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Blum, H.P. (2011). Masochism: Passionate Pain and Erotized Triumph. Psychoanal. Rev., 98(2):155-169.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Review, 98(2):155-169

Masochism: Passionate Pain and Erotized Triumph

Harold P. Blum, M.D.

Stimulated by Theodor Reik's (1941) book Masochism and Modern Man, I discuss some theoretical views of the ever-elusive concept of masochism without attempting a review of the now-vast literature on the subject. Many perplexing and profound questions about masochism persist, and from Freud onward a variety of theories and definitions have appeared. Masochism is universal and ubiquitous in humans, doubtless with phylogenetic and neurobiological determinants. Though I focus primarily on masochism, masochism and sadism are always paired. Sadomasochism may be split in bisexual expression, with one gender representing sadism and the other, masochism. Masochism may defend against sadism, sadism may defend against masochism, and they may be layered or coalesce in various compromise formations of fantasy, character, perversion, and cultural phenomena. Besides the protean forms of masochism in fantasy and various forms of psychopathology, it may be readily observed in acrimonious object relations, in cultural and social violence, in war, in delinquency and crime, in religious attitudes of submission and sacrifice, and so on. However, masochism and sadism have different psychological, social, and legal implications. Self-injury, for example, usually does not have the same social or legal consequences as injury inflicted on others, or damage to persons or property consequent to the commission of a crime. Psychologically, however, overt masochism implies that sadism is covert and lurking below the surface.

There is no accepted consensual definition of masochism, nor any agreed-upon concept of its origins or pathogenesis.

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