I’ve always been told that about 10% of the population were interested in BDSM. I am not even sure where that comes from anymore, but it’s been quoted to me by many as the general rule of a kinky thumb. It certainly neither applies to Belgians nor Americans.

Recap: Americans Are Rather Kinky

The other day I shared with you the research about the Kinky side of the US. I am sure you were as surprised as I was about just HOW commonly BDSM is practiced in American households.

Over 30% of Americans enjoy a good spanking now and then.

Adding to that the sex toy study with bondage gear on third place, I think it’s fair to say that there’s some dirty, dirty minds in the US of A. Good for you guys 🙂

In the BDSM scene, Portland, Oregon is a phenomenon within the States. Just in the last weeks, I spoke to three kink educators who all live and work in Portland. I remember thinking “What is it with Portland, I thought San Francisco was naughty town?!” But as the Portlanders were proud to tell me, in 2015, Kink University even called out Portland as the kinkiest city in the US. With 4% being active in the BDSM scene and even 40% admitting to be somewhat kinky or at least ‘not quite monogamous’. And now, I found the Portland of Europe: Belgium.

Belgians Are Even More Kinky

Talk about a catchy title for this research by Holvoet, Huys, Coppens, Seeuws, Goethals and Morrens in 2017: “Fifty Shades of Belgian Gray: The Prevalence of BDSM-Related Fantasies and Activities in the General Population.”. The team sampled 1,027 participants of the general Belgian population about their BDSM preferences. The research is unique worldwide because it actually contains a representable sample of the Belgian population. Belgium is with just about 11 mio one of the smallest countries in Europe. Much of other research is based on self-identified kinksters or voluntary surveys within the BDSM community. That means they start of with a significant participation bias.

Typically known for Chocolates, Waffles, Beer and Fries, the research uncovered that a whooping 46.8% of participants had ever performed at least one BDSM-related activity. An additional 22% of the sample indicated having (had) fantasies about it. That means

68.8% of Belgians tried or fantasize about BDSM-related activities

Belgians Do BDSM but Don’t Call it BDSM

What is fascinating is that, “when asked whether they saw themselves as being interested in BDSM, only 26% stated this to be the case and 7.6% self-identified as BDSM practitioners.” So essentially, half of the Belgian population is engaging in BDSM-related activity, but wouldn’t consider it to be labeled ‘BDSM’.

I wonder if that’s because of the common misconception that BDSM is only about severe pain, whips and chains. Does the general populous practice spanking and light bondage and not consider it kinky? And what does it mean when you play with BDSM techniques without the underlying principles of SSC and RACK? Especially in our society where consent still seems to be a new concept outside the BDSM community? There’s certainly a lot of food for thought here.

Belgian waffles on a paddle. clearly.

Weird tangent incoming on ‘food for thought’: Whilst I was looking for a picture for ‘Belgium Kinksters’ I came across this delicious Belgian waffle picture. On a paddle. It’s a paddle, right? And also the waffles themselves look like paddles right? Is that sublOr is that my low-carb brain going crazy here?

Calling for Destigmatization of BDSM

The researchers call out the clinical implication: “There is a high level of interest in BDSM in the general population, which strongly argues against stigmatization and pathologic characterization of these interests.“

Now, I always thought the Dutch to be the most open people when it comes to kink. I suppose I need to revise that assumption. So dear kinky Americans: When you come to travel Europe, make sure to put Belgium on your list of countries to explore. But come to Amsterdam too!

The researchers conclude “Interest in BDSM is present in most of the general population. Further research is needed to destigmatize it by confirming BDSM as a leisurely preference rather than a psychiatric affliction.”

I certainly look forward to that – until then, check out my post ‘Kink Is a Hobby not a Disorder’ about the research by Williams, Prior, Alvarado , Thomas and Christensen. Also, I’d love to hear your theories on people doing kinky stuff but not identifying as ‘BDSM practitioners’.

Sonja is a co-founder of boldpleasures. She's on a mission to free people to revel in their true sensuality by removing the stigma surrounding kink. Sonja writes about first steps, ditching the shame and how to combine kink and 'normal' family life. She's a mother of two and happily married.

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