a year ago I decided that since I was writing a regular
column about SM, I ought to do some historical research.
So I dutifully went out and purchased not one, but two
books of writings by the Marquis de Sade: "The 120
Days of Sodom and Other Writings," and "Justine,
Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings." Unless
you're interested in the French Revolution, I don't recommend
Unfortunately de Sade gives Leather sadists a bad name.
Of course, I guess they (OK, we) have a sorry reputation
to begin with. After all, my dictionary defines sadism
as "The perversion of deriving sexual satisfaction
from the infliction of pain on others; Delight in cruelty."
I remember that the sadists of my childhood were the guys
who pulled wings off butterflies.
Last night I paddled a friend's ass until it had a beautiful
black and blue mark and I pinched and clamped his tits
until they were raw (but not bleeding) with pain. But
I never pulled off butterfly wings.
I would like to coin a new name for leather folk such
as myself but I honestly can't think of one. One Lesbian
I know defined herself as a sadist. It went something
like this: "I'm a sadist. I enjoy making others feel
What are the chances of storming the offices of Merriam-Webster
and changing their definition to suit ours? Slim, I think.
The sadism of the leather community has little or nothing
in common with the fantasies of the Marquis. Ours is both
safe (his ended in murder) and consensual (he kidnapped
his underage victims). If those distinctions aren't clear
enough, we can add to them the fact that our "sadism"
is for mutual pleasure. Rinella's dictionary would define
sadism as "the use of pain-inducing actions in order
to arouse another to a heightened state of pleasure."
A secondary effect of the activity is the pleasure the
sadist receives as well.
There are both physical and psychological reasons why
the masochist derives pleasure from the pain. Why the
sadist derives pleasure is probably less evident.
For myself, I find the infliction of pain on another (and
at times on myself) sexually exciting. Paddling an ass,
whipping a back, and clamping tits and genitals arouses
I am not alone.
Later in the evening, I was at AA Meat Market. Just the
sound of someone being paddled quickly assembled a large
group of observers. Of the over seventy columns I've written,
none has gotten more responses than those about spanking.
Pain is popular! Why that is the case is not easily deduced.
Misters Merriam and Webster would write it off as perversion
but I think otherwise. I think it has to do with wholeness.
Reasons such as curiosity, amazement, and stimulation
are why "we do such things." Fundamentally,
though, sadism (and masochism) as defined in the leather
community allow us to safely, sanely, and consensually
explore our "Dark Sides". That is why I say
"wholeness". To repress and deny that we have
dark sides to our personalities is to deny stark and very
"real" reality. To be "Pollyanna"
is foolish, dangerously foolish at that.
Repressed, denied, hidden darkness only festers until
it vents itself in some other way. Just as uncontrolled
bliss, lightness, and goodness are unreasonable, un-experienced
"evil" is an illusion. What we need is a balanced,
healthy, and manageable "dark event". Such an
activity allows us to understand ourselves and our motivations,
to give expression to them and so reduce their power and
Last night's partner went home with a painful mark on
his ass. The mark was only a sign of a more important
inner event. He had come face to face with his own need
for pain, had endured it, and, for reasons I'm not competent
to explain, had enjoyed it.
Every time I paused in the scene to check on his welfare
(something the Marquis never did) he was forthright in
his expression of pleasure. When I took off the tit clamps
whose unshielded metal teeth had bitten into his nipples,
he writhed in pain, only to say how "great"
I don't understand it. I'm not talking about a fool or
a jerk. My friend is a systems analyst with a successful
career in a major computer firm. He is educated, mature,
financially stable. He is new to the SM scene but finds
that it has eliminated the boredom previously present
in his sex life. He likes what happens with a leather
And what is that? It is pleasure. As Race Bannon writes
in his book, "Learning the Ropes" (Daedalus
Publishing Company, 1992), "When the S/M community
adopted the safe, sane and consensual credo, I was overjoyed.
It serves its purpose well. But I've always thought it
lacked one thing -- fun.
"S/M is supposed to be fun. If it weren't, why would
anyone do it? So I want to add the word "fun"
to the credo... By doing so, you'll insure yourself not
only safe experiences, but fun and fulfilling ones as
Sadists in the leather community then are those who inflict
pleasure. It is pleasure of an intense degree, skillfully
induced with necessary caution, measured speed, and careful
recognition of the masochist's responses.
To remain faithful to the credo of safe, sane, and consensual,
the sadist cannot blind him or herself to the bottom nor
be self-centered in pursuit of pleasure. In fact, the
center of the sadist's attention must be focused on the
recipient of his or her activity.
"How is this affecting my partner?" is the sadist's
ultimate and continuous concern. Pausing for feedback,
listening for breathing patterns, feeling for numbness
or coolness in the extremities, and being aware of possible
abrasions and cuts in the skin are all ways that a leather
sadist protects the bottom.
I knew what effect those metal teeth were having --- after
all they've bitten my tits at times as well --- and I
knew that my partner found them enjoyable. He had told
me so and if the situation had not been pleasurable it
would have ended.
The leather sadist uses learned skills and appropriate
technique. Pain is administered slowly, its intensity
builds. Explicitly pleasurable activity, such as kissing
and caressing, are interspersed with more direct pain.
Rest periods allow the bottom to adjust to increased levels
The sadist is continuous in his encouragement to the bottom,
offering advice, instructions, and support in the bottom's
effort to transmute the pain into its desired pleasure.
The sadist reinforces the positive and builds the bottom's
self-esteem. In short, the leather sadist cares.
Until we find a better word, we're stuck with the name
"sadist" but other than that have very little
in common with the old Marquis. That's too bad for him,
he missed a grand amount of pleasure, and that's the point
of sadism in the first place.
Have a great week, but please don't pull off any butterfly's
2000 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied
in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay,
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