Most Americans open to sexual dominance and submission

February 13, 2015, 8:25 PM UTC

Young Americans are more likely to be interested in BDSM, but most people are open to sexual dominance and submission

Today sees the release of the movie adaptation of E. L. James' runaway erotic fiction work Fifty Shades of Grey. The book tells the story of the romance and sexual encounters of the demure Anastasia Steele, a young inexperienced student, and the millionaire Christian Grey who is aroused by inflicting pain and asserting control. The book was a watershed moment for 'BDSM', a world of sexual practices surrounding bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism, selling over 100 million copies and driving rapid growth in the sale of sex toys, as well as injuries from the use of these toys. Reviews of the movie have been mixed, however, particularly as many of the more explicit scenes from the book have been cut to assure the movie could receive an 'R' rating. 

Research conducted by YouGov in the US, UK and Germany shows that Americans (13%) and Brits (12%) are about as likely to have taken part in BDSM as each other and are more likely than Germans (8%) to have done so. In the United States younger people are far more likely to say that they have taken part in BDSM and to say that they would want to take part in it in the future. 23% of under-30s have taken part in it, while 35% would like to do it in the future. Only 20% of people aged 30-44 would like to do it, a figure that drops to 7% of people aged 45 to 64. 

50 Shades of Grey may have been a publishing sensation, but the book also faced wide ranging criticism. Criticism from people who regularly participate in BDSM was particularly vociferous, calling out the troubled relationship between Anastasia and Christian Grey and the fact that Anastasia is being emotionally manipulated or even coerced into sex acts that she otherwise would not want to take part in, in the context of a relationship that encourages the dependence of Anastasia on Christian. 

The question of whether or not a woman can be a feminist and believe in the agency of women without reference to men at the same time as wanting to be sexually submissive is something that Americans have a clear opinion on. 60% of Americans say that it's possible for a woman to want to be sexually dominated by a man and still be a feminist, something only 11% disagree with. 

On the whole, women tend to say that they would rather be submissive (21%) rather than dominant (4%) in bed, while for men sexual dominance (18%) is preferred to submissiveness (10%). Overall, 53% of the American public say that they have some sort of sexual preference for dominance or submission, with the most common answer (28%) being that they enjoy being both domaninant and submissive at different times. 33% say that they don't want to be either dominant or submissive, while 14% either don't know or prefer not to say. 

19% of American women and 6% of American men have read Fifty Shades of Grey, but desire to see the movie doesn't differ much along gender lines, with 25% of men and 27% of women saying that they would like to watch the movie adaptation. 

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here