The Science of BDSM Research Team is led by professor of social psychology, Dr. Brad Sagarin, and composed of academics and community members. Members of the team include graduate and undergraduate students in a variety of fields, professors of psychology, clinical psychologists, and kinky people who are interested in supporting research. The team aspires to produce and disseminate quality research on BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism), and kink related topics.

The team seeks to understand the nature, dynamics, motivations, and effects of BDSM activities and relationships. To do so, it is committed to designing and conducting ethical studies, thoughtfully analyzing and interpreting data, and disseminating the results in as objective a manner as possible.

The team assumes that many people do BDSM for psychologically healthy reasons, and believes that de-pathologizing BDSM will help the scientific community and the BDSM community. The team anticipates that its research will yield a mix of findings, some congenial to a view of BDSM as healthy and some not, and it is dedicated to being open and transparent about all of its findings.


Before the team developed into what it is today, it first began as a series of meetings set up by Brad Sagarin and Evelyn Comber to support research assistants (including Sarah A. Hanson) in their work transcribing interviews from Evelyn’s master’s thesis. The interviews were with BDSM practitioners, and Evelyn and Brad wanted to meet periodically with the transcribers in a group to discuss what they were hearing. As the discussion of these meetings expanded beyond these interviews, other people, including Bert Cutler, started joining the team.

Bert, who previously collaborated on BDSM research with Brad, encouraged the team to move beyond discussion to presenting at BDSM/Leather conferences and conducting research. With Bert’s encouragement, the team did just that. Bert arranged the team’s first presentation at the 2011 Southwest Leather Conference (SWLC) where they presented, “The Science of SM.”

The team has since presented at other BDSM/Leather organizations and conferences including: Galleria Domain 2 in Chicago, Cleveland Leather Alliance Weekend (CLAW), the Society of Janus, the Leather Levi Weekend (LLW), Frolicon, the Master/slave Conference, Power Exchange Summit, Great Lakes Leather Alliance, and Winter Wickedness. They have also collected data for studies hosted by the Arizona Power Exchange, Edgewalkers, SWLC, LLW, Thunder in the Mountains, and Eldritch Brothers Tattoo & Piercing.

The Team

DR. BRAD SAGARIN is a professor of social and evolutionary psychology at Northern Illinois University where he studies social influence, resistance to persuasion, deception, jealousy, infidelity, human sexuality, and statistics. Brad has been published in a variety of scholarly journals, has given radio, television, and podcast interviews, has consulted for radio and television programs, and has delivered invited lectures to academic and non-academic organizations. His research has been cited in newspapers and magazines, including The Economist and New Scientist. He holds Doctorate and Master's degrees in Social Psychology from Arizona State University, and a Baccalaureate degree in Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

JENNIFER ERICKSON is a graduate student in the Social/Industrial-Organizational Psychology program at Northern Illinois University. Her primary research interests include the motivations for the voluntary experience of pain, altered states of consciousness, extreme rituals, and sadism. As part of the Science of BDSM research team, Jen has presented workshops at many locations, including the Southwest Leather Conference, Master/slave Conference, Great Lakes Leather Alliance, Kinky Kollege, and Galleria Domain 2. Jen received her Baccalaureate degree in psychology from Northern Illinois University.

HANNAH TARLETON is a graduate student in the Social/I-O program at Northern Illinois University. Her primary research interests are consent, kink identity, and sex education. She has worked as a peer health educator during undergrad, focusing on sex education, and has presented about BDSM to a diverse array of (presumably) vanilla audiences prior to joining the team. She is excited about getting to present without having to attempt to define BDSM every time. She received a Bachelor of Science degree double majored in Biology and Psychology from Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College.

KEVIN CASEY is a retired Clinical Psychologist (Canada) with nearly two decades of clinical practice. Additionally, Kevin is the 2017 International Power Exchange title-holder, along with his wife (and best friend), katie. They have built a reputation for excellence in presenting and consulting regarding intentional inegalitarian relationships (i.e., Authority Transfer or Power Exchange) since 2003. Kevin briefly returned to graduate school at NIU in order to gain foundation research skills to apply toward his interest in understanding Authority Transfer relationships. After a basic primer in stats and research methods he has re-retired in Kentucky, with a plan to lecture and publish on Authority Transfer topics.

DR. ELLEN LEE is an assistant professor at Coe College in Iowa. Her research interests include romantic relationships, power exchange, sexual behavior, sexual arousal and disgust, stress, and stereotypes. As a member of the research team since 2011, she has presented workshops at the Southwest Leather Conference, the Leather Levi Weekend, the Master/slave Conference, Power Exchange Summit, Great Lakes Leather Alliance, Winter Wickedness, Kinky Kollege, and the Society of Janus. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Loyola University in Chicago and Doctorate and Master's degrees from Northern Illinois University.

DR. KATHRYN KLEMENT is an assistant professor of social psychology at Bemidji State University. Her primary research interest is human sexuality, and she has lines of work in sadomasochism, virginity and purity culture, rape culture, and abortion. She has presented research on sadomasochism at national psychology conferences, as well as leather community conferences. She received her doctorate from Northern Illinois University and both her Masters degree and her Baccalaureate degree in psychology from Concordia University Chicago.

LICA SATO-KEANE is an alumnus of Northern Illinois University with a degree in Psychology and minor in Business Administration. Her research focus is human sexuality with an emphasis on sexual orientation and power exchange dynamics. Her undergraduate thesis "Asexuality in Relation to Sociosexuality, Disgust, Purity, and Rape Myths" examines the definition of asexuality by exploring new variables and the measurement of asexuality on a continuum. Lica has presented The Science of BDSM research at Southwest Leather Conference, Galleria Domain 2, and Great Lakes Leather Alliance.

SARAH A. HANSON graduated from Northern Illinois University with her M.A. in Sociology in 2013, and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Sociology at Georgia State University. Her master's thesis, titled "From Both Sides of the Whip: Authentic Authenticity Among Switches in the BDSM Community" focused on how people who switch roles in the SM community must manage, maintain, and negotiate their identity. Her main research interests are gender, sex, and sexuality and various topics include the intersection of these with pornography, BDSM, relationship satisfaction, and queer social movements. Sarah likes to travel when she can, and loves to be able to read a novel here and there.

DR. BERT CUTLER (AKA Master Bert) earned his Doctorate from The Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (with his dissertation on Long Term BDSM Relationships). Retired as a professor of film, Master Bert is a founder of the Arizona Power Exchange, Inc., a founding board member of Butchmanns Inc., a former board member of Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS), holds the title of International Master 2003, and a presenter at BDSM conferences and events. He brings to the team an ongoing interest in intentional authority transfer relationships, an insider view of the BDSM community, and a history of positive community relations and good will.

NADINE CUTLER (AKA slave nadine) is a licensed massage therapist, a research assistant, a founder of the Arizona Power Exchange, Inc., holder of the title International slave 2003, an instructor at Women's Butchmanns Experience since its first event in 2004, and a faculty member at Butchmanns Pansexual Experience. In 1984, she was formally collared by Master Bert as his slave, best friend, wife, and collaborator.