Hormones, Pain, and Altered States: A Scientific Search for the Essence of Sadomasochism

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Brad Sagarin Northern Illinois University. Hormones, Pain, and Altered States: A Scientific Search for the Essence of Sadomasochism. Hamilton’s 1929 survey of 200 married men and women:. 51%. 28%. Men. 32%. 29%. Women. “Pleasant thrills” from inflicting pain.
Brad Sagarin Northern Illinois University Hormones, Pain, and Altered States: A Scientific Search for the Essence of Sadomasochism Hamilton’s 1929 survey of 200 married men and women: 51% 28% Men 32% 29% Women “Pleasant thrills” frominflicting pain “Pleasant thrills” fromreceiving pain Clinical Criminal Consensual Physiological and psychological effects of consensual BDSM
  • Hormonal changes and couple bonding in consensual sadomasochistic activity
  • Co-authors:
  • Bert Cutler
  • Nadine Cutler
  • Kimberly Lawler-Sagarin
  • Leslie Matuszewich
  • Participants and methods
  • 13 participants: Arizona Power Exchange (APEX)
  • 45 participants: Thunder in the Mountains
  • Questionnaires and saliva samples before and after scenes
  • Testosterone Cortisol Relationship closeness Relationship closeness Before, During and Aftercare Conclusions
  • SM activities show marked physiological and psychological effects on participants
  • Aftereffects confirm reports by SM practitioners: Reductions in stress and increases in relationship closeness
  • Opposite effects occurred in the scene that went poorly
  • SM without sex? Dance of Souls
  • Sadomasochism without sex: Pain as a catalyst to transcend the self
  • Co-authors:
  • Kathryn Klement
  • Ellen Lee
  • James Ambler
  • Sarah Hanson
  • Evelyn Comber
  • David Wietting
  • Michael Wagner
  • Valerie Burns
  • Bert Cutler
  • Elwood Reid
  • Participants and methods
  • 67 participants: Southwest Leather Conference (SWLC)
  • Questionnaires, saliva samples, cognitive tests, behavioral observation
  • Sexual orientation and BDSM roles Positive and negative affect p = .18 p = .01 Psychological stress Extremely p = .02 Not at all Physiological stress (cortisol) p = .06 Intimacy p = .85 p = .005 Why are you participating in the Dance?What do you hope to get from the experience?
  • “It is a wonderful way to exchange energy not just with my owner but with my tribe. It is transcendental & amazing. It is also a great way to release the negative.”
  • “I find peace, power, and well-being at these events.”
  • “To participate in high energetic levels and feel the transformation that can occur in myself and others.”
  • “I have had visions and deep spiritual experiences. Or not. But it's fun anyway.”
  • Thoughts or feelings during the Dance
  • “I am in an amazing happy place. Serene yet joyous.”
  • “Connection through the drums and the tribe and the shared energy that overrides any pain and -opens my heart and mind to a focus beyond the physical.”
  • “Just very high!!!”
  • “Pleasantly exhausted”
  • “I'm very happy and aroused. I feel strong and beautiful.”
  • After the Dance
  • “Observed energetic releases of others, saw emotions stir in many; tears, anger, screaming, laughter, pure joy. Many had variety of different experiences. I got to share in all of them, and feel their release.”
  • “The experience was quite calming. The degree of pain I allowed myself to have physically allowed my hyper-analytic brain to focus/center on the present. With the exception of knitting and crochet, pain this intense is the only way I can truly fall into this state of peace/have a quiet mind.”
  • Themes Conceptualizing the Dance Extremely p<.001 Not at all Altered states of consciousness
  • Physiological short term changes in the brain caused by SM related activities
  • Escape from the Self The self is sometimes burdensome
  • "The greater the demands in my outside life, the likelier I am to feel submissive sexually."
