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Reik, T. (1989). The Characteristics of Masochism. Am. Imago, 46(2-3):161-195.

(1989). American Imago, 46(2-3):161-195

The Characteristics of Masochism

Theodor Reik, Ph.D.

Are there any characteristic elements possessed in common and invariably found in the different forms of masochism? The sexological and psychological literature surely offers sufficient observational material—often one might believe too much—but even today the assertion may be ventured that the phenomenology of masochism has not yet been adequately investigated. That is to say there is still lacking a description of the peculiar features of masochism in its usual forms.

It will be worth while to cite some illustrative material. In the selecting of examples the primary consideration will be that there can be no doubt of their masochistic character. The differences as to sex will be as little considered as the question of whether it concerns a masochistic phantasy or an actual scene of perversion. The three following examples may from this standpoint claim to be representative of the essentials.

A young girl had the following phantasy which showed in the course of many years but trivial variations: it is late evening, she goes through the streets to the butcher-shop which has already closed its shutters. She knocks, when the butcher opens the shutters she says: “Please, I would like to be butchered.” He grants her request and lets her in. She undresses at the back of the store and lies down naked on the meatblock. She has to lie there a long time waiting. The butcher is busy cutting up some calves. Once in a while one of his fellow workmen comes by and grasps her body and tests the flesh like an expert testing an animal to be slaughtered. Finally the butcher himself comes and he also tests with his fingers various portions of her body, hauling her about for this purpose as if she were a dead calf. He grabs the butcher knife but before he makes a cut puts his finger in her vagina. At this moment she has an orgasm.

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