Bondage & Discipline, Submission, S & M

Who Becomes a Sado-Masochist

By Terence Sellers

Author of : The correct Sadist

A question often presented to me, who am an acknowledged authority on the subject is: what makes a person a Sado-Masochist? Sado-Masochism is a complex parapathy, that always manifests obsessive symptoms. There does seem to be a very wide variety of determinants; yet I would vouch that a temperamental tendency, which is as close as we can get to an inborn trait, predisposes one to require, and thus to prefer the power-play of Sado-Masochism in the sexual and affective life, over the gentler forms of love.

"The investigation of the Sado-Masochistic paraphilia is like a journey through the inferno of human brutalities."

(This and all quotes following are from Wilhelm Stekel's work, "Sadism and Masochism".)

Stekel affirms that Sado-Masochism plays a very large part in the structure of every sexual perversion. Therefore it behooves anyone who is possessed of a sexual anomaly to make a study of the Sado-Masochist's especial logic.

The entire emotional life of the Sado-Masochist clusters about a fixed idea. This might be as minute as a word; could manifest as a fixation on a physical type; might stay forever worshipful before a fetish; or will revolve within an elaborate fiction, with multiple characters, specific locations, costuming and dialogue. While this last may impress us as a higher evolution in sexuality, one must remember that such scenarios are fixed, unyielding, and in reality represent a tragic restrictiveness in the emotional life.

The fixed idea of the Sado-Masochist is anchored in early life, in the first relationships of the child. For within the family was that first, specific 'scene' enacted. "The first sin is the incest complex, and hatred towards those nearest one... the specific 'scene' of the sadomasochist is to be understood as a fiction, in which many infantile incidents are condensed to one single scene."

In consequence of the hate-love fixation upon an infantile object, Sado-Masochists are often incapable of deep and abiding love, and are impotent to interact in a flexible, free give-and-take with another person, even should they desire to. Usually the sadomasochism may be linked to a single member of the family who excited the parapathy, but "frequently the entire family is the secret harem of the sadist".

Stekel thinks that this incapacity to feel love - (that submissive, unconditional emotion) - that this 'incommunicado' of body, mind and psyche creates in time physical impotence in the male, and frigidity in the woman. "But where there is some potency, the 'proper orgasm' is lacking." By this he no doubt means the fullest and most gratifying sexual orgasm remains in reserve for the Sado-Masochistic fantasy. "Their highest pleasure is always attained through the autoerotic act - which means only with the aid of the imagined, specific 'scene'."

The creation of the Sado-Masochistic 'scene' is only creative in that the Sado-Masochist has determined not to succumb to his normal impotence; has allowed himself the 'illicit' acting out of the 'scene'. The fiction itself is (sometimes tragically) determined; it arises from the subconscious with all 'primordial' emotions intact. "The fixation upon an incestuous object is unconscious, and disguised through inversion and displacement." Thus one does not consciously, auto-erotically enjoy one's father, but an image, let us say, of great power and authority, perhaps tall and forbidding, and wearing a certain kind of hat...

The most definitive psychogenesis of Sado-Masochism, according to our Maestro Stekel, is jealousy within the family circle. Jealousy is the wellspring of hatred. "The effect of jealousy cannot be overestimated ... it effects ideas of putting someone out of the way, fantasies of revenge, which are repressed, but which form the nucleus of the masochistic feeling of inferiority. The sadistic and masochistic intertwining fantasies are only variations of these original ideas of revenge."

An unhappy of marriage between one's parents is another psychogenesis of sadomasochism. On one hand, an unhappy mother or father may, without reserve,transfer onto the child any unrequited love and affection. Into this love will be infused some degree of antipathy towards the other parent, demonizing that sex. On the other hand, hatred may be projected onto the child, reflecting the hatred towards the spouse. For the child is a fetter, binding one to the despised husband or wife. Such marriages filled with hatred are seed-beds thus, generating forcibly, in the childish mind, archtypical images of evil to whom one is irrevocably bound.

In sadomasochistic men, the faithlessness and/or promiscuity of the mother/mother figure is extremely determining ; positing for his sexuality either punishing sadism towards women, or submissive placativeness towards women who do not love him. In sadomasochistic women, again a type of 'Don Juan' character in the father, rake-hellishness and cavalier attitudes, will create in the woman a similar punishing persona, or a fixation upon men indifferent to her. How does this occur in the psyche?

