2021-10-06 ~ Kinky Talks 25: The Psychology of kinks

Karina Kehlet Lins

In this talk, we were diving into the kinky mind and we heared about the most recent research from a psychological perspective on “people who practice kinks”.
Guided by Karina we tried to better understand what it is that draws us towards practicing BDSM. And she talked about how the clinical world is shifting its focus away from a pathological view to one of acceptance (and even a teensy bit of celebration).
Karina Kehlet Lins is an international clinical psychologist, systemic psychotherapist, sex therapist, university lecturer and author of several books. Karina did experience some backlash in her work as she became more vocal about BDSM.
Find out more on her: www.karinalins.com



Kinksters and their therapists

Karina’s Sources (from her talk)
  • Guidelines for working with people with kink interests (2019):
    https://www.kinkguidelines.com
  • Nichols, M. (2006): Psychotherapeutic Issues with “Kinky” Clients: Clinical Problems, Yours and Theirs. Journal of Homosexuality.
  • Morin, J. (1995): The Erotic Mind
  • ‘The Kinky Mind and Body’ workshop, 2020, by CARAS (Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities) and TASHRA (The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance)
  • Wismeijer & van Assen (2013): Psychological Characteristics of BDSM Practitioners. Journal of Sexual Medicine.

A lot of kinksters have lived the experience that their therapists could not live with their kink. In some cases you’ll notice that your therapist starts to ‘therapize’ your perfectly healthy kink. In the good cases they are so unaware that you’ll just end up explaining your therapy hour away to coach the therapist into knowledge that should have been part of his education and ‘Bildung’.

To give an idea of the Chat that goes on during talks
01:10:40 J: Less sensitive to rejection is a bit of a surprise to me… is there any explanation for that?
01:11:05 PT: yes thats also a new one for me 😅
01:11:48 M: Well, if humiliation is a turn-on… 😏
01:12:20 PT: well it is ( for me hahaha) but still like non kink rejection…

They weren’t exposed to other sexualities and therefore their heteronormative way of thinking about sex creates their ideas about “normal” and “natural” sex (i.e. hetero, friction by penis in vag, orgasm at the same time, young and good looking, white, upperclass male-with-female couples). As long as the “naturalness” of this image is not dissolving, or at leas diluted by other kinds of sexuality, it is very likely that everything else is seen as “paraphylia”. It has been a long time since Richard von Krafft-Ebing wrote his “Psychopathia Sexualis” around the 1900’s in which he ‘pathologised’ as “perversions” about everything that was not PIV needed for procreation.

Everything that used to be “sin” was then suddenly “sick”

Everything that used to be a “sin” or a “crime” (still in the 70’s people have lost their houses because they were gay) was then suddenly converted to “sick”. And these ideas of ‘sickness’ were transported to the therapist bibles: the DSM-5 and the ICD-11. Gradually those ‘perversities’ are stricken from those guidelines. But the therapy-field is not always aware of that. If therapists don’t learn to ‘normalise’ other-than-usual sexualities the ideas of the therapist will be in the way of working effectively with people that have kinky fun sex, that have spiritual connections (through enclosure, pain or humiliation). Let’s be clear: BDSM-practices are NOT ‘disturbed’ as long as they they are consensual and add to the quality of life of everyone in the scene. And the limitedness of the ideas of the therapist are likely to recreate past trauma’s and shaming.

Therapy for people around kink often has to do about surpassing their old (societally imprinted) ideas about their own kink -or the kink of their partner-. If (Kink Aware) therapists do not get rid of their own old thoughts and truths and unlearn all the shit we’ve learned around sex and relationships we won’t do much good in helping people to manage their systems, their polycules and/or different D/s relationships.

If your therapist, coach, doctor tells you to stop something that makes you both feel happy and wholesome, that you both consent to and makes you feel great after you’ve cleaned up and attended to the bruises. If after you explained that it adds to your quality of life, and your therapist still disapproves of that? Run, don’t walk! ...and find another (kink aware) therapist, coach or doctor (search on KinkAware.Net or others websites) for the things that bother you.

Their ‘normopathology’ implies that scripts will be followed, that might NOT fit to the bodies, to the feelings and emotions, or to the socio-cultural norms of their clients.

A lot of therapists think of BDSM as a compulsion to repeat past trauma’s. But is this truth? Could you just have a trauma and have a taste for BDSM? Why are we asking these questions with BDSM and not with extreme sports? Should you then refrain yourself from a fulfilling sexuality for the rest of your life because you happened to have a traumatic event in your past? Isn’t that fucking you over twice?
And even if it helps to get a grip on past trauma’s, even if the staging of an old trauma situation in a sexually fulfilling scene that gets you off and that has all the control that you did not used to have in the reality of the trauma, even if the repetition of such a scene gives you a feeling of control… Why should you not? There are therapies based on exactly that notion (psychodrama).


