By John K. Noyes
Just over a hundred years ago, the Viennese physician Richard von Krafft-Ebing coined the term "masochism", after Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who depicted pleasurable submission to cruelty in his novels. Noyes analyzes the social and political problems that inspired the concept, suggesting, for example, that the triumphant expansion of European colonialism was animated in part by an ambivalence in masculine sexuality. In a society of accelerating technological change and rampant social violence, the individual was believed to be rational and self-determined. Male masochistic behavior defied such a system of belief, placing women in dominance and using disciplinary technologies as instruments of sexual pleasure. The evolution of the concepts is documented by masochistic scenes in literature from John Cleland's Fanny Hill through Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs and Pauline Reage's Story of O. Analysis of Freud's vastly influential rereading of masochism precedes an exploration of the work of his successors, including Wilhem Reich, Theodor Reik, Helene Deutsch, and Karen Horney. According to Noyes, the thematics of feminine masochism emerged only gradually from an exclusively male concept.