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Kink-oriented Individuals Address Healthcare Concerns

Dec 19, 2016

Kink-oriented Individuals Address Healthcare Concerns

Individuals who engage in kink sexual behaviors can have special healthcare needs, but they may not always see a doctor because of the stigma associated with kink sexuality, experts report.

The word kink is used to describe sexual activities outside the mainstream. These activities can include bondage, discipline, domination and submission as well as sadism and masochism. Sometimes the acronym BDSM is used to refer to these activities.

Kink sexual practices often involve power roles, with one participant taking a dominant or “top” role, while the other is in a more submissive or “bottom” position. Activities are always between consenting adults, and the specifics are usually negotiated between partners. However, some activities, such as punching or whipping, can cause injury or increase the risk of sexually-transmitted infections or blood-borne illnesses.

Seeking care for kink-related health concerns can be a challenge for those who participate. Recently, a team of healthcare providers and researchers formed the Kink Health Project to learn more about the kink community and their experience with medical care in the San Francisco Bay area.

The team conducted focus groups and interviews with 115 kink-orientated individuals between the ages of 23 and 69. The participants’ average age was 46 years. Forty-four percent of them had seen a doctor for a kink-related issue. Among those who had a primary doctor, only 38% had revealed their kink orientation to that doctor.

Bruising and open wounds were some of the more common kink-related health concerns. For example, one participant mentioned using a knife to scratch his partner, causing moderate bleeding. Others reported having multiple partners and non-traditional social structures, such as non-monogamous relationships, that healthcare providers might not understand.

Often, participants preferred to seek medical advice within the kink community rather than from a doctor. Many were afraid of being judged for their behavior. Some would lie to doctors about the source of their concerns. For example, one man told his doctor that his bruises were caused by rugby.

Fear of being investigated for abuse was a serious concern among the participants. “I know that what I’m doing is safe and consensual,” one woman explained, “but I worry if I ever went to the doctor and was covered with bruises they would not understand that they were consensual behaviors.”

However, many participants reported positive experiences with their doctors. One woman described her OB/GYN, who was open to explaining what types of kink activities would be safe during pregnancy.

The authors acknowledged that their findings may not apply to all everyone who engages in kink behaviors. “San Francisco is well known for its sexual open-mindedness, and we could have encountered different results if we had conducted the study in other parts of the United States or in other nations,” they wrote.

The study was first published online in October in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Resources

The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Waldura, Jessica F., MD, et al.

“Fifty Shades of Stigma: Exploring the Health Care Experiences of Kink-Oriented Patients”

(Full-text. First published online: October 27, 2016)

http://www.jsm.jsexmed.org/article/S1743-6095(16)30428-3/fulltext