Love and Pain/5

In the foregoing rapid survey of the great group of manifestations in which the sexual emotions come into intimate relationship with pain, it has become fairly clear that the ordinary division between "sadism" and "masochism," convenient as these terms may be, has a very slight correspondence with facts. Sadism and masochism may be regarded as complementary emotional states; they cannot be regarded as opposed states.[128] Even De Sade himself, we have seen, can scarcely be regarded as a pure sadist. A passage in one of his works expressing regret that sadistic feeling is rare among women, as well as his definite recognition of the fact that the suffering of pain may call forth voluptuous emotions, shows that he was not insensitive to the charm of masochistic experience, and it is evident that a merely blood-thirsty vampire, sane or insane, could never have retained, as De Sade retained, the undying devotion of two women so superior in heart and intelligence as his wife and sister-in-law. Had De Sade possessed any wanton love of cruelty, it would have appeared during the days of the Revolution, when it was safer for a man to simulate blood-thirstiness, even if he did not feel it, than to show humanity. But De Sade distinguished himself at that time not merely by his general philanthropic activities, but by saving from the scaffold, at great risk to himself, those who had injured him. It is clear that, apart from the organically morbid twist by which he obtained sexual satisfaction in his partner's pain,--a craving which was, for the most part, only gratified in imaginary visions developed to an inhuman extent under the influence of solitude,--De Sade was simply, to those who knew him, "_un aimable mauvais sujet_" gifted with exceptional intellectual powers. Unless we realize this we run the risk of confounding De Sade and his like with men of whom Judge Jeffreys was the sinister type.

It is necessary to emphasize this point because there can be no doubt that De Sade is really a typical instance of the group of perversions he represents, and 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 in some cases, if not in most, he desires that it should be felt as love. How far De Sade consciously desired that the pain he sought to inflict should be felt as pleasure it may not now be possible to discover, except by indirect inference, but the confessions of sadists show that such a desire is quite commonly essential.

