Most of the time, we try to avoid inflicting pain on others -- when we do hurt someone, we typically experience guilt, remorse, or other feelings of distress. But for some, cruelty can be pleasurable, even exciting. New research suggests that this kind of everyday sadism is real and more common than we might think.Two studies led by psychological scientist Erin Buckels of the University of British Columbia revealed that people who score high on a measure of sadism seem to derive pleasure from behaviors that hurt others, and are even willing to expend extra effort to make someone else suffer.
The new findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
"Some find it hard to reconcile sadism with the concept of 'normal' psychological functioning, but our findings show that sadistic tendencies among otherwise well-adjusted people must be acknowledged," says Buckels. "These people aren't necessarily serial killers or sexual deviants but they gain some emotional benefit in causing or simply observing others' suffering."
Based on their previous work on the "Dark Triad" of personality, Buckels and colleagues Delroy Paulhus of the University of British Columbia and Daniel Jones of the University of Texas El Paso surmised that sadism is a distinct aspect of personality that joins with three others -- psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism -- to form a "Dark Tetrad" of personality traits.
To test their hypothesis, they decided to examine everyday sadism under controlled laboratory conditions. They recruited 71 participants to take part in a study on "personality and tolerance for challenging jobs." Participants were asked to choose among several unpleasant tasks: killing bugs, helping the experimenter kill bugs, cleaning dirty toilets, or enduring pain from ice water.
Participants who chose bug killing were shown the bug-crunching machine: a modified coffee grinder that produced a distinct crunching sound so as to maximize the gruesomeness of the task. Nearby were cups containing live pill bugs, each cup labeled with the bug's name: Muffin, Ike, and Tootsie.
The participant's job was to drop the bugs into the machine, force down the cover, and "grind them up." The participants didn't know that a barrier actually prevented the bugs from being ground up and that no bugs were harmed in the experiment.
Of the 71 participants, 12.7% chose the pain-tolerance task, 33.8% chose the toilet-cleaning task, 26.8% chose to help kill bugs, and 26.8% chose to kill bugs.
Participants who chose bug killing had the highest scores on a scale measuring sadistic impulses, just as the researchers predicted. The more sadistic the participant was, the more likely he or she was to choose bug killing over the other options, even when their scores on Dark Triad measures, fear of bugs, and sensitivity to disgust were taken into account.
Participants with high levels of sadism who chose to kill bugs reported taking significantly greater pleasure in the task than those who chose another task, and their pleasure seemed to correlate with the number of bugs they killed, suggesting that sadistic behavior may hold some sort of reward value for those participants.
And a second study revealed that, of the participants who rated high on one of the "dark" personality traits, only sadists chose to intensify blasts of white noise directed at an innocent opponent when they realized the opponent wouldn't fight back. They were also the only ones willing to expend additional time and energy to be able to blast the innocent opponent with the noise.
Together, these results suggest that sadists possess an intrinsic motivation to inflict suffering on innocent others, even at a personal cost -- a motivation that is absent from the other dark personality traits.
The researchers hope that these new findings will help to broaden people's view of sadism as an aspect of personality that manifests in everyday life, helping to dispel the notion that sadism is limited to sexual deviants and criminals.
Buckels and colleagues are continuing to investigate everyday sadism, including its role in online trolling behavior.
"Trolling culture is unique in that it explicitly celebrates sadistic pleasure, or 'lulz,'" says Buckels. "It is, perhaps, not surprising then that sadists gravitate toward those activities."
And they're also exploring vicarious forms of sadism, such as enjoying cruelty in movies, video games, and sports.
The researchers believe their findings have the potential to inform research and policy on domestic abuse, bullying, animal abuse, and cases of military and police brutality.
"It is such situations that sadistic individuals may exploit for personal pleasure," says Buckels. "Denying the dark side of personality will not help when managing people in these contexts."
For more than two decades, New York photographer Barbara Nitke has cultivated an artistic viewpoint on the porn industry and BDSM communities.
Nitke visited IU Thursday to talk about her photographic work in the porn industry.
Her talk, “American Ecstasy: A Photographic Look Behind the Scenes of the Golden Age of Porn,” provided a behind-the-scenes look into certain sexual communities, particularly BDSM practices and adult film actors on set.
