Below, you can find abstracts for my published work. If you’d like to see the full texts, please feel free to contact me. And if you’re looking for projects I’m currently working on, check out my Research-blog page

Healing narratives in BDSM: Kink discourses and their potential for both larger application and de-pathologising of non-normative practices


Since Barker et al. (2007), in both mainstream cultural products and academic literature more emanations have emerged of the “healing narrative” in BDSM, which suggests that BDSM practices offer therapeutic potential. However, no significant attempt has been made at exploring in more detail the problematic relationship between this healing narrative and the history of pathologization of sadomasochistic tendencies and practices. Barker et al. rightly point out that in suggesting that BDSM has healing potential, one runs the risk of implying that people practicing BDSM are in need of healing to begin with. This would damage the image of BDSM, which after centuries of pathologization appears to finally be moving into a realm of acceptability, as shown by both the changes in DSM IV and the increased visibility in mainstream culture.

However, the experiences of BDSM practitioners that describe their practices as healing should not be discounted and could actually help develop a more positive reputation for the set of practices. This makes the issue a political one, meaning that a solution could be found in reconceptualizing the tension as pointed out by Barker et al. In this paper, through an exploration of the concept of “healing” in cultural objects such as the film Secretary (2002) and the Showtime tv show Billions (2016- ) this issue will be further investigated, leading to a way out of the apparent double-bind. The aim is to come to a different understanding of the therapeutic potential of BDSM, which would not only reframe the discourse of pathologization surrounding BDSM, but also to further the political goal of creating space for BDSM practitioners to explore their desires without having to experience stigmatization.

M. Susanne Schotanus. ‘Healing narratives in BDSM: Kink discourses and their potential for both larger application and de-pathologising of non-normative practices,’ in: Everyday Kink: Practice & Portrayal. Kylo-Patrick Hart and Teresa Cutler-Broyles (Eds.) Emerald, Forthcoming: 2020. 

Pleasurable Fear in the BDSM experience : Nine ½ Weeks, Affect Theory and the BDSM attitude


This article will explore the apparent paradox of “pleasurable fear” in BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and submission, Sadism and masochism) phenomena. Both elements of this paradox will be explored: the understanding of fear as necessarily unpleasurable, and the phenomenon of the erotization of fear itself. Through an analysis of scenes of the 1986 film Nine ½ Weeks – a movie, which has the erotic instrumentalization of fear as a main theme – the potential of fear in intimate BDSM experiences will be explored. Building on previous work on the concept of fear in affect theory – most notably Tomkins, Sedgwick and Massumi – this paper explores how fear is instrumentalized to increase pleasure in these unique forms of erotic intimate practices and interpersonal relationships called BDSM. Until now, “pleasurable fear” has rarely been explored, in all save for one academic discipline; in the study of horror movies, this phenomenon is starting to be acknowledged. Julian Hanich’s Cinematic Fear in Horror Films and Thrillers is one of the first volumes to focus on this phenomenon, and therefore will provide a second tier on which to build my analysis. With these theorists, we will see how fear can produce a sense of empowerment, a change in temporal experience and a stronger sensitivity to sensorial impulses. Through these elements, especially the increased sensory focus, fear functions as an amplifier. In BDSM experiences, this amplifying potential is used to increase already pleasurable sensations as well as the experience of intimacy between partners. An exploration of this potential then, will prove to offer valuable insights for both the study and the instrumentalization of affect itself (of which fear is a prime example). This way, it will be shown how affect theory can be made productive in ethical, affective intimacies both in and beyond the study of BDSM phenomena.

M. Susanne Schotanus. ‘Pleasurable Fear in the BDSM experience: Nine ½ Weeks, Affect Theory and the BDSM attitude.’ Journal for the International Network for Sexual Ethics and Politics (INSEP), forthcoming: 2020

Racism or Race Play: A Conceptual Investigation of the Race Play Debates


Racism or Race Play


On the ninth of February 2017 erotic video platform ManyVids caused a scandal among their members on Twitter when a “racist woman” was given the MV Social Media Slayer of the Year. This caused a public outrage over racist content. A day later, the ManyVids removed all ‘raceplay’ video’s on the site, with a public statement that conflated race play and racism. The result was again a heated discussion on Twitter about personal rights, racism and discrimination against specific fetishes. Race play – which is a sexual practice where the either imagined or real racial background of one or more of the participants is used to create a BDSM-scene (Bondage, Dominance/Discipline, Submission/Sadism and Masochism) – lies on the intersection between highly contested racial and sexual minorities, which allows for valuable investigations into the ways we negotiate these concepts. However, in academic research this phenomenon has mainly been overlooked.

This article uses the ManyVids incident as a starting point to use phenomenological investigations and discourse analysis to show how the phenomenon of race play can offer new insights into the relationship between collective identities and personal agency. For people from racial minorities, their choosing to engage in and even their enjoyment of these practices is often justified by pointing out that the race play scene is a site of fantasy and therefore accepting race play is different from accepting (institutionalized forms of) racism. However, looking at the ManyVids controversy we see the argument is not convincing to everyone. Interestingly, as some people in the Twitter discussion pointed out, the media platform did not decide to take down clips in which rape and incest are simulated. Apparently, with these categories of porn, the fantasy/reality distinctions are grounds for acceptance of these practices whereas the same cannot be said for race play videos.

The person of Mollena Williams will also be brought into the discussion. This prominent educator and agent of BDSM and race play has argued in both interviews and performances that for her BDSM scenes in which she re-enacts the experience of her ancestors as African American slaves, are a way to access and process her own cultural trauma. She has even expressed that her ability to do so is empowering to her as an African American woman. This also sheds light on another tension: though most would agree that a person should have the right to choose how to deal with their own traumas, would we also want to be accepting towards people who actively go searching for pornographic video’s where racist slurs and symbols are being used as an erotic device?

With porn we see a distinction between fantasy and reality, but not when it comes to race. To what extent is the distinction clear, how can it be that racialized content makes this boundary disappear? I argue that it is the aforementioned tension between representationalism and personal agency that is at the core of this issue and that we will have to see the controversies about race play, and with it the ManyVids incident, in this context. Even though this apparent tension between individual agency and representationalism is most clearly visible when we look at race play, I argue that it is actually present in most dealings with minorities and can be a problematic and unintended outcome of the ways we think about and try to protect these groups.

Read the online open access version of the entire paper here.

Susanne Schotanus. ‘Racism or Race Play: A Conceptual Investigation of the Race Play Debates.’ Zapruder World 4, 2017.