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Charlie Mershon

Whips, leather, pain, bondage, rope, and suffocation are all forms of sadomasochism in

one form or another. Their very reference has various affects on different people; some people

cringe, others raise brows, and some have to go as far as to hide their sexual arousal at the mere

mention of these things. The evolution of pain in association with sexual excitement and

eroticism has been a constant theme in art from antiquity to the present, each period deriving

new and unique experiences and views on the topic; nevertheless, the trend continues and

arguments that dictate behavior manifest themselves.

In the third century AD the Karmasutra was comprised somewhere in the north of India

and its recommendations for the use of scratching, biting, and slapping were the first of their

kind documented in writing (Hall). This presented questions of consent as the women’s cries,

and protests were mere ritualized response of pleasure or genuine cries of pain or discomfort at

the hand of her lover. This varies as time passes and witnessed in modern times with the

glorification of sadomasochism in pornography.

More forms of “fetishes” arose as time passed into the Restoration Period, with the rise of

pedagogical punishment and the position of power this placed in the schoolmaster over the pupil

created a “deviance” in the minds of youth that may or may not have developed into a more

sexual desire in adult hood. This also placed the schoolmasters themselves in a sexual position at

the time as the bare buttocks of the child was often the target of lashing. In the same period there

is depiction of a Venetian senator engaged in what would be modernly referred to as ‘puppy-

play’ or ‘kennel-training’ with his mistress (Hall).

In subsequent centuries whipping, as punishment became a widely accepted and beating

of wives, children, and servants was a commonplace and accepted practice, so scholars question

as to why powerful members of society sought this apparently humiliating punishment.


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Chastisement was also a topic addressed at this time about its possibility of sexual arousal, with

the German doctor Johan Meiborn, AKA Meibormus.

As time progressed and the view of the people changed slightly it was the philosopher

Rousseau, in his frank, yet published Confessions in 1782 he addressed the issue of lasting

affects of youthful experiences of corporal punishment. Marquis de Sade also wrote in this

period of sadism and masochism alongside other themes of sexual transgression and their

philosophical underpinnings. These themes are also found in the later nineteenth-century

writings of Austrian, Leopold Sacher-Masoch.

Numerous attempts by early sexologist to analyze the subject tend to find that there are

similarities with the types of punishment used in societies and the forms and levels to which the

eroticism of these enjoyments was found. Early studies were also compounded with gender-

biased assumptions that seeing sadism excessive forms of male aggression and masochism the

exaggerated role placed upon women of the cultural times. After Freud’s theories were common

knowledge, psychoanalysts’ explanations of this behavior both conscious and subconscious were

looked into with more detail.

As the century drew on and attitudes towards sexuality in the Western world became

more liberalized, various surveys of sexual attitudes and behavior manifested that

communicative segments of individuals affirmed to discovering pleasure in unrestricted

sadomasochistic endeavors, both in subsistence or as conception. In this adapting communal

context, along with the broadening doctrine that erotic ecstasy was in itself a praiseworthy thing,

subcultures of individuals inquisitive in consensual sadomasochistic practices developed,

moderately and with great heedfulness.

They constructed codes of conduct to ensure the safety of participants, embodied in the

rubric 'Safe, Sane, and Consensual', prior negotiation of the parameters of a 'scene', and an
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arrangement of 'safe words' to stop or slow down the action. Far from the masochist, or 'bottom',

being at the mercy of the sadist, or 'top', it was widely claimed that the bottom controlled the

scene by defining its limits; while the top was not indulging in a frenzy of violence, but willfully

and cautiously delivering decisive actions, some of them demanding notable facility and

adeptness. Definitions were further perplexed by the revelation that very few indicated

themselves as exclusively either sadistic or masochistic.

Sociologists analyzing these communities identified the individuals integrated very

comparable to the 'standard' citizen, and in many cases they were pillars of society, although

joylessly astute of the social tarnish their endeavors amassed. They vigorously deviated their

behaviors in 'play', desired and experienced as pleasure by both parties, from violence and

cruelty and extremes such as 'lust murder' with which sadomasochism had frequently been

affiliated.

