pencil-piercing-fingerMasochism is the enjoyment of physical or emotional pain and humiliation. While the term is commonly associated with sexual masochism, it frequently does not have an underlying sexual element.

Masochistic Behavior

Masochistic behavior is behavior that increases the likelihood that the person will experience pain. There is some argument among mental health professionals about whether the pain-seeking behavior is deliberate or unconscious. For example, a woman who repeatedly returns to an abusive man could be said to be engaging in masochistic behavior. Masochistic type behavior may be characterized by repeatedly choosing situations that lead to pain and failure, refusing to accept help from others, becoming depressed in response to positive events, and behaving in an excessively self-sacrificing manner.


Sexual masochism is frequently combined with sexual sadism and commonly associated with BDSM (bondage, domination/discipline, sadism, and masochism) culture. Sexual masochists may enjoy being spanked, tied up, or verbally humiliated. They may seek out physical pain or simply wish to be emotionally abused. Sadomasochism is distinct from abuse in that it is consensual and designed to increase the pleasure of both parties. Sadomasochists may be equal and loving in non-sexual areas of their relationship, or they may enact power games in all areas of life.

The 50 Shades of Grey trilogy brought sadomasochism to the forefront of American consciousness in 2012. The book centers around a woman who enters into a consensual relationship with a man who likes to dominate women. The woman is not a true masochist because she agrees to this arrangement as an act of love rather than agreeing to it because she enjoys sexual pain and humiliation. Nevertheless, the practices in the book are common within sadomasochistic relationships.


  1. American Psychological Association. APA concise dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2009. Print.
  2. Colman, A. M. (2006). Oxford dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Last Updated: 08-11-2015

  • Leave a Comment
  • lee

    April 12th, 2017 at 9:11 AM

    hi i was humiliated on a daily basis by my mother growing up now a guy in his 40s i still want to feel the way i did as a kid wanting to be humiliated especially in public

  • bre

    August 6th, 2019 at 4:54 AM

    hi lee, i think you’re someone i used to know. but it’s not an uncommon thing to want what you’re talking about i hope you get what you want :)

  • Iain Myles

    December 3rd, 2018 at 4:43 PM

    I need help.

  • The GoodTherapy Team

    December 4th, 2018 at 2:33 PM

    Dear Iain,

    If you would like to consult with a mental health professional, you can start finding therapists in your area by entering your city or ZIP code into the search field on this page:

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  • james

    August 27th, 2019 at 12:52 AM

    i agree soley.

  • Need help

    May 26th, 2021 at 1:45 PM

    I’m a 17 yrsold and I was masochist for like 4 years
    I didn’t have a relationship yet but I need to know is it normal to not beeing good with humiliation
    Well I like being punished and.manythings that a Masochist want but I can’t accept being humiliated
    Is that okay ?

  • Dana

    August 22nd, 2021 at 8:16 PM

    I’m a male 62yrs and realized for years now maybe since being in my twenties that I have masochistic qualities cause I have fantasies of being wrestled into submission by women wrestlers which I crave on a daily basis I never had a normal sex life till in my twenties but for some reason I get turned on by this activity being humiliated which confirms my behaviour

  • Alexis

    November 4th, 2021 at 4:20 PM

    Hi, I’m pretty sure I’m a masochist but I’m not sure because despite me enjoying pain, I don’t like humiliation. Is that normal?

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