The Dungeon Master’s Guide: Sadism
Once again, we are going to venture back to the dungeon and dig deeper into the kinks that are nearest and dearest to me. This time, we are going to look at Sadism. Sadism is most commonly defined as the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others. Derived from Marquis DeSade, who I hope doesn’t need an introduction if you are reading this. He lavishly chronicled his fabled exploits with a great deal of embellishment. Some of his supposed practices from 120 Days in Sodom might put one at odds with local law enforcement. It is perhaps the most extreme vision suffering and debasement. Society sees sadism in what, to me, is a shallow and puritanical light.
When the Mental health community included this in the DSM 2, Sadism was broken up into four categories:
Class I: Bothered, but doesn’t act out sexual fantasies…so in other words, repressed and leading a vanilla life.
This is sad, but the norm in the western world due to the widespread environmental factors encouraging repression. Housewives are allowed to be titillated by the next best seller that flirts with these topics, but seldom allow themselves to dabble beyond voyeurism with a touristy trip to a sex shop. This repression can come out sideways by self medicating the desires with other things or depending upon the severity of shame induced can explode with them acting out in the 3rd and 4th classifications , missing out on the chance to develop a healthy outlet. Whatever we resist persists.
Class II: Act on sadistic urges with consenting sexual partners (masochists or otherwise). Categorization as “Leptosadism” is outdated.
This is where practitioners of BDSM should fall, though some with no guidance, education and confusion as to what their intentions are might carry over into the 3rd class. In the local scene I am a part of it grew out of a geek culture of people who used BDSM as a vehicle in which they used to get laid. The sex then became the prime objective and they missed out on an opportunity for growth. This is similar to someone who goes to 12-Step meetings, with meeting someone to date as their under lying motive and thus returns to drinking.
Class III: Act on sadistic urges with non-consenting victims, but don’t seriously injure or kill. May coincide with sadist sexual type rapists.
I have already explored consensual non- consent, so there are even healthy ways to deal with feelings that might lead a person to acting upon these urges at this level. This is often reflected in the kind of porn I watch. The key here is retaining a sense of boundaries in order to not take this out on other in a non-consensual manner.
Class IV: Only act with non-consenting victims and will seriously injure or kill them.
This is reflected vicariously in the kind of horror movies I like. What might make a person reach this state could be place is a state of self loathing often brought about by untreated mental illness. Repression and depression can come out as rage where this kind of violence stems from. It is unlikely people that this stage were ever given the opportunity to channel this in a productive manner thus allowing themselves the freedom to dig into the root causes and conditions needed to be treated.
By embracing the 2nd classification, one can lead a fulfilled life and avoid the dangers of following 3 and 4. It is the intention and the awareness that draws the line between illness and what could perhaps be the cure. In following the “Safe, Sane and Consensual” motto of BDSM, you do so with the intent that this urge to revel in the suffering of others is given its proper ritual space. You can then leave it in the dungeon. Sadistic Personality disorder was included in the DSM -3 , listed a disorder with high co-morbidity with conditions like psychopathy , narcissism and alcoholism. But was excluded from later additions after further study gathered limited data. My personal observation in the kink community is this, like many other kinks, this developed in the shadow of a pathology. In western society people have a hard enough time not feeling shamed for having these desires in the first place, so the next layer of the onion being that perhaps these kinks grew from an underlying mental twist is often too much self-awareness in the Western world. We’re quick to point out studies showing how people into kink are much more well-adjusted than those in the vanilla world, becoming a chicken or the egg debate, since the adjustment might come from allowing oneself to indulge in such kinks.
Another topic altogether, as I have already touched in an article on the therapeutic value of BDSM. What does sadism look like? On the most surface level, just giving a good flogging could satisfy this urge, but much like metal or drugs you need increased intensity over time to hit that spot, making you seek something heavier or in stronger doses to chase the dragon. It’s the reaction that does it for me. Seeing the body of the person I hurt tense or jump off the bench. What are new and surprising ways I can add a little twist to take things further, while remaining in the bounds of the agreed protocol? Sadism is not just about the physical pain, but for me also about the other levels of distress I can bring to the situation. Being unpredictable. I never strike someone in the same pattern twice. Giving pregnant pauses to leave them unprepared for the next thud or sting. I prefer putting my back into impact play, so wielding things like paddles and floggers are typical for me, so I search for what other forms of stimuli I can include – clothes pins on nipples and clitoris? Tightening the handcuffs to bite into the skin a little, rubbing salt or alcohol onto the wounds.
It’s easy for me not to yuck someone else’s yum when it comes to things I am just not into, for example dressing like a baby or a horse, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around people in the dungeon who use a flogger like they are dusting the furniture or twirling glow sticks at a rave. My first thought is, how are you deriving any pleasure from an act that is not actually hurting them? Some theories suggest it might not be the intensity in which they inflict pain, but that sadism operates through objectification and scapegoating. While this might be true of someone who goes into the act with with little intent and not seeking a deeper energy exchange – I think anyone can hurt someone they have objectified, but there is a deeper satisfaction in knowing I am hurting an actual person. Someone I know, who is going to bear the bruises, welts and lacerations I am inflicting upon them. In some d/s relationships sadism translates less on a physical level and might involve a complex labyrinth of emotional predicaments that tap in charged areas of the psyche. In the way the Dom’s relationship with the Sub, involves really getting to know the person by doing the detective work needed to learn their triggers and how they might play upon them in a manner that pushes the Sub while being risk aware.
The why of how someone like me relishes in the pain of others might be debated. The how of a sadist choosing to do this differs from person to person. I personally find the 39 lashes from The Passion of the Christ the golden standard of my personal play, but someone else might just like to tie their submissive up and force them to listen to Rush Limbaugh. I think the key is embracing the fact that sadism is a part of you. When I hear the fruits of my labor manifest through moans and sobbing, or blossom in a bright red welt, it is one of the few activities where I feel like I am truly myself. Happy spankings.