Kinks and Therapy (or not)

Pain ‘lights up’ in our brain in about the same patterns as humiliation does. It is likely that things such as (BDSM)humiliation in the brain of warm-blooded animals makes use of the older-pain-mechanisms that already alerted the reptiles, earlier in the evolution. That being said, there are not really clear ‘pain-centres’ in our brain. it seems that more the steepness of increasing of a stimulus creates the sensation of “pain” rather than a certain ‘treshold’.
This would explain that “pacing” and a “buildup of stimuli” (as we tend to do in BDSM) does not create a clear pain sensation.

Why refraining yourself from the experience of experiences both pain and pleasure that apparently seems to promote brain plasticity (which in itself is nor ‘good’ or ‘bad’) because it appears to stimulate both the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system at the same time. A lot of yummie neurotransmitters (prolactin, oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins, testosterone -in both males and females, in both tops and bottoms-) are to be found in a brain that has just experienced a good BDSM-scene. And more and more we come to the idea that BDSM is not ‘sick’ or ‘bad’ but can actually be a “healing experience”. And of course that does not create a situation where you should want to BDSM with your therapist (well you might want to, but if the therapist gives in to agreeing to that transgression they should loose their ability to practice for they’ve abused their power).

“Wickedness” is a myth invented by ‘good people’ to account for that curious attractiveness of ‘others’.

Oscar Wilde (quotes by Hans)

As Richard Sprott from TASHRA claims, it is more like the focus of a BDSM-scene create a flow-state as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, with the effortless energy and high concentration, and with the expansion or contraction of our experience of time. It gives a transient hypofrontality that adds to the timedistortion and sometimes disinhibition (that we do have to take into account when we play).

Stresslevels drop in both Tops and bottoms so BDSM seems to meet our need for relaxation and tension at the same time.


Are these Kinksters crazy?

There are still people that claim that people into BDSM are basically “nuts”. but if we look at the work from Andreas A.J. Wismeijer PhD & Marcel A.L.M. van Assen PhD (Psychological Characteristics of BDSM Practitioners) ( the whole PDF) with the use of the Big Five personality dimensions (NEO Five-Factor Inventory), attachment styles (Attachment Styles Questionnaire), rejection sensitivity (Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire), and subjective well-being (World Health Organization-Five Well-being Index). Their results mostly suggest favorable psychological characteristics of BDSM practitioners compared with the John Doe in the streets (control group). BDSM practitioners appeared to be less neurotic, more extraverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, less rejection sensitive, had higher subjective well-being, yet were less agreeable. The agreeableness could be explained because people have searched for and found their niche, and are used to take their stand, that they are less rejection sensitive could spring from the fact that those people have been on the wrong side of shaming the moment they got out of the closet.

I’ve found that the process of explicitly negotiating what people want helps with become less sensitive to rejection.

Rachel

Could it be that we need to paint a more nuanced picture in which BDSM-ers are more sensation seekers that were portrayed badly over decades?
Because a comparison of the different groups shows (albeit small) if differences in favour of the BDSM dominants, then the people choosing the submissive role, with least favourable scores for the ‘normal’ controls. Wismeijer AAJ and van Assen conclude that BDSM may be thought of as a recreational leisure, rather than the expression of psychopathological processes. And it might be good to remind yourself that riding a bike leads to almost triple the amount of visits to the general practitioner than BDSM does (especially when done well).

So if we look for ‘the reason’ why someone acquired a sexual fetish (and why would you -if you are not busy trying to ‘cure’ it-)


Kink as a psychological (bodily?) Compass

By the way: this reference to ‘curing’ is ment really, really cynical.
Trying to ‘cure’ people from their kinks should be forbidden, as the ‘cure’ from being gay should be forbidden.

But if you are interested (for it might be of interest if you are on a search within your self toward the ‘self’ you are) fetishes are a clear pointer toward the things that make you tick, and a clear pointer toward your ways of coping. If you get to be a detective that tries to understand the narrative behind the fetish, it can be a great pointer to ‘the self’ you’d like to get to know. In this perspective it can be really enlightening to take a look at your Core Erotic Themes, and your Peak Turn-ons.

Question: Has there been any research, or do you have an opinion, on why a particular kink latches onto a person? Is it because at a particular age an association is made during the sexual stage? Is it random?

To speak with Morin: “the best scenes of your life”. Your turn-on says a lot about what turns you on. And even your disgust around accepting the fact that you have just found a new fetish might stem from that.

Sex is a funny thing, it combines your existential ‘basic autonomy’ -the way you are ‘alone’ when you orgasm- with ‘attachment’ and ‘basic trust’ -the way you give eachother room for the most vulnerable fantasies, and the way one hands the most sensitive and moist and smelly private parts over to someone… well, someone you basically trust with those vulnerabilities.

Our sexualities are as individual as our fingerprints…

Karina Kehlet Lins

R.: Love Kristina Marlen! She is great!

Your sexuality is as unique to you as it can be. So do not follow the ‘rules’ of society but explore your own. No other person has the same sexuality and even then, both yours and theirs may change over time. And if you can’t get past your first look as a therapist when you look at people, you might not be worth the title.

Johnny I: Can you elaborate on the psychology of heavy bondage?

