Sadism and masochism in fiction

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In general, the depiction of sadism and masochism in fiction tends to be portrayed from the viewpoint of masochistic fantasy. Note: the lists in this article are sorted in chronological order.

The role of Sadism and masochism in fiction has attracted serious scholarly attention. John Kucich has noted the importance of masochism in late-nineteenth century British colonial fiction (see Imperial Masochism: British Fiction, Fantasy, and Social Class by John Kucich, Princeton University Press, 2006). This article provides a list of appearances of Sadism and masochism in not just literature, but various works of fiction in multiple forms of media. An esthetics of masochism? The author wonders if the curators of an Austrian exhibition on masochism in art erred in taking an overly literal approach to their subject From Art in America (4/1/2004) by Barry Schwabsky. Barbara Steele's Ephemeral Skin: Feminism, Fetishism and Film by Lecturer Patricia MacCormack of Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge. Sadism, Masochism, Food and Television.



Titles are sorted in chronological order.

  • Fanny Hill by John Cleland - Includes a detailed description of a mutual flagellation scene between Fanny and an English client.
  • The 120 Days of Sodom, Justine (1791) and Juliette (1797) by Marquis de Sade - Are written from an extreme sadistic viewpoint.
  • Anti-Justine (1793) by Nicolas-Edme Rétif A response to de Sade's works, using a very similar style to describe a directly opposite political point of view.
  • Venus in Furs (1870) by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch - Is essentially one long masochistic fantasy, where the male principal character encourages his mistress to mistreat him. Many of Sacher-Masoch's other works include themes of sadomasochism and female dominance.
  • The Torture Garden (1899) by Octave Mirbeau - Has been interpreted as an allegorical examination of western society and human condition.
  • Les Onze mille verges (The eleven thousand rods) by Guillaume Apollinaire - written around 1906-1907 (the publication is neither signed nor dated).
  • Histoire de l'oeil (Story of the Eye) (1928) by Georges Bataille - A short novel.
  • The Story of O (1954) by Pauline Reage - Another classic masochistic novel, this time written by a woman. In this novel, the female principal character is kept in a chateau and mistreated by a group of men, one of them her official lover. Later, she resumes her normal life while secretly becoming the property of one specific man, a friend of her lover's.
  • L'Image (1956) by Catherine Robbe-Grillet, (under the pseudonym Jean de Berg) another French woman. It was made into a 1975 film, The Image, also known as The Punishment of Anne.
  • Gordon (1966) by Edith Templeton
  • Je... Ils... (1969) by Arthur Adamov, with stories like Fin Août. The author's stories revolve around masochism, which he regarded as "immunisation against death", but does not aim at erotic arousal.
  • Horror novelist Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart (1986), offers an extreme, gruesome study of sadomasochism, illustrated rather graphically by the brutal rituals of its infamous demonic antagonists.
  • Die Klavierspielerin (Reinbeck, 1983) or The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek.
  • Matriarchy: Freedom in Bondage, (1997) by Malcolm McKesson (a member of the Outsider art movement) - It tells the story of a Harvard undergraduate dominated by his mistress and forced to dress in women's clothing.
  • Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey - belongs in the fantasy fiction and BDSM fiction genres, along with its subsequent sequels.
  • Writer Anne Rice has produced a number of examples of sado-masochistic fiction, including Exit to Eden and Belinda as well as The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty and its sequels, Beauty's Punishment and Beauty's Release. The Sleeping Beauty books were written under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure.
  • The Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James (2011): Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

Specialist publishers of S/M fiction

Mainstream films

Consensual BDSM is not generally depicted accurately or sympathetically in mainstream films, to say the least; however, film-makers often find some way to incorporate BDSM imagery into many films. The following films feature BDSM as a major plot point, not just as an exploitative add-on. See link Sadism and masochism in mainstream film.

