No, seriously: you need to tell them.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the official shrink handbook: it's a phonebook-style guide to every mental health diagnosis or illness out there. Or should we say "mental health illness"? Because unfortunately, the DSM has a history of being a bit behind the times--for example, "homosexuality" was listed as a mental disorder until 1974 (listen to the amazing story of how being gay was taken off the list by This American Life). And, according to the DSM, engaging in kinky sex is still a sign that one is weak in the head.

So the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has launched a petition to get BDSM and its various kinky traveling companions out of the big bad book. If you want the whole back story, they've published a white paper on the issue here. Basically, they want the American Psychiatric Assocation to make sure their DSM listings are based on scientific evidence, and not political or moral biases or some uptight idea of what is socially accepted as "normal" or "mainstream" behavior.

If an industry-wide bias doesn't sound bad enough to you (after all, we suppose no one's forcing the kinksters to read this book, and most lay folk don't even know it exists), get this: a DSM-based diagnosis can negatively impact both employment agreements and child custody arrangements. Up in arms yet? Tell those shrinks that occasionally enjoying being tied up consensually by your partner is not a sickness by signing here.

[via GoodVibes]


Amanda said:

Just to clear a little bit up: "kink" is in the DSM, but not all kink is considered problematic or a disorder. I'm a psychology student who has been taught from my very first psych class that things like BDSM are only considered signs of disorders if they're the only way a person can achieve sexual arousal at all, AND if they've caused significant disturbance in that person's life (as determined by admission from the person themselves or another person close to them, like a spouse). For example, if a guy likes bondage but is into other things too, no problem. But if bondage is the only way he can possible imagine getting aroused and he happens to be with a man/woman who doesn't like bondage, you can see how that could be a problem in that it could cause marital problems. Usually when a person can only get turned on by one thing, or when they take things to an extreme sexually, that means there is an underlying problem in the way they think about sex and relationships that needs to be addressed so they can have healthy sex and love lives.
That doesn't mean the sections in the DSM couldn't be misused by an angry puritanical shrink, but as most psychologists are pretty liberal and openminded by nature (in my experience), I doubt it's that much of a problem. Conversely, taking the sexual disorders out of the DSM could result in the inability of people with actual problems like these, which can be seriously crippling to their relationships and lives in general, to get treatment. I highly suggest you do a little more research into the way the DSM works before attacking it like this- it's certainly not blameless in it's history, but whenever you take away a possible diagnosis of a disorder, you're denying treatment to people who could really use it.

Mike said:

Let me second the above comment. The DSM specifically states that kink crosses the line to pathology at the moment that it causes a clinically significant impairment in someone's life.

I think we can all agree that someone who has such a fetish for frottage that (s)he assaults people on the subway has a significant impairment. I think we can also agree that someone with such an interest in sadomasochistic sex that (s)he does not respect the rights of his/her partners presents not only a significant impairment but a significant risk to self and others.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the DSM is not a book by which we as a population live our lives. In other words, if you don't go a psychologist complaining of problems that your kink is causing you, you'll never talk to a psychologist about kink. Shrinks don't berate kinksters at play parties with megaphones, much less drive down the streets of San Francisco leaning out the window of a van with a giant butterfly net.

The DSM does not say that being kinky makes us "weak in the head" any more than it says that being horny makes us "sex addicts." Psychologists are here to help, not to judge.


What is your employer doing knowing your psychological history anyway? That's supposed to be private information between you and your psychologist.

Peyote Short said:

"if bondage is the only way he can possible imagine getting aroused and he happens to be with a man/woman who doesn't like bondage, you can see how that could be a problem in that it could cause marital problems"

The same might be said of the missionary position. I don't know where that fits in the DSM. I just hope those people can get help.

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