What causes bdsm? A Freudian knows!

So we’re picking up where we left off, in the series in which various scientists and psychologists try to come up with explanations for why some people are weird enough to like bdsm.

We had Karl Abraham’s theory that our bdsm desires are caused by teething. I wrote about that charmingly bonkers theory here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/nt54dmq
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And we had the team who studied “sadists” by dissecting the brains of dead axe murderers. Read it and weep! http://preview.tinyurl.com/mufu5h3
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June Rathbone, PhD

June Rathbone, PhD

But those guys are lightweights, since they offer only one explanation for bdsm each.

As far as I’ve found, the record holder, for the most – and I think it’s fair to say the craziest – explanations for bdsm is Dr June Rathbone, in her 2001 textbook Anatomy of Masochism.

Dr Rathbone dispenses bdsm explanations like a party magician gives out balloons.

For example, Dr Rathbone explained that we bdsm perverts suffer from “incomplete individuation”, by which she means that, having failed to develop as human beings, we avoid intimacy for fear that our personalities will be swamped by closeness to another person. We stave off intimacy by turning aggression outward if we are ‘sadists’, inward if we are ‘masochists’.

In addition, we are addictive personalities hooked on the endorphin rush of pain.

Moreover, we are stuck in Freud’s anal stage, unable to achieve normal sexual release because for us “the anus and buttocks are more erotogenic than the genitals.”

We also have Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, a hereditary condition involving “mental retardation, self-mutilation, and sudden aggressive behaviour.”

We probably also had a childhood fetish for rubber or plastic. Comic books are also to blame, and so is science fiction: “the mindless ruthlessness of most sci-fi is identical with the sadomasochistic compulsion to win at any price … and, when ingested in a steady diet, can only help to create or reinforce such a mind-set.”

Superhero comics are certainly to blame...

Superhero comics are certainly to blame…

Finally, Rathbone blamed bdsm on superhero comics, especially the body-revealing costumes. Also, Tom and Jerry cartoons. The weirdest thing was, she doesn’t blame rock music or marijuana.

You’ll have noticed that if you like bdsm, then Dr Rathbone doesn’t like you much, to an extent and level of intensity that goes well beyond mere bigotry. You’ll also have noticed that she’s a Freudian believer, taking seriously things like “the anal stage” and such.

There’s a connection between those two facts, which we’ll come to shortly. 

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