Unhealthy motivations

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One could argue that the common motivations for engaging in BDSM which we see are healthy motivations. Most of these reflect common and respected goals which are also found in the wider community.

This isn't always the case. However, because research into BDSM motivations is not common, it can be worthwhile instead to look at what happens with sex to see if there are parallels in BDSM because just as there are good and reasons for having sex, there are good and bad reasons for engaging in BDSM relationships and activities.

Meston and Buss[1] surveyed 1,549 people and from them identified 237 reasons why these people had sex. As well as reasons which we might consider to be good and or constructive, they also found less healthy reasons which are just as applicable to BDSM as they are to straight sex:

  • "I wanted to be used or degraded"
  • "I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease"
  • "Because of a bet"
  • "It would get me gifts or benefits"
  • "I wanted to break up a rival’s relationship by having sex with his/her partner"

It's notable that the reasons listed above are human reasons. They aren't specific to BDSM or to sex. Instead, the sexual arena is where these reasons can be expressed or acted upon. For someone into BDSM, these reasons could just as easily and unhealthily play out in BDSM.


Someone who is unattractive by choice, through psychology, or through biology may enter into the world of BDSM as a way to find a partner. As BDSM consists of relatively few practitioners, by making oneself available as a top or dominant, or as a bottom or submissive, there's an increased chance that one's unattractiveness will be overlooked simply because there are less prospective partners for others to choose from.

In other words, for example, someone who is ugly but who will bare their back for a hard flogging, is likely to find a partner when there aren't many bottoms or submissives around with the same endurance.

This can be a form of self abuse. Instead of taking steps to make oneself more attractive, such as through the use of deodorant or a change of attitude, it can seem easier to present oneself as a BDSM bottom or submissive and whore oneself that way to get attention.


  1. [Meston2007]