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Bonaparte, M. (1952). Some Biopsychical Aspects of Sado-Masochism. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 33:373-384.

(1952). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 33:373-384

Some Biopsychical Aspects of Sado-Masochism

Marie Bonaparte

We all know Freud's two theories of sado-masochism. The first, originally presented in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality(1905) reads thus:

The most common and the most significant of all perversions— the desire to inflict pain upon the sexual object, and its reverse—received from Krafft-Ebing the names of 'sadism' and 'masochism' for its active and passive forms respectively. Other writers have preferred the narrower term 'algolagnia'. This emphasizes the pleasure in pain, the cruelty; whereas the names chosen by Krafft-Ebing bring into prominence the pleasure in any form of humiliation or subjection.

As regards active algolagnia, sadism, the roots are easy to detect in the normal. The sexuality of most male human beings contains an element of aggressiveness —and a desire to subjugate; the biological significance of it seems to lie in the need for overcoming the resistance of the sexual object by means other than the process of wooing. Thus sadism would correspond to an aggressive component of the sexual instinct which has become independent and exaggerated and, by displacement, has usurped the leading position.

In ordinary speech the connotation of sadism oscillates between, on the one hand, cases merely characterized by an active or violent attitude to the sexual object, and, on the other hand, cases in which satisfaction is entirely conditional on the humiliation and maltreatment of the object. Strictly speaking, it is only this last extreme instance which deserves to be described as a perversion.

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