Early writers such as Meibomius pointed out the anatomical reasons why stimulation,

even distressful stimulation, in the gluteal region might elicit fervor in the contiguous genital

organs, as well as alluding to the customary pleasure affect on the system. Modern science

similarly suggests that affects such as increasing the blood flow to the area would have this

result. Havelock Ellis, in Love and Pain, pointed out that sadomasochistic practices were points

along an erotic uninterrupted sequence, usually consisting of the intensification of endeavors

broadly regarded as 'normal' concomitants of sexual activity. He also theorized that

psychological elements presented a part, since informants described being aroused simply by the

thought of whipping. This concept was inferred in Rousseau's chronicle of his own penchants,

which he never seems to have obliged as an adult.

In the later twentieth century physiologists symbolized the effect of pain in generating

natural endorphins and a resultant 'high', an sensation which is also found in certain sports and
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other non-sexual conducts, comparable as fluctuating fiery saunas with frigid plunges. It has also

been determined that, throughout sexual arousal, sensations that might be thought agonizing in

the non-aroused state may be endured as harsh but enjoyable. Certain kinds of pain can also

become eroticized through their affiliation with erotic bliss, or in precession of it.

A recent popular fantasy trilogy by Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen

and Kushiel's Avatar, takes as protagonist Phèdre, a courtesan who is blessed, or cursed, by the

god Kushiel to be an anguisette, bearing all pain as sexually exhilarating. although, in real life,

even the most hallowed masochist seldom eroticizes or acclaims all and any pain, looking

forward to a visit to the dentist, for instance, with no more acquisitive suspense than anyone else

does. Researchers have alluded that intellectual and symbolic components are considerable in

sadomasochistic pleasure and for many, though not all, an authentic context of superiority and

adherence are of actual criticalness. Furthermore sadomasochistic assumptions are rife within

social culture, there is still much anxiety and even felonious about these activities. Media

propaganda of fetish events, or of implications of celebrities indulging in 'kinky sex', absolutely

aspires for a jokey, alienating note. At a further extreme the intense rulings handed down in the

'Spanner' case of 1990, for what can well be argued were victimless crimes of engaging in

harmonious (albeit extreme) masochism, display the enduring unease that numerous embrace at

the mislaying of the confines of merriment and anguish.

To recess to Freud for a time: if one connotation of degeneration is ephemeral, a degree

of delaying at the conduit toward masculine orgasm, another description is spatial and invokes

the prosthesis the evildoings amplify, in an anatomical experience, removed the realms of the

body that are conceived for sexual union (France, 1984). In other words, deviants convey genital

experiences outside their customary areas and use other parts of the body (fingers, anuses, fists,

nipples) as alternatives for genital ecstasy. Many Sadomasochistic players prolong the sensual
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territories in this way by using parts such as arms, fingers, and hands, and even the entire body

itself in ritualized endeavours of distension and suspending.

These are, again, corporatizations of the sensations of delay or duration. Other

sadomasochists extend sex beyond the ethnological itself with props such as dildos, piercing

needles, and whips. These spatial augmentations of the body, in turn, have a transient

conceptualization of their own (France, 1984). For a butch lesbian top, for example, the dildo can

serve as a prop for the prosthetic reminiscence of masculinity she embraces as a control but has

not lived genetically. The dildo or even the hand itself can make well an “amputated”

masculinity, which is often felt as an incomplete history that has been briefly suspended by the

butch top’s female body although is now renewed in the juncture of erotic meeting (France,

1984). In other words, the dildo prolongs the butch or daddy top into her “own” masculine past,

the conceived time of another life. Just as sadomasochism exceeds the spatial perimeters of a

player’s “own” council, it can inundate the chronological confines of her “own” age.

Works Cited

France, Marie. "Sadomasochism and Feminism." Feminist Review, No. 16 (1984):


35-42.

Hall, Lesley. Pain. 14 apr 2010. 14 apr 2010


<http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/en/pain/microsite/culture1.html#>.