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

  • 1 comment
  • 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

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

Therapist   Treatment Center

Advanced Search is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on