PhD Student Briana Kunstman Appointed to APA Division 44 Task Force

Briana L Kunstman at the 2023 Annual Conference of The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality presenting her project, "All Tied Up: The Stigma And Biases Surrounding BDSM And Kink For Mental Health Providers".

Social-Personality Psychology PhD student Briana Kunstman was recently appointed to the newly formed BDSM Task Force within APA Division 44. The task force focuses on research, education and training, psychological practice, public interest, and public awareness related to kink, leather, BDSM, fetish, and other forms of alternative sexualities and communities.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Could you provide some background on the motivation behind applying to join the Task Force? What inspired you to take it on?
BDSM, kink, and alternative sexualities research is my primary field of work and I am incredibly passionate about it. It is crucial to engage with others who do this work and are contributing to the advancement of knowledge, inclusivity, and the welfare of individuals engaged in BDSM. This task force will allow me to work as a part of a larger group that is addressing the needs and challenges faced by the BDSM community.

What do you consider the most significant or impactful aspect of this opportunity for the field of psychology or the university community?
The primary aim of the BDSM Task force is to continue the exploration of various aspects such as health, personality differences, identity formation, and community belonging for those in BDSM and kink and alternative sexuality practices and lifestyles. It is my belief that this team can work to explore research that will make significant strides in addressing the needs and challenges faced by the BDSM community.

Major projects often come with challenges. Could you share a key challenge you faced? 
Unfortunately, there are significant amounts of stigma and biases towards BDSM, kink, and alternative sexuality practices, communities and lifestyles. With this in mind, researchers in this area often must overcome stereotyping and assumptions regarding their work or personal lives.

On a personal note, what does this achievement mean to you? How does it contribute to your own growth and aspirations?
My participation in the BDSM Task Force serves as a reminder that my research is necessary and important. The task force aims to make a positive difference, and this has always been my goal; I want to de-stigmatize and de-pathologize BDSM, kink, and alternative sexualities, practices, and communities.

Are there individuals, teams, mentors, or supporters you'd like to acknowledge for their contributions to this opportunity's success?
I'd like to extend a thank you to Dr. Jaime Derringer, Dr. Ava Briley, and my EPIC Lab mates who have been incredibly open to learning more about BDSM and kink studies. They have been a crucial part in the development of my work.