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The Psycological Effects of Masochism and Sadism

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By kmueller2015
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The Psychological Causes and Effects of Masochism and Sadism
Katelyn Mueller
Florida Institute of Technology

Human Sexuality
December 6, 2015

Masochism and sadism are very alike in nature. Masochism is a sexual perversion characterized by pleasure in being subjected to pain or humiliation; especially by a loved object. Sadism is the pleasure in being abused or dominated. Sadists have a taste for suffering. Masochism could be a means of escaping from one’s self. It could be a temporally extended identity. The awareness of one’s self is replaced by the focus on immediate present and on bodily sensations. Psychologists have found that the principle feature of masochism such as pain, bondage, and humiliation help accomplish the escape from high-level self-awareness. There are several different theories about where sadism began. Freud believed that instead of deriving from the pleasure principle, it derives from the death instinct. Some researchers have even looked into whether sadism could be the result of hormonal or chromosomal abnormalities. Many psychologists have considered sadism and masochism as corresponding oddities and this is supported by the finding that individuals with masochistic fantasies often have sadistic fantasies as well.

Masochism is a sexual perversion characterized by pleasure in being subjected to pain or humiliation; especially by a loved object. Sadism is the pleasure in being abused or dominated. Masochism and sadism are a lot alike in nature. I have found a lot of research about masochism and sadism that has allowed me to examine the causes and the effects of these paraphilia. There are two theories that surround the causes of masochism. I have found three different theories surrounding the causes of sadism. I want to focus on masochism first.
There are two theories surrounding the causes of masochism. There is the self-awareness theory and the action identification theory. It is possible to think about masochism and neither form of self-destruction nor a derivative of sadism. Instead of thinking of it as a derivative of sadism, maybe masochism is a means of escaping from a high-level awareness of one’s self as a representatively mediated, temporally extended identity. This awareness is replaced by the focus on the immediate present and on bodily sensations, and sometimes by a lower level of self-awareness as an object. It has been indicated that the main features of masochism such as pain, bondage, and humiliation help to accomplish the escape from one’s self.
The main idea of masochism is essentially an attempt to escape from one’s self. The person who is behaving masochistically feels that they have a new identity while performing such sexual acts. This is where the action identification theory plays in. Masochistic behavior can also be paired with physical exercise, intoxication, meditative techniques, and maybe even being a spectator. Masochism may be a little different from these because it is an unusually powerful form of self-escape and in its link to sexual pleasure. Masochism can also be used as a deterrent to unwanted thoughts and feelings; especially feelings of guilt, anxiety, or insecurity.
Masochistic sexual practices have been referred to as a pathological problem for a long time. Sigmund Freud thought of masochism as a perversion. Wilhelm Stekel linked masochism to pederasty, epilepsy, mass murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, etc. He honestly believed that all sadists and masochists were murderers and were in a temporary lapse of normality he described their company as “the kingdom of hell.” Theodore Reik said that all neurotics are masochists. In the past, masochists have been labeled as extremely disturbed, but recent studies show a surprisingly different picture. Empirical observers think that practicing masochists are normal, at least when it comes to their nonsexual activities.
Whether sexual masochism is considered pathological depends on whether one accepts the sexual practices of masochists as symptoms. If someone does not judge the sexual patterns alone in these masochist behaviors, then the majority of the people who are considered masochists appear to be normal and healthy. It is said that participating in sadomasochistic relations is compatible with a normal, sane, and even a successful life.
The prevailing theoretical position since Sigmund Freud has been that masochism is derived from sadism. In some clinical experiments, sadism is possibly the main attraction. It is also possible that the mentally ill are drawn to inflicting pain rather than receiving it. Most theorists have thought that there is a strong link between masochism and sadism and have accentuated sadism. It is apparently the more important and essential pattern. A lot of evidence contradicts these views. Masochism is far more common than sadism. The number of submissive people outnumbers the number of dominant people. The pattern in which one partner wants to dominate but the other partner is reluctant to submit is very rare. The only study that failed to find a vast majority of submissive was done by mail in Germany. This study found about equal numbers. The weight of the evidence does not support the argument that masochism derives from sadism. It is a possibility that masochism occurs without any sadistic aspects or motivations. When it comes to sadism and masochism it appears that masochism appears first. Therefore, masochism is more common and more fundamental than sadism. Masochism warrants to be the main prominence in theoretical treatments. Masochism signifies a methodical effort to temporarily eliminate the main features of the self.
