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The essential feature of sexual masochism is the feeling of sexual arousal or excitement resulting from receiving pain, suffering, or humiliation. The pain, suffering, or humiliation is real and not imagined and can be physical or psychological in nature. A person with a diagnosisof sexual masochism is sometimes called a masochist.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , also known as the DSM , is used by mental health professionals to diagnose specific mental disorders. In the 2000 edition of this manual (the Fourth Edition Text Revision also known as DSM-IV-TR ) sexual masochism is one of several paraphilias . Paraphilias are intense and recurrent sexually arousing urges, fantasies, or behaviors.
In addition to the sexual pleasure or excitement derived from receiving pain and humiliation, an individual with sexual masochism often experiences significant impairment or distress in functioning due to masochistic behaviors or fantasies.
With regard to actual masochistic behavior, the person may be receiving the pain, suffering, or humiliation at the hands of another person. This partner may have a diagnosis of sexual sadism but this is not necessarily the case. Such behavior involving a partner is sometimes referred to as sadomasochism.
Photo: Role play
Masochistic acts include being physically restrained through the use of handcuffs, cages, chains, and ropes. Other acts and fantasies related to sexual masochism include receiving punishment or pain by means of paddling, spanking, whipping, burning, beating, electrical shocks, cutting, rape, and mutilation. Psychological humiliation and degradation can also be involved.
Masochistic behavior can also occur in the context of a role-playing fantasy. For example, a sadist can play the role of teacher or master and a masochist can play the role of student or slave.
The person with sexual masochism may also be inflicting the pain or suffering on himself or herself. This can be done through self-mutilation, cutting, or burning.
The masochistic acts experienced or fantasized by the person sometimes reflect a sexual or psychological submission on the part of the masochist. These acts can range from relatively safe behaviors to very physically and psychologically dangerous behavior.
The DSM lists one particularly dangerous and deadly form of sexual masochism called hypoxyphilia. People with hypoxyphilia experience sexual arousal by being deprived of oxygen. The deprivation can be caused by chest compression, noose, plastic bag, mask, or other means and can be administered by another person or be self-inflicted.
Causes and symptoms
There is no universally accepted cause or theory explaining the origin of sexual masochism, or sadomasochism in general. However, there are some theories that attempt to explain the presence of sexual paraphilias in general. One theory is based on learning theory that paraphilias originate because inappropriate sexual fantasies are suppressed. Because they are not acted upon initially, the urge to carry out the fantasies increases and when they are finally acted upon, a person is in a state of considerable distress and/or arousal. In the case of sexual masochism, masochistic behavior becomes associated with and inextricably linked to sexual behavior.
There is also a belief that masochistic individuals truly want to be in the dominating role. This causes them to become conflicted and thus submissive to others.