   I am indebted to a lady for the following communication on the
   foregoing aspect of this question: "I believe that, when a person
   takes pleasure in inflicting pain, he or she imagines himself or
   herself in the victim's place. This would account for the
   transmutability of the two sets of feelings. This might be
   particularly so in the case of men. A man may not care to lower
   his dignity and vanity by putting himself in subjection to a
   woman, and he might fear she would feel contempt for him. By
   subduing her and subjecting her to passive restraint he would
   preserve, even enhance, his own power and dignity, while at the
   same time obtaining a reflected pleasure from what he imagined
   she was feeling.
   "I think that when I get pleasure out of the idea of subduing
   another it is this reflected pleasure I get. And if this is so
   one could thus feel more kindly to persons guilty of cruelty,
   which has hitherto always seemed the one unpardonable sin. Even
   criminals, if it is true that they are themselves often very
   insensitive, may, in the excitement of the moment, imagine that
   they are only inflicting trifling pain, as it would be to them,
   and that their victim's feelings are really pleasurable. The men
   I have known most given to inflicting pain are all particularly
   tender-hearted when their passions are not in question. I cannot
   understand how (as in a case mentioned by Krafft-Ebing) a man
   could find any pleasure in binding a girl's hands except by
   imagining what he supposed were her feelings, though he would
   probably be unconscious that he put himself in her place.
   "As a child I exercised a good deal of authority and influence
   over my youngest sister. It used to give me considerable pleasure
   to be somewhat arbitrary and severe with her, but, though I never
   admitted it to myself or to her, I knew instinctively that she
   took pleasure in my treatment. I used to give her childish
   lessons, over which I was very strict. I invented catechisms and
   chapters of the Bible in which elder sisters were exhorted to
   keep their juniors under discipline, and younger sisters were
   commanded to give implicit submission and obedience. Some parts
   of the _Imitation_ lent themselves to this sort of parody, which
   never struck me as in any way irreverent. I used to give her
   arbitrary orders to 'exercise her in obedience,' as I told her,
   and I used to punish her if she disobeyed me. In all this I was,
   _though only half consciously_, guided through my own feelings as
   to what I should have liked in her place. For instance, I would
   make her put down her playthings and come and repeat a lesson;
   but, though she was in appearance having her will subdued to
   mine, I always chose a moment when I foresaw she would soon be
   tired of play. There was sufficient resistance to make restraint
   pleasurable, not enough to render it irksome. In my punishments I
   acted on a similar principle. I used to tie her hands behind her
   (like the man in Krafft-Ebing's case), but only for a few
   moments; I once shut her in a sort of cupboard-room, also for a
   very short time. On two or three occasions I completely undressed
   her, made her lie down on the bed, tied her hands and feet to the
   bedstead, and gave her a slight whipping. I did not wish to hurt
   her, only to inflict just enough pain to produce the desire to
   move or resist. _My pleasure, a very keen one, came from the
   imagined excitement produced by the thwarting of this desire_.
   (Are not your own words--that 'emotion' is 'motion in a more or
   less arrested form'--an epigrammatic summary of all this, though
   in a somewhat different connection?) I did not undress her from
   any connection of nakedness with sexual feeling, but simply to
   enhance her feeling of helplessness and defenselessness under my
   hands. If I were a man and the woman I loved were refractory I
   should undress her before finding fault with her. A woman's dress
   symbolizes to her the protection civilization affords to the weak
   and gives her a fictitious strength. Naked, she is face to face
   with primitive conditions, her weakness opposed to the man's
   power. Besides, the sense of shame at being naked under the eyes
   of a man who regarded her with displeasure would extend itself to
   her offense and give him a distinct, though perhaps unfair,
   advantage. I used the bristle side of a brush to chastise her
   with, as suggesting the greatest amount of severity with the
   least possible pain. In fact, my idea was to produce the maximum
   of emotion with the minimum of actual discomfort.
   "You must not, however, suppose that at the time I reasoned about
   it at all in this way. I was very fond of her, and honestly
   believed I was doing it for her good. Had I realized then, as I
   do now, that my sole aim and object was physical pleasure, I
   believe my pleasure would have ceased; in any case I should not
   have felt justified in so treating her. Do I at all persuade you
   that my pleasure was a reflection of hers? That it was, I think,
   is clear from the fact that I only obtained it when she was
   willing to submit. Any _real_ resistance or signs that I was
   overpassing the boundary of pleasure in her and urging on pain
   without excitement caused me to desist and my own pleasure to
   "I disclaim all altruism in my dealings with my sister. What
   occurs appears to me to be this: A situation appeals to one in