“Interviewing and photographing these people opened my mind to the fact that we’re all just built differently,” Nitke said. “And I found moments that I really considered to be worthy of art within the porn realm.”
Catherine Johnson-Roehr of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction organized the event highlighting Nitke’s work.
She said the Kinsey Institute received a money gift to fund the lecture from California photographer Michael Rosen, who also photographs in areas that are sex-positive.
“He asked us to use the funds to bring fine art photographers to campus to speak about their work,” Johnson-Roehr said....
Bud Izen wasn’t prepared for the reaction he received the first time he brought his two girlfriends with him to synagogue in Eugene, Ore.
The rabbi stopped the trio in the parking lot outside the synagogue and grilled Izen’s partners about whether or not they were really Jewish. Izen hasn’t been back since, but he and his girlfriend — now his wife — still engage in polyamory, the practice of having more than one intimate partner at a time.
A number of partners have been part of the couple’s relationship since Izen, 64, and Diane Foushee, 56, first got together 3 1/2 years ago. Now they are seeking a third partner in the hopes of forming a stable three-way relationship, or triad.
“We want to use the relationship that we have to bridge our way to the next relationship,” said Foushee, “so that each of us in turn is given strength.”
Polyamory, often shortened to poly, is a term that first came into circulation in the 1990s. It is distinct from swinging in that it typically entails more than just sex, and from polygamy, where the partners are not necessarily married. Polyamorous relationships often are hierarchical, including a “primary” relationship between a couple that can be supplemented by a “secondary” relationship with a girlfriend, boyfriend or both.
Such arrangements remain far from mainstream acceptance. But in the wake of the progress made by gay and lesbian Jews in winning communal recognition for non-traditional partnerships, some polyamorous Jews are pushing to have their romantic arrangements similarly accepted.
“The only kind of queers who are generally accepted in some sects are monogamous married queers, upstanding queers,” said Mai Li Pittard, 31, a Jewish poly activist from Seattle. “Judaism right now is very oriented towards having 2.5 kids, a picket fence and a respectable job. There’s not a lot of respect for people on the fringe.”
A former editor of ModernPoly.com, a nationwide polyamory website, Pittard has been polyamorous for 10 years and is currently involved with three partners — two men and one woman. She is a violinist and vocalist in a fusion hip-hop klezmer band, the Debaucherantes, and likes to engage in culture jamming, the mixing of seemingly disparate cultural elements. Combining polyamory and Judaism is one example of that.
“For me, polyamory and Judaism make a lot of sense together,” Pittard said. “When I’m singing niggunim or hosting people at my Shabbat table, it’s just another way of experiencing a connection with a group of people.”
Pittard is frustrated by what she describes as a “white-bread,” conformist Jewish culture that refuses to accept polyamorous relationships. But some Jewish communities have been more accepting than others.
“It’s easier to be open about polyamory at temple than it is with my professional colleagues,” said Rachel, a 28-year-old San Francisco business owner who asked that her last name be withheld. “My particular segment of the Jewish community likes me because I’m different and they accept that being poly is part of that.”
Others are more conflicted about their polyamorous and Jewish identities.
Ian Osmond, 39, a Boston-area bartender and former Hebrew school teacher who has been in a polyamorous marriage for 10 years, says he believes the rabbinic ruling that prohibited polygamy nearly a millennium ago has expired. Still, Osmond worries that his behavior is inconsistent with Jewish law.
“I do feel there’s a conflict between polyamory and Judaism,” said Osmond, who is dating several women. “I feel that what we are doing is not supported by halachah.”
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of American Jewish University in Los Angeles and a longtime champion of gay inclusion in the Jewish community, draws the line when it comes to polyamory.
“First of all, the depth of the relationship is much greater if it’s monogamous,” Dorff said. “The chances that both partners are going to be able to fulfill all the obligations of a serious intimate relationship are much greater in a monogamous relationship. I would say the same to gay or straight couples: There should be one person you live your life with.” ...
We may not want to admit it, but as psychologist Jesse Bering reveals in his book, "Perv," there's a spectrum of perversion along which we all sit. But where do we draw the line between kink and the type of behavior that requires a psych evaluation?
