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James K. Ambler, Evelyn Comber, Sarah A. Hanson, Kathryn R

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1 Sadomasochism Without Sex: A Research Study On The Dance Of Souls And A Search For The Essence Of SM
James K. Ambler, Evelyn Comber, Sarah A. Hanson, Kathryn R. Klement, Ellen M. Lee, Brad J. Sagarin, & Michael Wagner Northern Illinois University

2 Research Hypotheses Dance participants will consider the Dance as more sadomasochistic than sexual. Dance participants will feel closer to others during the Dance. Dance participants will experience an increase in positive affect and a decrease in negative affect from before to during the Dance. Dance participants’ hormonal levels will change during the Dance.

3 Materials Surveys (before, during, after) Saliva Samples
PANAS Self/Other Overlap We Relationship Flow Open-ended questions Why participate Expectations of Dance Saliva Samples Cognitive test (card-sorting task) Behavioral observations

4 Hypothesis Testing Hypothesis testing is used to determine the likelihood of there being group differences Null hypothesis – no differences Alternate hypothesis - differences A p value represents the chance, given that the null hypothesis is true, that you would obtain these results or results more extreme For example, a p = .03 means that 3% of the time, when there are no group differences, we would obtain these results or results more extreme Another way of looking at this, when there are no group differences, 97% of the time we wouldn’t obtain results this extreme In psychology, we use a 5% cut-off (p = .05); this number is arbitrary but represents what we consider to be acceptable risk

5 Correlation Coefficient
The relationship between two standard variables They range from -1 to +1 -1=negative relationship 0=no relationship +1=positive relationship Indicates a strength of a relationship (larger number indicates stronger relationship) Just because there is a correlation between two variables does not mean that one causes the other For example, the positive relationship between shark attacks and ice cream sales

6 Types of Correlations Perfect positive correlation (+1.00)
Perfect negative correlation (-1.00) No relationship (0.00)

7 Participant Demographics
Gender Males: 20, Females: 26, Transgender: 3 Sexual Orientation Straight: 15, Gay: 8, Heteroflexible: 9, Bisexual: 9, Other: 8 BDSM Roles Top: 18, Bottom: 16, Switch: 14 Age Mean: 49 years old, SD: years Range: years old

8 Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

9 Sexual Orientation and BDSM Roles

10 Sexual vs. SM Extremely p =.09 Not at all

11 Sexual vs. SM vs. Spiritual
Extremely p =.01 Not at all

12 Correlations – Sexual, SM, Spiritual
And pre self/other overlap = .527 (p = .01) And during self/other overlap = .423 ( p = .007) Sexual And pre positive affect = (p = .014) And pre sexual arousal = .487 (p = .016) And during sexual arousal = .758 (p = .001) SM And pre sexual arousal = .647 (p = .001) And during sexual arousal = .342 (p = .031)

13 Sexual Arousal Extremely p <.001 Not at all

14 Self/Other Overlap, Relationship with Others

15 Correlations – Self/Other Overlap
Pre self/other and during self/other = .463 (p = .026) Pre self/other and pre positive affect = .33 (p = .019)

16 PANAS Extremely p = .175 p = .014 Not at all

17 Correlations – Affect Pre positive affect and during positive affect = .605 (p = .001) Pre stressed and during negative affect = .502 (p = .003) Pre negative affect and pre stressed = .743 (p = .001) During stressed and during negative affect = .507 (p = .007)

18 Stressed Extremely p = .14 Not at all

19 Cortisol p = .064

20 SM Role x Sexual p = .036 p = .046

21 SM Role x Spiritual p = .057 p = .031

22 Behavioral Observations
Time Activity 1:30 pm Before-care 2:00 pm Sage burning 2:30 pm Dance begins 5:45 pm Drumming ends 6:10 pm All lights back on The Dance lasted about 4 hours Biggest group of dancers hooked together observed = 8 Not much verbal communication Dancers mostly communicated through eye contact and gestures

23 Pre-Dance Qualitative Data
Why are you participating in the Dance of Souls? What do you hope to get from the experience? “It is a wonderful way to exchange energy not just with my owner but with my tribe. It is transcendental & amazing. It is also a great way to release the negative.” “I find peace, power, and well-being at these events.” “To participate in high energetic levels and feel the transformation that can occur in myself and others.” “I have had visions and deep spiritual experiences. Or not. But it's fun anyway.”

24 During-Dance Qualitative Data
Any current thoughts or feelings during the Dance “I am in an amazing happy place. Serene yet joyous.” “Connection through the drums and the tribe and the shared energy that overrides any pain and -opens my heart and mind to a focus beyond the physical.” “Just very high!!!” “Pleasantly exhausted” “I'm very happy and aroused. I feel strong and beautiful.”

25 Post-Dance Qualitative Data
Please write down any thoughts or feelings: “All throughout the dance, I felt very present and connected with everyone else there, but also recognized the work I was doing was my own work and needed my attention. I also felt closer to the spirits of those who have walked this earth before us and the Universe's energy abuzz inside me. It was beautiful and powerful.” “Observed energetic releases of others, saw emotions stir in many; tears, anger, screaming, laughter, pure joy. Many had variety of different experiences. I got to share in all of them, and feel their release.”


27 Flow Are skills required for the Dance?

28 Major Conclusions Mainly spiritual, less sexual or SM
Increase in connectedness to others Reduction in negative affect Higher body stress response, but reported reduction in psychological stress

29 What’s happening? This talk available at

30 What’s happening?

31 Transient Hypofrontality Hypothesis
Common experiences of altered states of consciousness: time distortions disinhibition from social constraints  changes in focused attention Transient Hypofrontality States -Runner’s High  -Meditation  -Dreaming  -Day dreaming  -Hypnosis  -Various Drug Highs Specific variations: reduction of pain feelings of floating feelings of peacefulness little consistent logic difficulty with memory feeling of living in the here and now little active decision making Dietrich (2003)

32 Consciousness as a Process

33 Limited Resources “The human brain has limited resources”
Specific structures receive more blood flow “A minimum level of intensity is required to force the redistribution of resources in the brain.” Dietrich (2003)

34 Transient Hypofrontality Hypothesis
Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DL):   Important for directed attention, temporal integration, and working memory Working memory deficits cause: Less abstract thinking Less access to memory Less self-reflective consciousness Less cognitive flexibility These lead to subjective changes in consciousness Dietrich (2003)

35 Escape from the Self Motivational; the self is sometimes burdensome
“Pain gradually obliterates psychological content, eventually leaving only the awareness of pain. One’s knowledge of the world is temporarily forgotten, and attention is narrowed to the immediate present, both spatially and temporally.” (Scarry, 1985) Pain, interrupted action and failure feedback focus people’s attention BDSM play Pain Bondage Humiliation Sex as a reinforcer Baumeister (1988) Vallacher & Wegner (1987, 1989)

36 Tentative Support? Transient Hypofrontality Escape from Self
Feelings of oneness with others, with the universe Feelings of transcendence Feelings of peacefulness Spirituality, connectedness, altered consciousness Rating the Dance as more spiritual than sexual or SM Increase in ratings of self/other overlap Escape from Self Reduction in negative affect Increase in physiological stress, decrease in psychological stress

37 In Conclusion… Problems?
Cognitive testing: transient nature, appropriateness of task N size This study was not a direct test of these theories We can only interpret results cautiously The context and framing elements of the conference may influence the way participants perceived the Dance This is why we need to continue doing research! Switch Study at APEX – March 29

38 Thank you!

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