In which I explore parallels between evangelical Christianity and BDSM, though probably not in the way you're expecting

This popped up in my Digg feed this morning:

You might think that wanting to be tied up and whipped is a guaranteed sign of psychological distress, but according to a recent study, people who participate in bondage and dominance/submission play may be happier and less anxious than those with more conventional sexual tastes.

Public health researchers studied 20,000 Australians to determine that despite the stereotype that people with off-the-beaten-path sexual interests are somehow damaged, men who take part in BDSM score significantly lower on a scale of mental distress than other men.

The prurient mind immediately wonders if there is a difference between the anxiety levels of those who are beaten, and those who do the beating; being tied up and flogged does seem like the sort of thing that is supposed to make you anxious.  But that's not really where I'm going with this.

My secondmost immediate thought was, of course, of evangelical Christians.  Specifically, the fact that they report being happier than the rest of us.  The article in Christianity Today argues that this is a function of the social support provided by an inclusive community.  But I wonder if it isn't, in part, the decision to stand out from the community that leads to greater self-reported happiness.  People who have decided to do anything so far outside of the mainstream are people who a) have a powerful preference and b) have satisfied that preference.  The mainstream, on the other hand, contains all the people who have extreme preferences, but not the willpower to buck convention and satisfy them.

Against this, of course, are the people who have stayed in the evangelical Christian community since birth.  But the churn rate is quite high, which is why we all know so many people who used to be religious, and also quite a few who have found religion in adulthood.  In modern America, it's relatively easy to exit a religious community, either by a series of steps through progressively less demanding congregations, or by moving across country and letting your parents think you're still going to church.  And I'd imagine that those who have the courage to leave a church that isn't satisfying them are also happier than the run of the mill.