Sexology 2: ‘Sadomasochism and you. Yes I mean you.’

Have you ever sat around and thought, “Man, I don’t find the presence of strangers alarming enough. I really need to spice up my life.”

Well I recommend you take a half hour of your time and read ‘Sexual Sadism: Psychopathology and theory’, an article by Yates, Hucker, and Kingston. What follows is my reaction, so like usual, I’m no professional.

Well first off the bat, you might be thinking that Sadomasochism is that kinky stuff that happens in pornography with subtitles to help you understand the German.

Rosie and Dan

Well yes, it is, but there is a use for it in the psychology world as well. A Sadist (A term created out of the name of the Marquis de Sade, look it up), is a person who receives arousal from fantasies or acts that humiliate, hurt, wound, or destroy another person. To sum it up, hurt someone, get boner. Which seems all well and good, until you realize that ‘sexual sadism’ lines up with violent and sometimes deadly rape.

Sorry, I ruined the mood too fast. Let me roll back a little. Sadism is all over the place. Sometimes it is a major act, like sexual stabbing, necrophilia, or the awkwardly titled lust murder. Other times it is consenting bondage, humiliation, and minor flagellation (that is whipping). So as you might imagine, it isn’t the easiest paraphilia, or atypical source of arousal, to lock down.

The diagnosis for necrophilia doesn’t always line up with sadism. Erotophonophilia, or ‘lust murder’ to its friends, typically crops up in sadists who are overcontrolled, introverted, and sexually inexperienced. Except, most diagnosis considers lust murderers egotistical and vain. Sexual sadists don’t usually follow the diagnosis for a psychopath, except behavioral theory on why they become sexual sadists includes a lack of empathy for other human beings.

What I’m trying to say is, no one seems to know what the hell is going on with sadists. For an act that has been researched since the 1930s (if not earlier), we seem to have little data, and no direction on getting more data. I think I might know why too.

During studies on non-offending men, which is hopefully the sort of guys you go out for a brewski with, 30% said they had fantasized about tying up or raping a woman. Thirty percent, that is a little less than one in three. I know this was in 1980, but unless we recovered from some dystopic wasteland in the meantime, I doubt that number has gotten much better. Another study had 16-20% of men grow aroused at a sadomasochistic narrative. Others included narratives with causing pain to a victim, or fantasies about women bound and in distress. In one study on college aged men, many respondents said they would rape a woman if there was zero chance they would face repercussions.

I don’t want to alarm you world, but it sounds like every single guy ever isn’t so much not a rapist, but too camera shy to rape at the moment. I mean, I know that when I wake up in the morning I ask myself, maybe if I find just the right alleyway, with just the right person walking down it, today will be my day. But then my nerves come up, and I get performance anxiety, no rape for me that day.

And yet, some studies put sexual sadism at as low as 5% of all sexual offenses. While even that number is too high, I have to be thankful it is that low in spite of the numbers.

But I think the point is that sadism, wanting to see humiliation or pain, isn’t a cut and dry lead in to the horrific act that is rape. In 1953, 12% of women reported arousal to S&M, sadomasochist, narratives. As did 10-20% of men. 15% of men in a 1980 study fantasized about humiliating a woman, and 11% fantasized about assaulting one. S&M, this culture of pain giving and receiving, control and domination, humiliation and exposure, are a part of our culture. S&M is out of the closet even, all over normal porno sites, with their own magazines, their own subculture, and now mainstream books and movies with terrible representations of what S&M is all about.

To drive it home, sexual sadism is hard to diagnose, because doctors can’t tell who is a sadistic rapist and who just wants to get his rocks off with his partner. Studies have found that validity of tests are unacceptably low, and that testing cannot distinguish between sexual sadists (rapists) and non-offending controls. So until we know what divides the guy who would destroy someone’s life for his sexual thrill, and the guy who just wants to slap the shit out of his girlfriend with a paddle, research is stunted.

There are theories though, including the psychodynamic theory that sexual sadism is misplaced matricide. Freud (yes that Freud) thought sexual sadists were stuck in an oral-aggressive phase, and others after him thought that maternal behaviors of aggression, control, and dominance, along with sexualized behavior toward a child, could lead to sexual sadism. Combine it with lack of a father figure, rage, and feelings of inadequacy (being totally beta), and you get someone afraid to be engulfed by an adult woman. That sort of villain-origin melting pot leads to bad news.

On the behavioral theory side they go with violence and aggression being linked to sexual arousal at a young age. Like if someone punches you in the dick while you are masturbating (not an actual example, but please don’t do this to anyone). With arousal behavior linked with aggressive behavior, child abuse causes arousal, and then arousal causes aggression. These two grow in some sort of behavioral theory mind orgy, until masturbation and fantasy stop working. Then you end up with tragedy.

So what is the takeaway? Well, there is a real chance that the guy who thinks you are cute, also wants to do terrible things to you. Good news, you might want him to do terrible things to you. You can both pick up some leather, and a copy of Exit to Eden, and go to town. It also means that sexology research has a long road ahead of it to make sure that as few people as possible are hurt by one of the most terrifying paraphilias.


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