Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Joanne Belknap

Second Advisor

Jason Boardman

Third Advisor

Christina Sue,


This mixed-methods dissertation is an exploration of bodily experiences of difference and contradiction for consensual sadomasochists. With the data from an on-line survey completed by 259 self-identified consensual sadomasochists and 25 in-depth, semi-structured interviews, I explore the ways in which these participants explain their participation in consensual sadomasochism (CS) in three different, but related facets of their lives. First, I test the relationships between participants' genders, sexual orientations, and CS role performances to try and elucidate how consensual sadomasochists use their bodies to perform masculinity and femininity outside of heteronormative standards. Here, I specifically use feminist and queer theoretical perspectives to discuss the implications of being able to switch from dominant to submissive roles for subverting heteronormativity. I also use these frameworks to explore sexual objectification in the second data chapter. In this chapter consensual sadomasochists describe sexual objectification as beneficial for their own body-satisfaction as well as how this sexual objectification has helped them come to terms with their experiences and feelings of difference. Finally, I discuss participants' experiences with race and class using critical race theories that are also attentive to experiences of difference. This framework allows for the examination of participants' discourses around race and ethnicity, as well as class, within their CS communities. Overall, these explorations into gendered, sexualized, raced, and classed experiences of difference for consensual sadomasochists reveal the importance of the participants' bodies in deconstructing and subverting heteronormative conceptions of these very characteristics.