Sexual Health Q&A

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If a person engages in kink sexual behaviors, should his or her doctor know?

Yes. It is important to be open about your lifestyle so that your doctor can provide you with the best care.

Kink sexual behaviors, sometimes referred to as BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism), are often considered a bit unusual. Activities may involve role playing, restraint, punching, or whipping. Generally, one partner will play a dominant (“top”) power role while the other is more submissive (“bottom”). However, roles and activities are agreed upon beforehand and partners usually negotiate what is and is not acceptable. The acts are consensual.

Many people who engage in kink behaviors are reluctant to tell their doctor about it. In a recent survey of 115 kink-oriented individuals in the San Francisco, USA area, 44% of respondents saw their doctor for a kink-related problem, but only 38% of respondents who had a primary doctor disclosed their kink activities.

Often, patients are concerned that healthcare professionals will judge them negatively, especially if they have many partners or open relationships. They may also worry that injuries that occur during consensual acts, such as bruises, may be interpreted as domestic abuse and investigated by authorities.

As a result, patients may lie to their doctors about their injuries, delay seeking medical care, or avoid seeing a doctor completely. Some rely on the internet for information, but such information is not always reliable or accurate.

Fortunately, many survey respondents had positive experiences with doctors. The key is finding a healthcare provider who understands kink behaviors. Patients may consider opening up to their current doctor. Or, they may ask other members of the kink community for recommendations.

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