Can Psychopaths be Masochists?

I’m always taking suggestions for topics from readers.  ~450 posts in, I find that I have to repeat myself a bit in the absence of new input.  That said, I am very grateful for the following question that came in from a tumblr follower:

Oh, and people seem to have difficulties with imaging that there are masochistic psychopaths. Obviously everyone knows that a lot of us tend to take pleasure from causing others emotional or physical pain, but if a psychopath likes to experience the latter themselves it’s often seen as ‘even weirder’. I’m curious about your take on an explanation for that reaction.

I have written that I am unconvinced that sadism is a core feature of psychopathy.  Whether one inflicts pain for pleasure or receives pain for pleasure – or both – I am convinced is outside the scope of psychopathy.  That is, I believe that psychopathy and sadomasochism are mostly independent of one another.  That said, society has painted their own picture of what psychopathy is in their collective mind.  They have come to believe that psychopaths must be sadistic, chaotic, and violent.  We have seen time and time again that simply is not required to be the case.

For the purposes of this post, the terms sadist and masochist should be applied as broadly as possible.  That is, my intent is to discuss inflicting and receiving of pain in any manner in which any pleasure is derived.  The reader should not assume that I am referring to a sexual context, but neither should the reader assume that I am prohibiting the presence of a sexual context.  I am sadomasochistic.  I like to inflict pain and to see others suffer.  However, I also like to receive pain.  I’m not certain that I prefer the one over the other.  When I am in a tattoo parlor, I am in heaven.  The tens of thousands of needle pricks remind me that I am alive and put me in a state of physical and psychic ecstasy due to the endorphins being released by my body.  When I cut, I focus on the pain – feeling better nearly instantaneously from the combination of visual and physical stimulation.  Anyone can be sadomasochistic and the reasons are generally similar: dealing or receiving pain is pleasurable either psychically or physically.

So then, why is it so taboo to imagine a masochistic psychopath?  I believe this goes back to the opening paragraph of this post.  Society has created a narrative in which those that are “hardened” must be violent toward others and never toward themselves.  I also think there is some expectation by those with ASPD or psychopathy to live up to those conferred standards in order to appear rugged, rough, and hardened.  Ultimately, this is all horse shit.  Pleasure comes in many forms and the desire to seek pleasure lives on a continuum from the chaste to the hedonistic.  I have no hard numbers as to the proportion of psychopaths that are sadistic, masochistic, both, or neither.  I would love to hear accounts from my readers.  What’s your poison?  What’s your pleasure?

Truth, Trust, and Ambivalence


  1. Anonymous says

    Hi again, I’m the anon who sent the ideas. Your explanation certainly doesn’t disappoint, and you worded it way better than I could have.
    From my experience, there are a lot more sadistic and masochistic empaths than people would expect, simply because a lot of them feel ashamed or afraid of their urges. Since people with ASPD don’t have that problem they’re just more open about their likes and dislikes, and because people feel especially threatened by sadists those are the ones receiving the most attention.
    To answer your question; I’m sadistic as well, but not masochistic. The only other sociopath I met so far was masochistic though.

  2. Anonymous says

    I’m sadistic (i.e. I enjoy inflicting pain, physically or mentally), but not masochistic… unless – this is just a working theory, based on my preferred victims – my sadism is a way of taking revenge out on a part of myself. The victim’s mind must work in a way similar to my own, thus enabling me to play, in essence, both roles at once.

    P.S.: Love your blog!

    • Anonymous says

      Now my question is being a masochist does the pleasure always have to be sexual what if the kind of pleasure you seek isent sexual but thru pain fighting cutting bleeding and more of a mental pleasure but tend to hurt others??? Can that be put into the same category

  3. Tom says

    I think it has to do with boredom, moodswings and fantasys. I like both but in the end effect masochism sex gets boring because they dont arouse when almost everything done (heavy anal penetrations) and have to switch to something else more sadistic arousing.

  4. Anon says

    I’m undiagnosed if that matters, but I prefer masochism but like both, I’m not really sure why I like it, it’s just always turned me on from a young age, I think it had something to do with how I played with my cousin when we were kids if I had to guess. Although I prefer to be controlled in the bedroom in real life situations it’s quite the opposite, even being condescended to can send me off the deep end.

  5. says

    I agree with Tom a lot. I myself like sadism since early age. I dont enjoy being masochist I dont know why exactly being interested in BDSM and sexual experimenting a lot and ‘tried’ it. I thnk it has to do agression and being a masculine goodlooking guy like I am it doesnt arous me fe being ‘fucked’ by some sexual atractive girl so I easely change it:.

