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Art exhibitions: "Phantom of Desire. Visions of Masochism in Art"

Related: sadomasochism - martyrdom - obedience - psychoanalysis - submission - pain - sexual power

In literature: Venus in Furs

"The essence of sadomasochism is not so much "pain" as the overwhelming of one's senses - emotionally more than physically. Active sexual masochism has little to do with pain and everything to do with the search for emotional pleasure. When we understand that it is pain only, and not cruelty, that is the essential in this group of manifestations, we begin to come nearer to their explanation. The masochist desires to experience pain, but he generally desires that it should be inflicted in love; the sadist desires to inflict pain, but he desires that it should be felt as love...." --Havelock Ellis

By Gender: female masochism - male masochism

Connoisseurs: Gilles Deleuze ( Masochism : Coldness and Cruelty) - Dorothy Hayden - Jean Streff - Leopold von Sacher-Masoch - Bob Flanagan - Wanda von Sacher-Masoch - Anita Phillips - Theodor Reik - June Rathbone - Kaja Silverman -

"Now I wanna be your dog" --The Stooges, 1969

A Defense of Masochism (1998) - Anita Phillips
[FR] [DE] [UK]

Le masochisme au cinéma (1978) - Jean Streff [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


The counterpart of sadism is masochism, the sexual pleasure or gratification of having pain or suffering inflicted upon the self, often consisting of sexual fantasies or urges for being beaten, humiliated, bound, tortured, or otherwise made to suffer, either as an enhancement to or a substitute for sexual pleasure. The name is derived from the 19th century author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, known for his novel Venus in Furs that dealt with highly masochistic themes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadism_and_masochism [2004]

Sadism and masochism, often going together (one person obtaining sadistic pleasure by inflicting pain or suffering on another person who thereby obtains masochistic pleasure), are collectively known as S&M. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masochism [Jun 2004]

Masochism is sadism turned to the self

In psychoanalytic thinking "sadism" is often understood as a primary and "masochism" a secondary reaction to trauma. "Masochism" is secondary in the sense that the "sadism" is directed inward, against oneself. If a child has a mother who denies him satisfaction of needs, he might as a grown up seek revenge in sadistic fantasies and possibly act them out sexually against women. "Oral", "anal" and "phallic" sadism has been postulated. Thus revenge may come as a result of the castration anxiety from the Oedipal ("phallic") stage. The Oedipal conflict may alternatively result directly in submission (thereby masochism) as an escape strategy. He "lets go" by giving up. --Odd Reiersol via http://www.revisef65.org/reiersol1.html [Dec 2005]

Odd Reiersřl is a Norwegian psychologist and sexologist for 25 years working with adults, couples and groups and educating other professionals. --http://www.revisef65.org/reiersol1.html [Dec 2005]

Masochism as a psychoanalytic concept

Psychoanalysis as a method of investigation and masochism as a subject of research came into existence at about the same time. The designation of masochism is about ten years older, depending upon the date one chooses for the beginning of psychoanalysis. As a result, the ideas about the special place of the newly defined perversion in sexuality and mental life exerted an influence on the development of psychoanalysis. There were many disagreements among Freud's contemporaries in their efforts to delineate and define a syndrome named masochism, and to discover its broader significance in the lives of men and of animals. These conflicts reflected diverse ways of thinking about scientific problems. Havelock Ellis (1903), for example, offered a combination of romanticized and naturalistic descriptions of animal behavior in an effort to demonstrate the biological roots of sadism in the animal kingdom. Ellis spoke of the "thin veil that divides love and death" (p. 127) throughout nature, thus blending dramatically the psychological and phylogenetic aspects of the sexual function. In particular, the association between the sexual act and cannibalism among some organisms seemed to some authors of the time to be the primitive source of sadism. Ellis added, however, that de Gourmont (1858-1915) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remy_de_Gourmont] said that "this sexual cannibalism exerted by the female may have, primarily, no erotic significance: 'She eats him because she is hungry and because when exhausted he is an easy prey'" (p. 128). This pair of formulations evidently indicates a conflict between tragic interpretation and mechanistic explanation. --William I. Grossman, M.D., Notes on Masochism: A Discussion of the History and Development of a Psychoanalytic Concept, http://www.psychoanalysis.net/IPPsa/Grossman/Notes%20on%20Masochism.htm [Feb 2005]

