R. von (Richard) Krafft-Ebing.

Psychopathia sexualis, with especial reference to the antipathetic sexual instinct : a medico-forensic study online

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sensations when it was being reduced, anaesthetics not being known


across his knees, pretending to whip ker. Since then she
had longed for the opportunity of being caned, but to her
great regTet her wish was never realised. At these periods
she imagined herself as absolutely helpless and fettered.
The mere mention of the words "rattan cane" and '"to
whip" caused her intense excitement. Only for the last
two years she associated these ideas with the male sex.
Previously she only thought of a severe school-mistress or
simply a hand.

Now she wished to be the slave of a man whom
she loves; she would kiss his feet if he would only whip

She did not understand that these manifestations were
of a sexual nature.

A few quotali(fhs from her letters are characteristic as
bearing upon the masochistic character of this case: —

'In former years I seriously contemplated going into
a lunatic asylum whenever these ideas worried me. I fell
upon this idea whilst reading how the director of an
insane asylum pulled a lady by the hair from her bed and
beat her with a cane and a riding-whip. I longed to be
treated in a similar manner at such an institute, and have
therefore unconsciously associated my ideas with the male
sex. I liked, however, best to think of brutal, uneducated
female warders beating me mercilessly.

"Lying (in fancy) before him, he puts one foot on my
neck whilst I kiss the other. I revel in the idea of being
whipped by him; but this changes often, and I fancy
quite different scenes in which he beats nie. At times I
take the blows as so many tokens of love — he is at first
extremely kind and tender, and then, in the excess of his
love, he beats me. I fancy that to beat me, for love's sake
gives him the highest pleasure. Often I have dreamed
that I was his slave — but, mind you, not his female slave!
For instance, I have imagined tliat he was Kobinson and
I the savage that served him. I often look at the pictures
in which Rolbinson puts his foot on the neck of the savage.
1 now find an exolanation of these strange fancies: I look

masochism:. 199

upon woman in general aa low, fa-r below man; but I am
■ otherwise extremely proud and quite indomitable, whence
it arises that I think as a man (who is by nature proud
and superior). This renders my humiliation before the
man I love the more intense. I have also fancied myself
to be his female slave; but this does not suffice, for after
all every woman can be the slave of her husband.

Case 85. Miss v. X., aged thirty-five; of greatly pre-
disposed family. For some years she had been in the ini-
tial stages of paranoia persecutoria. This sprang from
cerebro-spinal neurasthenia, the origin of which was found
to be sexual hyperexcitation. With twenty-four she was
given to masturbation. As a resiilt of disappointment in
an engagement, she began to practise masturbation and
psychical onanism. Inclination toward persons of her own
sex never occurred. The patient says: "At the age of
six or eight I conceived a desire to be whipped. Since I
had never been whipped, and had never been present when
others were thus punished, I cannot understand how I came
to have this strange desire. I can only think that it is
congenital. With these ideas of being whipped I had a
feeling of actual delight, and pictured in my fancy how
fine it would be to be whipped by one of my female friends.
I never had any thought of being whipped by a man. I
revelled in the idea, and never attempted any actual reali-
sation of my fancies, which disappeared after my tenth
year. Only when I read "Bousseau's Confessions," at the
age of thirty-four, did I understand what my longing for
whippings meant, and that my abnormal ideas were like
those of Rousseau.

On account of its original character and the reference
to Rousseau, this case may with certainty be called a case
of masochism. The fact that it is a female friend who is
conceived in imagination as whipping her, is explained by
the circumstance that the masochistic desire was here
present in the mind of a child before the psychical vita
sexualis had developed and the instinct for the male had.


been awakened. Antipathic sexual instinct is here ex-
pressly excluded.

Case 86. A physician in the General Hospital of
Vienna had his attention drawn to a girl who used to call
on the medical assistants of the institution. When meet-
ing one of them she would exj^ress great delight at meeting
a medical man and ask him to at once imdertake a gyneco-
logical examination on her. Klie said she would make re-
sistance, but he must take no notice of that, on the contrary
ask her to be calm and proceed with the examination. If
X. consented, the scene would be enacted as she desired.
She would resist, and thus work herself up into a high state
of sexual excitement. If the medical man refused to pro-
ceed any further she \\ould beg him not to desist. It was
quite evident that the examination was only requested for
the purpose of inducing the highest possible degree of
orgasm. When the medical man refused coitus she felt
deeply offended, but begged him to let her come again.
Money she never accepted.

