Ideas in Psychoanalysis: Sadomasochism
Estela Welldon contests the view that sadomasochism is an isolated ‘perversion’.
Using numerous examples from literature, film, opera and other media, she
undertakes an exploration of the psychodynamic aspects of sadomasochism
that carries us from the writings of de Sade and von Sacher-Masoch to the
contemporary underground S&M club scene. Challenging our expectations
that S&M is concerned only with ‘bizarre’ activities, Welldon illuminates the
dynamics of power and control in everyday family life and sexual relationships.
Her investigation deepens to include the downward spiral of domestic violence
and child abuse, and the ‘malignant bonding’ between couples in cases such as
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley and Fred and Rose West.
Is sadomasochism invariably present in the victim-perpetrator cycle? Is it
learned or innate? Are sadism and masochism complete opposites, or do they
complement one another? Are they specifically related to the genders? Welldon
asks these questions and many more in a fluent, thought-provoking essay.