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On Heterosexual Sadomasochism: A Social Dynamic Approach to Unbiased Treatment of Self-Declared Sadomasochist in Therapy and Research This literature review seeks to expose a broader context for examining the occurrence and interest of sadomasochistic practice amongst heterosexuals in current western societies. For the purposes of this discussion, a distinction will be made between the definition of sadomasochism by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as pathology, and the label ascribed to by individuals who choose to engage in consensual sadomasochistic practices. The DSM-IV defines sadomasochism as a paraphilia, “The essential features of a paraphilia are recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors generally involving 1) nonhuman objects, 2) the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one's partner, or 3) or other non-consenting or deemed incapable of granting consent as prescribed by law that occur over a period of at least 6 months” (American Psychological Association, 2001). The definition of sadomasochism that has been most suitably espoused by some researchers is the “exchanges involving eroticized mental, emotional, or physical pain”(Levit, Moser, & Jamison, 1994). In qualitative research conducted by Damon (2002) participants and the researcher defined “SM [as] characterized by five features: dominance and submission, role- playing, consent, sexual context, and mutual definition”. Consent is a key feature that differentiates between criminal and non-criminalized forms of sadomasochistic practices. Mutual definition is key to understanding sadomasochism as a social construct. Although sadomasochism can encompass a broad array of sexual fantasies and behaviors, sadomasochistic practices are defined as such by the participants’ identification with that label or subculture (Damon, 2002). And as such the term sadomasochism is not intended to describe or encompass any one set of sexual practices. Instead, it will be discussed as a label that is ascribed to by a particular set of individuals whose sexual practices, in contrast to commonly accepted sexual norms, are considered deviant. The diagnostic strategy for defining sadomasochism by the DSM-IV is geared towards assisting a biomedical assessment for treatment of sexually distressed individuals (Wincze, 2001). According to Engel (1984),“The biomedical model not only requires that disease be dealt with as an entity independent of social behavior, it also demand[s] that behavioral aberrations be explained on the basis of disordered somatic (biochemical or neurophysilogical) processes” (p.36). Gecas and Libby (1976) stated that “There obviously is a biological basis for human sexuality. But to view (human) sexuality primarily in biological terms is to miss its distinctively human aspect” (p.33). The advantage of a joint biomedical and socio-cultural approach in research, diagnosis and treatment of individuals who engage in non-consensual or criminal sexual behavior is evident. But individuals who practice sadomasochism as defined by this pathological and/or criminal categorization in the DSM-IV will not be included in this discussion. Instead, sadomasochism will be discussed and explored in terms that are relative to the sadomasochist who engages in such activities with other consenting adults. Parker and Easton (1998) suggest that “Social construction theory… [when applied to human sexuality, can be interpreted as] the notion that sexuality is constructed differently across cultures and over time” (p.2). Symbolic interaction theory posits that human behavior is composed of the interpretation and reaction by the individual of her/his environment on a symbolic level (Gecas & Libby, 1976). Based on symbolic interaction and social constructionist theory, a brief review of the development and interpretation of sexual scripts, gender roles, and power as components of sexual behavior will be presented. The purpose of which will serve to elucidate the conceptualization of sadomasochism and its non-criminalized forms of expression as a normative aspect of human sexuality within the context and demands of life in western societies. This understanding is crucial for clinicians as more and more individuals who are seeking counseling for a variety of reasons may express a current interest or previous participation in sadomasochistic practices. To pathologize these individuals for sadomasochistic interests, or to presume that the source of the clients difficulties arise from these interests, may be more of a reflection of the clinician’s ignorance of the subject and personal bias than an actual pathology (Queen, 1996). As a result, this may limit the ability of the clinician to effectively serve the needs of the client by creating an impediment to self-acceptance on the onset of the therapeutic relationship. Social Perspectives on Development of Sadomasochism Sadomasochism as Learned Behavior Early researchers who studied the phenomenology of sadomasochism posited that a component of its development is established through classical and operant conditioning. (Weinberg, Williams, & Calhan, 1995) In this model, the sadomasochistic arousal is conditioned initially through classical pairing of the object to sexual pleasure on inception. As sexual gratification is received on concurrent association of the stimuli to a pleasurable stimulus response, the shift from classical to operant conditioning occurs. As the individual receives greater sexual “reward” when engaging in sadomasochistic practices, the fetish, or external object from which sexual pleasure is derived from, becomes more salient (Weinberg, Williams, & Calhan, 1995). This hypothesis assumes that all sadomasochistic tendencies arise from learned behavior. Although this viewpoint may suggest a pathological component through which the sadomasochist embarks on a compulsive quest to fulfill a conditioned desire, it also suggests a social component to the development of sadomasochistic interest. ***WORKS CITED AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST***