Psychotherapy Off the Wall

There is no ‘sexuality’ involved in the development of the sadistic impulses on the part of those possessed of power, unless the gender of the passive person coincides with that of the other’s sexual object preference. However, it appears that it is not the sexualizing of the female which provokes sadism, any more than it is the sexualizing of the female which stimulates rape. Rape is usually an act of aggression, just as sadism is viewed by the perpetrator as an act of punishment, which is most likely to be acted out when the perpetrator is in a position of power over another (and typically harboured as angry ruminations when he or she is not). In the case where pain is to be inflicted on a member of the perpetrator’s own gender, the action is most likely to be aimed at creating social disgrace, as by leaving visible marks by punching or scratching the other’s face. In the case where the object of the aggression or of punishment is of the opposite gender, the reason why the genitals may sometimes be selected as a target of action is likely merely because they may seem to the perpetrator to be the part of the person most vulnerable to attack or to the evocation of pain or humiliation.
The point being made is that sadistic behaviour is involved in any intent to inflict pain or humiliation. The effects or the circumstances of the behaviour are, from the point of view of its sadistic intent, irrelevant to the nature of its motivation, even although we typically judge the behaviour in just those terms. From the point of view of the actual behaviour or the circumstances or effects of the act, one may refer to it as ‘an attack’, or as an ‘unprovoked act’, or as having ‘harmful’ or ‘dangerous’ effects. The sadistic act nearly always involves an ‘attack’ (whether real or just imagined); it commonly (but not always – it may be intended as ‘helpful punishment’) has ‘dangerous’ or ‘harmful’ consequences (at least in its intent); but it is rarely considered to be ‘unprovoked’ in the eyes of the perpetrator – even although nobody else may be able to understand the ‘provocation’.
In the eyes of the perpetrator, any attack is deemed to be ‘retaliatory’ in nature, even if the act against which the retaliation is directed may not be detectable by others. Either internationally or individually, an attack is ‘justified’ by the attacker as if it were a response to having been provoked in the form of actual or imagined attack, intimidation, humiliation or misdeed. And the attacker’s response is perceived by him or her (or it, if a nation) as the appropriate, and possibly even necessary, response in the face of the provocation – if only to use the pain or humiliation as a means to draw the other’s attention to his or her or its misdeed.

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