It is apparent that orgasm was not induced by the mere
palpation of the genitals, but the exciting cause undoubt-
edly lay in the act of force, which was always demanded,
and which became the equivalent of coitus. It is evidently
a manifestation belonging in the province of masochism in

An Attempt to Explain Masochism.

The facts of masochism are certainly among the most
interesting in the domain of psychopathology. An attempt
at explanation must first seek to distinguish in them the
essential from the unessential. The distinguishing charac-
teristic in masochism is certainly the unlimited subjection
to the will of a person of the opposite sex (in sadism, on
the contrary, the unlimited mastery of this person), with
the awakening and accompaniment of lustful sexual feel-
ings to the degree of orgasm. From the foreeoins it is


clear that the particular manner in which this relation of
subjection or domination is expressed (v. supra), whether
merely in symbolic acts, or whether there is also a desire
to suffer pain at the hands of a person of the opposite sex,
is a subordinate matter.

While sadism may be looked upon as a pathological
intensification of the masculine sexual character in its
psychical peculiarities, masochism rather represents a
pathological degeneration of the distinctive psychical
peculiarities of woman. But masculine masochism is un-
doubtedly frequent; and it is this that comes most fre-
quently under observation and almost exclusively makes
up the series of observed cases. The reason for this has
been previously stated.

Two sources of masochism can be distinguished in the
sphere of normal phenomena. The first is, that in the
state of lustful excitement every impression made by the
person giving rise to the sexual stimulus, independently of
the nature of its action, is pleasing to the individual ex-

It is entirely physiological that playful taps and light
blows should be taken for caresses,^

Like the lover's pinch, which hurts and is desired.

— Anthony and Cleopatra, v., 2.

From here the step is not long to a state where the wish
to experience a very intense impression at the hands of
the consort leads to a desire for blows, etc., in cases of
pathological intensification of lust; for pain is ever a
ready means for pr(!»ducing intense bodily impressions.
Just as in* sadism the sexual emotion leads to a state of
exaltation in which the excessive motor excitement im-
plicates neighbouring nervous tracts, so in masochism an
ecstatic state arises, in which the rising flood of a single

* Analogous facts are found in the animal kingdom. Pulmonata
Cuv., for instance, possess a small calcareous staff which lies hidden
in a special pouch of the body, but is at the time of mating pro-
jected and used as a means of sexual excitement, producing, beyond
doubt, pain,



emotion ravenously devours and covers with lust evei'_y
inijjrossion coining from the beloved person.

The second and, indeed, the most important source of
masochism is to be sought in a wide-spread phenomenon,
which, though it is extraordinary and abnormal, yet, by
no means lies within the domain of sexual perversion.

I here refer to the very prevalent fact that in in-
numerable instances, which occur in all varieties, one in-
dividual becomes dependent on another of the opposite
sex, in a very extraordinary and remarkable manner, —
even to the loss of all independent will-power; a depend-
ence which forces the party in subjection to acts and
suffering which greatly prejudice personal interest, and
often enough lead to offences against both morality and

This 'dependence, however, differs from the manifesta-
tions of normal life only in the intensity of the sexual
feeliniT that here comes in play, and in the slight degi'ee
of will-power necessary for the maintenance of its equili-
brium. The difference is one of intensity, not of quality,
as in masochistic manifestations.

This dependence of one person upon another of the
opposite sex — abnormal but not perverse, a phenomenon
possessing great interest when regarded from a forensic
standpoint — I designate "sexual bondage" j^ for the rela-
tions and circumstances attending it have in all respects
the character of bondage. • The will of the juling^ indi-

* Of. the author's article, " tjber geselilechtliche Horigkeit und
Masochismus," in tlie " Psyohiatrische Jahrbiieher," Bd. x., p. 169 et
seq., where this subject is treated in detail, and particularly from
the forensic standpoint. •

' The expressions " slave " and " slavery," though often used
metaphorically under such circumstances, are avoided here because
they are the favourite expressions of masochismj from which this
" bondage " must be strictly differentiated.

