOC people in kink community spaces as related to finances or other resources, while racialized kinksters highlighted their experiences with explicit and implicit racial bias in BDSM spaces.


White privilege is prevalent in BDSM. Labeling a space as inclusive does not make it so. Anyone in the kink scene needs to understand their privilege going into a kink space, and actively work to make the culture not only safe but equally enjoyable for all participants of color.



Read the full article, “Overwhelming Whiteness of BDSM: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Racialization in BDSM”  by Kat Martinez


Explore and support some amazing BIPOC people in kink

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