1. Hurting others for sexual pleasure: the gaining of sexual gratification by causing physical or mental pain to other people, or the acts that produce such gratification
2. Being cruel for fun: the gaining of pleasure from causing physical or mental pain to people or anymals
3. Cruely: great physical or mental cruelty
Now, before I go any further, I should point out the obvious. Obviously I’m talking about sadism in the context of safe, sane, and consentual BDSM activities only. This definition encompasses all kinds of sadism, including animal cruelty, torture, bullying, all that fucked-up crap. I’m not talking about that stuff. Anyone who engages in activities that truly cause harm to others needs to be locked up forever or shot.
The world of BDSM is a diverse one, and different members of the worldwide community would define sadism differently. Most people I’ve met describe sadism as causing physical pain only.
And don’t get me wrong. I can be quite the sadist. The desire waxes and wanes, but there have been times when I just needed to hit. To kick, to punch, to whip, to slap. To feel the adrenaline, feel the energy coil up in my body as I wound up for the next strike, feeling the jarring shock of my hand/foot/paddle/whip/whatever hitting a solid body, watching the object of my sadism writhe and cry and scream and cower and beg. Then, to see the marks begin to form. Almost like a report card, maybe. Showing me how well I did. Proof that I was there. Undeniable, unquestionable proof that I had really beaten another person. Finding a dark thrill from that. Even turning the sadism back off, putting it back in its drawer, kneeling down to comfort the pitiful thing I’d just broken. Feeling another, perhaps darker, kind of thrill as the person melts into me, completely yielding, completely spent, completely trusting, exhausted.
But there’s another type of cruelty I enjoy. Most D/s folk would say it’s different than sadism, but I disagree.
I adore humiliating others.
And, in my mind, there are two broad types of humiliation: physical and verbal. Verbal humiliation, as you probably already know, is what you say. Calling someone a whore, a slut, a bitch, a toy. Telling someone he’s not a real man because of this reason or that. Telling someone he’s not a real person; an object, a thing to be used for my amusement.
Physical humiliation is all stuff you do to someone or make them do. Keeping my boy naked, not allowing him on the furniture, peeing on him, keeping his hands tied for extended periods in such a way that trying to do everyday things is awkward and difficult for him, tying him by his balls to various things and making him stay there (like tying him to the doorknob in the bathroom while I take a shower), the possibilities are endless.
And most people in the BDSM community would say that what I described above is not sadism. And they may be partly right. I’ve known plenty of sadists and masochists who weren’t into humiliation (even know a Domme who is dead-set against humiliation and refuses to do it), and I’ve known plenty of people, like my kazander, who adore humiliation in its many forms, but are certainly not physical masochists or sadists.
But if you look at the dictionary definition of sadism, it includes causing both physical and mental/emotional pain. And that would include humiliation. And really, humiliation does cause a kind of pain. It can be just as damaging as physical sadism, if you’re not careful.
I had a recent conversation in which someone else mentioned trying to make sense of darker desires, and it got me thinking about the reasons behind my own.
The reasons behind wanting to physically hurt others are easy to figure out. I am a napoleonic power-monger (I’ve said this before). I want control. I need it. I lust for it. And the greatest thrill while I’m beating someone is not necessarily the physical act of striking them. It’s watching them writhe at my feet or in their bonds, completely powerless (because I’ve taken that from them), completely at my mercy.
And there’s something darker, there, too. Yes, safe words are always available, and yes, I will always respect them. I will always respect a sub’s limits. But there’s a deep, dark corner of my mind that whispers, “you don’t have to, you know…”
And it’s true. Once they’re tied up and helpless, there’s really nothing they can do about it, anyway. I don’t have to respect their limits. I don’t have to stop if they use their safeword.
I will never act on that particular thought. My own moral code prevents me from it. That, and (I don’t know for sure, this is just speculation) I don’t think I would even be able to remain sexually turned-on if the activities ever crossed that line.