The expression " bondage " is not to be construed to mean J. S.
Mill's " Bondage of Woman." What ilill designates with this
expression are laws and customs, social and historical facts. Here,
however, we always speak of facts having peculiar individual motives
that even conflict with prevalent customs and laws. Besides it has
reference to either sex.


vidual dominates that of the person in subjection, just as
the master's does that of bondsmen.

This "sexual bondage," as has been said, is certainly
an abnormal phenomenon. It begins with the first devia-
tion from the normal. The degree of dependence of one
person upon another, or of two iipon each other, resulting
from individual peculiarity in the intensity of motives that
in themselves are normal, constitutes the normal standard
established by law and custom. Sexual bondage is not a
perverse manifestation, however; the instinctive activities
at work here are the same as those that set in motions-
even though it be with less violence — the psychical vita
sexualis which moves entirely within normal limits.

Fear of losing the companion and the desire to keep
him always content, amiable, and inclined to sexual inter-
course, are here the motives of the individual in subjection.
An extraordinary degree of love — which, particularly in
woman, does not always indicate an unusual degree of
sensuality — -and a weak character are the simple elements
of this extraordinary process.^

The motive of the dominant individual is egotism
which finds unlimited room for action.

The manifestations of sexual bondage are various in
form, and the cases. are very numerous.^ At every step in
life we find raen that have fallen into sexual bondage.
Among married men, hen-pecked husbands belong to this

' Perhaps the most important element is, that by the habit of
submission a kind of mechanical obedience, without consciousness of
its motives, which operates with automatic certainty, may be estab-
lished, having no opposing motives to contend with, because it lies
beyond the threshold of consciousness; and it may be used by the
dominant individual like an inanimate instrument.

^ Sexual bondage, of course, plays a rdle in all literature.
Indeed, for the poet, the extraordinary manifestations of the sexual
life that are not perverse form a rich and open field. Tlie most
celebrated description of masculine "bondage " is that by Ahh4
Prdvost, " Manon Lescault." An excellent description of feminine
" bondage " is that of " Leone Leoni," by Oeorge Sand. But first of
all comes Kleist's Kathchen von Heilbronn," who himself called it
the counterpart of (sadistic)' " Penthesilea." Halm's " Griseldis "
and many other similar poema also belong here.


category, particularly elderly men who marry young wives
and try to overcome the disparity of years and physical
defects by unconditional submission to the wife's every
whim; and unmarried men of ripe maturity, who seek to
better their last chance of love by unlimited sacrifice, are
also to be enumerated here. Here belong, also, men of
any age, who, seized by hot passion for a woman, meet
coldness and calculation, and have to capitulate on hard
Conditions ; men of loving natures who allow themselves
to be persuaded to marriage by notorious prostitutes ; men
who, to run after adventuresses, leave everything and
jeopardise their future ; husbands and fathers who leave
wife and child, to lay the income of a family at the feet
of a harlot.

But, numerous as the examples of masculine "bond-
age" are, every observer of life who is at all unprejudiced
must allow that they are far from equalling in number
and importance the cases of feminine "bondage". This
is easily explained. For a man, love is almost always
only an episode, and he has many other and important
interests; for a woman, on the other hand, love is the
principal thing in life, and, until the birth of children,
always her first interest. After this it is still oftener her
first thought, but always takes at least the second place.
But, what is still more important, man ruled by this
impulse easily satisfies it in embraces for which he finds
unlimited opportunities. Woman in the upper classes of
society, if she have a husband, is bound to him alone;
and even in the lower classes there are still great obstacles
to polyandry. Therefore, a luomans husband means for
her the whole sex, and his importance to her becomes very
great. It must also be considered that the normal relation
established by law and custom between husband and wife
is far from being one of equality. In itself it expresses
a sufficient, predominance of woman's dependence. The
concessions she makes to her lover, to retain the love
which it would be almost impossible for her to replace,
only plunge her deeper in bondage ; and this increases the


insatiable demands of husbands resolved to use their
advantage and traffic in woman's readiness to sacrifice

