What Is Sexual Sadism Disorder?

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Sexual Sadism Disorder

Sexual sadism disorder can be described as experiencing sexual excitement as a reaction to another person’s severe pain, distress, or mortification.

Many alternative concepts have been used to label the condition. This disorder tends to blur boundaries with others that have to do with pain infliction. 

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It is different from circumstances that involve the use of a low degree of pain or humiliation on consenting persons. Marquis de Sade is the origin from which the concepts, sadism and sadists are derived

Related terms, concepts and conditions

Current terms

Sexual sadism disorder is the present term used by the present version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) of the American Psychiatric Association. It describes the repetitive and high sexual arousal from another individual’s physical or mental distress, as evidenced by fantasies, impulsive desires, or behaviours.

It is also categorized as part of the paraphilias, referred to as an “algolagnic disorder”. This is one of the abnormal activity preferences. The official diagnostics of Sexual Sadism Disorder would come to play if the person has acted on these impulsive desires with a nonconsenting individual or if these desires trigger significant distress.

The term “Sadomasochism” is present in the current version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) of the World Health Organization. It describes favouritism for sexual acts that require captivity or inflicting pain and mortification.

Sadomasochism is split into sadism and masochism depending on whether the individual is willing to be the provider or recipient. The ICD-10 explicitly stated that gentle forms of sadomasochism “are commonly used to enhance otherwise normal sexual activity”“.

The diagnosis of sexual sadism will come to play if such anomaly is favoured or needed for sexual satisfaction. This disorder is categorized as one of the disorders of sexual bias or forechoice, including the paraphilias.

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The paraphilic coercive disorder is a term used to describe the favouritism for non-consenting parties over consenting parties. It is distinct from sexual sadism disorder in the sense that pain infliction might be employed to gain the other party’s compliance. Still, pain infliction isn’t the actual purpose of such individual.

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Such a condition can be labelled as a paraphilia, and it is still undergoing research. The condition has other names such as Coercive Paraphilic disorder, Preferential Rape and Biastophilia. BDSM is the acronym for Bondage/ Discipline/ Dominance/ Submission.

BDSM is the informal name used to describe a group of individuals who voluntarily engage in consenting kinds of gentle/artificial pain or mortification. It is not a condition undergoing diagnosis in either the ICD or DSM system.

It can alternately be called Bondage and Discipline (B&D), Domination and Submission (D&S), and Sadism and Masochism (S&M). This sexual bias has also been referred to as the hyperdominance sexual behavioural pattern in scientific research.

In contrast to sexual sadists or those with Paraphilic coercive disorder, hyperdominant individuals aim to trigger pleasure with the infliction of pain and mortification.

Initial terminology

Sexual sadism disorder was the term mentioned in DSM-I as one of the sexual anomalies, but neither this term nor related ones had a particular label or diagnostic criteria. In DSM-II, sexual sadism was categorized as a sexual anomaly, which describes persons whose sexual preferences are targeted mostly towards intercourse performed under strange circumstances.

The term paraphilia wasn’t in existence in DSM-II and diagnosis concerning this disorder didn’t have a particular criterion until DSM-III. Sexual sadism is the concept initially used by the DSM-III-R, DSM-IV and DSM-IV-TR where it was classified as a paraphilia. Initially, sexual sadism only applied to real, not simulated pain.

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It was later that the condition was renamed as sexual sadism disorder in DSM-5.  The DSM-III observed that the scenery in a paraphilia, such as mild bondage and pain, may be light-hearted and innocuous. It may also be role-played with a consenting individual.

A more extreme version is role-playing with a non-consenting individual and is harmful and dangerous to that individual. In DSM-III, sexual sadism describes or fit the criteria for the following circumstances:

  •  The person recurrently and deliberately inflicts pain and distress on an unwilling individual, to experience sexual arousal
  • The person recurrently or solely prefers or favours artificial or mild pain and distress with a willing individual
  • The person employs indefinite and mortal suffering to attain sexual arousal and satisfaction, regardless of the other person’s consent.

Sadistic personality disorder goes beyond any sexual interest but refers to the twisted indifference for others’ welfare. It is typically affiliated with a history of violence and crime, particularly those of a  sexual nature.

Features

When individuals suffer from Paraphilic coercive disorder, they usually use sufficient force to subdue or overpower a victim. On the other hand, sexual sadism disorder involves persistent pain infliction by the sadist, irrespective of the victim’s compliance.

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This sometimes results in not just the death of the victim, but also bodily mutilation. What the sadist perceives as sexual isn’t always perceived as noticeably sexual by non-sadists. Sadistic rapes does not require penile insertion inside the victim.

An offence survey conducted revealed that 77% of cases included sexual captivity, 73% included sodomized rape, and 60% included trauma induced by blows to the body. Also, 57% included conventional rape and 40% included the use of a foreign object to penetrate the victim. In 40% of those cases, a personal item belonging to the victim was retained by the offender as a souvenir.

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Personality tests conducted on sadists rapists arrested by law enforcement officials have revealed heightened traits of impulsivity, hypersexuality, wickedness and psychopathy.

Although, there is little clarity on whether they are truly or superficially related. However, there appears to be a continuation of the degree of seriousness from gentle (BDSM), to somewhat severe (Paraphilic coercive disorder), to very severe (sexual sadism disorder).

Not much is known about the development of sexual sadism disorder, but most of the diagnosed sexual sadists gain law enforcement’s attention by engaging in sexually motivated crimes. The survey’s scope has been broadened to cover those only interested in gentle and consensual kinds of sexual pain and mortification (BDSM).

Almost the entirety of individuals diagnosed with a fully developed sexual sadism disorder are males. As for BDSM, people’s gender ratio is leaning towards 2(male):1(female). Individuals with sexual sadism disorder have a heightened tendency to having other paraphilic sexual interests.

Mellor’s typology on sexual sadism

Lee Mellor, a criminologist, formulated a typology of sexually-motivated sadistic homicide offenders, premised on a mixture of three binary factors.

  • Destructive versus Preservative
    Destructive sex sadists mutilate and disfigure the bodies of their living victims. In contrast, preservative sex sadists do not engage in such.
  • Prolonged versus Brief
    The prolonged sex sadist inflicts pain on their victim for lengthy periods say, for an hour or more. The brief sex sadist inflicts pain for a short period.
  • Elaborate versus Simple
    Simple sex sadists tend to employ one or two techniques of torture while the elaborate sexual sadists have at least three of the following four features:
  •  Varieties in torture techniques
  • Sophisticated torture apparatus
  •  Mental torture
  • Notes taking or documentation

This establishes eight likely classifications, six of which Mellor could locate several criminal offenders.

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