Masochism


Masochism
   See also Sadism.
   In our own time, "masochism" has taken on three meanings: (1) the voluntary acceptance of suffering; (2) in psychoanalysis, an intrapsychic mechanism for dealing with anxiety; (3) a kind of sex play among consenting adults now increasingly called "role-playing," but also referrred to as "SM" (for sadomasochism), or "BDSM" (for "bondage and domination, sadism and masochism"). The term enters psychiatry, actually, in the third sense. Although an interest in flogging and being flogged goes back for centuries—a "friend" of the fifteenth-century Italian scholar Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494) being an example (as Pico recounts in his Disputationes [1495])—the taste for flogging acquired a name only after Austrian psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing read Venus in Fur (Venus im Pelz), the 1869 novella of Austrian nobleman Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836–1895) about a protagonist remarkably similar to himself who loves being flogged and humiliated by arrogant women dressed in fur. In the first edition of his 1890 book, New Research in the Area of Psychopathia Sexualis (Neue Forschungen auf dem Gebiete der Psychopathia sexualis), Krafft introduced the term "masochism" and popularized the term "sadism." The following year, in the sixth edition in 1891 of his big sex-pathology book, Psychopathia sexualis, he expanded the discussion, giving examples of women fantasizing about being slaves of their lovers, and also of men submitting to the control of what Krafft was calling a "domina," a woman who towered over the male sexually.
   Freud borrowed Krafft’s term in his own exploration of psychodynamics, but attached to it a quite different meaning. Because "masochism" was already well established, it is no surprise that Freud uses it early in his writing, noting in 1900 in the Interpretation of Dreams (Die Traumdeutung), "In the sexual constitution of so many people there is a masochistic component, which arises as a result of turning into the opposite of the aggressive, sadistic component" (Gesammelte Werke, II, p. 165). Yet in his 1920 book, Beyond the Pleasure Principle ( Jenseits des Lustprinzips), Freud used masochism in a rather different sense: "primary" masochism as the version of the death instinct that is inwardly directed toward one’s self.
   In 1932, psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich proposed in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis (Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse) the existence of the "masochistic character," a concept he had come up with as a way of breaking with Freud’s theory of the death instinct (which implied that we suffer because of a biological will to do so, or "death instinct"). The paper was incorporated into his book Character Analysis the following year. Reich challenged Freud’s theory that "unpleasure was pleasure." "Rather," said Reich, "the masochist’s specific mechanism of pleasure consisted precisely in that, while he strives after pleasure like any other person, a disturbing mechanism causes this striving to miscarry. This, in turn, causes the masochist to perceive sensations, which are experienced as pleasurable by the normal person, as unpleasurable when they exceed a certain intensity. The masochist, far from striving after unpleasure, demonstrates a strong intolerance of psychic tensions and suffers from a quantitative overproduction of unpleasure, not to be found in any other neurosis" (p. 236 of the English translation, 3rd ed.). (See Personality Disorders: Reich’s analysis of "character armor" [1933].)
   After Freud and Reich, interest within psychoanalysis shifted from masochism as a form of death instinct to "moral masochism," which psychoanalyst Theodor Reik (1888–1969) in his 1941 book, Masochism in Modern Man, said represented a character type. It was not that the masochist had reversed "pleasure values" and derived pleasure from pain. In a chapter called "Victory Through Defeat," Reik observed that, "The masochist aims at the same pleasure we all do, but he arrives at it by another road, by a detour. Intimidated by threatening anxiety, inhibited by the idea of punishment and later by unconscious guilt-feeling, he found his particular way of avoiding anxiety and gaining pleasure. He submits voluntarily to punishment, suffering, and humiliations, and thus has defiantly purchased the right to enjoy the gratification denied before" (p. 428). Thus, as masochism entered postwar American psychiatry, it was simultaneously a kind of character disorder and a form of sexual behavior.
   DSM-I (1952) passed in silence over masochism, but DSM-II in 1968, heavily in-fluenced by psychoanalysis, listed it among the "sexual deviations" without further specification. DSM-III in 1980 defined masochism as "sexual excitement produced in an individual by his or her own suffering." This placed the emphasis on the production of actual pain rather than the psychodrama of role-playing, and the Manual dwelt upon lives being "threatened." DSM-III-R had the most elaborate discussion of masochism in the series, distinguishing between "urges" that involve "being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer," and "masochistic personality disorder," a condition tentatively listed in the Appendix of DSM-III-R and also called "self-defeating personality disorder" in the hopes of not upsetting feminists who asserted that the masochism diagnosis implied that women enjoyed suffering. Masochism disappeared entirely from DSM-IV in 1994.
   The entirely nonpsychiatric notion of masochism as pleasureable role-playing, an activity initially psychiatrized by Krafft-Ebing, seems to have surfaced in the 1930s, with the leather-clad figure of the dominatrix whose gear asserts her authority, and has steadily increased in visibility since then. (See Sadism on sadomasochism.)

