- Just as with its mirror image masochism, sadism has come to have three meanings: (1) the voluntary infliction of suffering; (2) in psychoanalysis, a compulsive kind of personality characterized by regression to the anal-sadistic phase of infant development; (3) a kind of sex play among consenting adults called "SM" for "sadomasochism" but involving more the transfer of control in erotic situations than the administration of pain.The referent for the term "sadism" is the French nobleman Donatien Alphonse François, Count de Sade (1740–1814), known as "the Marquis de Sade" (pronounced Sahd), who in two famous novels, Justine (1791) and Juliette (1798)—in addition to a host of other writings—portrayed fantastical orgies in which most of the participants end up dead and in which both male and female figures inflict much stylized violence upon the other players. (The scenes were intended to be allegorical, not masturbatory.)Richard von Krafft-Ebing, a somewhat prudish individual who was deaf-eared to allegory, missed Sade’s intent and in 1890 in New Research in the Area of Psychopathia Sexualis (Neue Forschungen auf dem Gebiete der Psychopathia sexualis) proposed the term "sadism," already current in France, to mean voluntary cruelty to others. In the sixth edition of his Psychopathia sexualis in 1891, Krafft defined sadism as "the association of active cruelty and violence with sexual passion" and gave such examples as "sex murders."Sigmund Freud first used the term "sadism" in 1905 in his Three Essays on Sexual Theory (Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie), calling "the tendency to cause pain to the sexual object . . . the commonest and most significant of all perversions." He adopted Krafft-Ebing’s term "sadism." "The sexuality of most men shows an adjuvant of aggression, a tendency to rape, the biological significance of which must be based on the necessity of overcoming the resistance of the sex object through other techniques than the act of courtship" (Gesammelte Werke, V, p. 57). Later in the essay, he outlined the stages of infantile libidinal development: first came the "oral" phase," then the phase of "sadistic-anal organization." "The dominance of sadism and the cloaca-role of the anal zone give [to this phase] an exquisitely archaic stamp." Freud emphasized that sadism and masochism were often to be found together (Gesammelte Werke, V, p. 99). In his 1920 book Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Jenseits des Lustprinzips), Freud made sadism a more or less normal component of the human psyche, which is to say, part of the "death instinct" (der Todestrieb), the existence of which he announced in this work: "How can one possibly derive the sadistic drive, which is directed towards damaging the [love] object, from the life-giving notion of eros? Are we not actually close to the assumption that this sadism really is the death instinct, which under the influence of the narcissistic libido is flung away from the ego, so that it makes its first appearance on the object" (Gesammelte Werke, XIII, p. 58).In his book Escape from Freedom (1941), psychoanalyst Erich Fromm (1900–1980), a German-born sociologist who had been a member of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt (the "Frankfurt School") and had emigrated to the United States in 1934, announced the existence of a "sado-masochistic character." Writing under the influence of contemporary events, he said, "For great parts of the lower middle class in Germany and other European countries, the sado-masochistic character is typical, and . . . it is this kind of character structure to which Nazi ideology had its strongest appeal." In neurotics, Fromm thought the term "sado-masochistic character" appropriate. When this character type was found in non-neurotic individuals, Fromm preferred the phrase "authoritarian character." To wit: "He admires authority and tends to submit to it, but at the same time he wants to be an authority himself and have others submit to him." The term "authoritarian character" thus represented for Rank "the personality structure which is the human basis of Fascism" (pp. 185–186).In the DSM series, "sadism" first appeared in the second edition of the Manual in 1968 as one of several "sexual deviations." DSM-III (1980) included a full discussion of "sexual sadism": (a) on a nonconsenting partner; (b) on a consenting partner who is not seriously injured; (c) on a consenting partner who is seriously injured. Sexual sadism vanished from the official diagnoses in DSM-III-R in 1987, although "sadistic personality disorder" was proposed in an appendix as a possible diagnosis ("a pervasive pattern of cruel, demeaning, and aggressive behavior directed toward other people").DSM-IV in 1994 gave up on the whole issue, as indeed it had given up on masochism, in possible recognition of the fact that sadomasochism for the most part belonged to a subculture of sex play among consenting adults. According to sexuality historian Robert Bienvenu, in his Indiana University sociology dissertation (1998), sexual subcultures of "SM" begin to emerge in Europe in the late 1920s, in the United States in the early 1930s, and among "gay leather" circles in the early 1950s. It is interesting that, just as much sexual behavior became "psychiatrized" with the generation of sexologists of Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s day—the 1880s—it became "de-psychiatrized" with the later editions of DSM a century later.
Edward Shorter. 2014.