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For the medical condition involving unwilling victims, see Sexual sadism disorder.For the medical condition where pain or humiliation is required for sexual arousal and causes distress or impairment, see Sexual masochism disorder.The two words incorporated into this compound, "sadism" and "masochism", were originally derived from the names of two authors.

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While the terms sadist and masochist refer respectively to one who enjoys giving or receiving pain, practitioners of sadomasochism may switch between activity and passivity.

The abbreviation S&M is often used for sadomasochism, although practitioners themselves normally remove the ampersand and use the acronym S-M or SM or S/M when written throughout the literature.

"Masochism" is named after Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who wrote novels expressing his masochistic fantasies.

These terms were first selected for identifying human behavioural phenomena and for the classification of psychological illnesses or deviant behaviour.

It can refer to cruel individuals or those who brought misfortunes onto themselves and psychiatrists define it as pathological.

However, recent research suggests that sadomasochism is mostly simply a sexual interest, and not a pathological symptom of past abuse, or a sexual problem, and that people with sadomasochistic sexual interest are in general neither damaged nor dangerous.

This complete rejection is related to the death drive (Todestrieb) in Freud's psychoanalysis.

In a secondary masochism, by contrast, the masochist experiences a less serious, more feigned rejection and punishment by the model.

This observation is commonly verified in both literature and practice; many practitioners, both sadists and masochists, define themselves as switches and "switchable" — capable of taking and deriving pleasure in either role.

However it has also been argued (Deleuze, Coldness and Cruelty) that the concurrence of sadism and masochism in Freud's model should not be taken for granted.

In the later 20th century, BDSM activists have protested against these ideas, because, they argue, they are based on the philosophies of the two psychiatrists, Freud and Krafft-Ebing, whose theories were built on the assumption of psychopathology and their observations of psychiatric patients.

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