Sado-masochism is featured as a central plot element in the following mainstream drama films:

Art movies:

  • The Whip and the Body (La Frusta e il Corpo) (1965) (starring Christopher Lee and Daliah Lavi)
  • Belle de jour (1967) (starring Catherine Deneuve)
  • The Libertine (1969), (La Matriarca) (1969)
  • Daughters of Darkness, (Le Rouge aux Lèvres) (1971) directed by Harry Kümel starring Delphine Seyrig
  • The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, (Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant) (1972) directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • The Night Porter, (Il Portiere di notte) (1974) (starring Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling)
  • Story of O, (Histoire d'O) (1975)
  • The Image, (The Punishment of Anne) (1975)
  • Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom, (Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma) (1975) directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
  • Maîtresse, (1976) starring Gérard Depardieu and Bulle Ogier
  • A Woman in Flames, (Die Flambierte Frau) (1983)
  • Crimes of Passion, (1984)
  • Seduction: The Cruel Woman, (Verführung: Die grausame Frau) (1985)
  • Blue Velvet (1986) (starring Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper and Laura Dern)
  • 9½ Weeks, (1986) (starring Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke)
  • Tokyo Decadence, (Topazu) (1991)
  • Bitter Moon (1992) (starring Hugh Grant, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner and Peter Coyote)
  • Spanking Love (1994)
  • Venus in Furs (1994)
  • Conspirators of Pleasure (1996) directed by Jan Švankmajer
  • The Bondage Master (1996) (Japanese indie film directed by Keisuke Konishi)
  • Of Freaks and Men, (Pro urodov i lyudej) (1998)
  • Lies, (Gojitmal) (1999)
  • Moonlight Whispers, (Sasayaki) (1999)<ref>FILM REVIEW; Masochists Always Hurt The Ones They Love By A. O. SCOTT (November 22, 2000)</ref>
  • Romance (1999), (Romance X) (1999)
  • Quills, (2000) (starring Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet and Joaquin Phoenix)
  • The Piano Teacher, (La Pianiste) (2001) (starring Isabelle Huppert and Benoit Magimel)
  • Secretary (2002) (starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal)
  • Bettie Page: Dark Angel (see Bettie Page (2004)
  • The Passion of Life (2005)
  • A Year Without Love (Un año sin amor) (2005) (directed by Anahi Berneri)
  • Hounded (Verfolgt) (2007) (directed by Angelina Maccarone)


  • The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Little Shop of Horrors (musical version, 1986) (starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin and Bill Murray)
  • The Choirboys (1977)
  • Personal Services (1987) (starring Julie Walters)
  • Exit to Eden (basd on a novel by Anne Rice) (1994)
  • Preaching to the Perverted (1997) (starring Guinevere Turner)


  • Videodrome (1983)
  • Tightrope (1984) (starring Clint Eastwood and Geneviève Bujold)
  • Basic Instinct (1992) (starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone)
  • Body of Evidence (1993) (starring Madonna and Willem Dafoe)
  • 8mm (1999) (starring Nicolas Cage and Joaquin Phoenix)
  • [The Cell (2000) (directed by Tarsem Singh)
  • Ichi the Killer (2001) (directed by Takashi Miike)



  • Thomas Shadwell's play The Virtuoso (1676) includes an old libertine named Snarl who entreats a prostitute, Mrs Figgup, to bring out the birch rods. It is unclear if he is to flog her or be flogged.
  • In Thomas Otway's play Venice Preserved (1682), Act III, Scene i, an old senator, Antonio, visits the house of Aquilina, a Greek courtesan. Antonio pretends to be a bull, then a frog, begging her to spit on him, and then a dog, biting her legs. She whips him, then throws him out and tells her footmen to keep him out.
  • Jean Genet's play The Maids (1947) concerns two maids who play out dominant and submissive roles.
  • Genet's play The Balcony (1959) is set in a brothel where clients and staff perform various fetishized roles while a revolution brews outside.
  • The play Oh! Calcutta! includes at least two segments with sadomasochistic themes. One of them, set in a fantasy of an English girls public school, invites the audience to vote on which of four "girls" is beaten at the end.


  • Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote poetry on erotic flagellation.

External links

See Also

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