The Psychology of Kink: Transforming Sexual Drives Into Art

Dr. Keith Witt Editor's Picks, Emotional, How can I feel happy and fulfilled in my life?, Intrapersonal, Love & Intimacy, Perspectives, Psychology, Psychosexual, Video, Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith 2 Comments

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LOT of adults are into kink, and studies show those people are happier, more resilient, and more conscientious. Join Dr. Keith Witt and Corey deVos as we explore kink as a one way to transform our sexual drives into art and add to the sum total of love in the universe.

Image: I Dreamt I Was the Night by John Cacioppe [+view gallery]

In the area of accepting and normalizing kink, sex therapists have been the vanguard from the very beginning of the scientific study of sexuality. Practitioners want results, and you don’t have much success as a sex therapist if you encourage people to feel bad about what turns them on. Sex therapists encourage people to feel good about what turns them on, and work with them to develop healthy ways of being sexually fulfilled.

Since literally tens of millions of Americans embrace kink an as a central aspect of their self-identity, and since there seem to still be lower-left quadrant cultural taboos about kink, it’s a good topic for an episode of Witt and Wisdom.

What is kink?

Anybody who likes something sexual that a culture they identify with forbids or demeans is kinky. This includes people who have some fetish or BDSM aspects within a more general sexual repertoire, people who have a primary self-identity as BDSM, fetish centered, or being a sexual outlier, and people who are polyamorous in some fashion.

BDSM refers to bondage, domination, sadism, masochism, and master/slave practices and/or relationships.

Fetishes are objects like clothes or specific body parts, or practices like foot worship or semi-public sex, that have enhanced erotic charge for the practitioner.

Polyamorous is having more than one sexual partner concurrently as a lifestyle choice.

Who practices kink?

Kink is everywhere. 13% of American men and 11% of American women engage in some form of BDSM or fetishtic sex. Studies of Australian and US adults found that 15% to 20% engaged in some form of BDSM at some point in their lives. The same numbers of people self-identify as part of a kinky sexual orientation as self-identify as gay or lesbian.

A 2016 Journal of Sex Research study found that 50% of Canadian adults expressed interest in kinky sex, and 33% had tried kinky sex at least once.

What characterizes people who practice kinky sex?

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (the NCSF established by Susan Wright among others in 1997) has done studies showing people who practice a BDSM lifestyle — who belong to BDSM organizations and/or systematically practice BDSM — compared to heteronormal controls are more:

  • Resilient.
  • Extraverted.
  • Conscientious.
  • Happy — they have more subjective well-being.

This data is not surprising. As most couples therapists will tell you, partners with interest and commitment to hot sexual intersubjectivity do way better. In general, people who accept what turns them on and generally feel fulfilled in their erotic nature do way better.

An peculiar advantage of having a kinky relationship is that partners tend to be more positive, explicit, cooperative, and committed to sexual fulfillment than couples who avoid sex, can’t talk productively about sex, or who are sexually conflicted.

written by Dr. Keith Witt

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Dr. Keith Witt

About Keith Witt

Dr. Keith Witt is a Licensed Psychologist, teacher, and author who has lived and worked in Santa Barbara, CA. for over forty years. Dr. Witt is also the founder of The School of Love.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.