Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychological Science (MSPS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Tracy Alloway

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert Zeglin

Department Chair

Dr. Lori Lange

College Dean

Dr. James Garner


This systematic scoping review examines the literature on BDSM/kink as it relates to three core dimensions of sexuality: behavior, orientation, and identity. The main sexuality framework used for defining these dimensions is Sexual Configurations Theory (van Anders, 2015). This search is guided by two research questions. 1) Are there empirical differences between individuals who simply consider BDSM to be something they do (i.e., behavior only) and individuals who consider BDSM to be part of who they are (i.e., kink-identified)? 2) Are there any existing, psychometrically validated, quantitative measures to assess BDSM as an identity component? I hypothesized that a model where some overlap (in language use and conceptualization) in these distinct but interrelated dimensions would be evident. I conducted a search using various combinations of the terms BDSM, kink, identity, behavior, and orientation; 60 articles were identified and coded into three categories (i.e., behavior, orientation, identity). My hypothesis was confirmed. Furthermore, six themes emerged: 1) BDSM behavior as a tool for assessing engagement with BDSM, 2) BDSM as serious leisure/adult play, 3) BDSM fantasy as orientation to BDSM, 4) BDSM as a tool for exploration, 5) BDSM role identification as a cornerstone of BDSM identity development, and 6) BDSM community engagement as important to BDSM identify development. Additionally, empirical assessment of BDSM identity relies heavily on measures created on a case-by-case basis, as no psychometrically validated assessment of BDSM identity exists. For individuals interested or involved in BDSM, some are drawn to it as a behavior; some fantasize about it but do not practice it often or ever; for some, it is an important and inseparable part of their sexual identity. Important differences exist between these groups (e.g., ten Brink et al., 2021), and research on BDSM would benefit greatly from further investigation of these constructs.