A TASTE FOR PAIN by Maria Marcus


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No one seems to know for sure what brings out the extremes of masochistic behavior--certainly not this Danish feminist/TV producer, who merely catalogues a plodding lifetime search through medical reference books, the (contradictory) body of psychoanalytical work, and porn ""classics"" like Story of O. You can take your pick: s/m is the result of repressed guilt, a yen for that extra pinch of stimulation, fear of freedom, or whatever. Like a proper feminist, Marcus applauds Karen Horney's assertion that women are socialized to masochism. But she can't decide whether three-quarters of all women exhibit this tendency, or only the small percentage indicated by Kinsey and other studies. (Why the proliferation of s/m porn if the latter is accurate? she queries.) Almost as an afterthought, she distinguishes between ""authoritarian"" (psychological) and ""sexual"" (physical) masochism--the former represented by Josef K. in The Trial, the latter by the woman who craves the whip. And in case you're wondering, Marcus did eventually find a ""Black Prince"" to initiate her into her fantasized rites: on the whole a disappointing experience, though it did help get her ""orgasm in order."" If the subject of female masochism has been ignored by the women's movement, as Marcus contends, this is not the route to understanding.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's