Sexual Activity as Self-Injury: A Scoping Review


Suicide and other self-injurious behaviors (SIB) are significant causes of morbidity and mortality as well as healthcare costs. Sexual risk behaviors are associated with many SIB, and sexual activities may act as SIB as well. In this scoping review, we consider ways in which sexual activity has been conceptualized as SIB – types of sexual activities as a form of self-injury – and cases in which sexual activities as SIB have been classified as direct or indirect self-injury. We include English-language publications that discuss any aspect of sexual activity as SIB. Database, citation list, and gray literature searches yielded 33 publications. Sexual activities as a form of self-injury included exposure to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, sadomasochistic behaviors undertaken for punishment rather than pleasure, selling sex, injury to the genitals, and sexual encounters with undesired partners or consisting of undesired acts. Twenty-three publications did not categorize sexual activities to self-injure as either direct or indirect self-injury, three publications categorized them as indirect self-injury, and seven publications as direct self-injury. Sexual activity is used to self-injure in a variety of ways and its conceptualization as indirect or direct self-injury remains unclear.


Mellin JE, Young CC, Rew L, Zuniga J, Monge MC




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV- population


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