In Defence Of…Sadism?

Posted: April 29, 2011 in Gender Violence, homosexuality, Porn

These are a few thoughts following Mark Simpson’s recent piece (well recently re-posted) on ‘Hazing’.

Posting this on my own blog made me realise I am totally screwed up about ‘sex and violence’. I think I am pretty fine with homosexuality! But when it comes to violence I am completely confused. Part of me really really hates any kind of violence, even in sports etc. And yet I have willingly ‘voluntarily’ chosen to be hurt by people for the sake of sexual arousal.

I can’t make sense of that in the way some ‘masochists’ do, by saying that ‘consent’ and ‘sexual desire’ make all the difference. Because I have felt quite disturbed by some of my S and M sexual experiences. They have left me feeling frightened, vulnerable, freaked out. Indeed, I have been in ‘violent’ relationships that were not overtly ‘S and M’. There was no spoken ‘consent’ for what happened to me. And one of those relationships led to me being properly assaulted and stalked for months.

Many of the ‘rationales’ for S and M are written by ‘masochists’, and often by masochistic women. The role of the ‘sadist’ (and also of the masochist man) goes largely unexplored and undefended. ‘Sexual Sadism’ is still considered a psychiatric disorder. It is difficult for people, especially men, to be open about the pleasure they get from hurting others.  Partly, I am afraid, because feminists demonise men’s sexuality, and make out that ‘sadists’ are rapists by any other name.  That men are rapists by nature, and they need to learn to curb their ‘sadism’ or else they will be labelled as such and punished.

For me, just as masochism is hard to explain and ‘defend’ solely in terms of consenting sexual relationships between adults, so is sadism difficult to tidy away neatly into the S and M box.

When I read about Hazing rituals, even the ones that don’t involve physical violence but more humiliation or discomfort, I feel conflicted. Part of me is in horror at the thought of being forced, or choosing to participate in such a practice. Another part of me is intrigued and a little turned on.

After I read Mark’s post the last time, I went and looked up ‘hazing’ online. I found some videos. Some of them were pornos and some weren’t. It was all mixed up. I like things mixed up. I find in my own life, pleasure and pain, sex and violence, consent and non-consent are often mixed up.

In The Notebook my first entry read:

‘The line between good violence and bad violence is blurred. I like it like that’.

I think Hazing is part of the blurring of the line between ‘good violence’ and ‘bad violence’. This is what makes it appealing/threatening to many of us if we are honest I should think.

It’s not just about fears around ‘homosexuality’ I believe. It also touches on our ambivalent relationship with sadism (and masochism). I think Mark is brave, not so much for pointing out the inherent homo-ness in all male groups (though he does that so well I’d hate him to stop), but for defending sadism,  even when it is not dressed up in ‘consensual sex’ terminology.

And, like I believe that the best chance we have of dealing with our need for sadism and masochism in a ‘healthy’ way is by openly practising them in our sex lives (or even just our fantasy lives, or our pornography lives, or our talking about sex lives), so I believe that we need to be open and not ashamed about how we enjoy ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’ in other areas. Like sports. And group dynamics. And work. And voyeurism. Sometimes even looking is painful. And sometimes it is kind of sadistic.

The lines are blurred.

  1. 2020 says:

    “so I believe that we need to be open about how we enjoy ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’ in other areas. Like sports. And group dynamics”

    An example form my own life of this bluring not in a sexual sence but in a genral where is the line drawn sence and of good violents vs bad violents.

    Me and some uni mates were sitting around watching youtube videos when we came across one of I think someone being beat up I don’t know I think I’ve blocked it from my mind though I do still remember being there and watching it. What I can remember is being horrified at what I was seeing and shouting “Oh god turn it off that’s fucked up” and being really shaken up, I think we all were its fair to say. However this is despite the fact that just an hour before we’d been merely killing each other over Xbox live on Halo 3.

    It’s strange. I don’t like violent news coverage and have gone out of my way to avoid stories about Lydia, the Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami and I refuse even watch that video of that poor Trans woman being beaten in MacDonalds, real world violence upsets me greatly.

    Yet I’ll watch film’s that have people being violently murdered and play video games that feature death and destruction as their main selling point and not even flinch.

    Sorry if this wasn’t what you meant it, it’s just that your post got me thinking that’s all.

    • thats exactly what I meant 2020! I didn’t watch the video of the trans woman being beaten up either. I watched a video of her being interviewed sometime afterwards, and now I have an image of her in my mind as a woman, speaking articulately. Not just as a body, a victim.

  2. Ive avoided much of the news lately too! I think it is an interesting thing the way we watch violence and also condemn it at the same time.

  3. innegative says:

    And on this, I’ve been writing a blog post over this past month that I’m a bit apprehensive about putting out… I think it makes sense of this problem (as well as others) and avoids the frankly sterile notion of ‘consent’. Was pondering too letting you have it for your Games Perverts Play if you’re still doing that. If i do decide to finish it and put it out, I’d be curious about what you thought of it.

  4. elflojo84 says:

    “It is difficult for people, especially men, to be open about the pleasure they get from hurting others”

    I fuckin’ LOVE pulling a girls hair while I’m up to no good with her …

    • well it is quite easy for men to be open with QRG as QRG provides a space for you to be open. I meant in the wider world…

      • elflojo84 says:

        Yeah I know. I’m still fairly open about it though. I guess we’re a lot more open about that sort of thing to each other than to girls I suppose … it’s generally something you just get on with rather than discuss!

  5. Clarence says:

    I love spanking a girl who is into that. Seeing her cry turns me on, so I tend to be a meanie top. Yet, ironically, it’s partly context dependent. If she was really upset about it (i.e. she didn’t want it at some level) her being upset would kill my boner. I think it’s because of how sex and spanking are intertwined with me, and possibly how sex and emotional intimacy are as well. And in the rare cases that I’ve spanked as “punishment” type of thing its been important to me that we both agreed it was fair.

    Of course I’m a bottom too, but this is a thread about sadism, so there’s my sadistic side for you.

    • Schala says:

      My boyfriend also agreed that he would only spank me when it was fair, not out of plain cruelty.

  6. Once again guilty of not reading the comments first.

    I agree that there is a great deal of S and M in sports. Really. Has anyone ever watched football?! And don’t even get me started on rugby! And as for voyeurism, well, if it wasn’t fun to watch, why wold there be som many of those shows where people fall off of things, get hit by things, etc. Whether we are watching them in sexual desire or for humor, it is still entertaining. There is a fine line between humor and sex anyeay, in my opinion.

    And as a self proclaimed ‘F’ word, sex is sex. What does it matter? Yes, I maintain the importance of consent (without the quotation marks) but if S and M (or toe licking for that matter) is what pushes someones buttons, what the hell business is it of mine or anyone else’s? I think people over analyze sex to the hilt (no Freudian pun intended). To quote one of the greats, “It’s jus sex” ~ Larry Flint

    Last but not least, the DSM is full of sh*t. Not sure where AllPsych gets their diagnostics though. They are in line with the APA and the DSM but not referenced on the website. That was beside the point. The whole thing is full of it anyway.

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