Whenever labels are used I always worry we will use them to pathologize (to treat as unhealthy or abnormal) or that those labels are used to justify certain actions or behaviors without looking deeper.
BDSM roles/labels often get negative assumptions slopped on them because people’s definitions can be sketchy. We’ve talked about how subs are not doormats a lot but people still can see subs as less than. People who identify as sadists can be seen as psychopaths. People who identify as Dom/Master/Mistresses/Top can also be seen as uncaring, overbearing assholes… now while that is the case for some it has nothing to do with the definition of their role.
Identifying with one role does not completely describe any single one of us, so let’s try not to paint with a wide brush.
I’m going to share an excerpt from Secured and Free because my researcher Orion can explain it better than I can.
Excerpt from Secured and Free:
Orion opted to ask Marcus a question. “So do you really identify as a sadist?”
“It’s what I am. I don’t mind labels….”
Orion added, “As long as they aren’t used to pathologize….” “What?” Marcus stared at him.
“Sometimes people take a label and then make sweeping assumptions about every person who identifies with that label, or the label is used like a diagnosis that may or may not fit.”
Marcus exhaled hard. “Yeah, like when I say sadist, everyone jumps to Silence of the Lambs.”
“My guess is most people don’t understand the difference between sociopath, psychopath, and sadist. And they probably assume every sadist expresses himself or herself the same way.”
Marcus made a quiet noise and changed the color he used.
Orion erupted with facts. “Did you know that sadists have a greater capacity to have their amygdala stimulated?”
Marcus stopped coloring, dropped his marker, and raised his head. His big eyes probably took in Orion’s nervousness. His lips turned up, and one perfectly shaped eyebrow arched. “Are you talking dirty to me, Orion?”
“Only if you want me to.” Marcus opened his mouth, but Orion didn’t want to go down that path, so he shook his head. “Um, the amygdala is part of the brain that’s connected with strong emotion.”
Marcus leaned forward, put his elbows on the table, and started playing with his purple strands. “Oh.”
Did the man realize how sexy that twirl-twist action was? The slow, rhythmic, sensual swirling of Marcus’s hair made Orion hard. Ah, from the knowing expression, Marcus understood exactly what he was doing.
Orion shook his head to think beyond the lust. What was he saying? “Um, yeah, usually a sadist is super tuned in to what others are feeling.”
Sitting back, Marcus gripped the table. “Yeah, I don’t need someone on a mental crucifix experiencing anguish, but I’m into witnessing the exquisite sensations I’m providing someone else…. The intensity….”
He raked his fingers through his hair. “It’s perfection.”
Holy fuck! Orion wanted to beg him to share the depths of power exchange. No words came to mind, and the moment dragged out between them.
Marcus grabbed Orion’s hand. “You’re trembling.”
Orion couldn’t meet his gaze, so he stared at his half-colored mandala. He was desperate to taste the extremes Marcus could offer, but there was no path between that desire and action.
Marcus studied him, which caused Orion to shift in his seat.
He beat a hasty retreat to the safety of his mind, reaching into the files where he stored information on studies. “Do you believe in Decety’s theory of sadism?”
“What? Who? Dirty talking to me again, you tease.” Marcus’s russet eyes sparkled, and his dark red lips twitched.
Orion grabbed on to facts to allow himself some sanity. “The concept that love and pain are somehow linked in infancy and that connection creates the sadist’s hunger to mix the two.”
Marcus shook his head. “My mother, who I love very much, never hurt me or laid a hand on me. So that isn’t me.”
At the risk of sounding like he was conducting research, Orion asked, “So why do you suppose your sadistic tendencies developed?”
A pop song came on. The bouncing music and lyrics seemed to make their conversation heavier.
Marcus shrugged and leaned forward. “I can’t speak for everyone, but I have a theory about how I became me….”
Excitement spiked within Orion. He’d already guessed Marcus wasn’t the type of person to build himself up at the expense of those around him, and he wouldn’t get off on someone cowering in fear. But begging to come—
“Masochists get off on pain.” Marcus tugged on his hair.
Orion nodded in complete understanding. “Yes, we’re sexually gratified by physical and sometimes mental pain. It fulfills a need others don’t have.”
“Subs want to serve. Masochists want to hurt.”
The oversimplification didn’t liquefy Orion, but the wave of desire almost drowned him. He yearned to do both of those things for someone worthy.
“Well, as a masochist, I crave that torment, and as a sadist, I want to provide the pleasure of pain to others.”
“So the sensation you seek is what you give?” Orion asked. “And with your heightened senses, you might even experience a scene in some ways more fully than a Dom.”
“Exactly!” Marcus exclaimed. “I think you’re the first person to get what I’m saying.”
Yes—no! Backing up. “Well, there’s not a lot of research on sadists. There would be ethical issues, but there was a study that showed sadists aren’t that rare.”
Marcus opened his eyes wider. “Really? What study?”
