Why do some men have to have violence and sex together? - SL
Don’t worry, SL. I still love ya, and it’s useful question.
No one needs to mix violence and sex; humans have free will. Some people force sex and violence on an unwilling partner (this is a crime) and others choose a partner who is willing and desirous (this is a kinky situation). Lacking evidence to the contrary, I assume that you’re asking about kinkiness. If you have been an involuntary participant, it’s time to call the police.
Some people choose to mix sex and violence as part of a larger personality style that involves harming and humiliating others for gratification. This is the aforementioned criminal behavior. One study of women who got in over their heads with sadistic men suggested that the women were either naïve, darkly attracted to the criminal element, or both. They all ended up in trouble with the law, and several of their stories involved dead bodies (Warren & Hazelwood, 2002). Tales of romance, these were not.
Studies like that one are easily misinterpreted. The participants are not at all representative of typical sadists (those who administer humiliation or pain) or masochists (those who seek it). Nor is it remotely accurate to suggest that all sadists are twisted men and all masochists are helpless women. Nor is “violence” a term that is appropriate to the bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism (S&M) community because it implies unwillingness, as well as lasting physical and psychological damage.
Most research on sexual sadism is conducted on convicted male felons. It’s been commonly accepted in the psychology community that women don’t experience such proclivities, but there is convincing evidence that plenty of women do (see Federoff, Fishell, & Federoff, 1999). But who needs studies? Ease your way into the right line of questioning among a few tipsy friends and let the enlightenment commence. You may be surprised at how many of your own friends have dabbled in leather and chains.
Sadism and masochism are the least studied and most poorly defined of the alternative sexual practices, even among heavily-studied felons. And felons are certainly not representative of the much larger peace-lovin’ population. This leaves us with little more than theory to answer your question. Here’s a sampling:
- One theory suggests that acting in an opposite role adds balance to a persona. That is, someone who is socially submissive in the day-to-day world gets to practice assertiveness in a safe environment through S&M. Likewise, a person who is powerful in his daily life experiences the ease of submission in safety and privacy.
- Our Freudian friends trace sadistic or masochistic traits to the experience of discipline in childhood. The convicted murderer John Edward Robinson, who found victims in BDSM chat rooms, is said to have had an excessively disciplinarian mother. Other young ‘uns, the theory says, learn early on that they got a thrill from being spanked. It never did much for me.
- Behaviorists and social psychologists suggest that sadism and masochism are learned by watching others and are reinforced through rewarding experiences. They watched it, they tried it, it worked out OK, so they did it again.
- Some evolutionary psychologists argue that rape must have been a successful mating strategy in the past, hence residual sexual aggression throughout history and cultures. This theory hasn’t won many friends in these hypersensitive times.
- Biological psychologists have noted that both pain and pleasure can trigger the release of endorphins, thereby causing masochists to seek out both. They point out that the release of endorphins can sustain many self-destructive behaviors such as drug use and self-cutting. By the way, a common lament in the S&M community is that there aren’t enough doms (sadists) to satisfy the market glut of subs (masochists). Pain sells, and female doms seem to be a particularly hot commodity.
- Many clinical psychologists point to a history of childhood sexual trauma among S&M practitioners and they conclude that S&M behavior is the result. While that may be true for some, we psychologists are plagued by a certain logical fallacy that leads us to all kinds of unsupported conclusions. Example: all S&Mers were abused as children.
Among these, I don’t have a favorite theory. There’s probably a grain of truth to each of them. At the end of the day, people choose to mix sex and aggression for the same reason they do most anything else: it is more rewarding than the other things they’ve tried. S&M usually involves a relationship component that is both comfortable and successful for practitioners. You can read more about that in my column on slave collars. As long as the behavior is “safe, sane, and consensual,” an S&M mantra, it’s fine by me. Besides, it isn’t going away anytime soon. Here are a few facts and figures to mull over while your searching for that perfect riding crop (from Gross, 2006):
- More than 40 species have been noted to bite while mating. Among humans, approximately 25% of both men and women report having been sexually aroused by a partner’s bite. Chew on that.
- 5-10% of the population in both the United States and the European Union practice some sort of mild, pain-free BDSM sex-play on a regular basis. Bondage is one example.
- There is a huge range of dominating and humiliating behaviors that don’t involve pain. Some are as mild as bossy sweet-nothings. Others are so extreme as to involve exchanging… Um, never mind. There may be kids reading.
- Based on self-report, men prefer both sadism and masochism more than women.
- Men tend to learn early in life that they enjoy this aspect of their sexuality, while women tend to be introduced by a partner later in life.
On that note, being introduced by a caring and informed partner is probably the safest way to explore the S&M community. Chat rooms can be dangerous and misleading for novices. Jay Wiseman’s SM 101: A Realistic Introduction is considered a must-read for those who want to explore this scene.
But something in the tone of your question tells me that you’re not so hep on the whip, SL. If I can convince you of only one thing, let it be this: don’t ever confuse kink with criminality. You should only participate in S&M willingly, happily, and safely. In the words of my dear Aunt Ethel, whips, crops, cuffs, and collars should only be used for fun.
Berner, W., Berger, P., & Hill. A. (2003). Sexual sadism. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 47(4), 383-395.
Federoff, J.P., Fishell, A., & Federoff, B. (1999). A case series of women evaluated for paraphilic sexual disorders. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality 8(2).
Gross, B. (2006). The pleasure of pain. The Forensic Examiner 15(1), 56-62.
Warren, J.I. & Hazelwood, R.R. (2002). Relational patterns associated with sexual sadism: a study of 20 wives and girlfriends. Journal of Family Violence 17(1), 75-89.
Wiseman, J.J. (1996). SM 101: A Realistic Introduction. San Francisco, CA: Greenery Press.