Should we teach teens about BDSM in sex ed?

Should we teach teens about BDSM in sex ed?
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Could talking to students about BDSM culture help combat rape on college campuses? Psychology researcher Kathryn Klement thinks so. 

Klement is the co-author of a newly published study out of Northern Illinois University, which showed that BDSM practitioners are less likely to believe victim-blaming myths or sexist stereotypes than the general population. 

That's why she believes that teaching college students about BDSM and kink practices can be hugely beneficial.

"A sex education program [with information about BDSM] would help people understand what's consensual and what's not," Klement said in a phone interview. 

Woman shops for whips, paddles and other kink gear.
Source: David McNew/Getty Images

Klement's study analyzed surveys filled out by 60 college students, 68 random online respondents recruited through Amazon's MTurk site and 57 self-identified BDSM practitioners. 

The groups, which included a robust mix of ages and genders, answered whether they agreed with such sexist and victim-blaming statements as "when girls go to parties wearing slutty clothes, they are asking for trouble," and "many women have a quality of purity that few men possess." 

Across the board, Klement said, kinky participants had a healthier understanding of sex and consent than the other groups. A whopping 84% of BDSM respondents said wearing "slutty clothes" isn't asking for trouble, compared to only 45% of the MTurk adults. 

Kinky participants were also less likely than college students to support benevolent sexism, or stereotypes that misrepresent women as weak creatures in need of male protection. "It's not assumed [in the BDSM community] that just because she's a woman that she wants to be submissive," Klement said. 

"These results fly in the face of stereotypes about BDSM," Klement added, citing the misconception that BDSM is all about violence, or that kink communities celebrate "unhealthy" sexual desires.

Woman at an Israeli Slut Walk with the words "still not asking for it" scrawled across her exposed chest.
Source: Jack Guez/Getty Images

Although there's much to be gained from the mainstream community borrowing BDSM mainstays like safe words during sex, Klement thinks the most important thing the kink community can teach us is the concept of affirmative consent. 

Many BDSM practitioners follow a "yes means yes" mentality, where partners explicitly ask about specific sex acts rather than assuming it's kosher until somebody says no.

According to Klement, most BDSM practitioners believe consent can be withdrawn any time. That's the bottom line. 

Because BDSM often involves physical danger and role-play, many practitioners advocate constant communication throughout every stage of seduction and sex. 

Klement said some people worry all that talking will kill the mood, but in reality it can often have the opposite effect. "It's actually quite sexy to talk about what we want to do beforehand," she said. "People might be more informed [if they learned from BDSM] and have a better idea of how to handle sexual situations." 

It looks like a lesson in consensual humiliation and kinky foreplay might be the ticket to fighting rape culture.