For instance: having rape fantasies could point at your want to be so ravishing that someone cannot withhold their urges to have their way with you. Bondage might create a ‘holding environment’ as Winnicott talked about. Or, in a completely different way, bondage could create the means to get rid of your own responsibility for your sexual own needs: “I am not in control, I can’t help this!” 😉
And so on.


Just some points of interest

J: I really enjoy this presentation, love it ❤ Thank you Karina!
N: is there any research on why people are mainly dominant, submissive, or prefer switching? and related to this: is there any data supporting the prejudice that as long as you are switching, you just haven’t really found out which “side” you are on, the dom or sub side?

Aftercare – Debriefing
We would advise to talk beforehand about your needs for “aftercare” and the “debriefing”.
In this it is actually wise for both the sub and the Dom to split up “Aftercare” (right after the play-part of the session) and “Debriefing” after 2 or 3 days. “Aftercare” is for the slowly touching down on mother earth again after flying high (hopefully). It is for the first positive feedback that creates a bond.
Debriefing is for the evaluation, the wishes for the future and also the ‘negative’ feedback. Tho it is best to wrap that ‘negative’ feedback in a positive frame if anyways possible, for we are so sensitive about sex! (i.e. the lack of X would be framed as: “I find it so arousing if you do X”, an excess of Y: “you really don’t have to do Y that much, I can do without… “).

A small scaling tip:
Use the ‘discount seven rule’… on a scale of 1 (real bad) to 10 (really good) you are not allowed to use the “7”... It helps to distinguish between 6 (not that enthusiastic or painful) and 8 (great! …or a bit much)

We can also use 0-to-10-scales about aspects like pain, degradation, lust, intimacy. But basically, if we do not share what the scene has ment for us, it will be harder to recreate fun and fulfilling sex-scenes.

This goes for ‘ordinary’ vanilla sex as wel. Good sex is not so much found by counting orgasms, but by NOT rolling on your other side to snore or getting up and leaving. If you take a little time to unwind and take a little time for talking afterwards about the sex you just had and about the place sex has in your life.

Don’t talk about sexual issues during sex, talk about sex in non-sexual situations.

Karina Kehlet Lins

Safe-words
Have somebody practice their safe-word and explain especially to beginning subs that having limits and voicing them as “Yellow” (“orange” in some parts of Europe) and/or “Red” gives you freedom as a Dominant. You can lean on your sub taking the responsibility for themselves. You don’t have to think about the play partner not wanting to limit you whilst you are not sure wether you’ve reached a limit yet. That is way more relaxed play. One could even say that “having no limits” is a ‘Red Flag’ in BDSM.


Practice the Yellow zone
Just before the collar snaps… have them voice the “yellow” and “red” and what that means (“slowing down” and the abrupt “full stop into tea and aftercare”. And have them practice to say “green” in the full knowledge of what will happen next…


Karina’s Sources (from her talk)

  • Guidelines for working with people with kink interests (2019):
    https://www.kinkguidelines.com
  • Nichols, M. (2006): Psychotherapeutic Issues with “Kinky” Clients: Clinical Problems, Yours and Theirs. Journal of Homosexuality.
  • Morin, J. (1995): The Erotic Mind
  • ‘The Kinky Mind and Body’ workshop, 2020, by CARAS (Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities) and TASHRA (The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance)
  • Wismeijer & van Assen (2013): Psychological Characteristics of BDSM Practitioners. Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Interesting URL’s

PT: If it is possible, can you put like links or book titles in the chat at the end of this conservation. Am nerdy too 😅
NK: Yes please!
JI: Is their a website for the literature you have written ?

https://www.kinkguidelines.com/ – Kink Clinical Practice Guidelines

https://www.vlsp.de/ – Verband für lesbische, schwule, (bisexuelle, trans, intersexuelle und queere Menschen in der) Psychologie

Is BDSM a Healthy Form of Sexual Expression? – interesting read

http://KinkAware.net – Therapists (a few)… and if you know of others: let me know so I may add them

http://KinkAware. info – Info for Kink Aware Coaches and Therapists (mainly in Dutch)

https://kinkAwareCoach.com – Hans’s Kink Aware Coach site with Questions and Answers

Galen Fous 2015 – Decoding Your Kink: Guide to Explore, Share and Enjoy …


To anybody having interesting books, reads, websites to geek in… Send them to me and I can post them on this page about this talk.
It was so great to have Karina on our 25th Kinky Talk and I hope this post reflects our gratitude…

Hans


Registration on our Mailchimp-list is until 6 pm on the date of our Kinky Talk. And the email with the zoom-link for our talk (starting at 8pm A’dam time) will be sent around 7pm, that date at the latest.
We will record only the first part of the talk, and then continue with unrecorded open conversations in all privacy. Please keep your microphone muted until we stop the recording, or you might risk seeing your face right there on YouTube.

Published by KinkindeRelatie

A Kink Aware and openminded (relationship) coach. That does not mean you have to talk about kink, but at least here you don't have to be silent about it.

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