   imagination and one at once desires to transfer it to the realms
   of fact, being one's self one of the principal actors. If it is
   the passive side which appeals to one, one would prefer to be
   passive; but if that is not obtainable then one takes the active
   part as next best. In either case, however, it is _the
   realization of the imagined situation_ that gives the pleasure,
   not the other person's pleasure as such, although his or her
   supposed pleasure creates the situation. If I were a man it would
   afford me great delight to hold a woman over a precipice, even if
   she disliked it. The idea appeals to me so strongly that I could
   not help _imagining_ her pleasure, though I might _know_ she got
   none, and even though she made every demonstration of fear and
   dislike of it. The situation so often imagined would have become
   a fact. It seems to me I have to say a thing is and is not in the
   same breath, but the confusion is only in the words.
   "Let me give you another example: I have a tame pigeon which has
   a great affection for me. It sits on my shoulder and squats down
   with its wings out as birds do when courting, pecking me to make
   me take notice of it, and flickering its wings. I like to hold it
   so that it can't move its wings, because I imagine this increases
   its excitement. If it struggles, or seems to dislike my holding
   it, I let it go.
   "In an early engagement (afterward broken off) my _fiance_ used
   to take an evident pleasure in telling me how he would punish me
   if I disobeyed him when we were married. Though we had but little
   in common mentally, I was frequently struck with the similarity
   between his ideas and what my own had been in regard to my
   sister. He used his authority over me most capriciously. On one
   occasion he would not let me have any supper at a dance. On
   another he objected to my drinking black coffee. No day passed
   without a command or prohibition on some trifling point. Whenever
   he saw, though, that I really disliked the interference or made
   any decided resistance, which happened very seldom, he let me
   have my own way at once. I cannot but think, when I recall the
   various circumstances, that he got a certain pleasure, as I had
   done with my sister, by an almost unconscious transference of my
   feelings to himself.
   "I find, too, that, when I want a man to say or do to me what
   would cause me pleasure and he does not gratify me, I feel an
   intense longing to change places, to be the man and make him, as
   the woman, feel what I want to feel. Combined with this is a
   sense of irritation at not being gratified and a desire to punish
   him for my deprivation, for his stupidity in not saying or doing
   the right thing. I don't feel any anger at a man not caring for
   me, but only for not divining my feelings when he does care.
   "Now let me take another case: that of the man who used to
   experience pleasure when surprising a woman making water. (Cf.
   _Archives d'Anthropologie Criminelle_, Nov. 15, 1900.) Here the
   woman's embarrassment appears to be a factor; but it seems to me
   there must be more than this, as confusion might be produced in
   so many other ways, as if she were found bathing, or undressed,
   though it might not be so acute. In reality, I fancy she would be
   checked in what she was doing, and that the man, perhaps
   unconsciously, imagined this check and a resulting excitement.
   That such a check does sometimes produce excitement I know from
   experience in traveling. If the bladder is not emptied before
   connection the pleasure is often more intense. Long before I
   understood these things at all I was struck by this quotation:
   'Cette volupte que ressentent les bords de la mer, d'etre
   toujours pleins sans jamais deborder?' What would be the effect
   on a man of a sudden check at the supreme moment of sexual
   pleasure? In reality, I suppose, pain, as the nerves would be at
   their full tension and unable to respond to any further stimulus;
   but, in imagination, one's nerves are _not_ at their highest
   tension, and one imagines an increase or, at any rate, a
   prolongation of the pleasurable sensations. Something of all
   this, some vague _reflection_ of the woman's possible sensations,
   seems to enter in the man's feelings in surprising the woman. In
   any case his pleasure in her confusion seems to me a reflection
   of her feelings, for the sense of shame and embarrassment before
   a man is very exciting, and doubly so if one realizes that the
   man enjoys it. Ouida speaks of the 'delicious shame' experienced
   by 'Folle Farine.'
   "It seems to me that whenever we are affected by another's
   emotion we do practically, though unconsciously, put ourselves in
   his place; but we are not always able to gauge accurately its
   intensity or to allow for differences between ourselves and
   another, and, in the case of pain, it is doubly difficult, as we
   can never recall the pain itself, but only the mental effects
   upon us of the pain. We cannot even recall the feeling of heat
   when we are cold, or _vice versa_, with any degree of vividness.
   "A woman tells me of a man who frequently asks her if she would
   not like him to whip her. He is greatly disappointed when she
   says she gets no pleasure from it, as it would give him so much
   to do it. He cannot believe she experiences none, because he
   would enjoy being whipped so keenly if he were a girl. In another
   case the man thinks the woman _must_ enjoy suffering, _because_
