Fairly common, as it turns out, which isn’t super surprising. A survey of more than 9,000 people in Finland revealed that about 35 percent of men and 38 percent of women were interested in BDSM sex. Interest was much higher among non-heterosexual respondents vs. heterosexual ones and among younger respondents (18–28 years old) vs. older ones.
When it came to having participated in BDSM, more non-heterosexual people had tried BDSM than straight people. Thirty-seven percent of women had been submissive once or more as compared to 23 percent of men, and 32 percent of men had been dominant once or more as compared to 25 percent of women. These findings were in line with previous studies showing that men skew more toward dominant, and women skew more toward submissive. It’s worth noting, however, that these numbers dropped to single digits (except for bisexual people) when the frequency increased to monthly or more. This suggests that while BDSM may be common for people to try, it’s far less common for BDSM to be a regular part of sex.
The study also assessed associations between personality traits and interest in BDSM. For both men and women there was a negative association between BDSM interest and honesty-humility and conscientiousness, but there was a positive association between interest in BDSM and openness to experience. The study authors noted that for personality associations, “the effect sizes were negligible at best, thus offering no real practical implications.”
One of the biggest limitations of the study was that all the respondents were twins or siblings, so they may have been raised differently than only children. The study authors didn’t mention it, but it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that there might be some sort of genetic predispositions to certain sexual activities as well.
Interested in other studies about BDSM? Check out all of our posts about BDSM research.