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Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities

15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1442217355
ISBN-10: 1442217359
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Editorial Reviews


Written by a psychotherapist who specializes in kink-friendly sex therapy and a research psychologist, this book offers a nonjudgmental glimpse into the world of BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/ submission, sadism/masochism). In a supportive tone, Ortmann and Sprott discuss the way society misunderstands a potentially healthy set of sexual behaviors, employing largely Jungian analysis to explain the appeal of kinky play and including a generous selection of fascinating case studies drawn from Ortmann’s private practice. The book provides encouragement for people who feel marginalized by their sexual preferences (and includes a guide to finding a sex therapist). The authors definitively dismiss popular claims that BDSM practitioners are mentally unwell or that their behaviors result from abusive childhoods. Instead, they describe the eroticism of power, the playacting of shame, and even show how this kind of play can serve as its own form of therapy. Ortmann and Sprott highlight the difference between the appearance of a behavior and its “psychological meaning and impact.” The heart of the work is the individual stories of Ortmann’s clients, chief among them the moving stories of BDSM practitioners “coming out” as “kinky” to the people in their lives. (Publishers Weekly)

This BDSM guide offers in-depth information for the curious, newbies, and the skeptical. Ortmann is a kink-friendly psychotherapist, sex therapist, and writer; Sprott a research psychologist with academic credentials. The tone is both readable and supportive in describing components of sexual behavior commonly included within BDSM: restraint, pressure, sensation, and power exchange. Throughout, elements of consent, community, mutuality, and safety are emphasized. Especially useful are case studies and sample dialogs illustrating helpful vs. toxic therapist-to-patient dialogs, as well as interpartner conversations. This is not a sex manual, however, and readers are referred to other books for how-to and how-not-to information. A full chapter addresses finding a good counselor or therapist. VERDICT Kinksters, friends and families, and helping professionals are all at risk for misunderstanding BDSM owing to a lack of knowledge. Learning about consent, community, mutuality, and safety can reduce physical and psychological risk. This strongly recommended primer will go a long way toward supporting safer and more enjoyably diverse sexualities. (Library Journal)

Every once in a while, a book comes along that shines like a star in a vast, dark sky of words. While the subject matter — BDSM sexualities — hardly seems like the stuff of which literary classics are made, David Ortmann and Richard Sprott’s brave new book, Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities, is certainly worthy of note. Conversational in style, thick with rich descriptions of actual people, and brimming with uncommon wisdom appropriate for a post-Millineal mindset, this is a book to be borne proudly. (Plus it’s bound to be a great conversation starter on the subway commute home.) . . . You don’t have to be a sexual outsider to enjoy this book. What is required is a nonjudgmental curiosity about human sexuality in all its myriad forms. If you fit this criteria, then this is an excellent read that I highly recommend. (Out In Jersey)

As a sex therapist who specializes in sexual minority practices, I have read virtually every book written on BDSM in the past 30 years. Sexual Outsiders is truly one of a kind. The way the authors have woven in Richard Sprott's background in science with David Ortmann's clinical practice made for a very compelling read. The case studies were brilliant and kept me turning the pages in anticipation of how each story would turn out. This book is a wonderful contribution to our field. (Neil Cannon, Ph.D., LMFT, Certified Sex Therapist & Couples Counselor, Denver, Colorado)

Sexual Outsiders is a significant contribution helping everyone to accept and understand their (or their loved one’s) BDSM interests. (Charles Moser Ph.D., Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality)

This is the book I needed 15 years ago when I started stumbling my way through treating the KINK community. It's answered all my questions. It should be mandatory reading for all ethical clinicians who should know something about treating alternative sexualities by now. The clinical community needs to STOP re-traumatizing, marginalizing, pathologizing, and trying to "fix" the people who come to them for help. Either they need to learn the skills taught in this book, or refer "sexual outsiders" out to someone educated, trained and willing to give these individuals the treatment they need and deserve. This book is for anyone who practices BDSM, treats patients struggling with related issues, and for anyone interested in further understanding this lifestyle and its community. (Dorothy Hayden, LCSW, Manhattan Center for Sex Addiction Therapy, Kink-Aware psychotherapist, speaker and author)