   he would get intense pleasure from inflicting it! Why is this,
   unless he would like it if a woman, and confuses in his mind the
   two personalities? All the men I know who are sadistically
   inclined admit that if they were women they would like to be
   harshly treated.
   "Of course, I quite see there may be many complications; a man's
   natural anger at resistance may come in, and also simple, not
   sexual, pleasure in acts of crushing, etc. I always feel inclined
   to crush anything very soft or a person with very pretty thick
   hair, to rub together two shining surfaces, two bits of satin,
   etc., apart from any feelings of excitement. My explanation only
   refers to that part of sadism which is sexual enjoyment of
   another's pain."
   That the foregoing view holds good as regards the traces of
   sadism found within the normal limits of sexual emotion has
   already been stated. We may also believe that it is true in many
   genuinely perverse cases. In this connection reference may be
   made to an interesting case, reported by Moll, of a married lady
   23 years of age, with pronounced sadistic feelings. She belongs
   to a normal family and is herself apparently quite healthy, a
   tall and strongly built person, of feminine aspect, fond of music
   and dancing, of more than average intelligence. Her perverse
   inclinations commenced obscurely about the age of 14, when she
   began to be dominated by the thought of the pleasure it would be
   to strike and torture a man, but were not clearly defined until
   the age of 18, while at an early age she was fond of teasing and
   contradicting men, though she never experienced the same impulse
   toward women. She has never, except in a very slight degree,
   actually carried her ideas into practice, either with her husband
   or anyone else, being restrained, she says, by a feeling of
   shame. Coitus, though frequently practised, gives her no
   pleasure, seems, indeed, somewhat disgusting to her, and has
   never produced orgasm. Her own ideas, also, though very
   pleasurable to her, have not produced definite sexual excitement,
   except on two or three occasions, when they had been combined
   with the influence of alcohol. She frankly regrets that modern
   social relationship makes it impossible for her to find sexual
   satisfaction in the only way in which such satisfaction would be
   possible to her.
   Her chief delight would be to torture the man she was attached to
   in every possible way; to inflict physical pain and mental pain
   would give her equal pleasure. "I would bite him till the blood
   came, as I have often done to my husband. At that moment all
   sympathy for him would disappear." She frequently identifies her
   imaginary lover with a real man to whom she feels that she could
   be much more attracted than she is to her husband. She imagines
   to herself that she makes appointments with this lover, and that
   she reaches the rendezvous in her carriage, but only after her
   lover has been waiting for her a very long time in the cold. Then
   he must feel all her power, he must be her slave with no will of
   his own, and she would torture him with various implements as
   seemed good to her. She would use a rod, a riding-whip, bind him
   and chain him, and so on. But it is to be noted that she declares
   "_this could, in general, only give me enjoyment if the man
   concerned endured such torture with a certain pleasure_. He must,
   indeed, writhe with pain, but at the same time be in a state of
   sexual ecstasy, followed by satisfaction." His pleasure must not,
   however, be so great that it overwhelms his pain; if it did, her
   own pleasure would vanish, and she has found witty her husband
   that when in kissing him her bites have given him much pleasure
   she has at once refrained.
   It is further noteworthy that only the pain she herself had
   inflicted would give her pleasure. If the lover suffered pain
   from an accident or a wound she is convinced that she would be
   full of sympathy for him. Outside her special sexual perversion
   she is sympathetic and very generous. (Moll, _Kontraere
   Sexualempfindung_, 1899, pp. 507-510.)
   This case is interesting as an uncomplicated example of almost
   purely ideal sadism. It is interesting to note the feelings of
   the sadist subject toward her imaginary lover's feelings. It is
   probably significant that, while his pleasure is regarded as
   essential, his pain is regarded as even more essential, and the
   resulting apparent confusion may well be of the very essence of
   the whole phenomenon. The pleasure of the imaginary lover must be
   secured or the manifestation passes out of the sexual sphere; but
   his pleasure must, at all costs, be conciliated with his pain,
   for in the sadist's eyes the victim's pain has become a vicarious
   form of sexual emotion. That, at the same time, the sadist
   desires to give pleasure rather than pain finds confirmation in
   the fact that he often insists on pleasure being feigned even
   though it is not felt. Some years ago a rich Jewish merchant
   became notorious for torturing girls with whom he had
   intercourse; his performances acquired for him the title of
   "_l'homme qui pique_," and led to his prosecution. It was his
   custom to spend some hours in sticking pins into various parts of
   the girl's body, but it was essential that she should wear a
   smiling face throughout the proceedings. (Hamon, _La France
   Sociale et Politique_, 1891, p. 445 et seq.)

