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Sexual Masochism

Sexual masochism is on the other side of the coin as sexual sadism. Whereas a sadist experiences sexual gratification from inflicting pain or humiliation on another person, the masochist feels sexually excited or aroused when experiencing pain or being humiliated themselves. Listed on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it is listed as a paraphilia.

Paraphilias are fantasies or behaviors that may involve non-human partners or those who are not consenting to the behavior. Voyeurism, fetishes, exhibitionism and pedophilia all fall into this category. They may also involve an individual either inflicting or receiving pain, such as in the case of sexual masochism.

Facts About Sexual Masochism

  • To fit the criteria under the DSM for sexual masochism, a person must enjoy being hurt or humiliated and have some type of social or career impairment because of this desire. These fantasies or urges must be present for a minimum of six months.
  • Slightly more men than women identify themselves as being sexual masochists.
  • The pain the masochist craves may be inflicted by a partner or self-inflicted.
  • An individual with this disorder wants to submit to the will of another, and the types of activities he or she can become involved with range from mild to life-threatening.
  • When the masochist is interacting with a sadist, he or she may be restrained with ropes or chains, paddled, spanked or whipped. The partners may act out a scenario where one person is in a position of authority over the other, such as a slave and master, or teacher and student.
  • A masochist may also enjoy being burned, bitten, cut or shocked by electricity.
  • The individual with a sexual masochism disorder may inflict the pain on him or herself by cutting, burning or self-mutilation.
  • Hypoxyphilia, or near-asphyxiation, may also be attempted. In this activity, the masochist may place a plastic bag or noose around his or her neck to experience a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Treatment of Sexual Masochism

When a person with sexual masochism goes into treatment, behavioral therapy is used to help the individual learn ways to be sexual that don’t involve being hurt or humiliated. Cognitive therapy may also be used to change the client’s thoughts about sexual activity and gratification to give him or her a different focus. The idea behind this approach to treatment is that changing one’s thoughts leads to changes in behavior.

The origin of sexual masochism is not clearly understood by experts. It may stem from a child being told that his or her fantasies or sexual activity is inappropriate, and the youngster learns to associate being sexual with shame, humiliation and ultimately, pain.

An individual who is motivated to seek treatment for sexual masochism can learn to derive sexual enjoyment from experiences that don’t involve being subjected to pain or humiliation. Finding a therapist who has experience in treating clients with sexual masochism issues or going to a treatment center for sexual masochism and other disorders is key to helping the individual discover new ways to experience sexual gratification.

View Resources

  • MindDisorders.com – Sexual Masochism, General definition, definition of paraphilia
  • Healthline.com – Sexual Masochism Treatments, Behavioral therapy to treat sexual masochism

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