"The parent is despised for the promiscuity; the hatred splits off and carries over to the entire sex; then, the sense of guilt and overcompensation result in a deification of the original, dishonored incest object." Deification! So the beloved is a god we worship - or gleefully blaspheme. But never again are we free of that god.

The sexual activities of the parents may as well enliven in the child images of force and terrifying violence. It has been documented that normal sexual intercourse may appear to a child to be an act of violence upon the mother. Arguments and strife, followed by kissing and making-up, also may determine in a child that connection between violence and love.

Stekel also observes that "children will not tolerate parents' interference in their own sexual life." Strict patrolling of a child's onanism, enraged punishments of infantile sexual play "will readily produce an attitude of hatred in the child towards parents." For it is pleasure they are feeling, after all - and who are these people to stop their pleasure? Still, the onus remains, and their pleasure is then intermingled with the idea of a deserved punishment.

Yet none of these demonstrations of the violence inherent in sex and love will determine the creation of a Sado-Masochist, unless "hate is permitted to strike its roots early and deep into the heart of a child." By this might we understand that jealousy in a child should always be assuaged; the sexual life of the parents should remain behind closed doors; and if one is given to arguments, it is better to divorce, than to have the child ruined, as it were, by perverted demonstrations of a spoiled love.

Stekel also illustrates cases of the traumatizing effect, towards the development of Sado-Masochistic obsession, of viewing violent scenes - an objection which we might assuredly understand as pertinent to carry over in our uninhibitedly violent times.

Here is his form of that rule as per the 1800s: "The evil practice of allowing children to look on, when animals are slaughtered; letting them see pictures in illustrated papers which represent brutal scenes - all have a devastating effect upon the child's affective life."

"Fairy tales are frequently the nucleus of a sadomasochistic fantasy." (See his Case #57). "One should refrain from telling children frightful stories, even in fun, or in carrying out sadistically colored play." Yet who has not observed how much children love, and gravitate to, stories of horror, cannibalism, murder, imprisonment and loss? And why are fairy tales themselves so violent? I would venture to say it is because violence is a commonplace in human life...

Punishment by whipping still proves the best method for the development of Sado-Masochism. It is known as 'the English vice', as beatings were (and are) an everyday fact of disciplinary life in the English private schools. Stekel goes to great lengths to quote many classical sources vouching for the usefulness,and even the necessity of corporal punishment in the training of children. Indeed, we must agree that to never corporally punish a child is as bad as the improper applications of the same.

As per Menandros, a writer of comedies, circa 300 B.C.: "A person who has not been beaten has not been trained!"

A well-rooted belief amongst the ancient Greeks was that physical pain was the most fitting means for the building of character. We comprehend this well today in the context of athletic training, and in military school discipline. This belief in the morally purifying force of bodily pain was behind the development of the martial state of Sparta, infamous for its practice of eugenics; that is, leaving weakly infants to die in the wilderness. The philosophies of 'the perfect society' are always sadistically tainted. But we must consider it an extremely moral point, that the decadent, intellectual, homosexually-emphasized society of Athens was able to beat down and destroy those stringent Spartans.

Quintillan (date) however denounced sadistic usages in education, making a number of salient points we might further consider. Sadism as an educative tool disgusts him, "First because it is odious and slavish and dishonouring at any age; next, because anyone who is so base that he could not be improved by kindly persuasiveness and affectionate admonition, will also be insensible to blows." This makes a powerful statement for the predeliction as a temperamental condition. Furthermore, "it cannot be stated, without blushing for shame, to what disgusting orgies unworthy persons abuse the right to chastise."

"Beating trains only slavish natures, embitters the child, and destroys his joy in his task."

So we ask again: Who becomes a Sado-Masochist? Anyone whose parents argued? Anyone spanked, whipped, or slapped? Anyone who looked at a fictional scene of murder? Anyone chastised for childish games of 'doctor'? He who loved his furious mother, who stood over him in red high heels ... she who misbehaved so she might lie across her mother's tight-skirted lap? Just about anyone exposed to sights, sounds or thoughts of violence? And therefore, just about anyone?

Recollect again what our revered Doctor has said: Sado-Masochism is not a thing congenitally fated; but it is "a reaction to life that arises when hate is permitted to strike its roots early and deep into the heart of a child."

And who does not harbor that germ of hatred.

Terence Sellers