How Common is Masochism [Statistics]

Venturing into the shadows of human desire, our statistical report offers a rare glimpse into the prevalence of masochism. This report meticulously compiles data and analysis to understand how widespread masochistic tendencies are among various demographics. Our approach demystifies this often-misunderstood aspect of human sexuality, presenting facts and figures in an accessible manner. If you’ve ever wondered just how common masochistic preferences are, our findings provide clear, evidence-based insights.

Read on to discover the intriguing realities behind this hidden facet of human experience:

Key Discoveries

  • 23.7% of women and 13.9% of men have tried massochism.
  • 1.4% of people engage regular in masochistic acts.
  • 15-28% of people have masochistic fantasies. Women have higher rates (17-27.8%) than men (15-19.2%).
  • Most masochism practitioners (over 80%) practice masochism at home, rather than in clubs or other public venues.
  • 32.7% of masochism practitioners are in a non-monogamous or polyamorous relationships.
  • 34.1% of masochists identify as exclusively bisexual, 30.7% identify as exclusively heterosexual, and 4.9% identify as exclusively homosexual.
  • 55.3% of masochistic feel uncomfortable or terrified by the prospect of their BDSM interests being discovered by others.
  • 5% of masochistic individuals had disclosed their interests to a family member, 25.6% to a friend, and 3.8% to a colleague.
  • Masochistic individuals have the same mental health levels comparable to the general population, but some sub-groups of masochists report more psychological problems.
  • There is no singular cause for masochistic interests, and causal factors may include leisure, high sex drive, mate selection techniques, and positions of social power.
  • Sexual sadism is diagnosed in < 10% of rapists but is present in 37% to 75% of people who have committed sexually motivated homicides.

Masochism Prevalence

Many people have engaged in BDSM activities, often without realizing their actions fall under this category. Masochism, a key component of BDSM, is explored in-depth in this section. Sit back and discover more about the intriguing world of masochism, a practice more common than you might think.

  • 15.3% reported being hit by a partner as part of a masochistic act. This demonstrates that masochistic behaviors are not uncommon in the general population.
  • Gender differences in arousal related to masochism. Women reported greater arousal for masochism (17%) compared to men (15%). This indicates that women may have a higher interest in masochistic acts compared to men.
  • There is a significant difference in the desire to engage in masochism between women (27.8%) and men (19.2%). This further highlights that women may have a stronger inclination towards masochistic behaviors than men.
  • Women (23.7%) reported having experienced it compared to men (13.9%). This finding not only supports the idea that women have a higher interest in masochism but also that they are more likely to engage in masochistic acts.
  • Engaging in masochistic behaviors consistently (more than 10 times over a lifetime) had a prevalence rate of 1.4%. This highlights that a smaller percentage of the population engages in masochistic acts regularly.
  • The prevalence rates of masochistic behaviors are lower than the prevalence rates of masochistic fantasies. This suggests that while many people may have masochistic desires, fewer people act on these desires or engage in masochistic acts.
statistics on how many people fantasize, have tried, or regularly engage ind masochism

Demographic Characteristics of Masochists

  1. Practicing masochists are typically white, well-educated, and young.
  2. Higher rates of non-monogamy are reported among masochists.
  3. Female masochistic practitioners have higher confidence in relationships compared to non-masochistic females.
  4. Identifying as non-heterosexual is related to masochism, with higher rates of same-sex attraction, bisexuality, and homosexuality reported among practitioners.
Demographic CharacteristicPercent of masochism practitioners
Non-monogamous14% – 40%
Practiced masochism with someone other than primary partner31.4%
Identified as non-monogamous or polyamorous32.7%
Women with masochistic interests reporting same-sex attractionHigher than conventional interests
Masochism involvement in bisexual men, and gay men and womenSignificantly higher
Identified as bisexual30.7%
Identified as homosexual4.9%
Identified as exclusively heterosexual34.1%
Identified as exclusively heterosexual, men39.7%
Identified as exclusively heterosexual, women30.4%

Masochistic Behavior

  • More than 50% of women in the kink community reported participating in sadomasochistic activities.
  • Women engaged in significantly more humiliation (e.g., use of gags) than men.
  • BDSM practitioners tend to engage in behaviors with increasing intensity over time, with less extreme behaviors typically preceding more intense behaviors.
  • BDSM identification and behaviors can change over time, though the fluidity of these differs between individuals.
  • For a majority, BDSM behaviors are in addition to, not a replacement of, more typical sexual behaviors.
  • Over 87% of women in the kink community engaged in at least one of 10 role play scenarios, with master/slave being the most common.
  • About 75% of these women indicated arousal by an object in at least one of five fetish categories (clothing, body parts, fabrics, uniforms, body fluids).
  • Gay men preferred hypermasculine behaviors, while straight men preferred humiliation.
  • BDSM play can be viewed as a set of behaviors that take on different meanings to individuals based on partner and context.
  • Most BDSM practitioners (over 80%) practice BDSM at home, rather than in clubs or other public venues.