Jesse Bering@JesseBering(New York, NY)Author of 'Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us'
Jillian Keenan@JillianKeenan(New York, NY)Journalist
Susan Wright@NCSF(Phoenix, AZ)Founder of National Coalition for Sexual Freedom; Author of 'Good Girl'
NEW YORK (AP) — David Ives' naughty "Venus in Fur" tops the list of the most produced plays nationwide during the 2013-14 season, according to the theater industry's largest trade group.
American Theatre magazine, published by Theatre Communications Group, announced the list in its October issue.
Ives' play, which explores power and powerlessness with more than a bit of sadomasochism, was a hit on Broadway and won Nina Arianda a Tony last year. Twenty-two theaters will produce "Venus in Fur" this season.
The Top 10 also includes Bruce Norris' "Clybourne Park," Katori Hall's "The Mountaintop," David Lindsay-Abaire's "Good People," Jon Robin Baitz's "Other Desert Cities," Amy Herzog's "4000 Miles" and Christopher Durang's "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike."
The list was compiled from 499 member theaters. It omits holiday-themed shows and Shakespeare works. ...
Leather and latex cover some parts of the bodies at Folsom, but not the parts that society typically asks of clothing.
Some folk are bound by rope and chain — others are led by their partner by collar and leash, often wearing full-head leather masks. A woman’s limbs are arranged artistically via rope and knots before she is suspended by hooks, her bound breasts turning slightly purple. She grins wolfishly as the fellow who tied her up pinches a nipple, and she kisses him upside-down — he grips her hair in a show of both force and devotion. A beautiful transvestite rocks a lace bra and knee-high leather boots. A naked man in a ski mask stands in a window on the third floor of his apartment and jacks off what might be the largest erect dick I’ve ever seen. The crowd on the street erupts in cheers when, 15 minutes later, he cums.
These are a few of the scenes I was fortunate enough to be privy to at the Folsom Street Fair last Sunday. For those unfamiliar, FSF is an annual leather and BDSM — Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism — street fair. BDSM practitioners enjoy a myriad toys and methods, many of which I saw at FSF. But for all the variety in sexual preferences — from butt plugs that had horse tails, aerial suspensions via rope and so forth — there was one thing that all the people I saw held in common: smiles. No matter whether the party was a dom — the dominant member in a BDSM relationship — in spiked heels or a sub — the submissive — in a full-face leather dog mask, a totally naked middle-aged man getting his ass whipped cherry-red or a plainly clothed average human walking through the fair, everyone was having a good time bringing bedroom preferences to the daylight or simply watching others do so.
Nearly no one I saw was intoxicated. No one did anything to anyone without explicit consent: Nearly all the sexual activity — be it flogging, spanking or stroking — was between people who already knew each other or was within the bounds of set-up booths. I felt entirely comfortable the entire time. There I was, surrounded by people who were so open, honest and communicative about their sexuality that they chose to air it out in the sunshine. The feel of community and adventure was buzzing in the air.
Oftentimes, people associate the images I painted at the beginning of this article with a sort of deviant, seedy subculture. Part of this is institutional. Older editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychologist’s bible for mental disorders, had listed paraphilia — an umbrella term for “unusual” sex desires like fetishes, BDSM and kink — as a mental disorder. But a Dutch study published last summer found that, of the survey’s participants, BDSM practitioners scored better on measures of mental well-being and the emotional security in relationships than those who only practice “vanilla” sex. Granted, the participants self-selected into the study, so the results may not be representative of society as a whole, but it was still a refreshing shout against the historical villainization of BDSM. And maybe the sort of communication necessary for BDSM — regarding soft and hard limits, for example — does lend itself to healthier relationship skills. ...
It is not every day I can attend a discussion and learn beard pulling is as much of a turn-on as regular hair pulling. The NonNormative AntiAssimilationist group held a discussion about BDSM/kink on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
The members of N/A are an eclectic group of anti-assimilation, non-conformist students. They are advocates for non-normative lifestyles in regard to sexual orientation, religion or spirituality. Each member is involved with advocacy projects that lend a voice to those in need.
The BDSM/kink meeting was about shining light on an otherwise dim and unknown part of sexual fantasies. The N/A group is about providing a safe place where students can come to feel open and accepted and discuss these types of sexual fantasies in an open and honest way.
