Does empathy conflict with sadism?

Discussion in 'General BDSM discussions' started by chaoticist, Jul 5, 2011.

  1. chaoticist

    chaoticist New Member

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    One thing I've observed quite a lot, is an apparent conflict between caring feelings for someone, and the ability to be sadistic to them. Similarly, the few truly creative and intense sadists that I know, tend to have quite a bit less empathy than the general population, a couple of them would pretty much be described as 'bad' by most people, even though in the time I've known them, both have been much more honest about their feelings and nature than most normal people I have met.

    I've also heard many times, people in Sm relationships run into problems after a while, as the creating of emotional bonds lessens the ability of the top/sadist to be harsh in bdsm play with their sub/masochist. I actually experienced this myself in two prior relationships, and although open communication helped a lot (once I realised what was happening), there does seem to be an element of holding back once deeper feelings or love get involved.

    There are only really two situations where I've seen this not be a problem. One, where the top/sadist is borderline sociopathic (or worse) - which is obviously not good in other respects, for relationship material. Two, where the top/sadist was initially somewhat too extreme for the sub/masochist, so that after they got involved, the mellowing out actually brought them to roughly the same level of intensity they each felt happy with. Personally I've found the times when this issue didn't occur, there were a few occasions of the opposite problem (i.e. the top being a little too pushy sometimes).

    Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? Anyone had experiences or ideas as to how to work around it? It reminds me a little of the common scenario with long-term vanilla relationships where the passion reduces and they become more like friends or room-mates than lovers.

    There seems to be a kind of tension between being harsh/abusive to someone in a way that's sexually gratifying to both, and not going too far so that you cross their non-sexual limits (dignity, lack of lasting physical damage, self-esteem etc). A pretty tricky line to straddle.

    N.B. I don't really notice this in doms/dommes so much, it seems to be confined more to sadistic infliction of physical or emotional pain. In fact in D/s relationships, I'd say the empathy factor from romantic feelings seems to strengthen things.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2011
  2. Smallest

    Smallest Moderator

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    I was going to comment on this more in depth and a bit argumentatively, but then I read the note bien and so on. I haven't much experience with sadists, and D/s is, as you said, a bit strengthened by the rest of the relationship and the fact that it is generally being done for the submissive's pleasure as well, not just for the Dom/me to see pain inflicted.

    So I guess I haven't much to add, other than that it's easy to take that wrong if you're not paying attention.
  3. subarama30

    subarama30 Member

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    This is hard in that I think most people I have come across will not identify themselves as 'true' sadists more that they are Doms/Dommes. I have been with a genuine sadist and there was certainly no empathy or real emotional connection from his point of view but he was probably a borderline sociopath.

    I think the problem with the question is that I think sadists are different from 'regular' (if I can use that term?) Doms. Wanting pain for pain's sake I think is rarer than the pain being part of the dynamic as a whole, the punishment and reward mentality. In my opinion a D/s relationship is about that give and take, the power play as much as, if not more so, in some cases, than the pain itself, as some subs dont even like pain at all and some Doms don't really want to hurt anyone just control them. Therefore in a healthy D/s relationship I don't think that either party wants the line to be crossed and will adapt accordingly. Or maybe some might think I'm judging sadists too harshly? I don't know I can only comment from personal experience and as a sub...

    With regards to lt vanilla relationships, although the passion can wane in terms of not tearing each one another's clothes off quite so often :) I think the intensity/connection of sexual experiences increases so that in itself for me compensates for some of the raw lust you might lose.
  4. chaoticist

    chaoticist New Member

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    Very interesting reply - I agree about the difference between sadists vs 'regular' doms/dommes. I think the same is true of masochists vs 'regular' subs. Doms/subs seem to use pain as part of the control & power dynamic of their relationship. Whereas 'true' sadists and masochists seem to enjoy, or even need it, for its own sake, in perhaps a more direct and unfiltered way.
  5. Kor

    Kor Member

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    Sadists can be whackjobs. So can dominants, submissives, and masochists. It doesn't mean we *have* to be.

    As far as empathy... I've always thought of sadism as a higher form of empathy. If it's not personal, what's the point?

    Not all subs are into pain, but I'm not so inflexible I can't get reasonable enjoyment out of an ordinary top or dom role.
  6. chaoticist

    chaoticist New Member

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    Great point about sadism as empathy (between a sadist and masochist), that's a perspective that isn't fully appreciated. But many who aren't S or M don't understand that, so they 'hold back' because they think they are hurting you or doing something 'bad', even if you say you want it.

    I wasn't trying to suggest sadists are whackjobs, just wondering about the common inhibition that seems to exist about inflicting pain beyond a mild level, and whether this is caused by having feelings for someone, or just not being naturally sadistic in any real way. Anyway, point taken.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2011
  7. Kor

    Kor Member

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    Anyone can inflict pain, but perhaps sadists enjoy it more than others.
  8. pepeluism

    pepeluism Member

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    I experienced this very early on with the lady who really introduced me into this world. Things started fairly vanilla but quickly built up into what can only be described as an abusive relationship that was consensual (!). Little by little I gave her control over me and she took advantage of it. The more she controlled me, the more sadistic she became. Is this abnormal? I don't know. I tend to think that most people have a tendency to act this way (absolute power corrupts absolutely?). Eventually she got tired of it and threw me out.

    It is REALLY hard, on the other hand, to find people who are outright sadistic. I have found them, and I would probably agree they do have other personality issues going on. But I need my FIX!

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