Skip to main content

Coed Naked: Insider Ethnography in the BDSM Subculture

Case
By: Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
+- LessMore information
Search form
No results
Not Found
Download Case PDF

Abstract

In the summer of 2012, I conducted immersive insider ethnographic fieldwork in the BDSM (Bondage & Discipline/Dominance & submission/Sadism & Masochism) subculture in the mid-Atlantic United States. The BDSM subculture is often suspicious of outsiders and academics due to a long history of medicalization and stigma. However, as an established member of the community and self-identified kinkster, I was able to easily gain access to both events and interview respondents, to gain the trust of the people I interviewed, and to empathize with their desires and experiences. Due to the subculture’s history of stigma, my role as an insider gave me better understanding of why people did what they did, ample opportunities to assess people’s reactions and values, and the privilege to harshly critique certain perspectives within the subculture itself. But I faced particular challenges as an insider, including how much social distance I should ideally have from my interview respondents, interviewing people who basically thought we were on a date, having a couple of people who disliked me or my friends personally try to block my access, and reverse culture shock. In a culture like the BDSM community, where so many people mistrust authority, I remain skeptical about the ability of outsiders to gain meaningful access and trust. Consequently, I believe that the benefits of being an insider vastly outweighed the costs in this context.

Looks like you do not have access to this content.

Methods Map

Participant observation

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website