Community questions answered by Dr. Richard Sprott, TASHRA’s Research Director and Developmental Psychologist

How are the attitudes and behaviors different in subs who enter the kink world in their 20s when compared with those who enter kink in their 50s and 60s?

The timing of getting into kink can definitely affect a submissive’s attitudes and behaviors, but primarily it would affect their motivations for taking on a submissive role or headspace – and motivations change a lot as people enter different stages of life.  Many people in their 20s are building and working out their individual identities and intimacies with others – Who am I? Who am I in this relationship? – while people in their 50s and 60s are often concerned with being able to make significant contributions to others and to the world, to express their creativity and productivity in ways that fulfill.  This would mean that entering the kink world as a submissive would mean different things to people at different stages of life.

Does sex become a less central component in kink play as we age?

It is true that many people will experience changes and health challenges as they grow older that might impact their sexual functioning, and that might mean that some people would find sex to be less central to their play as they got older.  But that is probably true for only a small portion – in fact, the relation between sex and kink is complicated at any age, and for many people, sex is not central even in their 20s (think asexual young adults, for example, getting into kink because of the connection and bonding and intimacy that kink creates without sex).  And for many older kinksters, sex can still be pretty central to their kink play, even if there are changes in how often or how intense orgasms can be, etc.

Do older kinksters suffer more kink-related injuries than younger kinksters due to aging, or do older kinksters tend to have fewer kink-related injuries because they are more experienced and more risk-averse?

Our data from the 2016 Kink Health Study, which had over 1,000 participants, found that the only thing that predicted fewer kink-related injuries was age – older kinksters tended to have fewer kink-related injuries.  Now, they could be a number of reasons why, and we don’t know yet, but it could include generational differences in the types of kink play that people engage in, or it could be that older kinksters are more risk-averse.  We hope to find out in future research.

In terms of trends, do people grow more kinky (spend more of their time and attention on kink) as they reach their 60s and 70s and enjoy more free time with retirement, or does their kink interest and energy tend to wane with age? 

If there is one conclusion from life course development studies, it is that as people get older, they become more different from other people – in other words, we see a larger and large range of differences as people get older.  So, that means that it becomes harder to accurately characterize a whole group of 60 or 70 year olds, than it is a group of 20 year olds.  We are still trying to investigate if people grow more kinky the longer they are on their kink journeys – some people think that.  But it is not clear that this is the case for most people.  So, the short answer to this question is “yes” – yes to both growing more kinky and growing less interested, depending on the person’s life course.