Sadism is gaining satisfaction from inflicting pain on another. Dominating behaviour is frequently associated with sadism, but specifically when it causes distress. As sadism is one person asserting his or her excessive will over another whilst finding the distress that’s caused pleasurable, the definition has vast scope because it’s not limited to physical pain. Sexual dominance, parental control, teacher discipline and pupil revenge could theoretically all be classified within this definition if pleasure is felt at observing another’s distress.

Nonetheless, it’s possible to inflict incredible pain onto a person whilst on the battlefield, protecting one’s self or loved ones without being considered sadistic. To inflict injury, distress or suffering, no matter how severe, is not enough for the act to be sadistic. When the aim is to stop someone from committing an action perceived as abusive, it’s a just cause. Forceful behaviour would be classed as sane and lawful if the force used was reasonable – even if the person died.
The definition of sadism always includes satisfaction that’s gained from another’s distress. To wish someone else to be in pain or cause someone to be in pain is not enough for those acts to be sadistic. A child wanting to find out what happens when they drop another child on its head, although disturbing, is not sadistic. These acts may not be seen as completely sane, but they would not be classed as sadistic acts. They may be malevolent, malicious, callous, unfeeling, cruel, evil or many other things, yet they are not sadistic as long as there’s no satisfaction derived from the suffering inflicted.
Unless there’s some form of subconscious satisfaction involved, consciously creating a scenario where people are satisfying their self by inflicting suffering on another is almost unimaginable. A subconscious satisfaction would point to a deep perception being present that has created a strong impulse – compulsively motivated – them to commit the act. People may suggest that a wrong or deeply misplaced perception may exist in the mind of a sadist, yet the reasons for sadism have proven beyond explicit understanding at present.

Perhaps it’s owing to a set of neural networks, normally separate, linking because of a physical abnormality or an accident. Possibly an ancestor receiving significant and regular rewards for torturing people then associated the pain of others with personal satisfaction, and it’s passed on through epigenetic lineage. Conceivably it could be a manifestation of prolonged successful malevolence. The behaviour could be simply learnt from parents. A mixture of all of these or something distinctly different. No one can say for sure. However the satisfaction came to be there, it’s reasonable to say there’s a subconscious satisfaction associated with the perception of others’ distress.
People make the mistake of thinking that sadism relates just to distress from physical pain. In reality, the mental and emotional pain of others is far more common. Females and males can be sadistic. Exerting excessive control that causes distress and is enjoyed is probably the most common form of sadism. Intimidation and humiliation are used to cause distress that’s enjoyed, for these provide an implicit power-trip. Sadistic thoughts are often associated with domination fantasies.

The original word comes from the Count de Sade of France as stated below.


French. Sadism = the name of the Count (usually called ‘Marquis’) de Sade (1740–1814) who was infamous for his crimes and the character of his writings.

1. A form of sexual perversion marked by a love of cruelty. Now understood as cruelty that evidences a subconscious craving and is apparently satisfied, sexually or otherwise, by the infliction of pain on another by means of aggressive or destructive behaviour or the assertion of power over that person; also, loosely, deliberate or excessive cruelty morbidly enjoyed.