Introduction to Norman Breslow's Archives

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by Norman Breslow

In this introductory material I provide a brief autobiography and an overview of the research I conducted into sadomasochism during the 1980's. Then I give some definitions of words and terms that will be used in other discussions that will be found on this site, after which I give the citations of my published papers for those who want to read them. Finally, at the end of this introduction there is a menu to get you to the data.

A brief autobiography and background on my research

In 1981, when I was in my mid thirties, I returned to college. Many years earlier I earned a B.F.A. degree in photography, and worked in photography until I found myself beginning to burn out. It was then that I decided to follow another interest of mine, psychology, and so I went back to school.

While working on my second bachelors degree, I discovered that there had only been seven articles about sadomasochism published in scientific journals during the previous ten years. Delving in a bit deeper, I discovered that almost no research had ever been done. The scientific literature on sadomasochism was comprised of (1) numerous "armchair psychoanalytic" articles, which made pronouncements about SM based on Freudian Theory, (2) articles written about attempts to cure fetishists, child molesters and sadistic criminals (all of whom were thought to be sadomasochists), and (3) about five articles based on poorly done "research" which could best be described as laughable. The jist of these "studies" was that sadomasochists were depressed, suicidal, loners, and dangerous. My readings of the scientific literature showed me that opinions about sadomasochism were a dime a dozen in the psychological community (and in the SM community, as well), but factual information was almost impossible to find.

Almost impossble, because there was one research paper that did have merit. It reported on a study done by Andreas Spengler in Hamburg, (West) Germany in 1977. Spengler did the unthinkable. He actually used questionnaires to ask sadomasochists about themselves, about their sexual interests, fantasies, behaviors, etc. This was unheard of. While his research was groundbreaking, it had one major flaw. Spengler only asked male sadomasochists to fill out the questionnaires. He, like all the others who wrote about SM in scientific articles, believed that women didn't have SM interests. (Just why will be discussed in a future article that will appear on this web site.)

I had known many women, over the years, who had SM interests, and I thought the scientific community should be brought into the modern world. I decided to investigate sadomasochism, in an attempt to add more factual information to the data that Spengler published. However, my studies would include data from women as well as men. After all, I reasoned, someone had to do this much needed research, and it might as well be me.

Over the next ten years I carried out a number of investigations, usually done by having sadomasochists throughout the U.S. answer questionnaires. Additionally, I sometimes had sadomasochists take a number of psychological tests. These investigations resulted in four papers being published. When I began these studies, I decided to "let the chips fall where they may". I really wanted to know the answers to some questions, and I felt secure enough in my knowledge of the SM subculture not to be afraid that my research would show that sadomasochists were axe murders. (That is how they tended to be described in undergraduate psychology text books.) And if it did turn out that SMers were axe murders, well, that would be interesting, too. I also realized that some sadomasochists would only want positive things said about them, but I was doing research, not public relations, and so I'd live with whatever the data showed. Besides, obviously biased results wouldn't be taken seriously by the scientific community, and the authors of college psychology text books would continue to classify sadomasochists as dangerous people who needed therapy. Only good, competent research would change the misconceptions about sadomasochism and sadomasochists that existed in the academic world.

As is usual when undertaking a scientific investigation, the answers to my questions generated even more questions. Instead of the investigations simplifying matters, my thoughts about sadomasochism became more clouded. I truly began to envy those SMers who never question why they have their sexual interests, nor question why some people are dominants and others are submissives, or why some people switch roles, or why some people are submissives and others are slaves, or why some people are interested in D/s (dominance and submission) while others are interested in CP/DD (corporal punishment and domestic discipline), and on and on and on. It's questions like these that tend to keep me awake at night. I also began to envy those who have short, simple, and to-the- point answers to these and similar questions. (My favorite short answer to the question, "Why do you think you have S&M interests?" was from a submissive woman who replied, "Just lucky, I guess".)

In this web space I intend to discuss the results of my research. After all, now that the information exists, I want to get it out to the people who might benefit from it, and this internet web space is ideal for doing that. Additionally, there will be some discussions about the sadomasochistic subculture- investigating how people learn about the scene today compared to how they learned about the scene before the internet and home videos, etc., became available.

To end this brief and very incomplete autobiography, and to show how the future is unpredictable: While working on my B.A. and M.A. in psychology I started using the new fangled desktop computers which were just becoming available. (This was back in 1981-1985). I realized that at some future time it would be possible to make a photograph with a computer, and so I kept an eye out for developments in that field. Enough advances had been made to allow me to write the first "How To" book published on digital photography in 1990, and my excitement with that technology led me back into photography and away from psychology. Today I am a Los Angeles based artist working in digital photography, and I support myself by making photographic portraits.

Some Definitions

One of the problems I see in the popular (and many scientific) writings on SM is that the terms used are rarely defined. For the purpose of the discussions in this web space, the following definitions should do. If the need arises to give different definitions for a particular discussion, then I will give new definitions at that time. It is important to understand that these definitions are mine, and your definitions may differ. The reason for giving these definitions is to make it clear what I am talking about. That's all. I'm not saying that other definitions aren't as valid, or possibly even more profound. I'm just saying that these definitions are the ways these words and terms are used in the discussions found in this web space, unless otherwise noted in the discussion.

SADISM is defined as a sexual interest in causing others physical, mental or both physical and mental pain or discomfort.

MASOCHISM is defined as a sexual interest in receiving physical, mental, or both physical and mental pain, whether self inflicted or from another person.

SADOMASOCHIST is used as a cover term for individuals who have sadistic and/or masochistic interests, as well as interests in bondage, discipline, spanking, etc.

SCENE refers to the sadomasochistic subculture, which includes the ways sadomasochists contact like-minded people, the ways they share information and techniques, the ways they relate to others who share their interests, etc.

Because the terms "sadist" and "masochist" are repugnant to many who have sadomasochistic interests, the words Master, Mistress, Dom, Domme, Dom(me), Sub, Submissive, Slave etc., are often substituted for the offensive terms.

The abbreviation SM is often use for sadomasochism, which is a mouthful to say and a hassle to type, while BD is used for bondage and discipline, (or bondage and domination), and other commonly used abbreviations will also find their way into the discussions.

Finally, the entire discussion found in this web space involves SEX AMONG CONSENTING ADULTS, and so the discussions do not apply to sadistic murderers, pedophiles, and similar criminal offenders.


Following are the citations of publications I have authored or co-authored on the subject of sadomasochism:

  1. Breslow, N., Evans, L. & Langley, J. (1985). On the prevalence and roles of females in the sadomasochistic subculture: Report of an empirical study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14 (4), 303-317.
  2. Breslow, N., Evans, L. & Langley, J. (1986). Comparisons among heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual male sadomasochists. Journal of Homosexuality, 13 (1), 83-107.
  3. Breslow, N. (1987). Locus of control, desirability of control, and sadomasochists. Psychological Reports, 61, 995-1001.
  4. Breslow, N. (1989). Sources of confusion in the study and treatment of sadomasochism. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 4 (3) 263-274.

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