the sadistic impulse

April 21, 2008  |  essays

me: I want to smack your ass
her: that’s exciting to me. how do you feel when you’re doing that?
me: strong, powerful. hard and wanting.
me: but also? completely inadeuqate and in awe of such beauty.
her: that’s incredibly sweet …
me: more in awe than inadequate; in reverence.

That moment of inadequacy is so hard to describe (especially via text message, what was I thinking?) – it’s less about the hierarchy between us or my own self-worth (that ‘inadequate’ implies) as it is about awe and reverance, like looking at the Milky Way and witnessing its spinning, a deep wonder at the beauty before me – and then a deep desire to bite into a destroy something so precious.

What is that impulse? My mom, who works with elementary school kids, speaks of it often – spending a few hours on a beach building a sand castle or a rock pattern only to have some of the fourth grade boys come trampling through and destroy it all. Sure, maybe once in a while there is a girl who does this – and sure, there are boys who never would (do forgive my oversimplification of gender roles here) – but by and large, the kids who do this are boys, and boys alone.

It reminds me of what I’ve read in feminist scholarship about pre-Christian matriarchal and goddess-centered cultures of which we have so little record. Some theories discuss how men were (and still are) so much in awe of a woman’s strength and power in sexuality that their impulse was to put it under lock and key, to control, to regulate. What they could not have themselves, they longed to own, occupy, colonize.

And in moments like my date on Saturday night, with girls like her, I deeply understand this feeling.

What is that? Where does that come from? It is similar to the impulse of destruction I’ve hinted at, the witness of something so perfect, so flawless and lovely, so fresh and baby-green and precious, trembling with new life like the leaves on the trees right now, that after a moment of quiet awe and appreciation I want to caress it, touch my hand gently to it, then wrap my fingers closed around it and squeeze the life out until I hear the last gasp of breath. I want to rip it from it’s branch like meat from a bone.

I don’t like this impulse much, I’m suspicious of it. I’m a pacifist, a feminist – but I’m also a sadist. I get off on the intentional release of pain. That also makes me a healer.

I have control of this impulse, to a point. I don’t actually crush baby leaves, or destroy flowers or people. But there have been times, that I can count on one hand, where I’ve been so deeply in sync with a lover, where they’ve sensed this impulse in me and provoked it, where I’ve nearly tipped over the edge and given in. I don’t really know what would happen inside of it, I’ve never trusted someone else – or myself – enough to find out.

Maybe this is one of the ways that I seek balance on a fairly extreme scale.

This too is why I like classic femininity in my lovers, in femmes: I want to see that supposed innocence. It riles me up, incites in me this impulse to take, to conquer, to overthrow, to destroy.

Consensually, and with such reverance and care, of course, of course.

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11 Comments


  1. it's so validating for my own submissive impulses to hear about this. at times I teeter on the edge of being ashamed for wanting to give myself over to sadism as fully as I do, for wanting to empty out and be a vessel for this type of energy.

    I want to incite, to be revered and admired in my pristine state… and then broken down, ripped apart, reduced to the primal building blocks of raw desire where my masochism and her sadism fuse perfectly.

    (p.s. beautifully said, blckndblue. )

  2. p.p.s. for purposes of this discussion, sadism/dominance and masochism/submission are very closely linked. I don't want to overemphasize the importance of pain, because it's more about the transfer of energy for me.

  3. maybe because some aspects of femininity are also a patriarchal construct? I have similar questions from the opposite side of the fence.. what is so gratifying about meticulously preparing myself, my stockings, my makeup, only to have those things torn from and smeared on my body? For me, it is the act of giving permission to another woman to do this to me, and validating her DESIRE to do it to me. It’s the building up of and destroying those constructs together in our performance.

    Maybe it is also about resentment I feel about how I am “supposed” to express femininity in this culture. I want to play with it, enjoy it, and also see it destroyed.

  4. From time to time, I want the lovemaking/sex to push me over the edge (whatever that means)….. I don't think it's masochism or submission, just a desire to go way beyond.

  5. Although not a queer book, Geraldine Brooks wrote a terrific book titled "Nine Parts of Desire" about Muslim women. This part of Islam is an understanding of the the POWER of feminine/female sexuality exactly as you describe in your third paragraph, Sinclair.

    Reverence, what a superb word.

  6. ::points at Muse::

    Yeah. What she said.

  7. interesting post. though i can definitely identify with the desire to be smacked, i can also identify with the desire to destroy, to reduce to nothing, to crush. for me it's about a deep reluctance to allow the helpless creature in front of me to have so much power over me. (i am also a pacifist and do not do intentional harm. just to make that clear!) but i have definitely felt that wave of desire/anger/power rise up within me, and it scares me too. i don't think i want to see what i might do if i let it loose.

    on another note, i do think this is a universal, non-gendered feeling. i am quite feminine, have been told i 'look like an angel', but i feel when looking at a sexy butch i have that same feeling of wanting to tear down that presentation and see what's underneath. see the raw soul in its bleeding natural state. i would use my 'feminine' power to do that, not to harm, but to give a release, or a healing catharsis, i guess.

  8. I need to be taken down with force, that's what turns me on. Throw me on the bed, bite me, spank me hard and hold my arms down.

    The look in her eyes when she has me where she wants me and then smiles at my weak struggling, makes me crazy.

    I have never been ashamed of wanting to be dominated by my girlfriend, I've only encouraged it. To be that desired by her is so fucking hot. Her strength and confidence is what I find sexy.

  9. I often wonder if it comes down to destroying something, in a way, makes it ours… not in the traditional sense of possessiveness, but almost like we want to conquer and own, say that we've been there and had that. And then I wonder if it's about what happens to a cat when they become overwhelmed with joy and bite – our brains become so filled with pleasure that we can't take it, and it brings out our violent side because we feel the need to defend on some level.

    Maybe it's all, and maybe it's neither, but it's interesting to discuss…

  10. Ive noticed that in some of the other posting here, where you mention that moment where you have to pull back because you could let loose and hurt her if you didnt……maybe its the masochist in me, but I would definitely be the girl who would do her best to tip you over that edge…just to see what you would do, to see how the animal inside you really wants to devour me. I'd carry the bruises and marks proudly for weeks afterwards too.

  11. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a misnomer, to call that a male impulse. It's a human impulse – everything is. I've felt that desire too, that urge to rip, to hurt, to cause pain. I think it's why some people like horror movies so much. We identify with those sadistic/aggressive impulses. As long as it's consensual, and it doesn't go too far (ie. cause permanent damage/death), I think it's good to have an outlet, and a safe space, for those kinds of impulses.

    By the way, I have no personal experience with this, but I can certainly identify with where you're coming from.

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