Here may be placed the fortune-hunter, who for money
allows himself to be enveloped in the easily created illu-
sions of a maiden; the seducer, and the man who com-
promises wives, calculating on blackmail; the gilded army
officer and the musician with the lion's mane, who know
so well how to stammer "Thee or death!" as a means to
pay debts and provide a life of ease. Here, too, belong
the kitchen-soldier, whose love the cook returns with love
pliis means to satisfy a different appetite ; the drinker, who
consumes the savings of the mistress he marries; and ths
man who with blows compels the prostitute on whom he
lives to earn a certain sum for him daily. These are only
a few of the innumerable forms of bondage into which
woman is forced by her greater need of love and the diffi-
culties of her position.

It was necessary to give the subject of "sexual bond-
age" here brief consideration, for in it may be clearly
discerned the soil from which the main root of masochism
springs. The relationship of these two phenomena of
psychical sexual life 'is immediately apparent. Bondage
and masochism both consist of the unconditional subjec-
tion of the individual affected with this abnormality to a
person of the opposite sex, and of domination of the former
by the latter.^ The two phenomena, however, must be
strictly differentiated ; they are not different in degree, but
in quality.

Sexual bondage is not a perversion and not pathologi-
cal; the elements from which it arises — love and weakness
of will — are not perverse; it is only their simultaneous
activity that produces the abnormal result which is so

' Cases may occur in which the sexual bondage is expressed in
the same acts that are common in masochism. When rough men
beat their wives, and the latter suffer for love, without, however,
having a desire for blows, we have a pseudo form of bondage that
may simulate masochism.


opposed to self-interest, and often to custom and law.
The motive, in obedience to which the subordinated indi-
vidual acts and endures tyranny, is the normal instinct
toward woman (or man), the satisfaction of which is the
price of bondage. The acts of the person in subjection,
by means of which the bondage is expressed, are per-
formed at the command of the ruling individual, to sat-
isfy selfishness, etc. For the subordinated individual
they have no independent purpose; they are only the
means to an end — to obtain or retain possession of the
ruling individual. Finally, bondage is a result of love
for a particular person; it first appears when this love is

In masochism, which is decidedly abnormal and a
perversion, this is all very different. The motive under-
lying the acts and suffering of the person in subjection is
here the charm afforded by the tyranny in itself. There
may, at the same time, be a desire for coitus with the
dominant person, but the impulse is directed to the acts
which serve to express the tyranny, as the immediate
objects of gratification. These acts in which masochism
is expressed are, for the individual in subjection, not
means to an end, as in bondage, but the end in them-
selves. Finally, in masochism the longing for subjection
occurs a priori before the occurrence of an inclination to
any particular object of love.

The connection between bondage and masochism may
be assumed by reason of the correspondence of the two
phenomena in the objective condition of dependence,
notwithstanding the difference in their motives ; and the
transformation of the abnormality into the perversion
probal)ly takes place in the following manner: Any one
living for a long time in sexual bondage becomes disposed
to acquire a slight degree of masochism. Love that
willingly bears the tyranny of the loved one then becomes
an immediate love of tyranny. When the idea of being
tyrannised is for a long time elosely associated u'ith the
l/astful thought of the beloved person^ the lustful emotion



is finally transferred to the tyranny itself j and the trans-
formation to perversion is completed. This is the manner
in which masochism may be acquired by cultivation.^

Thus a mild degree of masochism may arise from
"bondage" — ^become acquired; but genuine, complete,
deep-rooted masochism, with its feverish longing for sub-
jection from the time of earliest youth, is congenital.