Mental Health, Personality, and Relationships

Psychological Correlates and Mental Health

  • Masochistic individuals have mental health levels comparable to the general population.
  • A study found that masochistic individuals reported lower depression scores, but typical levels of anxiety, compared to population norms.
  • On measures of dissociation, submissiveness was related to reported memory disturbance and depersonalization, regardless of gender.
  • Masochistic individuals with a history of sexual abuse may be at risk of mental health issues, including higher rates of suicide attempts, more hospital psychological treatment, and greater likelihood of visiting a physician regarding BDSM-related injuries.
  • For males, more engagement in BDSM was associated with an increased chance of a suicide attempt, but only when this relationship was mediated by both fearlessness about death and perceived pain tolerance.
  • 37.4% of masochistic practitioners reported some level of suicide ideation in the past two weeks.


  • Masochistic individuals did not differ from population norms on honesty-humility, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, desire for control, self-esteem, life satisfaction, and empathy.
  • Dominants and submissives scored lower on altruism than population norms.
  • Submissives scored higher on openness to experience and emotionality, and dominants scored higher on desire for control and extraversion.
  • Masochistic individuals scored higher on openness to experience, extraversion, and conscientiousness, and lower on rejection sensitivity, neuroticism, and agreeableness than controls.
  • Switches and dominants scored higher on openness to experience than submissives, and submissives scored higher on agreeableness than dominants.

Interpersonal Relationship Factors

  • 34.1% of masochistic individuals reported feeling they could tell most of the adults in their lives about their BDSM interests, while 9.5% said they did not feel comfortable disclosing to anyone, and 4% reported they had to permanently hide their interests.
  • The majority (53.7%) of masochistic individuals felt uncomfortable by the prospect of their BDSM interests being discovered by others; 1.6% of these individuals said it terrified them.
  • Fewer than 5% of masochistic individuals had disclosed their interests to a family member, 25.6% to a friend, and 3.8% to a colleague.
  • Prejudice toward masochistic individuals was related to more homophobia and social and sexual conservativism.
  • 76% of licensed mental health professionals reported having at least one client that engaged in BDSM.
  • Over half (52%) of mental health professionals did not consider themselves competent enough to see BDSM clients, and 64% reported having no graduate training mentioning BDSM.
  • 88% of participants in “Master/slave” relationships stated that

Trauma, Abuse as a Child, or Other Triggers for Masochism

The relationship between childhood abuse, trauma, and BDSM has been explored in various studies, revealing some intriguing findings that challenge common assumptions and provide a more nuanced understanding of the factors contributing to BDSM interests.

  • BDSM practitioners had comparable PTSD and trauma-related phenomena scores and incidence rates of trauma similar to population averages, with no higher borderline personality or dissociative identity disorder symptoms.
  • CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse) is not the only potential origin of forceful sexual fantasies, as low levels of sex guilt and high levels of erotophilia also predicted such fantasies.
  • Most BDSM practitioners (90.4%) in a study reported no abuse, indicating that trauma is not a common precipitating factor of BDSM interests.
  • Engagement in BDSM was unrelated to having been sexually coerced before the age of 16, with men engaging in BDSM showing significantly less psychological distress.
  • Stronger feminist beliefs combined with low levels of guilt were related to erotophilia and more sexual experience.
  • Both male and female BDSM practitioners were more likely to have experienced CSA than the general population, but the majority still reported no abuse.
  • Childhood trauma did not significantly predict dominance or submissive sexual behaviors within a sample of kink-identified participants.

Dismissing popular hypothesis

  • Weak support for attachment hypotheses: Attachment styles among BDSM practitioners are similar to those in population samples, providing weak support for the theory that poor attachment resulting from childhood abuse leads to masochistic or sadistic ego states.
  • Disinhibition hypothesis: Social power has been found to be positively related to arousal by sadistic thoughts in men and masochistic thoughts in women, indicating that power might play a role in disinhibiting BDSM-related interests.
  • Compensation for lack of power in childhood: Contrary to the hypothesis, submissives rather than dominants were found to have lower self-esteem and higher levels of sexism, suggesting that using dominance to compensate for low self-esteem is not a common driving factor for BDSM interests.