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Sadism and masochism, often interrelated (one person obtaining sadistic pleasure by inflicting pain or suffering on another person who thereby obtains masochistic pleasure), are collectively known as S&M or sadomasochism.

The words are now commonly used to describe personality traits in an emotional, rather than sexual sense. Although it is quite different from the original meaning, this usage is not entirely inaccurate. There is quite frequently a strong emotional aspect to the sexual desires, taking the form of a need for domination or submission—the desire to control another, or to be controlled, as opposed to a simple desire for pain (which is technically known as algolagnia).

It is often agreed that this desire for dominance or submission is in fact the driving force behind sadomasochism, with the giving and receiving of pain acting only as an active stimulation to reinforce those feelings. This view is supported by the nature of sadomasochistic behavior. A masochist does not in general take pleasure in any arbitrary form of pain, only in pain received under the pretext of enforcing authority, and typically only that of a sexual nature. Likewise, a sadist usually only takes pleasure in pain that is inflicted for reasons of punishment and control, and most often for the indirect pleasure of the masochist. Many sadomasochistic activities involve only mild pain or discomfort. Often they are focused primarily on roleplay.

In psychology, sadism is an instance of finding sexual gratification from inflicting pain on others. This may be a real life psychological disorder. Sadism may also be a fantasy game played between participants. A person acting out sadism is called a sadist. One of the double meanings for "S" in the term BDSM represents sadism.

The medical term "sadism" was coined by Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his book Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), based on the name of the Marquis de Sade, a French writer who had written erotic novels on this subject matter.

In consensual spanking, sadism comes from inflicting pain on the spankee's buttocks. Sadism usually respresents an intense psychological need by the spankee, not by the spanker. Thus, there's a transference of sexual fantasy from spankee to spanker. Generally, the spanker is only playing at sadism to fulfill the needs of the spankee and perhaps spectators.


In the BDSM lifestyle, it is represented the the letter "S", and is usually used to describe the act of causing pain, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.

Dictionary Definition

  • sa·dism ( P ) Pronunciation Key (sdzm, sdz-) Noun.
The deriving of sexual gratification or the tendency to derive sexual gratification from inflicting pain or emotional abuse on others.
The deriving of pleasure, or the tendency to derive pleasure, from cruelty.
Extreme cruelty.
The word is derived from the the name Comte Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade (also know as the Marquis de Sade) (1740-1814) whose descriptions of sexual perversion gave rise to the term `sadism'
an adjective: related to, or having elements of, sadism
a noun: A person who enjoys, or derives pleasure from, sadism


In the BDSM lifestyle, it is represented the the letter "M", a person who derives pleasure from receiving pain

  • mas·och·ism - Pronunciation Key (ms-kzm)
The deriving of sexual gratification, or the tendency to derive sexual gratification, from being physically or emotionally abused.
The deriving of pleasure, or the tendency to derive pleasure, from being humiliated or mistreated, either by another or by oneself.
A willingness or tendency to subject oneself to unpleasant or trying experiences.
[After Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895), Austrian novelist.]
an adjective: related to, or having elements of, masochism
a noun: - A person who enjoys, or derives pleasure from, masochism
Also see Roles and Functions
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