Monday, September 19, 2011

Psychology Today Article About Sadism/Masochism

Good morning, dear Readers,
I came upon this very informative article in Psychology Today that seems to answer the most common question asked by the vanilla, the curious and the new.... "Why?".

The Pleasure of the Pain: Why some people need S&M
written by Marianne Apostolides and published in  Psychology Today  September/October 1999

      Bind my ankles with your white cotton rope so I cannot walk. Bind my wrists so I cannot push you away. Place me on the bed and wrap your rope tighter around my skin so it grips my flesh. Now I know that struggle is useless, that I must lie here and submit to your mouth and tongue and teeth, your hands and words and whims. I exist only as your object. Exposed.

     Of every 10 people who read these words, one or more has experimented with sadomasochism (S&M), which is most popular among educated, middle-and-upper-middle-class men and women, according to psychologists and ethnographers who have studied the phenomenon. Charles Moser, Ph.D., M.D., of the institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, has researched S&M to learn the motivation behind it--to understand why in the world people would ask to be bound, whipped and flogged. The reasons are as surprising as they are varied.

     For Mark, the desire became apparent when he was a child playing war games-he always hoped to be captured. "I was frightened that I was sick," he says. But now, he adds, as a well-seasoned player on the scene, "I thank the leather gods I found this community."
    At first the scene found him. When he was at a party in college a professor chose him. She brought him home and tied him up, telling him how bad he was for having these desires, even as she fulfilled them. For the first time he felt what he had only imagined, what he had read about in every S&M book he could find.
     Mark, a father and manager, has a Type A personality--in-control, hard-working, intelligent, and demanding. His intensity is evident on his face, in his posture, in his voice. But when he plays, his eyes drift and a peaceful energy flows through him as though he had injected heroin. With each addition of pain or restraint, he stiffens slightly, then falls into a deeper calm, a deeper peace, waiting to obey his mistress. "Some people have to be tied up to be
free," he says.
     As Mark's experience illustrates, sadomasochism involves a uniquely skewed power relationship established through role-playing, bondage, and/or the infliction of pain. In the sub-category known as Domination and Submission, or D&S, the essential component is not the pain or bondage itself, but rather the knowledge that one person has complete control over the other, deciding what that person will hear, do, taste, touch, smell and feel. We hear about men pretending to be little girls, women being bound in leather straps, people screaming in pain and ecstasy with each strike of a flogger or drip of hot wax. We hear about it because it is happening in bedrooms and dungeons across the country.
    For over a century, people who engaged in bondage, beatings and humiliation for sexual pleasure were considered mentally ill. But in the 1980s, the American Psychiatric Association removed S&M as a category in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This decision--like the decision to remove homosexuality as a category in 1973--was a big step toward the societal acceptance of people whose sexual desires aren't traditional, or vanilla, as it's called in S&M circles.

     What's new is that such desires are increasingly being considered normal, even healthy, as experts begin to recognize their psychological value. S&M, they are beginning to understand, offers a release of sexual and emotional energy that people cannot get from traditional sex.
     "The satisfaction gained from S&M is something far more than sex," explains Roy Baumeister, Ph.D., a social psychologist at Case Western Reserve University "It can be a total emotional release."  Although people report that they have better-than-usual sex immediately after a scene, the goal of S & M itself is not intercourse: "A good scene doesn't end in orgasm, it ends in catharsis."

Escaping the Modern Western Ego

     "Sadomasochism is a way people can forget themselves." Roy Baumeister, Ph.D., Professor of psychology, Case Western Reserve University. 

     "Nothing matters except you, me and the sound of my voice," Lily Fine, a professional dominatrix, tells the tied-up and exposed businessman who begged to be spanked before breakfast. She says it slowly, making her slave wait for every sound, forcing him to focus only on her, to float in anticipation of the sensations she will create inside him. Anxieties about mortgages and taxes, stresses about business partners and job deadlines are vanquished each time the flogger hits the flesh. The businessman is reduced to a physical creature existing only in the here and now, feeling the pain and pleasure. "I'm interested in manipulating what's in the mind," Lily says. "The brain is the greatest erogenous zone."

     In another S&M 'scene,' Lily tells a woman to take off her clothes, then dresses her only with a blindfold. She commands the woman not to move. Lily then takes a tissue and begins moving it over the woman's body in different patterns and at varying speeds and angles. Sometimes she lets the edge of the tissue just barely brush the woman's stomach and breasts; sometimes she bunches the tissue and creates swirls on her back and all the way down. "The woman was quivering. She didn't know what I was doing to her, but she was liking it," Lily remembers with a smile.

    Escape theory is further supported by an idea called "frame analysis," developed by the late Irving Goffman, Ph.D. According to Goffman, despite its popular conception as darkly wild and orgiastic, S&M play has complex rules, rituals, roles and dynamics that create a "frame" around the experience. "Frames are like fantasies--they suspend reality. They create expectations, norms and values that set this situation apart from other parts of life," confirms Thomas Weinberg, Ph.D., a sociologist at Buffalo State College in New York and the editor of S&M: Studies in Dominance & Submission (Prometheus Books, 1995). Once inside the frame, people are free to act and feel in ways they couldn't at other times.

S&M: Part of the Sexual Continuum

S&M has inspired the creation of many psychological theories in addition to the ones discussed here. Do we need so many? Perhaps not according to Stephanie Saunders Ph.D., associate director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, "a lot of behaviors that are scrutinized because they are seen to be marginal are really a part of the continuum of sexuality and sexual behavior." After all, the ingredients in good S&M play-communication, respect and trust-are the same ingredients in good traditional sex. The outcome is the same, too-a feeling of connection to the body and the self.


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