I’ve been reading about pain and gender’s influence on pain recently:

These readings have been less for the curiosity of why males seem to be more keen on allowing themselves to have pain inflicted on them (myself definitely included) and also why females claim to be so much more sensitive to pain, while they’re the ones who endure childbirth… The primary reason though is the thoughts on why a person grows sadist or masochist tendencies, regardless of if those tendencies are manifest exclusively in sexual situations or extend outwards, and in truth, the absence of coitus (or whatever physical stimuli) does not mean that a situation is not “sexual” to a person, sadist or masochist, or really any human. I found it doubtful that an individual would suddenly develop a tactile proclivity towards receiving or distributing pain. So what is it that causes a person to connect pain with what most believe to be a segment of a person’s humanity that should be free of negativity, which we also believe pain to be, negative.

In order to begin to start pondering on why a person might become a sadist or a masochist, first we must take on the assumption that pain in conjunction with sex is an abnormal process. This may be a fallacy. Humanity, regardless of it’s primary origin, has progressed from a more brutal and savage place, where our social ideals of what the romantic realm should or should not entail would likely be very alien. Consequently, there should be no problem also coming to the conclusion that the cultural ideals of that prehistoric time would be very foreign to us. Keeping those ideas in mind, would it not be likely that through many generations of an aggressive version of “romance” that some of this may have been ingrained into our very instinctive nature? This would establish that the popular versions of courtship would be contrary to the very human nature. I’m not suggesting that male should start clubbing their prospective mates and dragging them back to their apartments (is modern date rape any different?), but I am trying to establish the possibility that a connection between a gendered relationship and pain or aggression is not necessarily an unnatural idea. For the following few paragraphs, we will assume, that it is abnormal though.

If we are to believe that sadism and masochism are abnormal, where does it come from? How does it begin? Modern Western psychology contains the underpinnings of Freud’s work, specifically in the arena of sexuality and sexual development. Freud, of course, attributed sexual development to a child’s relationship with their immediate family, putting the strongest significance on the child’s parents. Taking our own parents’ relationships with each other into consideration, it is very easy to see that we, for the most part, model our ideals for romantic relationships after the relationship we witnessed our parents’ partaking in. A person who perceives their parents cohabiting peacefully and happily without strife may not deal well with conflict in a relationship, having never seen it, therefore they have no model as to how to deal with it. Conversely, a person who grew up with two continually embattled parents may have a natural inclination to seek out relationships that are woven with frequent confrontations. What type of parent-parent relationship seeds the garden of sexual maturity with sadist or masochist tendencies?

Culturally, each gender has a different set of standards respectfully. Whatever seeds may be sown in a child’s developmental garden must be fertilized by the ideals gleaned from that child’s culture. Let us imagine a young boy. His father is a hard working man who never fails at paying the bills or putting the food on the table. His mother, who is very caring for himself and any other siblings, but is unreasonably harsh on the boy’s father, for rather petty things. Perhaps the father may have forgotten to buy milk at the grocery store, or stains a couch, whatever the case may be, and the boy perceives the mother is unduly aggressive in reprimanding her husband. Each parent has a set of perspectives from the boy’s view. The father is dutifully doing his job as provider (hunter-gatherer), but his mother is doing a good job as mother, but as a wife she is doing a job that is far under par. This lays the ground work for the development of a sadist or a masochist tendency, or perhaps both. As the boy starts to mature into romantic development, he may perceive that he should be treated poorly by women, as his father was (masochism), or he may develop a bitterness towards his mother that would eventually grow to envelope her entire gender (sadism).

Now let us envision a girl, who has two married parents. At some time in her childhood, she discovers that one of her parents is cheating on the other. In this example, the drive towards sadism or masochism may be more specifically pronounced emotionally than physically. She may become either promiscuous sexually or unable to attach emotionally. If it was her mother that cheated, then perhaps she believes that that is how women are supposed to behave in relationships. If it was her father that cheated, perhaps she believes that that is how women are to be treated and she does not value herself. Promiscuity or the inability to attach emotionally, in and of themselves, are not sadist or masochist, but when used as mediums to transmit pain and aggression to or from a person, we have the sadist or the masochist. In both examples, the desire to give or receive pain is not inherently physical. The drive for pain is seated emotionally and to the unobservant a sadist will be so only if he or she inflicts physical pain and attaches it to sexual enjoyment, or a masochist a person who receives physical pain and attaches it to sexual enjoyment. The attribution to physical pain and arousal or gratification are hallmarks of the sadist and the masochist, but as the drive is seated in the emotions of that person, the pain is only a conduit for feeding that desire. A person who routinely puts themselves into situations where emotional damage will be dealt to them is as much a masochist as a person who likes to have their hair yanked during sexual encounters. A person who is unduly harsh and aggressive to their friends or coworkers or family is just as much of a sadist as the person who enjoys pulling the first example’s hair. These are my thoughts for tonight.