English, motherfucker! Do you speak it?
English, motherfucker! Do you speak it? avatar

Also called “defining your terms”.
A great many assumptions get made about what we mean when we say something. “Sadist” and “masochist” are a couple of great examples.
Sadist gets defined like this:

–noun

  1. Psychiatry . sexual gratification gained through causing pain or degradation to others.
  2. any enjoyment in being cruel.
  3. extreme cruelty.

Masochist gets defined like this:
–noun

  1. 1. Psychiatry . the condition in which sexual gratification depends on suffering, physical pain, and humiliation.
  2. gratification gained from pain, deprivation, degradation, etc., inflicted or imposed on oneself, either as a result of one’s own actions or the actions of others, especially the tendency to seek this form of gratification.
  3. the act of turning one’s destructive tendencies inward or upon oneself.
  4. the tendency to find pleasure in self-denial, submissiveness, etc.

Note that the primary definition refers to psychiatry in both cases.

Something a lot of people forget is that Medicalese is its own language. It’s jargon. The language is specific and precise within the context of the occupation. There are a lot of things that are understood as basic truths, in psychiatry, that are so basic they don’t even need to be stated. One of these is “it’s not a problem if it’s not interfering with the patient’s life, or the lives of those around them.”

The way most of us define a sadist or a masochist is not the way a psychiatrist would define the term; at least not in detail. I’m decidedly, in BDSM terms, a masochist. There’s a very specific context and limited set of circumstances under which I’m going to get gratification from suffering.

Here’s the thing, though. I can call myself whatever the damn hell I want. I can say I’m a dreamy romantic, if I want.  No one is going to come down and beat me for it. It will confuse the living hell out of anyone who knows me, because if I say I’m a dreamy romantic, obviously I have insanely different definitions of those words than anyone else.

So when we agree to use terms like sadist and masochist, because we’re not diagnosing each other with a mental illness, the terms as we use them get less specific.  In BDSM, “masochist” usually winds up as “someone who experiences gratification from sensation most people describe as pain”.  And there’s a lot of variation in that.  I’m very content being the kind of masochist that I am. I would say my pain tolerance for kinky pain is slightly above average, but nothing really extreme.  I’m probably about a 6 or 7 on the Masochist Pain Taking Scale, I guess.

Right up until you use a cane on me, and then I’ll fucking feed you the pieces.

So, if you’re new to BDSM, and you are seeing people write about being a masochist, try to remember that that word may not mean what you think it means. That’s why we emphasize so much talking and negotiation before you start actually having play sessions with a potential new partner. For some people, masochism is about a little light spanking, for some people, it’s about needles and jumper cables.

Most of us masochists fall somewhere in the middle, and it can take quite a bit of talking – and testing – to figure out exactly where you are on that scale.  And try to remember, there’s only so far you can define a term as intimate as masochist.

One Comment

  1. Reply
    Damaris December 6, 2012

    While the things you meetoinnd are important in a lot of relationships, and they’re clearly important to you, they aren’t necessary in all relationships. And if you had a relationship with someone who had the opposite values (i.e. was very private and felt that checking in and the like was intrusive or oppressive), then you’d have some serious issues to work out in order for that relationship to be successful. Compromise and communication would definitely come into play in that case. And just to be argumentative, being willing to be there for the other person also isn’t necessary either, though I admit the person who feels this way is going to have a lot of relationship problems with others who DO expect this kind of reciprocity. They just have to find someone who isn’t looking for that and only wants to be the caregiver in a relationship with nothing in return. Though rare, those people exist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.