Orion loved that Marcus wasn’t put off by his verbal deluge. He got off on sharing information; maybe he really should have listened to his parents and gone into teaching. “A couple of years ago, Dr. Paulhus published a study in Psychological Science. Students were asked to choose among distasteful work tasks. Over 50 percent chose to be exterminators or exterminator’s assistants as opposed to cleaning toilets or enduring pain from ice water.”
Marcus frowned and tilted his head. “Okay?”
“The bug killers were given three bugs in a container. The bugs were given cutesy names like Muffin. The exterminators needed to drop the bugs into a coffee grinder.”
Marcus scrunched his face. “Ew!”
“Don’t worry, there was a hidden compartment. No bugs were hurt. But the machine made crunching sounds.”
Marcus winced. “That’s sick! I couldn’t do that.”“A couple of subjects quit, but some asked for more bugs….” “Really?” Marcus appeared green and about ready to make a run to the trash bin.
Nodding, Orion continued, “In later studies, Dr. Paulhus had subjects compete, using computer games in separate rooms. The winner could blast the loser with noise from zero to ten, even though the winner had to finish a boring assignment if they wanted to blare noise. The subjects who scored high on the sadistic tendencies would go out of their way to punish the loser. And it wasn’t even about retaliation, because when the subject lost, the participant who was connected to the experiment always chose zero.”
“Dr. Paulhus believed this showed sadists are not rare but vary in degree of expression. Sadists function like everyone else. I mean, of course you know that.”
Marcus chuckled. “But even though I’m a sadist, I wouldn’t want to blast noise for the fuck of it.”
“Exactly. I also never understood why most depictions of people who are sadistic also characterize them as being psychopaths.”
Marcus twirled a marker between his fingers. “Okay? Why?”
“Psychopaths hurt people as a byproduct of getting what they want, whereas a sadist will make an effort to hurt people because they want to experience the pain through their subject.” Orion couldn’t seem to shut up. “That, and psychopaths lack empathy…. I guess movies linking sadism with psychopathic personalities don’t ring true for me. Not that there aren’t some people who might be both, but I think it would be the exception not the rule.” Orion’s dissertation ground to a halt.
Marcus nodded. “It’s true. I’m all about the empathy… but I wouldn’t want to hurt or inflict pain on someone who wasn’t going to get into it. I need them to want the sensation.”
Orion would so get into the pain Marcus could offer and love every excruciating second of whatever—
No! “I think when we step away from the labels and strict definitions, we find that most things are on a spectrum.”
“So I’m on the sadistic spectrum?” Marcus asked.
“Yes, and your streak of masochism pulls you off the median.” Seeing he’d lost his coloring partner, he clarified, “Top of the bell curve.”
“Right.” Orion added purples to his mandala.
Marcus cleared his throat and swapped out his markers for silver and gold. “That’s why Hunter and I need a third. Someone who can enjoy the pain I want to share and be submissive to Hunt.”
Orion saw one problem. “Hunter doesn’t—”
“I can play the sub for Hunter, but I don’t long for direction. Following instructions and staying within boundaries, that’s just not me.” Marcus made quick strokes of the gold along the rim of his artwork. “He’s not into the sensation I need to share. Though he’d tolerate it for me, I want to do that with someone who craves pain… who needs the experience as much as I do. To have someone allow me to make them feel to that extent is heady. In his profession, pain doesn’t equal good.”
How people express/experience BDSM roles are unique and individual. But understanding the basic definitions and then making sure those actually fit can help.
I want to celebrate this blog with a giveaway an ebook of Secured and Free! Leave your email address and I’ll pick a winner on August 11th. (If you don’t want to leave your name Facebook me and I’ll add you to the list) I’ll contact you by August 12th.
Entwined Dreams: Book Two
Secured and Free
An abusive Dom robbed Orion Gordon of his love of BDSM, destroying his confidence and leaving him unsure he’ll ever find peace through submission to another. Still, deep inside, his longing continues.
Marcus Sadir loves Hunter Dixon, yet can’t be the one thing Hunter truly desires: a sub to control. And Hunter can’t find satisfaction in the sadistic aspects of the BDSM lifestyle, while Marcus thrives on inflicting and sharing pain. When Marcus convinces Hunter they should find a third on a permanent basis, they discover Orion might be the key to bridging their differences and joining them on a deeper level.
But they must help Orion move past his trauma enough for him to enjoy new facets of BDSM and kink again. Their journey toward becoming whole—together—won’t be without challenges. Can Orion trust enough to try again?
Always seek your own truth.
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To contact Z. Allora:
BIO: Z. Allora believes in happily ever after for everyone. She met her own true love through the personals and has traveled to over thirty countries with him. She’s lived in Singapore, Israel and China. Now back home to the USA she’s an active member of PFLAG and a strong supporter of those on the rainbow in her community. She wants to promote understanding and acceptance through her actions and words. Writing rainbow romance allows her the opportunity to open hearts and change minds.