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Monzo, R. (2014). The Sadomasochistic Perversion: The Entity and the Theories, Franco De Masi, Karnac, 2003. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 4(2):207-210.

(2014). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 4(2):207-210

The Sadomasochistic Perversion: The Entity and the Theories, Franco De Masi, Karnac, 2003

Review by:
Robert Monzo

What is the nature and significance of the experience of pleasure in the infliction of pain? De Masi's absorbing book explores this question with respect to “the sadomasochistic perversion” and arrives at unexpected conclusions. It taps into disturbing regions of the psyche and, in that respect, is no easy read.

Franco De Masi is a training and supervising analyst of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society and former President of the Centro Milanese di Psicoanalisi, now working full-time as a psychoanalyst in Milan. It is De Masi's dissatisfaction with psychoanalytic theories of forms of perversion that motivates his comprehensive study. He attempts to investigate the dynamics and context of orgasmic pleasure in perversion while restricting his observations to the sexual sphere.

De Masi provides evidence that there are certain constant and basic characteristics of a pure or “structured” form of the sadomasochistic perversion, within which he places the sexualisation and “mental experience of destructive pleasure”. Three main groups of other psychoanalytic theories of sadomasochistic perversion are described and areas of contiguity with his concept of the sadomasochistic perversion are elaborated. These sections of the book are instructive, fascinating, and highly relevant to couple psychotherapy.

In an early fantasy called the sadomasochistic monad, he argues, the perception of difference between sadist and masochist is absent. The sadist's excitation leading to pleasure stems from a perception of complete power over the object.

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