But just the knowledge that I could is a dark thrill in and of itself. There’s a rush in my blood when I tie up my playthings and realize that there’s nothing but my own conscience to stop me. Well, there’s the law, and consequences, and all that. But in that moment, those things don’t exist. The fact that I have that much power over another is intoxicating.
My desire to humiliate is a little harder to figure out. My desire to degrade and dehumanize someone I care about (and the fact that I desire such things because I care about them) is a little harder to piece together.
I suppose it partly goes back to the lust for control, and for taking control away from others. Humiliation is definitely a type of control. More subtle than tying someone up or restricting their movements, but just as profound. Perhaps because it requires active submission and obedience, where as physical sadism doesn’t always. A sub could be tied up and beaten, and they could go to a place in their mind where they really believe they have no choice, and that may be a coping mechanism. Requiring a sub to eat out of a dog bowl, however, is not something the sub can pretend they have no choice over. They must actually choose to obey. Sure, that could be made easier by threats of punishment for disobedience, but the sub must still crawl over to the dog bowl and eat out of it on his or her own. And I like that. It means that I control more than just his body. I control, at least to a point, his mind, his will. The type of control that makes a sub obey my command just because I voiced it is intoxicating and addicting.
Why is this level of control so seductive to me? I’m not sure. I believe that the desire to control others (or to be controlled) is, at least in part, genetic. I’ve had a desire to control boys since before I can remember. I liked the idea of controlling others at a very young age. For example, I was hospitalized for a week at age 3. I only have 4 memories of that week, and all four a merely glimpses, barely a second long. I remember a playroom, sitting at a table, coloring with a little dark-haired girl, sitting in my room and watching a young boy and his father walk by my door, the boy seeing me and exclaiming to his father, “Daddy, there’s a girl in there!” I remember running through the hallway toward the playroom, my dad behind me with the pole holding the IV I was hooked to, trying his damndest to keep up so I wouldn’t accidentally tear the thing out of my arm, and I remember sitting once more in that playroom, completely fascinated by a group of nurses holding a little boy’s arm still so they could replace the IV that had fallen out. I remember being transfixed as the boy winced and struggled, scared of the needle and the pain it represented. Even then, watching this little boy being controlled, being at the mercy of others, was something that appealed to me, although I was much too young to understand the appeal. My earliest daydreams revolved around kidnapping and tying up boys, and leaving them helpless. When I played games with my friends, I was never the damsel-in-distress, waiting to be saved. In fact, I was often the one holding the damsel (or whatever type of prisoner applied to our game) hostage, making sure they stayed in the “jail” or whatever.
As I got older, my daydreams started taking a sexual turn, and things just went from there. So the desire to control has been there since the beginning.
But I can’t completely disregard the theory that something happened to us kinky folk to make us this way, either, although I find that much less likely. Certain events from my childhood may have had an impact, but a) my own daydreams happened much earlier than such events, and b) I really don’t carry any emotional baggage from it. I’m indifferent to the fact that it happened, I’m over it. I actually found out from my dad today that the one responsible for causing the event had passed away in August, and didn’t have a reaction at all, aside from feeling some strange sort of pity for my dad, partly for his own loss, and partly because that’s now two of his 5 younger siblings to pass away, and I think that sort of bothered him a bit. Other than that, I’m completely indifferent to the death and completely indifferent to the knowledge that he’d been living and is buried in Arizona. So anyway, I just have a hard time believing that I’m Dominant because of an event that happened more than 15 years ago that I really don’t care about. But I recognize that I’m not most people, and I recognize that for some, certain events that happen in childhood or adolescence has a massive impact on their adult life.
The topic of nature vs nurture is always a fascinating one, and that concept in the context of BDSM is something I’m definitely interested in exploring. I’m also interested in hearing other people’s theories concerning why they are the way they are, the reasons behind their darker desires, and how they define things like sadism, masochism, and all kinds of terms that mean different things to different people within the BDSM community (ask 20 people the difference between sub and slave, for example, and you’ll likely get 20 different answers).