In "The Economic Problem of Masochism" (1924), the factors of erotogenic pain, subjugation to a sexual object, and sexual activity in which the other factors played a part had acquired a developmental and structural significance in Freud's theory. There the triad became three observable forms of masochism: the erotogenic, the moral, and the feminine. The erotogenic, Freud said, underlies the other two, and its "basis must be sought along biological and constitutional lines …" (p. 161). In other words, it is developmentally the oldest and belongs to the id. Moral masochism, like "sexual bondage," is a sexualized submission to a loved object, who, in this case, is enshrined uneasily in the superego. Feminine masochism refers to the perversion and is an infantile sexual development belonging to the ego. A peculiarity of Freud's introduction to his three types of masochism creates an ambiguity about the relations among erotogenic masochism, feminine masochism, and the masochistic perversion, so that some authors equate the perversion with erotogenic masochism, others with feminine masochism. This results from Freud's (1924, p. 161) writing that "masochism comes under our observation in three forms: as a condition imposed on sexual excitation, as an expression of the feminine nature, and as a norm of behaviour." It sounds as though the "condition imposed on sexual excitation" describes masochistic perversion, since the perversion is often defined in this way, and as though "an expression of the feminine nature" describes women. Certainly much of the literature on femininity and female sexuality cites the passage in this sense. However, it is clear in what follows immediately that feminine masochism is the perversion and that erotogenic masochism is independent of gender. "Feminine nature," in this context, would seem to refer to femininity as an element of bisexuality (Laplanche and Pontalis, 1967). This conception is very likely a derivative of the ideas considered by Krafft-Ebing to the effect that masochism in men involves a feminine inheritance and might be a "rudimentary contrary sexual instinct," that is, a homosexual impulse. --William I. Grossman, M.D., Notes on Masochism: A Discussion of the History and Development of a Psychoanalytic Concept, http://www.psychoanalysis.net/IPPsa/Grossman/Notes%20on%20Masochism.htm [Feb 2005]

Das ökonomische Problem des Masochismus (1924)

The Mastery of Submission: Inventions of Masochism () - John K. Noyes

The Mastery of Submission: Inventions of Masochism () - John K. Noyes [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

A very erudite, comprehensive, and searching study, which investigates masochism from a variety of perspectives. --Elaine Showalter, Princeton University

Individuals sometimes derive sexual pleasure from submission to cruel discipline. While that predilection was noted as early as the sixteenth century, masochism was not codified as a concept until 1890. According to John K. Noyes, its invention reflected a crisis in the liberal understanding of subjectivity and sexuality which continues to inform discussions of masochism today. In essence, it remains a political concept.

Noyes documents the evolution of the concept of masochism with scenes in literature from John Cleland's Fanny Hill through Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs and Pauline Reage's Story of O. Analysis of Freud's vastly influential rereading of masochism precedes an exploration of the work of his successors, including Wilhem Reich, Theodor Reik, Helene Deutsch, and Karen Horney. Noyes suggests that the thematics of feminine masochism emerged only gradually from an exclusively male concept. --Book Description via Amazon.com

Sublime Surrender: Male Masochism at the Fin-de-siecle (1998) - Suzanne R. Stewart

Sublime Surrender: Male Masochism at the Fin-de-siecle (1998) - Suzanne R. Stewart
[FR] [DE] [UK]

When Heinrich Heine left his sick bed in 1848 and stumbled to the Louvre to fall before a statue of the goddess of beauty and lie in the pitying, cold glance she seemed to cast on his prostrate body, he defined a recurring motif of the second half of the nineteenth century, according to Suzanne R. Stewart.

Directing her attention to the voice of the shriveled male body at beauty's feet, she investigates the discourse by and about men that took hold in the German-speaking world between 1870 and 1940 and that articulated masculinity as and through its own marginalization. Male masochism, she suggests, was a rhetorical strategy through which men asserted their cultural and political authority paradoxically by embracing the notion that they were (and always had been) wounded and suffering.

Stewart demonstrates and develops her contentions through close readings of the work of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Richard Wagner, and Sigmund Freud, in each case showing that the very act through which men sacrificed themselves to women comprised the essence of the new male subject "deeply penetrated by relations of poetical and sexual power". Masochistic scenarios, whether in literature, music, the visual arts, or medicalized diagnoses of the fin-de-siecle malaise, stage the male as who submits, as Stewart explains, "to an aestheticized and eroticized gaze and voice". --from the publisher

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