Sadism is characterized by sexual urges, fantasies or behaviors that circle around the wish to control another human-being. There are a few different types of sexual sadism. There is mild sexual sadism and extreme sexual sadism. Mild sexual sadism consists of role playing with dominant and submissive roles. It also consists of the dominant partner placing the submissive partner in a position of helplessness and then he or she applies some kind of discipline or punishment. The use of gags and blindfolds are also brought into play. The dominant wants the submissive to be helpless and immobile. The dominant likes to administer pain by whipping or flagellation, usually concentrated in the buttocks area. They sometimes cross dress the submissive. The dominant likes to treat the submissive like and animal by making them crawl or caging them.
Major sexual sadism is not usually consensual. It normally involves injury or death to the victim. The fear they present and the complete control over the victim is the big sexual stimuli in major sexual sadism. Some of the acts involved in major sexual sadism is severe beatings, torture, burning, cutting, stabbing in the breasts or buttocks, rape, and sometimes necrophilia.
Sexual sadism is found mostly in males and normally comes about with puberty. Sadistic behavior can be evident earlier in children. It normally becomes evident by early adulthood. It may begin with sexual fantasies. These fantasies may never be acted out, or they may be acted out, just in more mild forms of a consensual relationship. When it comes to female sexual sadism, it comes about later and is most often triggered by being involved in relationship where the man wants to be dominated.
There are a few different theories about the origins of sexual sadism. There are psychodynamic theories, behavioral views, endocrine abnormalities, and brain abnormalities. There have been a multitude of psychodynamic theories about the origin of sadism. Most of these theories have been based on a small number of case studies. All the results were generalized from these small case studies.
Freud’s views and beliefs about sadism and masochism changed over the course of his life. Therefore, it made it difficult to track down the evolution of his thoughts. First, he hypothesized the association of assertiveness with sexuality as a combination of mental impulses. Later, he suggested a possible description was the child’s seeing the “primal scene,” coming to understand his parents having intercourse as an act of ill treatment or suppression. In 1920, Freud said that instead of deriving from the pleasure principle, sadism derives from the “death instinct.” These theories do not explain why some people develop sadism while other people do not. It does not explain why aggression is reflected as sadism in some people and as masochism in other people. Sadger suggested that children developed a propensity to sadism when their caretakers both bring sexual pleasure and deny it when introducing toilet training or stopping masturbation. Friedberg said that teething is the root of sadism.
The behavioral views focus more on treatment rather than the causes or etiological issues. It has not shown a difference between sexual sadism and sexual masochism. Some people have said that a person develops a psychic imprinting during some early sexual experience. Some people do not develop a fetish so quickly. Other people suggested that it is a slower process. This is a slower process of combining in which the person has some understanding in which he is sexually motivated and then integrating it into masturbation fantasies which are later improved and strengthened. Fascinatingly, many male sexual sadists are able to pinpoint specific incidents or a specific incident in childhood or early adolescent that produced this response, when interviewed.
Some researchers have deliberated that sadism could be the outcome of a hormonal or chromosomal abnormality. Bain et al., 1987, observed a group of 20 sadists and discovered that there were no differences on nine different hormones, including sex hormones when compared to nine different control studies. Even though there are few studies, these studies suggest possible slight abnormalities and examination of brain levels of sex hormones or LH-RH challenge testing may be worth following in further studies of sexual sadists.
Some researchers have suggested that sexual sadism is a brain disease. However, there is no evidence to support that sexual sadism in in fact a brain disease because most paraphiliacs do not show any evidence of brain damage or brain disorder. Sometimes reports of brain abnormalities in those with sadistic sexual preferences have come in. In some studies, using CT scans and neuropsychological testing, there have been associations made between sadism and the right temporal horn damage. The persons with abnormalities on different measures did not overlap entirely. In a study by Gratzer & Bradfore (1995), they indicated that fifty-five percent of their sadists showed neurological abnormalities, mainly in the temporal lobe.
Sadism is often associated with other paraphilia. Many researchers have paired sadism and masochism as complementary paraphilia. It has also been found that sexual sadism has been linked to asphyxiophilia as well. Asphyxiophilia is considered extreme masochism. Normally, with one diagnosis, there are two or three other diagnosed paraphilia as well, although, they are not often recognized or admitted. Eighteen percent of sadists were also found to be masochistic. Forty-six percent have engaged in rape. Twenty-one percent have participated in exhibitionism. Twenty-five percent have participated in voyeurism and frottage. Thirty-three percent have participated in pedophilia. Researchers have documented an overlap between masochism, fetishism, transvestism, and sadism.

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