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As Masochism is called when a person (often sexual ) pleasure or satisfaction experienced by the fact that pain is inflicted on him or he will be humiliated.

The opposite of masochism is sadism .

Origin of the term

The term masochism was first used scientifically in 1886 by the German-Austrian psychiatrist and forensic doctor Richard von Krafft-Ebing . He refers to the writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836–1895), who describes contractually regulated and theatrically staged pain and submission behavior in relationships with women in several works (e.g. Venus in Pelz , 1870).

Sacher-Masoch and his followers defended themselves in vain against this term; the term prevailed and remained dominant for a long time. The man who gave the name to masochism and his literature fell into disrepute and eventually forgotten. More recently, the more complex model of BDSM has replaced this term in many areas, also due to the work of Gilles Deleuze .

Medical classification

Classification according to ICD-10
F65.5 Sexual preference disorder
ICD-10 online (WHO version 2019)

According to ICD-10, sadomasochism is a "disorder of sexual preference" (Code F65.5), which is described as follows:

Sexual activities with the infliction of pain, humiliation, or restraint are preferred. If the person concerned experiences this type of stimulation, it is masochism; when she inflicts it on someone else for sadism. Often times, the person concerned experiences sexual arousal during both masochistic and sadistic activities.

The American Psychiatric Association has with the appearance of the DSM IV published broader diagnostic criteria in 1994, after which sadomasochism is clearly no longer viewed as a disorder of sexual preference. The diagnosis masochism (DSM IV 302.83) or sadism (302.84) may therefore only be made with regard to the sexually motivated manifestation of these disorders if the person concerned cannot achieve sexual satisfaction other than through the exercise of sadistic or masochistic practices, or his own sadistic or rejects masochistic sexual preference himself and feels restricted in his living conditions or suffers from it in some other way (so-called “B criterion”).

Consensual or even secret sexual preferences for masochistic practices in the sense of BDSM usually do not meet the criteria for diagnosing masochism in today's medical sense and are a sociologically different, but not uncommon expression of individual sexuality. However, the transitions between individually pronounced sexuality and disorder of sexual preference cannot be reliably defined in all cases. However, there is a superposition of sexual preference disorders and the practice of sadomasochistic practices.


There are psychodynamic and learning-theoretical concepts for the causes of masochism . Psychodynamic approaches (e.g. depth psychology ) see masochism as a defensive behavior in order to suppress fears and conflicts of conscience that are related to detachment from the mother. Psychologists, on the other hand, explain masochism by means of learning theory: Masochism develops accordingly. a. via classical and operant conditioning , e.g. B. in masturbation fantasies.

Forms of masochism

Masochistic practices can lead to injuries of all kinds (e.g. cuts , broken bones , bruises , bruises , overstretching of the extremities , strains , concussion ). In extreme cases, masochistic behavior can be fatal .

Not predominantly sexually motivated masochism

The masochist feels a longing for subordination and humiliation, sometimes even for personal failures. The patients obtain feelings of pleasure from corresponding situations and sometimes deliberately bring about such situations. Compensatory acts for self-harm can also be seen as a special form of masochism that is not predominantly sexually motivated . Mental disorders such as onychophagia and trichotillomania can also be classified in this context . It is not uncommon for such self-mutilation to be associated with (subjectively perceived) high psychological pressure. However, the causes are often deeper and deeply anchored in the personality of the person concerned.

Sexually motivated masochism

Masochists find sexual satisfaction in situations of humiliation or oppression or through experiencing pain. The sexual partner can also be replaced by an anonymous, impersonal or fictitious counterpart. Self-harm also occurs here, but usually not as a compensatory, but as part of the sexual act. This is to be distinguished from compensatory masochism , in which the masochistic acts are not undertaken as an introduction or a means to carry out sexual acts, including intercourse, but replace them.


Treatment of masochism is often lengthy and difficult; experimentally with psychotherapy .


  • Leopold von Sacher-Masoch : Venus in fur . Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1968.
  • Martin A. Hainz : Cave Carnem. Eros, power and staging in Sacher-Masoch's Venus in fur. In: arcadia , Vol. 39, 2004 • 1, pp. 2-26.
  • Martin A. Hainz: More than a syndrome - about Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836–1895). In: Jattie Enklaar, Hans Ester, Evelyne Tax (eds.): In the shadow of literary history (= Duitse Kroniek, vol. 54). Rodopi, Amsterdam / New York 2005, pp. 41–54.
  • Arthur Adamov : Fin Août. In: Je ... Ils. Gallimard, Paris 1969 (German: end of August. In: Bernd Mattheus, Axel Matthes (Hrsg.): I allow myself to revolt. Matthes & Seitz, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-88221-361-2 ).
  • Bettina Wuttig: Feminine Desire and Power. A psychoanalytic consideration in the light of the post-structuralist turn. Ibidem, 1999, ISBN 3-932602-85-4 .
  • Regina Ammicht Quinn : body, religion, sexuality, theological reflections on the ethics of the sexes. Matthias Grünewald Verlag, Mainz 1999, ISBN 3-7867-2206-4 , pp. 207–228.
  • Michael Farin (Ed.): Phantom Pain. Source texts on the conceptual history of masochism. Belleville, Munich 2003.
  • Theodor Reik : From suffering joys , German original edition 1940 at Imago (London). The new edition From Suffering Joys. Masochism and society. Hoffmann and Campe Verlag, Hamburg 1976 also contains the additions to the American edition Masochism in Modern Man. New York 1941.
  • Léon Wurmser : The riddle of masochism. Psychoanalytic investigations into superego conflicts and masochism. Springer, Berlin a. a. 1993. (2nd, corr. Edition. 1998; reprint of the 2nd, corr. Edition. Under the title: Das Rätsel des Masochismus. Psychoanalytic investigations of compulsive conscience and addiction to suffering. Psychosozial, Gießen 2008).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. : ICD-10-GM version 2005.
  2. B. Vetter: Perverted, right? Sexual preference disorders; 100 questions, 100 answers; Causes, symptoms, treatment. Huber, Bern 2008, ISBN 978-3-456-84672-9 .