The sex survey: BDSM figures reflect ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon

One in five respondents said they have done it, rising to one in four among 17-24-year-olds

BDSM is now ‘part of the fantasy range’ for many people, according to psychotherapist and Irish Times columnist Trish Murphy.

BDSM is now ‘part of the fantasy range’ for many people, according to psychotherapist and Irish Times columnist Trish Murphy.

 

The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon may be having an influence on Irish people’s sex lives, with one in five people who responded to The Irish Times sex survey saying they had engaged in BDSM (bondage, discipline, submission, masochism).

Six out of 10 bisexual women who participated in the survey, which was conducted on irishtimes.com this month and received over 12,000 responses, said they had engaged in BDSM, compared with two out of 10 heterosexual women.

“Principally due to the effect of online porn, a wide variety of sexual activities previously rare in the heterosexual community are becoming more common,” observes psychotherapist Brendan Madden.

“BDSM is part of the fantasy range, and now people can engage with an assumption that others know the limitations,” says psychotherapist and Irish Times columnist Trish Murphy.

BDSM is most popular with young people, with 28 per cent of 17- to 24-year-olds saying they had engaged in it. The percentages fall steadily the higher the age category, but BDSM is still relatively popular among older people, with 11 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men aged 50 to 64 saying they have engaged in it.

“Maybe more younger and older people engage in it because it takes up so much time and preparation and the middle-aged people don’t have the time or energy,” Murphy suggests.

Psychotherapist and psychosexual counsellor Margaret Dunne wonders whether the percentages of people in the 50-64 age group having BDSM sex is higher than she would have expected because it relates to “some exploratory practices by couples”.

The Irish Times sex survey was conducted on irishtimes.com over the course of a week in June 2015. A total of 12,639 participants completed the survey (a 71 per cent completion rate), with 12,134 responses used in the follow-up analysis. Over 500 responses were excluded, the vast majority because the participant was under the age of 17 (below the required age to take part) or where it was obvious that false information had been provided. Click here to view the full results.

The survey was carried out among self-selecting individuals. It is not a weighted survey and does not purport to be accurately representative of the wider population, biased as it is towards certain age groups (over two-thirds of those who took the survey were between the age of 24 and 50) and towards those who are more sexually active. Therefore all results should be seen as indicative rather than definitive.

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