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?