Every person who identifies as BDSM and every therapist treating them should read this book. (David J. Ley, Ph.D., author of The Myth of Sex Addiction and Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and The Men Who Love Them)

Sexual Outsiders is a brave and lucid exploration of ways honest, open, intimate sexuality can help to heal some emotional and psychological wounds, and of the need for self-understanding to make such intimacy possible. (William A. Henkin, Ph.D., co-author: Consensual Sadomasochism: How to Talk About It and How to Do It Safely)

As an out-kinky person for 40 years, and as a psychotherapist, I found Ortmann and Sprott's new book Sexual Outsiders to be a report on being kinky from a psychological point of view. Sexual Outsiders offers the reader an invaluable amalgamation of kink identities. Whether the reader be a leather-newbie, a vanilla but kink-friendly therapist, a curious friend of a kinkster, or anyone who may be in contact with BDSM folk, Sexual Outsiders is a book you won't want to miss. As the commodification of BDSM culture proliferates, it will be books like Sexual Outsiders that'll prove to be a positive catalyst toward ending social stigma, and to putting suffering back in the dungeon where it belongs. (Winston Wilde, DHS, LMFT, doctor of human sexuality, licensed marriage & family therapist, certified sex therapist)

David Ortmann and Richard Sprott are pioneers in developing this roadmap for kink-affirmative psychotherapy. People in the BDSM community, or those practicing in secrecy, will read this book, especially the moving personal stories, and feel like they are in a support group. Professionals will have their minds - and knowledge base- opened and expanded. Sexual Outsiders breaks new ground. (Margie Nichols, Ph.D., executive director of Institute for Personal Growth Psychotherapy for the LGBT and Alternative Sexuality Communities since 1983)

In Sexual Outsiders, authors David Ortmann and Richard Sprott perfectly complement each other writing about research, theory, and therapeutic practice with clients who are sexual adventurers. In an excellent and thoughtful deconstruction of the mainstream sexual culture, they explore the question of "how did we get here?" and, further, "how can we get somewhere better?" They propose the acceptance and honoring of the rich complexities of sexual diversity as a path for escaping the imposed shame that can constrict out lives, as they offer a wonderful guidebook to outsider sex and understanding power as an erotic resource. Read and learn from these warriors for sexual freedom as they show us how to explore our precious inner wilderness. (Dossie Easton, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist; co-author of The Ethical Slut)

Sexual Outsiders serves as a gentle introduction to BDSM while exploring the psychological needs of people who decide to explore this powerful realm of sexuality. There are few books that so beautifully position themselves as BDSM primers for the curious newcomer as well as the partners, friends and family of BDSM practitioners. This book does just that brilliantly and is destined to become a classic of the genre. (Race Bannon, co-founder of Kink Aware Professionals, author of Learning The Ropes: A Basic Guide to Safe and Fun BDSM Lovemaking, and blogger (

About the Author

David M. Ortmann, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, sex therapist and author in private practice. His work has been published in journals, magazines, and anthologies of fiction and non-fiction. His areas of clinical focus and study are the sexuality of the BDSM, Leather and Kink communities, concepts and theories of masculinity, and the processes of human attachment and differentiation. He speaks locally and nationally in an effort to promote Leather, Kink, and BDSM community visibility and improve clinical psychotherapeutic interventions for these populations.

Ortmann is a member of The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), the Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology (NCSPP) and is one of the founding members of the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS).

Richard Sprott, Ph.D., is a research psychologist in developmental science and lecturer in the Department of Human Development and Women’s Studies at California State University, East Bay. He is the executive director of CARAS, the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities, a community-academic partnership to enhance and encourage scientific investigation and scholarly analysis of under-studied sexualities, like BDSM and polyamory.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (November 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442217359
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442217355
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #714,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lyle Swallow on December 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book authors Ortman and Sproat do an amazing job of discussing in a very non-judgmental way the realities and ramifications of kink in a way that is helpful to uninformed public, the participants and the therapy community. This is a great balance of science/research paired with very compelling case studies.

