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Pulver, S.E. Akhtar, S. (1991). Sadomasochism in the Perversions. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39:741-755.

(1991). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39:741-755

Sadomasochism in the Perversions

Sydney E. Pulver, M.D. and Salman Akhtar, M.D.

PULVER INITIATED THE PROCEEDINGS by pointing out that the terms sadism, masochism, and perversion lack precise definitions. For instance, masochism denotes a conscious or unconscious seeking out of suffering, but whether this search is necessarily connected with libidinal pleasure is unclear. The definition of perversion in the American Psychoanalytic Association's Glossary also poses limitations since it focuses on overt behavior. In view of this, Pulver offered a tentative definition of his own: perversions are present when sexual fantasies other than those of heterosexual genital union are either obligatory or preferred for sexual arousal. While it is generally agreed that perverse fantasy is universal, perverse behavior frequent, and these occur along the spectrum of psychopathology ranging from neurosis through character pathology to psychosis, many questions remain unanswered. For instance, what leads to the development of perverse fantasy? What are its dynamics? What function does it serve? What factors lead to the enactment of a perverse fantasy? What determines its being obligatory for arousal? Do individual perversions differ dramatically in their genesis? Is sadomasochism ubiquitous in all perversions? Many perversions, e.g., fetishism, do not have an overt sadomasochistic component. Thus laying the groundwork for later presentations, Pulver invited Stoller to present his views.

Stoller began his presentation by stating that the use of psychoanalytic jargon, at times, moves one away from a dispassionate observation of the real experiences involved in perversions. He did not claim that the "raw data" he was about to present replaced the clinical psychoanalytic data, only that they expanded and enriched the latter. Stoller acknowledged that he has never analyzed "an erotically perverse sadomasochist," and noted that his data are based on an ethnography of consensual sadomasochistic practices in their "natural habitats," especially bondage and discipline establishments.

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