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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sadism is the derivation of pleasure as a result of inflicting pain or watching pain inflicted on others. Aspects of it include:

See also
  • Marquis de Sade, an 18th-century French writer from which the term sadism is coined
  • Schadenfreude, a German word for pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Named after the Marquis de Sade, famed for his libertine writings depicting the pleasure of inflicting pain to others. The word for "sadism" (sadisme) is forged or acknowledged in the 1834 posthumous reprint of French lexicographer Boiste's Dictionnaire universel de la langue française; it is reused along with "sadist" (sadique) in 1862 by French critic Sainte-Beuve in his commentary of Flaubert's novel Salammbô; it is reused (possibly independently) in 1886 by Austrian psychiatrist Krafft-Ebing in Psychopathia Sexualis which popularized it; it is directly reused in 1905 by Freud in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality which definitely established the word.




sadism (uncountable)

  1. (chiefly psychiatry) the enjoyment of inflicting pain without pity
  2. achievement of sexual gratification by inflicting pain on others
  3. gaining sexual excitement and satisfaction by watching pain inflicted by others on their victims
  4. a morbid form of enjoyment achieved by acting cruelly to another, or others
  5. (in general use) Deliberate cruelty, either mental or physical; also refers to cruelty inflicted upon animals, regardless of gratification

Related terms

See also


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Simple English

Sadism is a medical condition in which people get pleasure from humiliating or hurting others. Often the pleasure is of a sexual kind. When a person finds pleasure in being hurt or humiliated, their condition is called Masochism.

The terms "sadism" and "masochism" were both invented by Richard von Krafft-Ebing, a German psychiatrist. He named Sadism after the Marquis de Sade, a French nobleman who in the eighteenth century wrote many books, stories and plays. Sade's books include many characters who find pleasure in cruelty, including torture and even murder.

Different forms of Sadism

At first Sadism meant only cruelty for sexual pleasure, but as the word became more widely used its meaning changed. Nowadays any person who enjoys being cruel to others can be called "sadistic," even if they get no sexual excitement from what they do.

Some people who have sadistic sexual fantasies mean no real harm to anyone. In BDSM a "top" or dominant person will bind his or her partner or "punish" them in different ways, but what they do will not go beyond limits which the partner has agreed on. On the other hand, a small minority are severely perverted or mentally ill, and wish to act out their sadistic fantasies for real. Such people are rare, but they can be very dangerous. Many serial killers and psychopaths have been sexual sadists.

Treating sadism

Treating sadism is difficult, but it looks like psychotherapy can help in certain cases.

Reading materials

  • Fromm, Erich: The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, 1973
  • Fromm, Erich: Escape from Freedom, 1941
  • Lennig, Walter: Marquis de Sade. ISBN 3-499-50108-2
  • Schorsch, Eberhard und Becker, Nikolaus: 'Angst, Lust Zerstörung - Sadismus als soz. u. kriminelles Handeln. Zur Psychodynamik sexueller Tötungen' (2000) Psychosozial-Verlag, ISBN 3-89806-048-9

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