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Sadomasochism is a combination of two sexual traits: sadism and masochism. Sadism is the sexual pleasure or gratification in the infliction of pain and suffering upon another person and derives from the name of the Marquis de Sade, an 18th century French writer of sadistic novels. Masochism, the sexual pleasure or gratification of having pain or suffering inflicted upon oneself, and in turn derives from the name of a 19th century author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who was best known for his novel Venus in Furs that described a masochistic relationship.

It is estimated that about 5% of men and 2% of women have sadistic or sadomasochistic tendencies. (This implies that the great majority are men.)

Within the fetish scene sadomasochism (S&M or SM) encompasses a number of different sub-categories (often overlapping):

  • 24/7: The dominant and submissive live out their fantasies twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week.
  • BDSM: Bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism.
  • Bondage: Tying people up.
  • CBT: Cock and ball torture.
  • Dog play: The submissive takes on the role of a dog.
  • Figging: The act of inserting something into the anus that will cause a stinging, burning sensation.
  • Flogging: The use of floggers
  • Electro stimulation: Use of toys such as a TENS Unit or Violet Wand
  • Edgeplay: SM play involving some risk of danger; examples are blood, permanent marking, knives and fire
  • Foot worship: The submissive has a fetish for (usually) a woman's feet, legs, shoes and/or stockings.
  • Needle play: Temporary piercing of the skin done with sterile needles of varying gauges.
  • Physical punishment: Caning and spanking (usually in a school or institutional setting).
  • Pony play: The submissive takes on the role of a pony or horse.
  • Power exchange: Where the submissive gives up control of what happens to him or her to the dominant.
  • Roleplay: The dominant and submissive assume roles during the scene
  • Sensation play: Any SM play they involves a sensation (usually painful) being inflicted on the sub.
  • Switching: Where the participants exchange roles as dominant and submissive; see also turnaround.
  • Wax play: The Dominant drips hot wax on the sub.

Any SM based activity between two or more participants is known as a scene. If the scene takes place in a room designed for SM play it is called a dungeon. Dungeons can be extensively fitted out with SM equipment costing many thousands of pounds.

The wearing of fetish clothing and imagery is closely associated with the SM world, particularly in fetish clubs. However it would be wrong to say that everybody who is into SM also has a fetish for leather/rubber clothing; likewise, many people who have a strong fetish for rubber or leather are not into sadomasochism.

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