We have thus to recognize that sadism by no means involves any love of inflicting pain outside the sphere of sexual emotion, and is even compatible with a high degree of general tender-heartedness. We have also to recognize that even within the sexual sphere the sadist by no means wishes to exclude the victim's pleasure, and may even regard that pleasure as essential to his own satisfaction. We have, further, to recognize that, in view of the close connection between sadism and masochism, it is highly probable that in some cases the sadist is really a disguised masochist and enjoys his victim's pain because he identifies himself with that pain.

But there is a further group of cases, and a very important group, on account of the light it throws on the essential nature of these phenomena, and that is the group in which the thought or the spectacle of pain acts as a sexual stimulant, without the subject identifying himself clearly either with the inflicter or the sufferer of the pain. Such cases are sometimes classed as sadistic; but this is incorrect, for they might just as truly be called masochistic. The term algolagnia might properly be applied to them (and Eulenburg now classes them as "ideal algolagnia"), for they reveal an undifferentiated connection between sexual excitement and pain not developed into either active or passive participation. Such feelings may arise sporadically in persons in whom no sadistic or masochistic perversion can be said to exist, though they usually appear in individuals of neurotic temperament. Casanova describes an instance of this association which came immediately under his own eyes at the torture and execution of Damiens in 1757.[129] W.G. Stearns knew a man (having masturbated and had intercourse to excess) who desired to see his wife delivered of a child, and finally became impotent without this idea. He witnessed many deliveries and especially obtained voluptuous gratification at the delivery of a primipara when the suffering was greatest.[130] A very trifling episode may, however, suffice. In one case known to me a man, neither sadistic nor masochistic in his tendencies, when sitting looking out of his window saw a spider come out of its hole to capture and infold a fly which had just been caught in its web; as he watched the process he became conscious of a powerful erection, an occurrence which had never taken place under such circumstances before.[131] Under favoring conditions some incident of this kind at an early age may exert a decisive influence on the sexual life. Tambroni, of Ferrara, records the case of a boy of 11 who first felt voluptuous emotions on seeing in an illustrated journal the picture of a man trampling on his daughter; ever afterward he was obliged to evoke this image in masturbation or coitus.[132] An instructive case has been recorded by Fere. In this case a lady of neurotic heredity on one side, and herself liable to hysteria, experienced her first sexual crisis at the age of 13, not long after menstruation had become established, and when she had just recovered from an attack of chorea. Her old nurse, who had remained in the service of the family, had a ne'er-do-well son who had disappeared for some years and had just now suddenly returned and thrown himself, crying and sobbing, at the knees of his mother, who thrust him away. The young girl accidentally witnessed this scene. The cries and the sobs provoked in her a sexual excitement she had never experienced before. She rushed away in surprise to the next room, where, however, she could still hear the sobs, and soon she was overcome by a sexual orgasm. She was much troubled at this occurrence, and at the attraction which she now experienced for a man she had never seen before and whom she had always looked upon as a worthless vagabond. Shortly afterward she had an erotic dream concerning a man who sobbed at her knees. Later she again saw the nurse's son, but was agreeably surprised to find that, though a good-looking youth, he no longer caused her any emotion, and he disappeared from her mind, though the erotic dreams concerning an unknown sobbing man still occurred rather frequently. During the next ten years she suffered from various disorders of more or less hysterical character, and, although not disinclined to the idea of marriage, she refused all offers, for no man attracted her. At the age of 23, when staying in the Pyrenees, she made an excursion into Spain, and was present at a bull-fight. She was greatly excited by the charges of the bull, especially when the charge was suddenly arrested.[133] She felt no interest in any of the men who took part in the performance or were present; no man was occupying her imagination. But she experienced sexual sensations and accompanying general exhilaration, which were highly agreeable. After one bull had charged successively several times the orgasm took place. She considered the whole performance barbarous, but could not resist the desire to be present at subsequent bull-fights, a desire several times gratified, always with the same results, which were often afterward repeated in dreams. From that time she began to take an interest in horse-races, which she now found produced the same effect, though not to the same degree, especially when there was a fall. She subsequently married, but never experienced sexual satisfaction except under these abnormal circumstances or in dreams.[1]

