The sadist's choice: A vulnerable victim
The following account, "Case Number 27," taken from Stekel's treatise Sadism and Masochism, is an extreme example, to be sure, of a PA individual's having gone far astray. But it is precisely in the study of the blatant manifestations of sadistic trends that we may obtain insight into the more subtle ones.
We note in the account the woman's conscious desire to achieve a master-slave relationship. In fact, she uses exactly these terms. We note her coldness and austerity, her carefully planned choice of victim. We note the ritualization of the affairs and the repetitive actions involved.
We note her desire to exploit her victim for her own sexual gratification, and her desire to punish in the context of violence. We note how she frustrates him and sends him away in triumphant vindictiveness. We note how she controls the emotions of her victim, while she herself has a total lack of feelings, an emotional barrenness for him. We note, though, her pitiable state of total confusion with regard to the demons that possess her. She wants to be freed of her perversity at any price. She wants to be a normal, healthy woman.
Finally, we note that inevitable "exception that proves the rule": she lives a "blameless life at the side of her husband."
Case Number 27 Mrs. N. L., a beautiful slender woman, twenty-eight years of age, with sharply chiseled features, put herself into my care because of a difficulty which had brought her into the severest conflicts. She is the wife of a high aristocrat and lives a great part of the year upon an estate in the neighborhood of a small town. There she leads a blameless life at the side of her husband, and no one who visits her or knows her at home would suspect to what fearful passions she has yielded. She can stand it at home and with her husband, who idolizes her and grants her every wish, six months at the most, then she has to go to a sanatorium or to a large hotel on the Riviera or to Switzerland, to some house where a large company are gathered together in a free and easy manner. On the very first day of her arrival she makes a survey at table of all those present and…
But I should like to have her speak for herself and of herself: "And I observe at once which of the gentlemen present will be my victim."
"You mean, will fall in love with you?"
"No, I do not mean that. Fall in love… that is a mere trifle. No… I am a sadist. I seek the victim whom I am going to whip..."
"And you always find him and at the first glance? And have you never been in a sanatorium where you did not find a victim?"
"I always find one. I usually find several victims. I have never yet been in a sanatorium where I have not secured a partner. But listen further: I exchange but one look with the gentlemen. I look at them all. My first glance is serious, cruel, and stern. Then I notice in many a man a sudden cringing and I know it at once! The man will be my slave…"
"How does the acquaintance then come about?"
"Oh, that soon happens. Sadists and masochists have a secret language. I might say a secret alliance with secret customs and secret agreement. We speak to each other after the meal, and the first rendezvous is usually arranged then. We say not a word of what we are going to do. I say to him harshly: 'Come this evening at nine or ten o'clock to my room!' I give him a masterful look and go my own way, with no further word to him. If he wants to talk, I shake him off like a dog that would make itself a nuisance."
"And he comes?"
"He is sure to come at the appointed hour. He certainly comes!"
"Then I have him disrobe completely, while I remain dressed. I permit him neither to approach me, nor do I allow any caresses. He has to obey; he undresses and throws himself at my feet. Now I strike him with the riding whip as hard as I can and as long as it is possible without being heard. He moans with pain or pleasure and writhes at my feet."
"Oh, I have seen at my feet proud, renowned men, shining lights in their profession, grateful and kissing my shoes with gratitude for the blows. I strike until the wales on their flesh are bleeding."
"Do you experience great pleasure in this?"
"Of course. Yet not so much as later when the man throws himself upon me and wants to possess me. Then I look at him scornfully, ridicule him. I notice how he squirms with passion, how desire robs him of the last vestige of masculine dignity. He begins to beg, to whimper, to twist and turn before me, pleading for the chief gratification. I remain cold, and this triumph affords me a voluptuous pleasure such as I can never experience in normal intercourse with my husband."
"And he goes away without having possessed you?"
"Have you never found any one who will not do so?"
"Oh, yes, many a one has first writhed in pain and then wanted to be strong and use force. Such a one succeeded beautifully. I was stronger than he and threatened if necessary to scream and cause a scandal. Many a one I have driven out of the door with my whip and forbidden him ever to come again. Believe me, these men then run after me like dogs. I could have asked anything of them; they were utterly in my power."
"And have you never succumbed to your own desire?"
"No; this desire –– you mean I suppose for sexual union –– no longer exists then for me. I have it with my husband and now and then also with other men. Yet what is this feeble pleasure which I feel in normal intercourse compared with the indescribable bliss of such a sadistic act? The orgasm reaches such a height that I could not feel a stronger one. My whole personality seems exalted; I seem to be proudly uplifted, at one with all my forces."
"And I have found that one has power only over the men to whom one does not completely surrender. All these men are my slaves even today and run after me. Because they have never possessed me, because they are always consumed in ardent desire for me, because they have learned to know my severity and longed afterward to enjoy also my tenderness."
"And what do you expect from me and my medical art?"
"I want to be delivered from my illness. I have heard that people can be changed through hypnosis. You will 'talk out' of me this crazy sadism. I am falling now into wretched embarrassment. In the sanatorium where I was last, a woman next door heard the cracking of the whip and seems to have observed something through the keyhole. I was ordered by the director to leave the house immediately. Think if that comes to the ears of my husband! My reputation and my position in society are endangered!"
"I want to be freed from my perversity –– at any price whatsoever. I want to be a normal, healthy woman…"
Ref. Stekel W. (1929): Sadism and Masochism. Liveright, New York.