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"Sadism demands a story, depends on making something happen, forcing a change in another person, a battle of will and strength, victory/defeat." (Laura Mulvey, 1975, 29).

The Sadist (1963) - James Landis [Amazon.com]
A film concerned with depicting a criminal sadist.

"Mes fantasmes sado-érotiques, je n'en ai nullement honte, je les mets en scène: la vie fantasmatique est ce que l'être humain doit revendiquer le plus hautement". --Alain Robbe-Grillet

Le Sadisme au Cinéma (1964) - George de Coulteray

Sadism is not a name finally given to a practice as old as Eros; it is a massive cultural fact which appeared precisely at the end of the eighteenth century, and which constitutes one of the greatest conversions of Western imagination: unreason transformed into delirium of the heart, madness of desire, the insane dialogue of love and death in the limitless presumption of appetite." --Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization

parents: cruelty - sadomasochism

Tropes and representations: Sadism in the Movies (1965) - George de Coulteray - detective magazines: Pornography for the Sexual Sadist? - sadistic warden trope - Elizabeth Báthory and the sadistic vampiress trope

As a clinical term: SEXUAL SADISM: Rape, Necrophilia, Cannibalism, Fetishism (2006) - Thomas R.O'Conner

Related: bondage - sexual domination - dominatrix - female domination - fetish - lust murder - master - masochism - mistress - lust murder - pain - paraphilia - serial killer - violence - torture


The term sadism has two connotations, one is sexual, the other is not. In both cases it denotes the infliction of pain and suffering on another person for reasons of pleasure. The term derives from the writings of the Marquis de Sade.

The term is frequently found in forensic reports, the press and other media to describe violent criminal acts such as serial killing and lustmurder.

Represented in fiction, sadism is much less encountered. Most sadomasochistic fiction is represented from the masochistic point of view. [Dec 2006]

Word history

The word sadisme entered the first French dictionary in 1834, the word sadism was first attested in the English language 54 years later, in 1888.

The word sadisme officially entered the French lexicon when it was included in the 1834. edition of the Dictionnaire Universel --(Plessix Gray 1998: 413).

"love of cruelty," 1888, from Fr. sadisme, from Count Donatien A.F. de Sade (1740-1815). Not a marquis, though usually now called one, he was notorious for the cruel sexual practices he described in his novels. Sadist first recorded 1897; sadistic is 1892, after Ger. sadistisch. Compound Sado-masochism first recorded 1935. Abbreviation S & M first attested 1965. --http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=sadism [Apr 2006]

Sadism as a clinical term
The term 'sadism' was popularized by psychiatrist and forensic doctor Richard von Krafft-Ebing in 1886 and stems from the writings of the Marquis de Sade (de Sade's writing style had been referred to as "le sadisme" for years, Krafft-Ebing was the first to use the term in a clinical manner). The case histories he reported primarily concerned nonconsensual sexual violence and were not about what we now call SM. --http://www.ncsfreedom.org

See also: 1830s

Sadism as clinical term

The purpose of this paper is to review and discuss the application of the term sadistic to descriptions of offender crime scene behavior within the existing psychiatric and criminological literature. In doing this, the authors will discuss established terms, definitions and standards of evidence related to the concept of sadism, the confusion between behavioral prediction and analysis as evidenced in the literature, and attempt to expel myths regarding behaviors that have been erroneously assumed to be sadistic in nature. These issues will be elucidated by examples from that literature of offenders whose behavior has been labeled sadistic, in terms of whether or not they meet a proposed behavioral standard. This proposed standard was inferred by the authors from historical accounts regarding the behavior and writing of the Marquis de Sade, from the descriptions provided by the Psychopathia Sexualis, and from the criteria provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed. (1994).

[...] [...] in reference to those offenses described as sadistic or "Lustmurder," the authors noted frequent and liberal use of relative moral descriptors. In fact, some authors have devoted sections of their professional work to discussing the moral disposition of particular offender types, and, as evidenced by excerpts in this paper, frequently use such subjective and relative terms as:

These subjective terms and moral positions form the basis for emotional arguments, as opposed to logical ones. Their meaning is furthermore culturally subjective. Therefore, while they do give readers insight into the personal belief system of the authors who use them, they arguably act as a very tangible barrier between researchers and their understanding of individual offender motivations. The use of such terms does not advance the cause of objective research. --Baeza, J. & Turvey, B., "Sadistic Behavior: A Literature Review," Knowledge Solutions Library, Electronic Publication, URL: http://www.corpus-delicti.com/sadistic_behavior.html, May, 1999

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