Emotional Health

The misunderstood side of sadomasochism

7 Mins read

When people talk about sadomasochism or anything involving BDSM, we tend to jump to negative conclusions about someone’s mental stability, psyche nature and behaviors. We have become accustomed to associating a desire for these norms with psychological issues such as bi-polar disorder.

The term sadomasochism is used in a variety of different ways. It can refer to cruel individuals or those who brought misfortunes onto themselves and psychiatrists define it as pathological. However, recent research suggests that sadomasochism is mostly simply a sexual interest, and not a pathological symptom of past abuse, or a sexual problem, and that people with sadomasochistic sexual interest are in general neither damaged nor dangerous.1

Even though science disapproves the initial outlook on sadomasochism, people still shun the behavior especially in less developed countries that still adhere to traditional marital norms.

Sadomasochism comes from two words; sadism and masochism.

Sadism– refers to the act of driving pleasure and enjoyment from inflicting pain on others for personal enjoyment, typically of a sexual nature. It can however breach far outside of the bedroom, manifesting into forms of bullying and intimidation in everyday life.

Masochism on the other hand – refers to the act of driving pleasure and enjoyment from one’s own pain and humiliation. Masochists thrive on the pain being inflicted, both physical and psychological.

What is sadomasochism

Sadomasochism is a type of dependent relationship where one person obtains sadistic pleasure by inflicting pain or suffering on another person who thereby obtains masochistic pleasure.

Sadists and masochists find fulfilling relationships with each other and hardly opt to date anyone who doesn’t fulfill their dependent relationship. However, the sad truth is that most people don’t get to explore their sexual interests this deep. Therefore, they end up choosing vanilla and plain sexual desires which will eventually lead to their sexual dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

Sexuality is something that should be explored because its a big part of the human condition. Most people have heard the popular claim that men think about sex every seven seconds (around 8,000 times a day!) Obviously men do think about sex more but women view ‘sex’ or the concept of it differently. For women we may refer to it as more of a need for connection, romance and desire rather than the actual act of sex. Therefore in that case we all think about sex quite a lot.

Sadistic personality disorder is derived from the proper name of the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), a French aristocrat who became notorious for writing novels around the theme of inflicting pain as a source of sexual pleasure.

Most sadists don’t really know they are sadists, some just figure it out from pop culture which has made the idea of sadists and masochists popular through BDSM (which in full stands for Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism ) and Fifty Shades of Grey, of course.

I haven’t bumped into any comprehensive and thorough sadistic personality disorder test but this one from Mirror is a start – take the test here. Or see a therapist, that’s also an option.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D., a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states dives into the causes of sadistic tendencies.

He says, ” One explanation is that the perpetrators of these horrors were harshly and constantly emotionally, physically and sexually abused during childhood. Unfavorable experiences during childhood or in early stages of sexual development are believed to be one of the major contributing factors in the development of a sadistic personality.

It has also been observed that sadism or a sadistic personality can also get developed in an individual through learning. For instance, continually being exposed to situations in which sexual enjoyment or of excitement with the anguish of others can cause sadism or sadomasochism. In other words, the suffering of others gives pleasure and observing that suffering feels good.”

Masochism on the other hand has been viewed as an escape from the self. It is possible to consider masochism as neither a form of self‐destruction nor a derivative of sadism. Instead, masochism may be a means of escaping from high‐level awareness of self as a symbolically mediated, temporally extended identity.

Such awareness is replaced by focus on the immediate present and on bodily sensations, and sometimes by a low‐level awareness of self as an object. Evidence is reviewed indicating that the principal features of masochism (pain, bondage, and humiliation) help accomplish this hypothesized escape from high‐level self‐awareness.

Historical evidence suggests that sexual masochism arose when Western culture became highly individualistic. This could mean that cultural emphasis on the autonomous, individual self increased the burdensome pressure of self-hood, leading to greater desires to escape from the self masochistically.

A need for escape from the realities of life isn’t on its own a sign of pathological issues, its however a sign of poor emotional health. Sex has always been seen as a stress reliever, and the same goes for inflicting pain and being harmed. Have you ever wondered why people love violent games, shows and movies, why people love hitting things when they are angry? This is because the very act of experiencing or inflicting pain, whether virtually, physically or psychologically, can reduce stress.