Edward Shorter. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • masochism — MASOCHÍSM s.n. Perversiune sexuală caracterizată prin apariţia plăcerii sexuale numai în urma producerii unei dureri fizice. – Din fr. masochisme. Trimis de RACAI, 30.09.2003. Sursa: DEX 98  masochísm s. n. [ so pron. germ. zo ] Trimis de siveco …   Dicționar Român

  • masochism — sexual pleasure in being hurt or abused, 1892, from Ger. Masochismus, coined 1883 by German neurologist Richard von Krafft Ebing (1840 1902), from name of Leopold von Sacher Masoch (1836 1895), Austrian utopian socialist novelist who enshrined… …   Etymology dictionary

  • masochism — ► NOUN ▪ the tendency to derive pleasure from one s own pain or humiliation. DERIVATIVES masochist noun masochistic adjective. ORIGIN named after Leopold von Sacher Masoch (1835 95), the Austrian novelist who described it …   English terms dictionary

  • masochism — [mas′ə kiz΄əm, maz′ə kiz΄əm] n. [after Leopold von Sacher Masoch (1835 95), Austrian writer in whose stories it is described] 1. the getting of sexual pleasure from being dominated, mistreated, or hurt physically or otherwise by one s partner 2.… …   English World dictionary

  • masochism — [[t]mæ̱səkɪzəm[/t]] 1) N UNCOUNT Masochism is behaviour in which someone gets sexual pleasure from their own pain or suffering. The tendency towards masochism is however always linked with elements of sadism. Ant: sadism Derived words: masochist… …   English dictionary

  • masochism — masochist, n. masochistic, adj. masochistically, adv. /mas euh kiz euhm, maz /, n. 1. Psychiatry. the condition in which sexual gratification depends on suffering, physical pain, and humiliation. 2. gratification gained from pain, deprivation,… …   Universalium

  • masochism — noun … OF MASOCHISM ▪ act PHRASES ▪ a form of masochism, a kind of masochism …   Collocations dictionary

  • masochism — mas|o|chis|m [ˈmæsəkızəm] n [U] [Date: 1800 1900; Origin: Leopold von Sacher Masoch (1836 95), Austrian writer who described such sexual behavior] 1.) sexual behaviour in which someone gains pleasure from being hurt or punished →↑sadism, sado… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Masochism —    , MASOCHIST    The word masochism comes to us courtesy of Chevalier Leopold von Sacher Masoch (.1836 1895), Austrian novelist. Sacher Masoch did not invent masochism, but it was a recurring theme in his novels and he can certainly be credited… …   Dictionary of eponyms

  • Masochism — Pleasure from one s own pain. Masochism is considered a sexual disorder, or paraphilia. Named after the 19th century Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher Masoch (masoch ism). * * * 1. Passive algolagnia; a form of perversion, often sexual in nature …   Medical dictionary