There has been an escalation of interest (if not practice) in S&M over the past 30 years, and that’s not by accident—the social and cultural shifts over decades make the subject less “taboo” and more acceptably “kinky.”


Although S&M is now largely mainstream in pop culture, it has deep historical and psychological roots. [tweet this]

Sigmund_Freud - Corporate DominatrixSigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, borrowed the word sadomasochism from Richard Von Krafft-Ebing’s classic work, Psychopathia Sexualis, which was published in 1898. Krafft-Ebing, interestingly enough, was affected by the writings of two European novelists, the Marquis de Sade, who wrote the infamous Justine and The Hundred and Twenty Days at Sodom and Leopold Sacher-Mascoh, who wrote Venus In Furs.

Sacher-Moscoh is worthy of note, since his novel revolves around the protagonist’s obsession with serving a dominant woman. Boy, was he ahead of his time—be still my heart!

The Marquis de Sade might have given his name to sadomasochism (SM), but understanding the psychological underpinnings of the
word might be more accurately attributed to Freud. Freud describes Sadism as the sexual pleasure or gratification in the infliction of pain and suffering upon another person, and Masochism is the sexual pleasure or gratification of having pain or suffering inflicted upon the self for sexual pleasure. Some things to also consider:


Here’s an early cultural chronology of our fascination with S&M, domination, submission, leather & latex, from 1749-1889:

1749Fanny Hill by John Cleland depicts mutual flagellation, between Fanny and an English client. The understanding of The Marquis de Sade  - Corporate Dominatrixflagellation is in transition from an aphrodisiac practice intended to improve sexual performance to a sexual activity in its own right.

1750Fashionable Lectures: composed and delivered with Birch Discipline, based on the theme of flagellation by dominant women in positions of authority.

1785 – Comte Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade, better known as the Marquis de Sade, publishes Les 120 Journes de Sodome (The 120 Days of Sodom). His fantasy novel depicts graphic sexual violence. In his time, the Comte de Sade was better known as a philosopher and revolutionary; but today he’s forever entangled with fetish.

1869 – Austrian noble Leopold von Sacher-Masoch publishes Venus in Furs, a semi-autobiographical work about a man who convinces a woman to make him her slave.

1885 – German psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing publishes Psychopathia Sexualis, which coins the terms “sadism” and “masochism” and describes sexual disorders in which acts of cruelty and bodily punishment become sexually pleasurable.

1889 – Sigmund Freud analyzes sadomasochism as part of a number of disorders arising from the repression of the subconscious. Freud describes masochism as a perversion common in women and sadism as a perversion common in men, arising from pent-up violent energy.

And there you have the early history of S&M! Next week we will look at what happened in the 1900s in Part II of the History of S&M! In the meantime, try this Dommercise!

Dommercise: Give some thought to S&M trends & themes you notice in your every day life, particularly in photography, fashion, music videos, advertising, publishing, and mainstream media—you’ll get a good sense of the pervasiveness you never fully noticed before.  And oh, by the way, many behaviors such as spanking, tickling and love-bites contain elements of sado-masochism—participate in any of those lately?.

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