Sadism is the BDSM practice of getting sexual pleasure by consensually causing pain to someone and/or degrading them. It is the “S” in “S&M” which is also written “SM” and “S/M”. In all these terms the “M” refers to “masochism“. Also, sadism and masochism together are sometimes referred to as “sadomasochism”. Someone who enjoys practicing sadism is called “sadistic” and “a sadist“. All this must not be confused with the non-BDSM use of the words sadism, sadistic, and sadist to refer to enjoying causing pain to someone against their will.
The word “sadism” comes from the name of the Marquis de Sade (1740–1814), who inflicted pain for his own sexual pleasure, and wrote fiction about others doing so.
Common Ways To Practice Sadism
Common ways to practice sadism include whipping, caning, verbal insults, and torture bondage.
A table in Larry Townsend’s The Leatherman’s Handbook II (the 1983 second edition; the 1972 first edition did not include this list) which is generally considered authoritative states that a black handkerchief is a symbol for S&M (meaning sadism and masochism) in the handkerchief code. As well, placing a hanky in the left pocket indicates the wearer’s alignment with a top/dominant role, while a hanky in the right pocket indicates the wearer’s alignment with a bottom/submissive role. Townsend noted that discussion with a prospective partner is still important because people may wear a given color “only because the idea of the hankie turns them on” or “may not even know what it means”.