I find most of this article problematic, but there is one part I did very much appreciate.
What I had issue with were that the examples they use of “freelance” (i.e. independent) Dominatrices are kind of odd, and ironically paint them (Us?) in an unprofessional light. The two Dommes they selected to represent New York’s independent were portrayed in a very unflattering way — one of which is running a Cyrano-de-Bergerac-esque operation. I can’t help but wonder if this was a ploy to draw business to houses by making independents look, well, “messy” — and even dangerous.
The part I did like discusses the pathologization of kink:
The American Psychological Association defines a mental disorder as a “clinically significant behavior” associated with “present distress, disability, or a significant increased risk of suffering.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a compendium of these disorders, is the text American psychologists use to diagnose patients.When the DSM was first published in 1952, it included “sexual deviation”—a category that included transvestism, pedophilia, homosexuality, fetishism, and sexual sadism. The second edition included masochism. The all-encompassing term was changed to the less-pejorative “paraphilias” in the third edition. When the fifth edition comes out in May, people who practice BDSM and feel distress about it will have a “paraphilic disorder.”This distresses the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an advocacy group which considers DSM revision a “key project.” “We want to make sure that distress from society doesn’t mean a mental disorder,” says National Coalition of Sexual Freedom spokeswoman Susan Wright.
The DSM listed homosexuality as a sexual disorder until 1973, when extensive empirical evidence concluded that homosexuals performed no differently on psychological tests than their straight counterparts. Five different studies conducted on masochists since 1977 point to high functioning—measured by high educational level, income and occupational status—compared to the general population. Furthermore, other studies show there is no link between masochism and past abuse. Why should one atypical orientation be treated differently than another?
Charles Moser, a California researcher who asks exactly that, has emerged as the psychologist most active in advocating for BDSM’s removal from the manual. In an article co-authored with Peggy Kleinplatz this year, he wrote: “The situation of the Paraphilias at present parallels that of homosexuality in the early 1970s. Without the support or political astuteness of those who fought for the removal of homosexuality, the Paraphilias continue to be listed in the DSM.” No characteristic unifies paraphiliacs other than their sexual interests, he points out, just as no single trait is shared by all homosexuals besides same-sex attraction.
On the other hand, Richard Krueger, a Columbia University researcher who was part of the workgroup that authors the paraphilias section, is among those favoring retention. He cites people like Richard Benjamin who asphyxiate for sexual excitement: “There are people who hang themselves, and we felt universally that dying that way is very different from accidentally hanging yourself in the process of becoming sexually excited.” Indeed, a study conducted in 1972 found 50 people died each year in the United States from this practice. Thus the reasoning: Homosexuality isn’t innately dangerous; some forms of masochism are.
How dangerous is BDSM? “It is said that the most common reason for an emergency room visit in New York City on Sunday mornings is a hand laceration from cutting a bagel,” Moser says. “I can find essentially no emergency room visits related to S&M injuries in the professional literature. So if danger or injury is your criteria, then cutting a bagel is the sign of a mental disorder, and S&M is healthy.”
One thing Moser and Krueger agree on is the lack of studies on BDSM. Michael W. Wiederman’s 2003 article “Paraphilia and Fetishism,” which appeared in the Family Journal, argues that this lack of research could stem from the misconception that sexuality researchers study topics of personal relevance which makes them want to avoid taboo subjects. Meg Kaplan, a psychologist who also happens to be Krueger’s wife, says she frequently receives referrals from other doctors who are either unable or unwilling to discuss BDSM fantasies with clients.
“There’s very little money for studying typical sexual behavior, nevermind atypical sexual behavior,” Kaplan says.