The available data does not support the common myth that consensual S/M is a reflection of previous violence or psychopathology. This common misconception is based primarily on clinicians' lack of training about, or exposure to, this extremely common set of practices. Also, there is so much prejudice against people who practice consenting erotic power-play--just like there was against homosexuality 50 years ago--that professionals and other people with reputations to uphold are hesitant to "come out." This marginalizes and silences an important source of education for everyone.
Are there people who practice S/M behaviors who are psychologically unhealthy or in unhealthy relationships? Yes, of course. But there is no data showing that unhealthy people are disproportionately represented among the practitioners of these erotic behaviors.
Any clinician who brings an open-minded attitude toward these practices will learn a great deal from patients who describe them.
For more information, I direct you to the following recent books:
William Henkin, Ph.D & Sybil Holiday (1996)
*Bound to be Free*,
Charles Moser, Ph.D, M.D. & JJ Madeson (1996)
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