Sadism and masochism are considered to be part of the BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) subculture, and they represent different aspects of human sexuality.
Sadism refers to the act or tendency of deriving pleasure or gratification from causing pain or suffering to others. A sadist is someone who seeks out opportunities to inflict pain on others, which can take many forms, such as physical violence, psychological manipulation, or sexual domination. Sadists derive pleasure from controlling their partners and are, usually, sexually aroused by causing pain or suffering.
Masochism, on the other hand, refers to the tendency of deriving pleasure or gratification from receiving pain or suffering. A masochist is someone who seeks out opportunities to be subjected to pain or suffering. This can also take many forms, such as physical violence, psychological manipulation, or sexual submission. Masochists often derive pleasure from being controlled by their partners, and they are, often, sexually aroused by receiving pain or suffering.
Some think of sadism and masochism as consensual practices. According to them, participants in BDSM activities are “players” who engage in these activities with the full knowledge and consent of all parties involved. The goal is to please all participants; the activities are carefully negotiated, and boundaries are established to ensure everyone is comfortable and safe. However, that’s not always the case.
More often than not, sadism is one small piece of the bigger picture. You can think of it as a subtle but important symptom of a much broader illness, say antisocial personality disorder and/or psychopathy. More specifically, sadism is the representative trait of Cluster B personality disorders of the DSM. These people are hard to please – they’re just disagreeable, assuming you have read the OCEAN model of personality.
Masochists, conversely, lie on the opposite end of the spectrum, that is, Cluster C personality disorder, suffering from overly anxious, fearful thinking and behavior. They’re very agreeable and easily submit to others’ wishes.