Due to the huge popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, and the thousands of erotic novels available, you’d think that powerful and successful men like to be dominant and act out their sadistic sex fantasies on socially awkward and somewhat powerless women.
But what about the men who spend so much of their time being in control that they enjoy being controlled, really let go, and allow someone else to take control?
So which is it: socially powerful men need to dominate at all times, or do they needed to be dominated? And how do women figure into this? Are they always submissive and/or masochistic?
According to a new paper published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, by Joris Lammers and Roland Imhoff, social power (having control over others’ outcomes) reduces inhibition. In other words, high-ranking Christian Grey types are more aroused by fantasies involving being submissive.
In another article in New York Magazine, the Lammers and Imhoff point out that while many people have sadomasochistic impulses, they don’t really act on them, as those impulses go against social norms that separate sex from violence, and affection from domination. Traditional gender roles say that men are primarily active and women passive in many social domains, and that men are more likely to sublimate submission fantasies and women fantasies of domination.
But the study refutes this by saying that power frees people from their inhibitions, and thereby increases sadomasochistic thoughts in everyone — especially masochistic leanings in men and sadistic thoughts in women.
The study included 14,306 participants, readers of a science website and a lifestyle website in the Netherlands; the participants completed an online questionnaire.
First, the participants rated their professional position from someone without a job, to executive, top-management status. The participants rated their agreement with statements such as, “It sexually arouses me to fantasize about torturing a consenting person” to “It sexually arouses me to fantasize about being tortured by a person by my own demand.”
Participants also rated their desire for social dominance in everyday life by documenting their responses to statements such as, “I like to give orders and get things going.”
The study could only measure correlations, but given the known psychological effects of power — such as being the first to act, inspiring yourself, and being distant from other people — a case for its influence on disinhibition in the bedroom can be made.
The findings of the study stated, “Results showed that power increases the arousal to sadomasochism, after controlling for age and dominance. Furthermore, the effect of power on arousal by sadistic thoughts is stronger among women than men, while the effect of power on arousal by masochistic thoughts is stronger among men than women.
The effect of power is driven through a process of disinhibition that leads people to disregard sexual norms in general, and disregard sexual norms associated with gender in particular.”
As researcher Lammers says, “Power tends to be a source of sexual liberation.”