How Social Power Relates to Sexual Submission & Domination – DrZhana

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How Social Power Relates to Sexual Submission & Domination

sex science news 9.16.15Dust off your whips and chains because today’s Sex Science News with Dr. Zhana, where I tell you about a new sex study that just got published, is about how sexual submission and sexual domination relate to social power in men and women.

This study was published in the Journal of Social Psychology and Personality Science, a well respected journal. There’s a stereotype about people who have more social power, who are in more powerful positions in their jobs or society in general, that they would be more interested in sadism and less interested in masochism. That is, in fact, often the explanation for why men are more sadistic than women and women are more masochistic than men. That’s certainly what is being portrayed in 50 Shades of Grey: It’s the powerful (male) billionaire who is the dominant one, and it’s the poor, inexperienced student, basically a low-power person and female who is the submissive one.

The study looked at whether if that is indeed the case or if power would in fact have more of disinhibiting effect for both domination and submission. Their hypothesis was that people who have more power would be into domination AND submission (or both masochism AND sadism, more specifically). They surveyed over 14,000 Dutch people, a massive sample, and they asked them about their status at work: What kind of job they had and how many people they were a boss to or what level management position they had. Then they asked how often or how much they fantasized about sadistic or masochistic thoughts and fantasies. And, they looked at men and women separately. I love Dutch research!

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Instagram photo by @DrZhana

What they found was that for women, the more powerful positions they had in their jobs, the more sadistic arousal they felt. At the same time, the more powerful positions women held, the more masochistic fantasies they had. So, the women who are more socially powerful were into both sadism and masochism. Not what you would expect: the assumption that power increases sadistic thoughts and lowers masochistic thoughts was not confirmed. It was more of a disinhibiting kind of thing: Women who felt more powerful were more likely to be into BDSM, period.

For men, interestingly, higher social power was not actually related to higher interest in sadism. Nor was it related to lower interest in sadism. It was just not related to sadistic arousal at all. Similar to women, higher social power was related to greater masochism in men. So, the stereotype of the high-power executive or cop or doctor or lawyer, whatever, is true: Powerful men were more likely to be masochistic. As were powerful women.

In other words, power lets you indulge in your kinks, whatever they may be – including being dominated and submitted to pain. Fascinating, no?

Powerful people, especially powerful men, are really expected to always make decisions and always be dominant, in power. It should not be surprising that many would fantasize to some extent about not having to do that every now and then, like in the bedroom. It’s a nice way to get a relief from making decisions. And the more power you have in your life, the more confident you feel to express those desires.

There were gender differences in general; how interested in sadism and masochism men and women were. Overall, men had more sadistic thoughts and fantasies than women; and women had more masochistic fantasies than men. Those differences were statistically significant but they weren’t that big, only a 0.5 points or less on a 1 to 5 scale.

THE NUMBERS

On a scale of 1 to 5, sadistic thoughts in men were 2.4 (slightly below the mid point of the scale); for women it was 1.9. For masochistic thoughts, it was reversed: women were 2.2, and men were 2.0. Statistically significant, especially with such a large sample, but not particularly massive.

So why is it different in terms of the social power and how it relates to sadism and masochism in men and women?

It’s unclear why greater social power for women would drive them to both sadism and masochism, but for men it only drove them to masochism. The researchers did look into it a little more deeply to see whether personal dominance, one’s general tendency toward being dominant made a difference. And they did actually find that in men, social power did relate to higher sadistic arousal among men who were generally dominant as people, but for the guys who were just generally submissive, higher social power was related to lower interest in sadistic arousal, which makes sense. It was consistent with their personality, with their general drive towards dominance or submission. But for women it wasn’t the case. For women, social power was related to greater sadistic arousal, regardless of their general tendency toward dominance.

Is there a standard for defining a sadistic or masochistic thought? There isn’t a standard, different studies will measure those things differently. In this study, they measured sadistic and masochistic interest using sub-scales from the Violent Sexual Interest Questionnaire, with five items measuring sexual arousal to consensual sadism and five items to consensual masochism.

Here’s an example of an item: “It sexually arouses me to fantasize about torturing a consenting person.” For masochism, it was sort of the opposite, “It arouses me to fantasize about being tortured by a person on my own demand.” (The four other items were not given in the study).

It’s important to note that this study focused exclusively on consensual sadism (and masochism), on fantasies of causing pain to others who want to be caused pain. If this is you, you have nothing worry about, you are perfectly normal (and if you’re struggling to find masochistic partners, FetLife is your friend). The desire to be sexually sadistic toward people who are NOT consenting, on the other hand, is grounds for diagnosing someone with a paraphilic disorder. This as abuse and a disorder when a someone’s drive, what really turns them on, is torturing a nonconsenting person.

Sexy Wink Face

Find a link to the study on my Twitter or Instagram: @DrZhana.

This material was initially broadcast on Dr Zhana’s Periscope show Legit Sex Science. For future live video broadcasts of Sex Science News, join @DrZhana’s scopes: Periscope.tv/DrZhana.

Yours,

Dr. Zhana

P.S. – SAVE THE DATE!!

ComeSeeMeThere are two opportunities for those who are in or around New York City to see me. One is the Sexual Health Expo that is happening this coming weekend, on September 19th and 20th, where I’m teaching a workshop on Hooking Up Healthy. If you would like two free tickets for SHE, you can get them by signing up for my Healthy Hookupa mailing list (http://bit.ly/shedrz). And there are many other sex educators doing pretty awesome sex educational workshops.

The other way to find and see me is at the Periscope Summit which is happening the week after SHE and I will be there thanks to Trust Intimacy Massage Oil -the most amazing massage oil that I’ve had the pleasure of having on my body (and I get a lot of massages). Get your own bottle of TRUST for 20% off by going to their website trustintimacy.com and using “DRZHANA” as a discount code.

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