Ten Lies About Sadomasochism by Melissa Farley

Melissa Farley, famous for her work against prostitution, wrote an article detailing ten lies told about BDSM.

Lie #9: Reenacting abuse heals abuse. Sadomasochism heals emotional wounds from childhood sexual assault.

This lie really disturbs me. A greater percentage of women “into sadomasochism” have histories of childhood sexual assault, than those women who do not participate in sadomasochism. However, sadomasochism obscures the real pain and abuse of women. How can you tell the difference between “real” and “pretend” when someone has a flashback and becomes a child again in the middle of “consensual” sexual torture? Some feel an intense, even compulsive drive toward sexual annihilation that is expressed in sadomasochistic activity which mirrors the abuse suffered as a child. The notion that acting out abuse helps to heal and eliminate abuse arises from the catharsis theory: do it once, just get it out of your system, then you will get over it. There is no evidence that catharsis works as a solution to social or psychological conflict, yet this theory is used to rationalize the dissemination of pornography. Pornography does not seem to have served as a pressure-cooker-release for men, thus freeing women from rape. On the contrary, pornography seems to have functioned as pro-rape propaganda. Sadomasochistic catharsis does not seem to heal sexual abuse either: one women wrote, “after seventeen years of [childhood sexual assault], the lesbians I met just wanted to do more of the same. I have nightmares and damage from both.” (Anonymous, 1990) Sadomasochism is a repetition, not a healing, of childhood sexual assault. Some have suggested that sadomasochism can actually be physiologically addictive. I have heard women describe themselves as being “in recovery from sadomasochism,” the same way they speak of alcohol addiction. Perhaps the physical addiction to certain kinds of trauma begins with complex physical reactions to prolonged abuse in childhood which is then rekindled in adult sadomasochistic relationships.

8 thoughts on “Ten Lies About Sadomasochism by Melissa Farley

  1. OutlawSage November 16, 2015 at 20:27 Reply

    “Getting it out of your system” is a psychological fallacy. Acting on urges increases the need to act on them until they become habitual. When something becomes habitual it is extremely hard to stop. Most mental “illness” is due to this. A person with depression for instance when they let it take them over they become more and more prone to depression and it gets harder and harder to break out of. I’m not suggesting it’s their fault or that it is easy to not give in to depression only that this is part of the means by which “disorders” go from being normal emotions to “disorders”.
    Before giving into urges, if one ignores the urge it becomes less and less urgent until it slips from their conscious awareness subconscious obsession. With trauma from abuse the only way to heal is to accept that the abuse happened (not dissociate from it), express your feelings to a friend or psychiatrist, and replace the expectation of abuse with expectation of mutual care and safety. Problem is obviously in “western” culture deep human empathy and intimacy are hard to come by. It’s difficult to not fall into the trap of bdsm when it is approved by the culture and true affection and emotional intimacy are rejected.

    • Independent Radical December 16, 2015 at 17:37 Reply

      ““Getting it out of your system” is a psychological fallacy. Acting on urges increases the need to act on them until they become habitual. When something becomes habitual it is extremely hard to stop.”

      I agree with this part. I am so sick of liberalism’s catharsis bullshit.

      “Most mental “illness” is due to this.”

      I think that might be overstating things. Circumstances can have a lot to do with emotions and can cause mental disorders. For example, people often become depressed and commit suicide because of a decline in their economic, social or relationship status.

      “Before giving into urges, if one ignores the urge it becomes less and less urgent until it slips from their conscious awareness subconscious obsession.”

      I think it is better to reason through an urge than to outright ignore it. This approach is called cognitive-behavioural therapy. That way if an emotional state is caused by the situation one is in they can figure out that they need to change that situation.

      Your point about Western culture is right. The ultimate long term solution to trauma related disorders is a supportive cultural environment, rather than one which hates victims (like modern Western culture does). However, people can also change their personal environment by deciding who to associate with. People who have been abused can avoid associating with their abusers and people similar to them. Unfortunately sadomasochism involves the complete opposite.

      • The Fool July 5, 2016 at 14:02 Reply

        This is a long time coming, but I haven’t checked my mail in ages. You rightly disagreed when I seemed to imply that mental illness is caused by habit. I did not mean this. I meant that emotional states become mental illness through repetition and habit. But this is not necessarily due to their preoccupation but may be due to the external situation not changing. Are you aware of antipsychiatry.org?
        When it comes to sadomasochism the problem is that real “mental disorder” is obscured by people who play around with s&m. Clearly sadists really do exist and the majority of their partners are being fooled into thinking it’s just play pretend when it is not. Many who think they “really like pain” or “really like hurting people” are also deluded. The first problem shows up in the cultural myth of our aversion to any and all pain which cross-cultural evidence refutes.. There are sadists and there are people who feel “naughty” and “dangerous” playing the role. There are masochists and there are people who feel a rush at breaking the taboo of associating pain with avoidance.
        Actually the psychology of pain, such as the opponent process, is quite interesting but the play pretend is no where near the truth of actual sadism, masochism, or the “madness” outside of conditioned attitudes–not responses–to pain and violent urges.
        In a sense the need to cause someone pain or the obsession with the idea of pain might be do to a loss of affectivity and kinship social bonds. Much like infants will starve themselves if they are not “seduced into living” it is possible if people are not seduced into feeling part of life and community they will dehumanize themselves (something other than the victim) and other people. Masochism could be much the same. This might be explained by the death drive, where people experience pleasure through erasure and negation. However I think this is no “drive” but a consequence of losing kinship bonds (Industrial State).
        The point is like many such theories: pomo, innate sexuality, and queer, they pretend they are sophisticated and profound, when they are not. There is a sophisticated and profound discussion to be had about sadistic delight and masochism (as well as queer theory and postmodernism), but they do not provide it and probably would not understand it.

  2. unabashedcalabash November 17, 2015 at 08:40 Reply

    Hey Francois, I’m following your blog (I mean, I pressed the button that said follow) and I got your latest post in my inbox this morning (I usually don’t get email alerts when you republish from elsewhere). Is everything all right (did you take down the anti-natalist chat? I don’t see it at the top anymore). I follow lots of blogs and I’m sure so do a lot of others who follow your blog…and I like that you re-post stuff from the web, it saves us the work and it’s nice of you. I think you’re a smart and thoughtful guy but of course you don’t have all the answers, no one does. Sorry for leaving a comment on here as you disabled comments for that entry (no need to post this then, I would have come by and said the same on the chat). I for one will continue reading the things you write (or re-post) from time to time and will send you that piece on prostitution pretty soon too (I’m in the middle of a move). I hope all is well with you. Take care!

    • Francois Tremblay November 17, 2015 at 16:34 Reply

      Please don’t comment about that entry. I know you mean well but… just take it to heart.

      I do look forward to your pieces. I thought they were excellent. But take your time.

      The chat is http://tinychat.com/roguephilosophy#
      I will no longer be linking to it due to reasons. I recommend you bookmark it.

  3. Heretic November 17, 2015 at 14:24 Reply

    Hey! Saw your recent post and I sent you a bunch of messages. Hope you’re okay. Please get back to me when you get a chance.

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