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This article is about sadism and masochism as aspects of BDSM.

The term Sadism passed into common usage as the sexual or social pleasure or gratification in the infliction of pain and suffering upon another person. The word is derived from the name of the Marquis de Sade, a prolific French philosopher-writer of sexually violent novels and plays. The passive counterpart of sadism is masochism, the sexual pleasure or gratification of having pain or suffering inflicted upon the self, often consisting of sexual fantasies or urges for being beaten, humiliated, bound, tortured, or otherwise made to suffer, either as an enhancement to or a substitute for sexual pleasure. The name is derived from the name of the 19th century author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, known for his novel Venus in Furs that dealt with highly masochistic themes.

However, the creator of both terms, german psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebbing wrote “By masochism I understand a peculiar perversion of the psychical vita sexualis in which the individual affected, in sexual feeling and thought, is controlled by the idea of being completely and unconditionally subject to the will of a person of the opposite sex; of being treated by this person as by a master, humiliated and abused. This idea is coloured by lustful feeling; the masochist lives in fancies, in which he creates situations of this kind and often attempts to realise them”.

This shows quite clearly that pain and physical violence in its original conception were not necessarily part of the deal. Sadism and masochism, often interrelated, are collectively known as S&M or sadomasochism.

The S&M erotica is about consented humiliation and power exchange. The words are now commonly used to describe personality traits in an emotional, rather than sexual sense. Although it is quite different from the original meaning, this usage is not entirely inaccurate. There is quite frequently a strong emotional aspect to the sexual desires, taking the form of a need for domination or submission-the desire to control another, or to be controlled, as opposed to a simple desire for pain (which is technically known as algolagnia).

Pain, violence, sex and love all are associated with the release of a variety of hormones and chemicals within the human body. Furthermore, humans have been shown to exhibit sympathetic responses in their bodies while watching, hearing, or imagining such experiences.

Endorphins are released by pain experiences and can be perceived as pleasurable and possibly psychologically addictive. It is due to this same release of endorphins that people can become addicted to self harm. In this way, the acts of self harm and engaging in masochistic behavior can be similar in function though most would agree, not in causality. Brain chemicals such as serotonin and melatonin can be affected by emotional or stressful experiences.Epinephrine and norepinephrine are released during stressful or painful experiences, and can cause a pleasurable 'rush'. The effects of S&M on body chemistry possibly reinforce the behavior and therefore might create psychological states that seek to further such behavior.

The psychology of S&M

The terms sadism and masochism were first used consistently to describe these behaviors by the German psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing in his 1886 compilation of case studies Psychopathia Sexualis, a famous study. Sigmund Freud, a psychoanalyst and a contemporary of Krafft-Ebing, noted that both were often found in the same individuals, and combined the two into a single dichotomous entity known as sadomasochism (often abbreviated as S&M or S/M). This observation is commonly verified in both literature and practice; many sadists and masochists define themselves as “switchable”-capable of taking pleasure in either role. However it has also been argued (Deleuze, Coldness and Cruelty) that the concurrence of sadism and masochism in Freud's model should not be taken for granted.

It was Freud who introduced the terms “primary” and “secondary” masochism. Though this idea has come under a number of interpretations, in a primary masochism the masochist undergoes a complete, not just a partial, rejection by the model or courted object (or sadist), possibly involving the model taking a rival as his or her preferred mate. This complete rejection is related to the death drive in Freud's psychoanalysis (Todestrieb). In a secondary masochism, by contrast, the masochist experiences a less serious, more feigned rejection and punishment by the model. Secondary masochism, in other words, has the characteristics of a charade, and most commentators are quick to point out its contrivedness.

Rejection is not desired by a primary masochist in quite the same sense as the feigned rejection occurring within a relatively equal relationship–or even where the masochist happens to be the one having true power (this is the problematic that underlies the analyses of Deleuze and Sartre, for example). In Things Hidden Since the Foundation of The World Rene Girard attempts to resuscitate and reinterpret Freud's distinction of primary and secondary masochism, in connection with his own philosophy.