This should be required reading for EVERY mental health practitioner who has any possibility of interacting with a client whose sexuality includes BDSM. The discussions from the point of view of the therapist are insightful and eye-opening. The scientific discussion is written in an style that is easily understood and clear - it quickly dispenses with the more traditional assumption that people who include kink in their sex lives are sick, damaged, abnormal or need help. The authors convincingly show that BDSM is not good or bad - it just "is" - whether it is good or bad depends upon how it is used in in which relationships it is used.

The book is organized in a very rational format that is easy to read and compelling. As a non-clinician, I found the writing to be very reachable.

Bravo to the authors for this landmark work!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cris on December 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities by Ortmann and Sprout is insightfully written. Delving into a world that by some is concidered "taboo" or "weird" this book breaks down those walls and judements in an extremely honest, open, informative way. By sharing case studies, the reader is introuduced to people who are in the BDSM communities, this allows us to see into their lives, and understand how being involved in a community people often shun(people are often afriad of what they don't understand) effects them in everyday life. This book explains the termonolgy of this world in an informative, understandable way, not too clinical that it leaves you shaking your head and wondering :"huh?" If you ever had any questions about this subject, an active member of the BDSM community or have a friend or family member who is this is a MUST read for you as well as for them. Reading this book is has truly educated me on this subject and answered questions I had. I highly recomend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David J. Ley on November 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Sexual Outsiders by Ortmann and Sprott is an exceptional book that introduces readers to the world of BDSM and kink, through the eyes of a therapist and research psychologist. But, Ortmann and Sprott are not content to merely knock down the assumptions that people into kink are disturbed or damaged. Instead, their book allows readers to truly experience and empathize with the lives, needs and choices of people who make kink a part of their lives, both in the bedroom and out of it. I see many, many therapists who base their assumptions and beliefs about BDSM on what they see on television. Those folks need to read this book. The case studies that the book includes are fascinating, richly detailed and marvelous introductions to the real reasons that underlie how, and why, people choose to incorporate these sexual practices into their lives.

The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey has led to a social acknowledgment that BDSM is a common, powerful fantasy and desire for many people. Now, Sexual Outsiders can help those people and their therapists, to understand and incorporate their sexual desires into a healthy life of authenticity and responsible choices.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Warputty on January 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An accessible, straightforward, and mind-blowing introduction to the wide spectrum of sexual desires and needs that, in some way, likely rest within all of us.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth S. on June 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In our recent discussion about Sexual Outsiders, a student said: "I couldn't put it down!" I agree. This delightful book is an incredibly easy read, especially for being so densely packed with information. Ortman and Sprott's presentation of a potentially tricky topic is conversational and approachable, weaving interview data with clinical analysis and stories from their practices, and putting it all in a theraputic framework. Sexual Outsiders does not naively present BDSM as a universal good that everyone should try, but instead recognizes it as a complex sexual style that can have both positive and negative expressions.

Sexual Outsiders provides an overview of BDSM and is especially useful for introducing the idea to people who have not previously considered it in a theraputic context. Longtime kinksters (or people who are kinky, the community language for BDSM sexuality) will not find much new in this book, but they can certainly appreciate the beautiful way Ortman and Sprott explain key concepts such as power exchange and other lingo that is specific to kink interactions. They describe some of the ways people get interested in BDSM and explore the processes of coming out as kinky to one's self and others. Chapter four, Stories of Personal Growth and Healing, was especially touching for me, and reading about the tremendous personal growth and healing some people experience as a result of intense role-play and sensation gave me fresh insight on kinky sexualities and practitioners. Sexual Outsiders also looks at how things can go wrong and when BDSM is contraindicated, as well as the relationship dynamics that can make power erotic.
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