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Shrinks: Kinky Sex is a Mental Disorder

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According to doctors, people who engage in kinky sex are just plain nuts. Find out why --- and what's being done about it.

Young Man Sitting on a Sofa and Looking Up at a Young Woman Standing in Her Underwear

People who engage in adventurous sex are now being labeled with a "mental health illness," according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM. Yup, that's right, the official handbook of psychiatry has now added kinky sex to its list of mental disorders.

In other words, if you indulge in role-playing, enjoy the feel of hot candle wax, or use handcuffs (even the furry kind!) you're considered someone who has a "mental disorder characterized by a preference for or obsession with unusual sexual practices." The shame!

This isn't the first time the DSM has stirred controversy: Until 1974, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder. And now engaging in "wild" sex which, for some people, that just means "normal," is a sign one has lost their marbles.

•A group called the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has launched a petition to get "BDSM" (bondage, role-playing, punishment, discipline, and fetishes, just to name a few) out of the DSM. In fact, they published a paper on the topic here, and invite people to support their endeavor. They are also asking that APA to base its conclusions on science, not on the mainstream idea of what's considered "normal."

Why is this so important? If you meet the criteria for a DSM-approved disorder, it could affect you at the workplace -- and even in child custody agreements.

Tell us -- should the medical establishment define "normal" sex?

next: The Momlife Crisis
17 comments so far | Post a comment now September 19, 2008, 5:16 PM

I guess if it is violent or unhealthy/causing harm to yourself or others it can be a mental illness - but otherwise…i find this very strange for this day and time….

Jan Tallent September 19, 2008, 5:24 PM

I agree, if two consenting adults enjoy something not a DEFINED norm but no one gets hurt, physically or mentally, it should be up to the couple! And what IS the norm, just straight Missionary Style sex PERIOD? Good grief!

Anonymous September 19, 2008, 5:32 PM

I tried to research this and can’t find that there’s any change proposed in the DSM. It appears, however, that there is a petition by a group called “DSM Revision Petition” trying to take some definitions of paraphilia, which includes some of these behaviors, out of the DSM, which have been there because people were coming in and asking to be treated for them. Momlogic, please clarify: is the DSM bringing new disorders *in* or have they been there all along?

Bill September 19, 2008, 6:30 PM

Sexual Paraphilias (including fetish and humiliation), Sexual Masochism, Sexual Sadism and Transvestitism (cross-dressing) have been a part of the DSM-IV for a good while now. The requirements for these to be mental illness include taking part in these activities (including fantasizing about them) for 6 months. Also, these must “interfere with your life” somehow. Clearly, the DSM considering these behaviors as psychological disorders need to be changed.

Anonymous September 19, 2008, 7:20 PM

Thank you for clarifying, Bill. I say, if someone thinks a behavior is creating a problem for them, they should be allowed to be treated for it at their request. Viva le difference. Our respect for sexual diversity expression really demands this. If we don’t have the right to decide what is okay for us and what is not, we’re living in a police state.

Anonymous September 20, 2008, 12:32 AM


Rob September 20, 2008, 10:02 AM

If roleplaying is a mental illness, does that mean all those Civil War Reenactors and RenFair folk are really mentally ill?

Or is it just sexy roleplay?

Anonymous September 20, 2008, 12:49 PM

Kinky sex is better than no sex at all.

praying4baby#2 September 21, 2008, 2:55 PM


Kat September 22, 2008, 9:55 AM

Oh that’s ridiculous. So I have a mental disorder because we like some off-color things in the bedroom. Well, he likes it and it keeps the fires burning (which is difficult because we work constantly but we’re both only 19 lol) so I guess we’re perfect for each other.

These doctors are just wanting more and more people to pop into their office so they can make more money and they can prescribe more pills and the pharmacists profit.

Halo Ilori September 23, 2008, 8:22 AM

I hold down 2 jobs, take care of ailing parents, and run a household. I am strong, confident and independent. I can do anything I set my mind to do. But, when the lights go down in my everyday life I submit to my husband. He tells me what to do and when to do it. We like whips and chains and things that cause a bit of pain. These people mean to tell me that because I enjoy this I am nuts?!!! Can I be a cashew…I like them best.

Anonymous September 23, 2008, 4:48 PM

I have done extensive research on the history of why kinky sex is considered a mental disorder. The idea that any kind of non-reproductive sexual behavior is a mental disorder began with a forensic psychologist, Richard von Krafft-Ebbing. He was a part of the German/Austrian discussion of psychology at the beginning of the 20th Century. He is the person who coined the terms “sadism” and “masochism” and frankly, he got it all wrong. Another writer, KE’s contemporary, Havelock Ellis got it more right, but he has been marginalized in the current sexual climate.

Fortunately, there is a large body of research which points in other directions, and more research to come. I don’t hold much hope that the DSM-V, now in production, will be much better than the DSM-IV-TR but eventually science will win out over morality.

Meanwhile, if the NCSF’s petition comes anyone’s way I would suggest that you sign it. Psychiatrists probably don’t respond very well to public opinion, but if enough people do sign then it might give them pause.

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Androgenese September 29, 2008, 1:27 PM

Strange !?

I always found religion to be the only known contagious mental disorder.

AlwaysReady October 10, 2008, 11:36 AM

I don’t belive that the DSm should be able to define normal sex. I personally do some of these things with my partner and I don’t feel that ther is something wrong with us. People just don’t have an exciting sex life so they try to find ways to ruin ours. Sorry folks not working. If you are not hurting each other then what’s the beef?

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