As the foregoing case indicates, horses, and especially running or struggling horses, sometimes have the same effect in stimulating the sexual emotions, especially on persons predisposed by neurotic heredity, as we have found that the spectacle of pain possesses. A medical correspondent in New Zealand tells me of a patient of his own, a young carpenter of 26, not in good health, who had never masturbated or had connection with a woman. He lived in a room overlooking a livery-stable yard where was kept, among other animals, a large black horse. Nearly every night he had a dream in which he seemed to be pursuing this large black horse, and when he caught it, which he invariably did, there was a copious emission. A holiday in the country and tonic treatment dispelled the dreams and reduced the nocturnal emissions to normal frequency. Fere has recorded a case of a boy, of neuropathic heredity, who, when 14 years of age, was one day about to practise mutual masturbation with another boy of his own age. They were seated on a hillside overlooking a steep road, and at this moment a heavy wagon came up the road drawn by four horses, which struggled painfully up, encouraged by the cries and the whip of the driver. This sight increased the boy's sexual excitement, which reached its climax when one of the horses suddenly fell. He had never before experienced such intense excitement, and always afterward a similar spectacle of struggling horses produced a similar effect.[2]

In this connection reference may be made to the frequency with which dreams of struggling horses occur in connection with disturbance or disease of the heart. In such cases it is clear that the struggling horses seem to dream-consciousness to embody and explain the panting struggles to which the heart is subjected. They become, as it were, a visual symbol of the cardiac oppression. In much the same way, it would appear, under the influence of sexual excitement, in which cardiac disturbance is one of the chief constituent elements, the struggling horses became a sexual symbol, and, having attained that position, they are henceforth alone adequate to produce sexual excitement.

Original footnotesEdit

  1. Fere, "Le Sadisme aux Courses de Taureaux," _Revue de medecine_, August, 1900.
  2. Fere, _L'Instinct sexuel_, p. 255

[128] This opinion appears to be in harmony with the conclusions of Eulenburg, who has devoted special study to De Sade, and points out that the ordinary conception of "sadism" is much too narrow. (Eulenburg, _Sexuale Neuropathie_, 1895, p. 110 et seq.)

[129] Casanova, _Memoires_, vol. viii, pp. 74-76. Goncourt in his _Journal_, under date of April, 1862 (vol. ii, p. 27), tells a story of an Englishman who engaged a room overlooking a scaffold where a murderer was to be hanged, proposing to take a woman with him and to avail himself of the excitement aroused by the scene. This scheme was frustrated by the remission of the death penalty.

[130] _Alienist and Neurologist_, May, 1907, p. 204.

[131] This spectacle of the spider and the fly seems indeed to be specially apt to exert a sexual influence. I have heard of a precisely similar case in a man of intellectual distinction, and another in a lady who acknowledged to a feeling of "exquisite pleasure," on one occasion, at the mere sound of the death agony of a fly in a spider's web.

[132] Quoted by Obici and Marchesini, _Le Amicizie di Collegio_, p. 245.

[133] It may be noted that we have already several times encountered this increase of excitement produced by arrest of movement. The effect is produced whether the arrest is witnessed or is actually experienced. "A man can increase a woman's excitement," a lady writes, "by forbidding her to respond in any way to his caresses. It is impossible to remain quite passive for more than a few seconds, but, during these few, excitement is considerably augmented." In a similar way I have been told of a man of brilliant intellectual ability who very seldom has connection with a woman without getting her to compress with her hand the base of the urethral canal to such an extent as to impede the passage of the semen. On withdrawal of the hand copious emission occurs, but it is the shock of the arrest caused by the constriction which gives him supreme pleasure. He has practised this method for years without evil results.