Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program
Johns Hopkins University
3400 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
The goal of this study is to investigate the BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism) community in the Baltimore/D.C./Virginia area and the meanings these practices hold for those involved (other than immediate physical or sexual gratification). The primary goal of this study is to develop possible working hypotheses concerning why certain practices appeal to certain people and why others do not. Multiple theories have been proposed to explain why certain people engage in certain practices. In particular, I will explore the psychological work of Baumstein, who theorizes that masochism is an escape from the self. I will explore the possibilities of applying Baumstein’s work to questions of submission and dominance, and ask about its applicability to questions of control. Baumstein proposes that those who practice submission are generally people in power or under a lot of stress and pressure, and masochism serves as a chance to let go and escape from oneself. I am interested in how partaking in certain BDSM practices are connected to such things as stressful work environments or hierarchies in the workplace. Are there commonalities between members of the BDSM community and their experience in the workplace, family, or home?