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Sadism is pleasure in the infliction of pain or humiliation upon another person. This term describes consensual practices, often sexual, but not necessarily so, within the BDSM community. Sadist is one who is aroused, excited, or receives sexual gratification from inflicting pain on another. A sadist does not necessarily take pleasure in inflicting pain indiscriminately; for most sadists, the pleasure relies on knowing that the subject is also enjoying the experience. But these terms may be also used clinically, in psychotherapy, to describe mental illnesses, psychopathology or counterproductive coping mechanisms. Sadism is not necessarily associated with criminality or murder. The term sadist is thrown around very easily, the word itself may send signals, may attract and is quite often used to paint a picture that fits the world of fantasy. A seal, if you like, of quality play to come for some. Forbidden fruit always tastes the best. Some may visualise themselves as sadists but that may not necessarily be the case. They may just be extreme in some areas. Have a particular bent that is somewhat darker. Dread… political correctness, is there are some that fit the definition of a sadist however display the controls within themselves to play safely. There are some that don’t.

The word “sadism” was derived from the name of Donatien Alphonse Francois, better known as the Marquis de Sade, a French author who lived from 1740 to 1814, famous for his works of sexual arousal driven by physical suffering. He was imprisoned without trial as an “administrative punishment”, for fear of scandal, after the publishing of “Justine”, and “Juliette”. Later declared insane he was transferred to Charenton Asylum where in 1814 he died of ill health aged 74. De Sade spent 27 years of his adult life in prisons, dungeons, and asylums throughout France for reasons that included “excesses committed in a brothel”, kidnapping and sexual assault, poisoning, and homosexual sodomy. The German psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing in 1898 gave sadism the professional definition: a sexual perversion with strong impulses to coitus, coupled with prepatory acts of maltreatment, even murder (necrophilia, then called “lustmurder”) which occurs primarily because of an inability to be satisfied with coitus.

A sadist is clinically defined as a person who demonstrates a long-standing maladaptive pattern of cruel, demeaning, and aggressive behavior towards others. Symptoms include the following: Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving acts (real, not simulated) in which the psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation) of a victim is sexually exciting to the individual. The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors must also cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Sadists don’t require sexual content to their play. Some have no sexual content at all. Others cross over between non sexual and sexual and yet others are purely sexual players. All claim the title of sadist. Some lack self control others don’t. To play with a pure sadist who lacked any form of self control, or a sadist was just starting out who has not yet defined control for him or herself, would truly be either a very brave or very stupid thing to do. Depending on your viewpoint. Enough submissives over the years, mentally, emotionally and physically to be able to understand the desire some have had to really push their limits. A true sadist will surely do that for you. The old adage applies: be careful what you wish for… you may just get it.

Once a submissive is totally restrained, gagged and isolated a pure sadist will define what your limits are. The submissive will have little or absolutely no control over what happens. Safe, sane and consensual play is foremost in everyone’s mind but in some cases this doesn’t apply. A person new to the lifestyle, with no experience would be wise in not seeking out a sadist with whom to play first up, unless of course that was exactly what he or she desires. It follows you have to live with that choice be it good or bad.

So how does one recognize a sadist? Almost impossible unless there is a trail of broken, emotionally and physically damaged submissives to follow. For a sadist to be truly happy he needs a masochist. The two go hand in hand. Of course some sadists are into “head/mind fucking” rather than inflicting physical pain. The “mind” sadist delights in destroying a person mentally. The mind games can strip a person bare of self esteem, self confidence, and in some cause a whole personality change – self doubt, self loathing, down to total and utter dependence are put in their place. This is an incredibly destructive form of sadism. Because you have to also often deal with denial by the victim. “No, no, he does love me, I know he does, I am just a bad submissive”. At least with physical abuse there is something tangible to see, to cure. The mind is a much harder area within which to work.

The Narcissistic Sadist (“I inflict pain, therefore I am superior”) is perhaps the worst of all. The Narcissist tortures and abuses as a means to punish and to reassert superiority and grandiosity. Often punishing his partners for not being docile, obedient, admiring and adoring as he expects. The sadist does so for pure (usually, sexual, but not always) enjoyment.

“The Narcissist will abuse his victim verbally, mentally, or physically (often, in all three ways). He will infiltrate her defenses, shatter her self-confidence, confuse and confound her, demean and debase her to the point of elimination. He will invade her territory, abuse her confidence, exhaust her resources, hurt her loved ones, threaten her stability and security, involve her in his paranoid states of mind, frighten her out of her wits, withhold love and sex from her, prevent satisfaction and cause frustration, humiliate and insult her privately and in public, point out her shortcomings, criticize her profusely and in a “scientific and objective” manner – and this is a partial list. Very often, the Narcissist will act sadistically in the guise of an enlightened interest in the welfare of his victim. He will play the psychiatrist to her psychopathology (totally dreamt up by him). He will act the guru to her need of guidance, the avuncular or father figure, the teacher, the only true friend, the old and the experienced. All this in order to weaken her defenses and to lay siege to her breaking down nerves. So subtle and poisonous is the Narcissistic variant of sadism that it might well be regarded as the most dangerous of all.” (Dr. Sam Vaknin)

