Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sadism and Masochism: The whole 50 shades

Relatively few sadomasochists are exclusively sadists or exclusively masochists there is generally a mixture with one aspect more predominant than the other. The masochist playing the sadist may fantasise about receiving the pain he/she is inflicting. Sadists are rarer than masochists and female sadists all the more uncommon in the general population.

Sadomasochistic sessions are usually planned punishment with bondage and contain both sadistic and masochistic elements. Sexual arousal may be gained by pain (algophilia) and this appears to take two forms i.e. sadism or the ecstasy associated with the infliction or witnessing pain; and masochism, the eroticism induced by the suffering of pain or persecution. In both the pleasure principle is limited to or intimately associated with sexual excitation. It may be accompanied by or it may form a substitute for coitus.

Pain is on a continuum that runs from very mild sensations such as tickling (knismolagnia and titillagnia) to extreme levels that are produced in mutilation. People who use pain during sex will set limits to how much, and in what manner, the pain will be administered. The level of pain is chosen according to the desired effect.

Evidence exists to support the theory the immune system is stimulated when a person is exposed to other peoples suffering with the resulting euphoria due to the release of b-endorphins. In sadism, people are capable of achieving relief of free floating anxiety by transferring their fight-flight sex response onto another person or object. Unlike the true sadist, who is not concerned with whether their victims have a pleasurable response, people who play consensual S/M are extremely concerned with this event. Leptosadism describes a mild form of sadism and a sapphosadist is a lesbian sadist.

Masochists involved in heavy pain are thought to use it to either produce opiates in the brain for a euphoric effect or to reach altered states of consciousness. The masochist may face fear; pain or humiliation but will survive it with an organism or love as a reward. Odynophilic pleasures derived from pain trigger a reaction from the autonomic nervous system causing an increase rate of breathing heart rate and blood pressure. In the masochist this may enhance sexual sensitivity or experience.

Some sadomasochists enjoy a form of aichmophilia (love of needles) and will encourage needles to be inserted into their toenails. According to Gebhard (1969) fetishism and sado-masochism frequently intermingle. Sado-masochism incorporates fetishistic elements with the sight and touch of fetishistic objects the source of sexual arousal. These occur in both hetro and homosexual behaviour. What makes a person sado masochistic remains unknown albeit many report pain associated with early childhood sexual pleasure.

Flagellation is the oldest form of punishment and many masochists will become aroused by being caned or flagellated (e.g. rhabdophilia) Canning is sometimes accompanied with humiliation or fear in a fantasy scenario. In order for pain or injury to produce the desired euphoric effects it must be anticipated, threatening, or part of a scene that includes a person to whom they are sexually attracted.

Foot flagellation is very common both for pleasure as well as punishment. Boot or shoe licking may be a way of expressing a footwear fetish and is a popular activity in domination games.

There is very little in the literature about the hygiene aspects of bootlicking. Whilst ingestion of small quantities of boot polish maybe harmless boot lickers do run a small risk of contracting amoebic bacterial and possibly other infections from street dirt. This is increased when the soles are licked (Rossi, 1990 b).

Gebhard P 1969 Fetishism and sado-masochism Science and Psychoanalysis 15 71-80
Rossi WA 1990b Foot and shoe fetishism - Part II Current Podiatric Medicine Vol 39:10Oct 16-20

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