Is kink a sexual orientation?

Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities - (CARAS)
Oakland, California
Open Access
Raised of $15,950 Goal
Ended on 8/02/14
Campaign Ended
  • $2,070
  • 13%
  • Finished
    on 8/02/14

About This Project

How do people make sense of kinky fantasies, desires, behaviors and practices? How do they integrate their sexuality into a larger sense of self when that sexuality is stigmatized? Understanding how people conceptualize and construct their sexual identities will aid efforts to understand the connections between identity formation and behavior, to address stigma and prejudice against alternative sexualities, and to lower health disparities.

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What is the context of this research?

Approximately 10-15% of the
general population has experienced or enacted erotic/sexual behaviors that are labeled colloquially as “kinky” behaviors. However, very few studies have investigated the lifecourse development and identity formation of people who construct their social and personal lives around this particular expression of human sexuality.

BDSM is an aspect that is
present in approximately 23% of the population in terms of fantasy, at least on occasion (estimates range from 12-33% for women, 20-50% for men; Kinsey et al. 1953; Arndt et al, 1985) and expressed in behavior by 10% of the population (Masters et al. 1995) at some point in their past lives, and a national survey of sexual behavior in Australia found that 1.8% of the population had engaged in BDSM behavior within the past year (Richters, et al. 2008). A 1998 telephone survey of Australian men who had sex with men reported 12% of the sample of over 3,000 respondents had engaged in BDSM behavior. These studies have all asked about behaviors without addressing questions of identities or community memberships.

What is the significance of this project?

In spite of the fact that a clinically significant minority of people engage in these practices and build communities around these practices, there is very little scientific work on this particular sexual dimension, which cuts across sexual orientation, nationality, race, class, and gender. This limits our general understanding of human sexuality and sexual health. There are large gaps in the knowledge base necessary to train healthcare providers and mental health professionals and clinicians to provide competent service to this population.

What are the goals of the project?

The project will be able to establish a foundation for future research, by documenting some aspects of identity formation and organization in the context of alternative sexualities.

  • Gather at least 60 interviews of kink-identified people
  • Produce at least 3 papers on sexual identity development, sexual values, and diversity of experiences in alternative sexualities.


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Gathering in-depth interviews is resource intensive - transcribing services are work-intensive, and having a modest incentive for participants is important to honor their gift of time and their disclosure of sensitive information. Without funding, it will be difficult to gather a large amount of data and analyze it in a professional, efficient, and effective way.

Meet the Team

Richard Sprott, Ph.D.
Richard Sprott, Ph.D.

Team Bio

Richard Sprott received his Ph.D. in Developmental
Psychology from UC Berkeley in 1994. As a researcher he has examined in detail the relationship between professional identity development and the development of professional ethics in medical doctors, ministers and teachers. He also researches identity development and health/well-being in people who express alternative sexualities and non-traditional relationships, with a special emphasis on the intersection of kink/BDSM sexuality and health professionals. All of these efforts highlight the ways in which stigma, prejudice, minority dynamics, language, identity development and community development all intersect and affect each other. Richard currently teaches courses in the Department of Human Development and Women's Studies at California State University, East Bay and graduate and undergraduate level courses at various universities in the Bay Area, including UC Berkeley and Holy Names University.

Press and Media

A brief mention on a blog by author Race Bannon

Project Backers

  • 34Backers
  • 13%Funded
  • $2,070Total Donations
  • $60.88Average Donation
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