  • Baumeister(1988) Wiseman (1996) Consciousness as a Process Transient Hypofrontality Hypothesis Dietrich (2003) The Stroop Test Read the word Green Red Blue Yellow Name the color XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX Read the word Yellow Green Blue Red Name the color Green Red Yellow Blue Altered states in tops? Flow The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one. Csikszentimihályi(1991) Conditions under which flow happens
  • Engagement in activity chosen for its own sake
  • Perceived challenges are high while skill level is also high
  • Clear goals that are regarded important
  • Immediate feedback indicating success at task
  • Highly focused attention
  • Characteristics of flow state
  • Intense concentration on task
  • Deep sense of involvement and merging of action and awareness
  • Sense of control over one’s actions
  • Enjoyment in activity
  • Distorted sense of time
  • Correlation does not imply causation! An experiment to test the causal effects of topping and bottoming
  • Recruited switches willing to be randomly assigned to the top or bottom role
  • Co-authors:
  • James Ambler
  • Ellen Lee
  • Kathryn Klement
  • Evelyn Comber
  • Sarah Hanson
  • Bert Cutler
  • Nadine Cutler
  • TonioLoewald
  • An experiment to test the causal effects of topping and bottoming
  • Recruited switches willing to be randomly assigned to the top or bottom role
  • With generous support from:
  • Participants bottoming
  • 14 participants, 10 women, 4 men
  • Mean age= 40.86, SD=12.46, Range: 23-64
  • Sexual Orientation
  • 1 gay/lesbian
  • 10 bisexual/pansexual
  • 3 heterosexual
  • Race
  • All participants were Caucasian
  • Participants bottoming
  • BDSM experience (years)
  • M=6.86, SD= 5.07, Range: 1-17
  • BDSM experience (# scenes)
  • M=386.65, SD= 510.67, Range: 18-1500
  • Experience with study partner (# scenes)
  • M= 39.64, SD= 79.73, Range: 0-250
  • Procedure bottoming
  • Pre-scene Stroop
  • Pre-scene saliva sample
  • Pre-scene survey
  • Scene
  • Post-scene Stroop
  • Post-scene saliva samples (x3)
  • Post-scene survey
  • Informed consent
  • Practice Stroop
  • Baseline Stroop
  • Baseline saliva sample
  • Baseline survey
  • How well did the scene go? bottoming Very Well Very Poorly Open-ended thoughts bottoming
  • “It went better than I expected since it was random I did not know how well it would go.”
  • “It was fun and since I had never played with (#6) before it was nice the variety and different style.”
  • “Incredibly sensual and sexually charged, less about pain than sensuality and sensation.”
  • “He got my masochist to come out then fed her pain. I liked it.”
  • Impact of observation bottoming Very strongly affected Not at all affected Self-other overlap bottoming How intense was tonight’s scene? bottoming What activities were most intense? bottoming
  • “the connection between us.”
  • “heavy flogging at end.”
  • “Being bitten on the tender sides of my stomach and ribs.”
  • “Biting the spot where her heart chakra is.”
  • “no one thing. It all added up to a very intense/gratifying scene.”
  • Sexual, Spiritual, SM bottoming Positive affect bottoming(excited, determined, attentive, …) Negative affect bottoming(distressed, irritable, nervous, …) Sexual arousal bottoming Stress bottoming Cortisol bottoming Altered states ( bottomingStroop) Altered states (flow) bottoming
  • 36 items (1-5 plus “not applicable” option)
  • “I was challenged, but I believed my skills would allow me to meet the challenge”
  • “I did things correctly without thinking about trying to do so”
  • “Time seemed to alter (either slowed down or speeded up)”
  • “I really enjoyed the experience of what I was doing”
  • Altered states (flow) bottoming Exercise: 3.88 Yoga: 3.85 Sports: 3.68 Conclusions bottoming
  • Incredible community support for research
  • Participants volunteered for more intrusion!
  • SM activities
  • Increase intimacy
  • Decrease stress and negative affect
  • Increase then decrease sexual arousal and positive affect
  • Facilitate flow
  • Topping and bottoming caused bottoming
  • Different perceptions of scenes
  • Tops: Sexual > Spiritual > SM
  • Bottoms: SM > Sexual > Spiritual
  • Different perceptions of scene intensity
  • Tops saw scenes as more intense than did bottoms
  • Altered states
  • Objective evidence of altered states of consciousness in bottoms
  • Future directions bottoming For more bottominginformation: http://www.niu.edu/user/tj0bjs1/bdsm.html http:// bottomingwww.niu.edu/user/tj0bjs1/bdsm.html Brad Sagarin <[email protected]> Thank you
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