“A masochist is not necessarily a submissive; a sadist is not necessarily a Dom.”
Perhaps no other words evoke such debate about our lifestyle as “sadist” and “masochist.” And before the (in this case, positive) influence of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” anytime one said they were into BDSM, the usual vanilla retort was, “So, you beat your partner.” Sadism, until recently, seems to have trumped all other perceptions of our world. Still, no matter how you soft peddle it, “sadism” and “masochism” are part of BDSM. After all, they are the “S” and the “M” in our lifestyle-descriptive acronym.
Before we examine the role of sadism and masochism in the D/s dynamic, let’s briefly define the two terms. (As if you didn’t already know this!)
Sadism is defined as sexual pleasure or gratification derived from the infliction of pain upon another person. Masochism is defined as sexual pleasure or gratification derived from having pain inflicted upon oneself.
Sadism and masochism usually go hand-in-hand because, duh!, a sadist needs a masochist; it is the basis of S&M or sadomasochism. Until the more wide-ranging acronym of BDSM was adapted, the term S&M was the popular way to label our lifestyle.
We have often stated, in previous kinkweekly.com articles, that the key to finding a D/s partner is to look for someone who has Dominant or submissive needs similar to your own. However, many people, especially newbies, mistake a masochist for a submissive. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A masochist needs pain for his/her gratification. But, the masochist might not have the slightest need to submit in any way, shape or form – other than in the narrow sense of bottoming for a sadistic Top. When one sees an S&M couple playing in a dungeon, it is easy to assume that the masochist is the sadist’s slave or submissive. It sure looks like that. But, it could just as easily be a temporary intersection of needs rather than a true exchange of power. The same could hold true for the psychological masochist who craves humiliation; there need not be an overall Dom/sub dynamic in this coupling. As stated in the introduction, a masochist is not necessarily a submissive, nor is a sadist necessarily a Dom/me.
This distinction is critical if you are a Dominant looking for a submissive, or vice versa. You should first ascertain whether your potential submissive is looking for a Dom/me or is just searching for some masochistic thrills. Thus, your first question should be, “Are you looking for a Dominant?” rather than, “Are you into pain?”
In my opinion, the purpose of your initial negotiations should be to find out if you are on the same page D/s-wise. Is it a Dom/sub relationship you both seek or is it a sado-masochistic play relationship you want? You should not assume that just because a masochist is willing to “submit” to you in play, that he/she can submit to you in a larger context. He/she might or might not. Do not assume.
Once you establish that the person is desirous of a D/s relationship, then you can quantify the S&M aspects of your partner. You can ask him/her whether he/she is into light or heavy pain and what he/she thinks the role of pain is in his/her BDSM life. Interview, ask and negotiate.
The sado-masochistic interaction is one of the most intense experiences in our lifestyle. It can be a basis of a very bonding relationship. But, it exists on its own terms. It does not necessarily imply an overall power exchange.
Once you understand that the sado-masochistic interaction can be a stand-alone affair, you can see where you are on the D/s continuum and judge any prospective partners accordingly. After all, the more you know about the other person, and the less you assume, the more likely you will find your perfect partner.
After a ten year run as head writer for the legendary bondage.com, and an equally long run as the host of the hit internet show “Baadmaster’s Dungeon,” we are pleased to welcome the one and only Baadmaster to KinkWeekly. His thoughts about all things BDSM will now appear regularly on these pages. From the mental aspects of D/s to the nuts and bolts of S&M play, Baadmaster will cover every facet of this ever expanding lifestyle.
Good article, when I started S&M many years ago, there was S&M and B&D each could have D/s or not but B&D was not S&M. Now it seems that people don’t understand that it isn’t all the same. A Dom/me provides structure, training discipline to sub’s or slave’s life, gives them an anchor so to speak, permission to turn off their brain and let the “Master” worry about the details.
Norm Lane says
As an SM switch, mostly masochist, I’ve encountered this issue often. It’s not really that uncommon although many players seem to feel obligated to pay lip service to DS protocols. The person that mentored me into the kinky scene used to say “I don’t know anything about DS, I just like to hurt people.” I have used the terms “bottom/top” to identify SM players although that was lifted from the gay scene and originally identified the roles in anal sex. Just to confuse the issue I do enjoy bondage and some degree of control dynamic. Face sitting is a favorite of mine as is pegging. It seems questionable to say that those have nothing to do with DS, but I just don’t feel comfortable with any power dynamic that isn’t directly physically, sexual. No, I’m not going to call you Sir/Mistress or be led around on a leash but you can make me eat your pussy or bend over anytime you like.
this was a much needed article, proving that you can straddle both sides and just enjoying one form of play does not automatically categorize you as one thing ro another