Having read the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series by author E.L. James, I went into this meeting hoping to gain insight into the dark mind of its main character, Christian Grey. The book portrays him as a dominant, type-A, CEO billionaire hungry for power and authority. He passes his time having kinky sex with unattached women. Is this lifestyle only about men being dominant? Is this lifestyle for females as well?
BDSM is an acronym for bondage, domination, submission and masochism. BDSM is a type of role-play or lifestyle choice between two or more individuals who use their experiences of pain and power to create sexual tension, pleasure and release.
Intimacy was defined during this discussion as anything that brings pleasure to the people involved in an interaction. Regardless of how harsh “kinky” sex, bondage, domination and submission can get, in the end it is about two people being on the same playing field and sharing a “closeness of heart.”
Bondage, role-playing and toys were among the many topics discussed, but perhaps the most important topic was how to know when your relationship has become unhealthy. This type of sexual lifestyle is all about feeling empowered by your partner, whether you are dominant or submissive. The second you are not gaining anything positive from the BDSM lifestyle, it is time to make a change.
Members of the N/A group and participants of the BDSM discussion explained that it is important to communicate effectively with your partner about the boundaries and limitations you have with this type of sexual role-playing. Contracts and safe words should be discussed. ...
The first time Danielle Ezzo met Matt and Rachel, she was relieved. The fashionable trio had met on the dating site, Nerve, and had been exchanging messages, but hadn’t yet met in real life. Ezzo, 29, recalls that evening at the Bowery Hotel in spring 2009 fondly: “I was excited that they were just as cute as their profile pictures.”
She was even happier to learn that she had that hard-to-find thing with both Matt and Rachel — chemistry. They talked about life and love and learned that they had the same ideas when it came to dating.
“I was really excited to meet people that felt the same way,” she says of her ongoing relationship with the married couple, both 34-year-old self-employed artists, who declined to use their last names because of privacy reasons.
Ezzo, also an artist, is polyamorous. Loosely speaking, she seriously dates more than one person at a time, and has an emotional, as well as a sexual connection, with her partners.
She sees Matt and Rachel separately and together, and also occasionally dates other people.
“One of the wonderful aspects of polyamory is that you do get different things from different partners, both emotionally and physically,” says Ezzo, who is in what’s known as a “triad” with Matt and Rachel.
“There are three very different dynamics, all of which are personally valuable.”
And while the arrangement may seem unusual, Ezzo insists it’s really no different than run-of-the-mill monogamy. Communication and compromise are key — for instance, when it comes to picking a flick to watch for the evening.
“They have very different styles in movies,” says Ezzo, who splits her time between New York and Boston, where she is going to school for photography at the Art Institute of Boston. “When I’m with Rachel we might [watch] a silly, fun ’80s movie, but I won’t do that silly ’80s movie with Matt. He likes strange horror flicks.”
Luckily, she says, “I like both of those things.”
Ezzo is part of a growing movement of people who are practicing consensual non-monogamy — or, in plain English, open relationships.
According to Gette Levy of Open Love NY, a local support group with more than 1,000 members, the organization has seen a steady increase in membership since forming in 2009.
“Dating has changed over the past 50 years,” says Levy. “Many adults of all ages are finding that monogamy does not suit them and is no longer a fiscal and social requirement.”
Shortly after she started seeing Matt and Rachel, Ezzo met her future husband.
“I had told him [about my lifestyle] on our first date,” she says. “He was excited to explore it.”
Her open marriage eventually fizzled for reasons not related to polyamory, but her relationship with Matt and Rachel is still going strong.
“I’ve always inherently had this notion of or had this blurred line between friendship and lovers … to me there is a huge overlap. It’s easier for me to simultaneously love multiple people,” says Ezzo.
“As a bi-sexual person, choosing is not necessarily something that I personally like to do,” she adds.
Pop-culture is having a poly moment too: TV shows like “Sister Wives” (Sundays on TLC) and “Polyamory: Married & Dating” (Thursdays on Showtime) are giving people a glimpse into the complicated sex lives of multi-partnered couples.
“The interest and the visibility around open relationships has just skyrocketed,” says sexpert Tristan Taormino, who wrote a book about the subject, “Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships.” ...