Sexual Masochism & Sexual Sadism: The Characteristics of Paraphilias Derived From Pain

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  • 0:07 Paraphilias
  • 0:42 Masochism
  • 2:52 Sadism
  • 4:48 Sadomasochism
  • 6:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Sex is a part of healthy adult relationships. But, what happens when one partner craves pain as well as pleasure? In this lesson, we'll look at sexual masochism and sexual sadism, as well as the non-clinical term sadomasochism.

Paraphilias

Jeff and Julia are in love. They are mostly pretty happy, except for one thing: Julia likes to be hurt in the bedroom. At first, Jeff went along with her, tying her up and spanking her. But over time, he has come to realize that what she wants is much more extreme than what he's comfortable providing.

Paraphilias are psychological syndromes that involve sexual urges that are abnormal. There are many types of paraphilias. Two paraphilias that deal with pain are masochism and sadism. Let's take a closer look at both masochism and sadism.

Masochism

Imagine that you're a psychologist, and Julia comes to see you. She wants to be happy with Jeff, but she craves pain. She finds it sexually exciting to be beaten and wants Jeff to completely dominate her physically and sexually. But, she also knows that she's asking too much of Jeff and is scared that she might lose him because of her proclivities.

Julia might be suffering from masochism, a condition where a person is aroused by being beaten, humiliated, bound, or tortured. As her psychologist, there are several criteria that you need to check off in order to diagnose Julia with masochism.

  1. Sexual urges to be beaten, humiliated, bound, or tortured. These urges are for the real thing, not a simulation. In other words, a masochist doesn't want to be tied up in a way that they are able to escape; they want to be truly bound so that they have no way of escaping. Julia's sex play with Jeff wasn't enough for her; she wants to truly be beaten and bound, so she fits this criterion.
  2. The urges last at least six months. When you talk to Julia, you discover that she's felt this way for many years, so she fits this criterion, too.
  3. The fantasies cause distress or impairment. Julia is scared and upset that her fantasies are making Jeff uncomfortable, so she is experiencing distress. You can check this one off.

So, according to the checklist, you can diagnose Julia with masochism. But, what might cause that? There's not agreement in the psychiatric community about what causes masochism. Some people believe that childhood trauma or exposure to a mix of violence and sexually-arousing material early in life might cause masochism later in life, but there is scientific evidence both for and against this theory.

Like other paraphilias, masochism is more common in men than in women, and treatment is usually focused on therapy. Trying to find the underlying cause of the condition is the focus of some types of therapy, while other types focus on changing behaviors and thought patterns without searching for the cause of the disease.

Sadism

Another pain-related paraphilia is sadism. Sadism involves sexual fantasies involving inflicting pain on others. Let's get back to Julia and Jeff. Imagine if Julia's feelings were the opposite: Instead of having pain inflicted on her, Julia craves inflicting pain on her sexual partners.

She likes to hurt people, and seeing Jeff bleed or watching a welt or a bruise pop up on his skin turns her on. Is she a sadist? Like masochism, there are certain criteria that you, as her psychologist, need to check off in order to diagnose her.

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