Young adults—male and female—who play violent video games long-term handle stress better than non-playing adults and become less depressed and less hostile following a stressful task, according to a study by Texas A&M International University associate professor, Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson.


This is to simply say that a love for BDSM isn’t a sign of psychological disorders as it was once thought to be. It is however a sign of poor emotional health when its incorporated with an escape from reality. Sadomasochism purely involves sexual preferences, its not based on poor emotional health, but poor emotional health can result in sadomasochism.

In contrast to frameworks seeking to explain sadomasochism through psychological, psychoanalytic, medical or forensic approaches, which seek to categorize behavior and desires, and find a root cause, Romana Byrne, the Author of  Aesthetic Sexuality: A Literary History of Sadomasochism, suggests that such practices can be seen as examples of “aesthetic sexuality”, in which a founding physiological or psychological impulse is irrelevant. Rather, according to Byrne, sadism and masochism may be practiced through choice and deliberation, driven by certain aesthetic goals tied to style, pleasure, and identity, which in certain circumstances, she claims can be compared with the creation of art.

The sadomasochism relationship dynamics

This type of relationship will mainly involve the act of pleasing the sadist. This is because the masochists drive their pleasure from what the sadist does. So how do you please a sadist?


Sadists enjoy inflicting pain on others; verbally, emotionally and physically. This is what you have to know at the back of your mind. Don’t allow the pain to get to the point where it affects your daily life lest it becomes abusive and toxic.

If that is not the case then here is a few tips to help you please your sadist ;

Submit to their ‘power’

Let your sadist have all the control, make them feel like you are at their mercy. Be submissive to them when they try to exert their power over you. Make them feel so powerful that it consumes them, leaving them in awe of you.

This doesn’t mean that you allow yourself to be used, No! Make sure that everything done is in your consent and that you control at least part of the narrative. Don’t be too controlling too or else you will turn a sadist off.

Tell them what to do to you

If you are a masochist, which I hope you are especially if you are dating a sadist, tell him/her what you want them to do to you. Beg them to do it. Describe it in details, paint a vivid picture for them to put them in the fantasy of the entire scenario.

Sadists enjoy foreplay, especially when it comes to dirty talk. Make it so nasty and kinky that they can’t wait to do it to you.

Paint a picture, a vivid picture.

BDSM should be primal to you

Every sadist enjoys dominating when it comes to bedroom matters. The power of having a submissive partner begging to be put through the physical pain is intoxicating to sadists.

If you are not comfortable with BDSM, then I recommend you do a simple google search, its not that complicated or scary its quite fun and adventurous if you ask me (wink wink), don’t go to any porn site – lest you end up making matters worse. Learn from dominatrix experts like An Li and Mistress Cyan.

Don’t forget to have safe words – a word or phrase that you can use when things get a little bit heated above your comfort zone. I personally prefer the word ‘pancakes’, because I love pancakes and they are my comfort food, get it?

Recall; paint a picture – Tell him/her what kind of pain you crave. How you want to be humiliated, or bound, or beaten. Whatever it is that you’re into, tell him/her all about it. Most of them will want to hear it all, so they can then gleefully give you exactly what you asked for. Or withhold it for a while just to get you wound up and begging for it…thengive it to you.

Don’t fake or suppress your reactions

Sadists want to see your reactions, your ‘fear’, your submission, your pain and your dismay sometimes. Don;t try to fake it or hide it. Let them see exactly what they are doing to you. Or else they won’t get any pleasure from it. Sadists get turned on by seeing what they are doing to you.

Even if you don’t enjoy it, do it for them. This will be more satisfying. The fact that you are willing to let them do that to you even though you are not into it is extremely arousing.



  1. Alison, L., Santtila, P., Sandnabba, N. K., & Nordling, N. (2001). Sadomasochistically oriented behavior: Diversity in practice and meaning. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 1–12. doi:10.1023/A:1026438422383.
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I'm a psychology enthusiast and a fried chicken lover. I write bite sized articles unpacking the complexities of the human mind. The mission is to advocate for what's more important in life - the pursuit of the truth and the highest good one can do with that truth - for themselves, the people around them and the society as a whole.
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