What follows to a clinical description of what Psychiatrists regard as Diagnostic Criteria for Sadistic Personality Disorder:

Symtoms
A pervasive pattern of cruel, demeaning, and aggressive behavior, beginning by early adulthood, as indicated by the repeated occurrence of at least four of the following:
- Has used physical cruelty or violence for the purpose of establishing dominance in a relationship (not merely to achieve some noninterpersonal goal, such as striking someone in order to rob him or her)
- Humiliates or demeans people in the presence of others
- Has treated or disciplined someone under his or her control unusually harshly, e.g., a child, student, prisoner, or patient
- Is amused by, or takes pleasure in, the psychological or physical suffering of others (including animals)
- Has lied for the purpose of harming or inflicting pain on others (not merely to achieve some other goal)
- Gets other people to do what he or she wants by frightening them (through intimidation or even terror)
- Restricts the autonomy of people with whom he or she has a close relationship, e.g., will not let spouse leave the house unaccompanied or permit teen-age daughter to attend social functions
- Is fascinated by violence, weapons, martial arts, injury, or torture

The behavior in described above has not been directed toward only one person (e.g., spouse, one child) and has not been solely for the purpose of sexual arousal (as in Sexual Sadism).

Source: American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, Revised. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1987. pg. 371.

Behavioral Level:
Expressively Precipitate (e.g., is disposed to react in sudden abrupt outbursts of an unexpected and unwarranted nature; recklessly reactive and daring, attracted to challenge, risk and harm, as well as unflinching, undeterred by pain and undaunted by danger and punishment).
Interpersonally Abrasive (e.g., reveals satisfaction in intimidating, coercing and humiliating others; regularly expresses verbally abusive and derisive social commentary, as well as exhibiting vicious, if not physically brutal behavior).

Phenomenological Level:
Cognitively Dogmatic (e.g., is strongly opinionated and close-minded, as well as unbending and obstinate in holding to one’s preconceptions; exhibits a broad-ranging authoritarianism, social intolerance and prejudice).
Combative Self-Image (e.g., is proud to characterize self as assertively competitive, as well as vigorously energetic and militantly hardheaded; values aspects of self that present pugnacious, domineering and power-oriented image).
Pernicious Objects (e.g., internalized representations of the past are distinguished by early relationships that have generated strongly driven aggressive energies and malicious attitudes, as well as by a contrasting paucity of sentimental memories, tender affects, internal conflicts, shame or guilt feelings).

Intrapsychic Level:
Isolation Mechanism (e.g., can be cold-blooded and remarkably detached from an awareness of the impact of own destructive acts; views objects of violation impersonally, as symbols of devalued groups devoid of human sensibilities).
Eruptive Organization (e.g., despite a generally cohesive morphologic structure composed of routinely adequate modulating controls, defenses and expressive channels, surging powerful and explosive energies of an aggressive and sexual nature threaten to produce precipitous outbursts which periodically overwhelm and overrun otherwise competent restraints).

Biophysical Level:
Hostile Mood (e.g., has an excitable and irritable temper which flares readily into contentious argument and physical belligerence; is cruel, mean-spirited and fractious, willing to do harm, even persecute others to gets one’s way).

Most of that is a perfect description of nearly all the Dominants. However the one difference being, most have “self control”. We know where the line is drawn. We may edge right up to the line and sometimes just across it but we are aware, one, there is a line and, two, where that line is. A pure sadist would not. The line will be where ever he wishes to draw it and it would change with his or her mood, with his or her need, and the need will become greater as he/she progresses. It is soley for his/her enjoyment. His or her own self interest will be foremost in their mind.

This may be a generalisation, but here goes, sadistic acts are quite different from s/m practices, and usually include: forced anal penetration, forced fellatio, or violent vagina-penetration with various foreign objects – rather than the penis. Which in a way fits the clinical definition mentioned above. The “pure” sadist forces their acts on the victim rather than aiming at pleasing the submissive. They torture their victims, inflicting serious and permanent injury, trying to arouse terror. S/M devotees skillfully enhance the sexual arousal of their partner, following the rules and guidelines that were established, via negotiation, before the scene with a goal or higher purpose in mind. Hopefully something other than self-gratification.

To the “pure” sadist a submissive is but a means to an end. Play will generally have nothing to do with extending that submissive mentally, physically or spiritually. It certaining won’t be done with good intention, with love, with caring, with a regard for her or his well being it will and it will usually be done quite detached, with little or no emotion, whereas a S/M Dominant will aim for a “high” or pleasure equivalent during a scene for both parties.

Consensual sadomasochism affords an opportunity to explore all our urges, needs, wants, desires and fantasies, by way of a safe and supportive method, where they can be pleasurably satisfied, enriching the lives of the participants. It is about overloading, totally overwhelming of one’s senses, quite often leading to an emotion release, it has little or nothing to do with “pain”. Although “pain” and the causing of sensual pain can sometimes be a key. A means rather than an “end”. Sexual masochism is the search for total emotional pleasure.

So never play from a base of hostility, or anger and “keep one foot firmly planted on the floor”. Never get so lost within a scene, play, or action to the point you no longer have control, of the situation, the submissive and particularly of yourself and above all never to assume anything.



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