Both Krafft-Ebing and Freud assumed that sadism in men resulted from the distortion of the aggressive component of the male sexual instinct. Masochism in men, however, was seen as a more significant aberration, contrary to the nature of male sexuality. Freud doubted that masochism in men was ever a primary tendency, and speculated that it may exist only as a transformation of sadism. Sadomasochism in women received comparatively little discussion, as it was believed that it occurred primarily in men. Both also assumed that masochism was so inherent to female sexuality that it would be difficult to distinguish as a separate inclination.

Havelock Ellis, in Studies in the Psychology of Sex, argued that there is no clear distinction between the aspects of sadism and masochism, and that they may be regarded as complementary emotional states. He also made the important point that sadomasochism is concerned only with pain in regard to sexual pleasure, and not in regard to cruelty, as Freud had suggested. In other words, the sadomasochist generally desires that the pain be inflicted or received in love, not in abuse, for the pleasure of either one or both participants. This mutual pleasure may even be essential for the satisfaction of those involved.

Here Ellis touches upon the often paradoxical nature of consensual S&M. It is not only pain to initiate pleasure, but violence-or the simulation of violence-to express love. This contradictory character is perhaps most evident in the observation by some that not only are sadomasochistic activities usually done for the benefit of the masochist, but that it is often the masochist that controls them, through subtle emotional cues received by the sadist.

In his essay Coldness and Cruelty, (originally Présentation de Sacher-Masoch, 1967) Gilles Deleuze rejects the term 'sadomasochism' as artificial, especially in the context of the prototypical masochistic work, Sacher-Masoch's Venus In Furs. Deleuze instead argues that the tendency toward masochism is based on desire brought on from the delay of gratification. Taken to its extreme, an infinite delay, this is manifested as perpetual coldness. The masochist derives pleasure from, as Deleuze puts it, The Contract: the process by which he can control another individual and turn the individual into someone cold and callous. The Sadist, in contrast, derives pleasure from The Law: the unavoidable power that places one person below another. The sadist attempts to destroy the ego in an effort to unify the id and superego, in effect gratifying the most base desires the sadist can express while ignoring or completely suppressing the will of the ego, or of the conscience. Thus, Deleuze attempts to argue that Masochism and Sadism arise from such different impulses that the combination of the two terms is meaningless and misleading. The perceived sadistic capabilities of masochists are treated by Deleuze as reactions to masochism. Indeed, in the epilogue of Venus In Furs, the character of Severin has become bitter from his experiment in masochism, and advocates instead the domination of women.

Before Deleuze, however, Sartre had presented his own theory of sadism and masochism, at which Deleuze's deconstructive attack, which took away the symmetry of the two roles, was probably directed. By virtue of the fact that the pleasure or power in looking at the victim figures prominently in sadism and masochism, Sartre was able to link these phenomena to his famous philosophy of the Look of the Other. Sartre argued that masochism is an attempt by the For-itself (consciousness) to reduce itself to nothing, becoming an object that is drowned out by the “abyss of the Other's subjectivity” By this Sartre means that, given that the For-itself desires to attain a point of view in which it is both subject and object, one possible strategy is to gather and intensify every feeling and posture in which the self appears as an object to be rejected, tested, and humiliated; and in this way the For-itself strives toward a point of view in which there is only one subjectivity in the relationship, which would be both that of the abuser and the abused. Conversely, of course, Sartre held sadism to be the effort to annihilate the subjectivity of the victim. That would mean that the sadist, who is exhilarated in the emotional distress of the victim, is such because he or she also seeks to assume a subjectivity which would take a point of view on the victim, and on itself, as both subject and object.

This argument may appear stronger if it is somehow understood that the Look of the Other is either only an aspect of the o