deSade's Not Into The Leather Scene

Author: Jack Rinella © 2000

From "The Master's Manual"

Used With Author(s) Permission


About a year ago I decided that since I was writing a regular column about SM, I ought to do some historical research. So I dutifully went out and purchased not one, but two books of writings by the Marquis de Sade: "The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings," and "Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings." Unless you're interested in the French Revolution, I don't recommend either volume.

Unfortunately de Sade gives Leather sadists a bad name. Of course, I guess they (OK, we) have a sorry reputation to begin with. After all, my dictionary defines sadism as "The perversion of deriving sexual satisfaction from the infliction of pain on others; Delight in cruelty." I remember that the sadists of my childhood were the guys who pulled wings off butterflies.

Last night I paddled a friend's ass until it had a beautiful black and blue mark and I pinched and clamped his tits until they were raw (but not bleeding) with pain. But I never pulled off butterfly wings.

I would like to coin a new name for leather folk such as myself but I honestly can't think of one. One Lesbian I know defined herself as a sadist. It went something like this: "I'm a sadist. I enjoy making others feel good."

What are the chances of storming the offices of Merriam-Webster and changing their definition to suit ours? Slim, I think.

The sadism of the leather community has little or nothing in common with the fantasies of the Marquis. Ours is both safe (his ended in murder) and consensual (he kidnapped his underage victims). If those distinctions aren't clear enough, we can add to them the fact that our "sadism" is for mutual pleasure. Rinella's dictionary would define sadism as "the use of pain-inducing actions in order to arouse another to a heightened state of pleasure."

A secondary effect of the activity is the pleasure the sadist receives as well.
There are both physical and psychological reasons why the masochist derives pleasure from the pain. Why the sadist derives pleasure is probably less evident.
For myself, I find the infliction of pain on another (and at times on myself) sexually exciting. Paddling an ass, whipping a back, and clamping tits and genitals arouses me intensely.

I am not alone.

Later in the evening, I was at AA Meat Market. Just the sound of someone being paddled quickly assembled a large group of observers. Of the over seventy columns I've written, none has gotten more responses than those about spanking. Pain is popular! Why that is the case is not easily deduced.

Misters Merriam and Webster would write it off as perversion but I think otherwise. I think it has to do with wholeness.

Reasons such as curiosity, amazement, and stimulation are why "we do such things." Fundamentally, though, sadism (and masochism) as defined in the leather community allow us to safely, sanely, and consensually explore our "Dark Sides". That is why I say "wholeness". To repress and deny that we have dark sides to our personalities is to deny stark and very "real" reality. To be "Pollyanna" is foolish, dangerously foolish at that.

Repressed, denied, hidden darkness only festers until it vents itself in some other way. Just as uncontrolled bliss, lightness, and goodness are unreasonable, un-experienced "evil" is an illusion. What we need is a balanced, healthy, and manageable "dark event". Such an activity allows us to understand ourselves and our motivations, to give expression to them and so reduce their power and their drive.

Last night's partner went home with a painful mark on his ass. The mark was only a sign of a more important inner event. He had come face to face with his own need for pain, had endured it, and, for reasons I'm not competent to explain, had enjoyed it.

Every time I paused in the scene to check on his welfare (something the Marquis never did) he was forthright in his expression of pleasure. When I took off the tit clamps whose unshielded metal teeth had bitten into his nipples, he writhed in pain, only to say how "great" it felt.
I don't understand it. I'm not talking about a fool or a jerk. My friend is a systems analyst with a successful career in a major computer firm. He is educated, mature, financially stable. He is new to the SM scene but finds that it has eliminated the boredom previously present in his sex life. He likes what happens with a leather master.

And what is that? It is pleasure. As Race Bannon writes in his book, "Learning the Ropes" (Daedalus Publishing Company, 1992), "When the S/M community adopted the safe, sane and consensual credo, I was overjoyed. It serves its purpose well. But I've always thought it lacked one thing -- fun.

"S/M is supposed to be fun. If it weren't, why would anyone do it? So I want to add the word "fun" to the credo... By doing so, you'll insure yourself not only safe experiences, but fun and fulfilling ones as well."

Sadists in the leather community then are those who inflict pleasure. It is pleasure of an intense degree, skillfully induced with necessary caution, measured speed, and careful recognition of the masochist's responses.

To remain faithful to the credo of safe, sane, and consensual, the sadist cannot blind him or herself to the bottom nor be self-centered in pursuit of pleasure. In fact, the center of the sadist's attention must be focussed on the recipient of his or her activity.

"How is this affecting my partner?" is the sadist's ultimate and continuous concern. Pausing for feedback, listening for breathing patterns, feeling for numbness or coolness in the extremities, and being aware of possible abrasions and cuts in the skin are all ways that a leather sadist protects the bottom.

I knew what effect those metal teeth were having --- after all they've bitten my tits at times as well --- and I knew that my partner found them enjoyable. He had told me so and if the situation had not been pleasurable it would have ended.

The leather sadist uses learned skills and appropriate technique. Pain is administered slowly, its intensity builds. Explicitly pleasurable activity, such as kissing and caressing, are interspersed with more direct pain. Rest periods allow the bottom to adjust to increased levels of intensity.

The sadist is continuous in his encouragement to the bottom, offering advice, instructions, and support in the bottom's effort to transmute the pain into its desired pleasure. The sadist reinforces the positive and builds the bottom's self-esteem. In short, the leather sadist cares.

Until we find a better word, we're stuck with the name "sadist" but other than that have very little in common with the old Marquis. That's too bad for him, he missed a grand amount of pleasure, and that's the point of sadism in the first place.

Have a great week, but please don't pull off any butterfly's wings! Copyright 2000 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact

You can leave me email at or visit my website at "Jack Rinella's Weekly LeatherViews".






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