The explanation of the origin of the perversion — in-
frequent though it be — of fully developed masochism is

' It is highly interesting, and dependent upon the nature of
bondage and masochism, which essentially correspond in external
effects, that to illustrate the former certain playful, metaphorical
expressions are in general use; such as " slavery," " to bear chains,"
" bound," " to hold the whip over," " to harness to the triumphal
car," " to lie at the feet," " henpecked," etc., — all things which,
literally carried out, form the objects of the masochist's desire.
Such similes are frequently used in daily life and have become trite.
They are derived from the language of poetry. Poetry has always
recognized, within the general idea of the passion of love, the element
of dependence in the lover, who practises self-sacrifice spontaneously
or of necessity. The facts of " bondage " have also always presented
themselves to the poetical imagination. When the poet chooses such
expressions as those mentioned, to picture the dependence of the
lover in striking similes, he proceeds eaa-ctly on the same lines as
does the masochist, viz., to intensify the idea of his dependence (his
ultimate aim), he creates such situations in reality. In ancient
poetry, the expression " domina " is used to signify the loved one,
with a preference for the simile of " casting in chains " {e.g., Horace,
Od. i v., 11). From antiquity through all the centuries to our own
times {cf. Grillparzer, " Ottokar," act v.: "To rule is sweet, almost
as sweet as to obey") the poetry of love is filled with similar
phrases and similes. The history of the word " mistress " is also
interesting. But poetry reacts on life. It • is probable that the
courtly chivalry of the middle ages arose in this way. In its rever-
ence for women as " mistresses " in society and in individual love-
relations; its transference of the relations of feudalism and vassalage
to the relation between the knight and his lady; its submission to all
feminine whims; its love-tests and vows; its duty of obedience to
every command of the lady — in all this, ehivilry appears as a sys-
tematic, poetical development of the " bondage " of love. Certain
extreme manifestations, like" the deeds and sufferings of Ulrich von
Lichtenstein or Pierre Vidal in the service of their ladies; or the
practice of the fraternity of the " Galois " in France, whose members
sought martyrdom in love and subjected themselves to all kinds of
suffering — these clearly have a masochistic character, and demon-
strate the natural transformation of one phenomenon into the other.


most probably to be found in the assumption that it arises
from the more frequent abnormality of "sexual bondage,"
through which, now and then, this abnormality is heredi-
tarily transferred to a psychopathic individual in such a
manner that it becomes transformed into a perversion. It
has been previously shown how a slight displacement of
tlie psychical elements under consideration may effect this
transition. Whatever effects associating habits may have
on possible cases of acquired masochism, the same effects
are produced by the varying tricks of heredity upon orig-
inal masochism. ISTo new element is thereby added to
"bondage," but on the contrary the very element is deleted
which cements love and dependence, and thereby distin-
guishes "bondage" from masochism and abnormality from
perversion. It is quite natural that only the instinctive
element is transmitted.

This transition from abnormality into perversion,
through hereditary transference, takes place very easily
where the psychopathic constitution of the descendant
presents the other factor of masochism, — i.e., what has
been previously called its main root, — the tendency of
sexually hypersesthetic natures to assimilate all impres-
sions coming from the beloved person with the sexual im-

From these two elements, — from "sexual bondage" on
the one hand and from the above-mentioned disposition
to sexual ecstasy, which apperceives even maltreatment
with lustful emotion, on the other, — the roots of which
may be traced back to the field of physiological facts,
masochism arises from the basis of psychopathic predis-
position, in so far as its sexual hyperresthesia intensifies
first all the physiological accessories of the vita sexualis
and, finally, only its abnormal accompaniments, to the
pathological degree of perversion.^

' If it be considered that, aa sliowji above, " sexual bondage "
is a phenomenon observed much more frequently and in a more
pronounced degree in the female sex than in the malej the thought
arises that masochism (if not always, at least as a rule;^ .is tixi


At any rate, masochism, as a congenital sexual per-
version, constitutes a functional sign of degeneration in
(almost exclusively) hereditary taint; and this clinical
deduction is confirmed in my cases of masochism and
sadism. It is easy to demonstrate that the peculiar, ■
psychically anomalous direction of the vita sexualis rep-
resented in masochism is an original abnormality, and

Online LibraryR. von (Richard) Krafft-EbingPsychopathia sexualis, with especial reference to the antipathetic sexual instinct : a medico-forensic study → online text (page 18 of 52)