  6. says

    New research is showing that psychopaths do often become sadistic and/or masochistic. The key motivator behind psychopathy is a loss of empathy. The psychopath does not WANT to be effected by the emotions of others, and when they successfully deflect those emotions, they are rewarded in the pleasure center of the brain. This is the same place where other folks feel pleasure when they get what they want, as well.. Non psychopaths are not consciously trying to control the emotional expressions of others, and they feel no pleasure when they do. Psychopaths feel pleasure when they are able to endure and control their own emotional responses when cued by others.

    • FNP says

      I think you mistook lack of empathy due to differing structures in the brain with not wanting to feel things.

      I very much enjoy making people feel emotions. Especially emotions like fear.

      However, I don’t feel pleasure when I control my emotional responses. I feel pleasure when I get things, when I inflict pain, and when I’m jacking off to bloody amputee corpses.

      • MMS says

        A substantial number of psychopaths seem to enjoy or are aroused by gore

        When confined to fantacy or frequenting online gore/hardcore BESM sites this represents no danger to society. But when obsessive and coupled with extreme lack of control it has the potential to become lethal.

        I would guess you rate highly on self-control, FNP.

        • FNP says

          I don’t rate especially high on self-control, given that I’m considerably higher on the psychopathy spectrum than PG.

          But if you think BDSM gets my jollies off… you’d be mistaken. It used to, but it’s just bland now.

      • FNP says

        Honestly, if anything, the more effort I have to spend on controlling my emotional reactions to things, the less willing to control those reactions I become.

  7. Jay says

    After a lot of study and self reflection I’m not sure if a psychopath/sociopath can be masochistic in the traditional sense. For those ranking high on the dark triad even masochism is about control. I’ve found there is a correlation between psychological sadism and physical masochism to be connected in certain aspects. A true psychopath will never be with a true sadist, imagine trying to force two large equal polarity magnets together. Both forces trying to control the other. The only way I’ve found for a psychopath/sociopath to be partially masochistic is with a partner that is not comfortable being sadistic. Controlling and manipulating them to push there boundaries even if they don’t find it pleasurable. However certain aspects of masochism are enjoyed by those with psychopathy. Pain being the driving force for those that suffer from low or flat emotions. Some will seek out physical pleasure from pain to balance the emotional deficit. As far as being subservient to another, this goes against all of the base needs of one with psychopathy. A true psychopathy/sociopath causes pain to others as well as themself destroying everything around them.

    A little peak through the keyhole, I hope this helps. Feel free to leave a comment.

    • FNP says

      How do you not get that a psychopath can also be a sadist? Most psychopaths, as it actually turns out, do find quite a lot of amusement in hurting others.

      • Jay says

        Your correct in your assumption that they can evolve into a sadistic personality. I find that some people with psychopathy do not have a fixed or set personality. Most humans have build there personality based on past emotional experiences, even down to the company we keep. That being said the ability for a psychopath to evolve into what ever fits there needs or wants is quite astonishing. Your choice of the word amusement is correct, constant boredom plagues one with psychopathy. Much like a cat with a mouse a psychopath with toy with its prey. A psychopath is always hunting or game playing to fine tune there skills

  8. Jay says

    On the subject of psychopaths being sadistic, a great debate runs through my mind. A true sadist enjoys and finds pleasure in the emotional state of others feeding off of it like a parasite. A person with psychopathy does not care for others emotional states and feeds off the need for control over there entire life. There are so many correlations between the two sometimes the lines get blurred, like two overlapping translucent sheets of plastic. I believe what makes sadistic personalities and psychopathy different is a sadist can feel and empathise with there victim. They know there causing pain, and emotionally feeding from it for pleasure. This is where the lines blur, a psychopath does close to the same but for selfish reasons. They will study the emotional response watching as though it where a documentary learning and with almost envy of someone’s emotional state. Someone with psychopathy seems to be sadistic with the people around them, that there doing it to intentionally hurt others, it’s a lot simpler than that. The pain caused is mostly just fallout from one with psychopathy. Where as a sadist searches it out, a psychopath does not care for the pain or damage they cause. Pain is merely a side effect for there destructive self serving nature.

    A sadist seems to be evil where a psychopath is a self serving evil asshole. It only becomes dangerous when a psychopath becomes a true sadist and only feels through the pain of others.

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