Sadism and masochism in fiction

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In general, the depiction of sadism and masochism in fiction tends to be portrayed from the viewpoint of masochistic fantasy. Note: the lists in this article are sorted in chronological order.



The Marquis de Sade's works, including Justine (1791) and Juliette (1797) are written from an extreme sadistic viewpoint. However, many readers have seen in de Sade more than mere S/M, but also a philosophy of freedom and coercion.

Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel Venus in Furs (1870) is essentially one long masochistic fantasy, where the male principal character encourages his mistress to mistreat him.

The Story of O (1954) is another classic masochistic novel, this time written by a woman whose pseudonym was Pauline Réage. In this novel, the female principal character is kept in a chateau and mistreated by a group of men. It was trnaslated into English by a a very gifted translator.

L'Image (1956) is another classic sadomasochistic novel, written by another French woman, Catherine Robbe-Grillet, under the pseudonym Jean de Berg. It was made into a 1975 film, The Image, also known as The Punishment of Anne.

In 1993, Vanessa Duriès wrote The Ties that Bind (Le Lien).

Outsider artist Malcolm McKesson published his novel, Matriarchy: Freedom in Bondage, in 1997. It tells the story of a Harvard undergraduate dominated by his mistress and forced to dress in women's clothing.

The writer Anne Rice has produced a number of examples of well-written sado-masochistic fiction, including Exit to Eden and Belinda as well as a D/s retelling of the Sleeping Beauty tale, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty and its sequels, Beauty's Punishment and Beauty's Release.

As of 2005, sado-masochistic themes have become common in much of mainstream erotic fiction, so much so as to be almost a cliché.

More literary sado-masochistic fiction includes the works of authors such as

  • Laura Antoniou, including the Marketplace series of novels and stories
  • Pat Califia's works including Macho Sluts

The novel Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey and its sequels belong both to the fantasy fiction and the BDSM fiction genres.

Mainstream films

Consensual BDSM is not generally depicted accurately or sympathetically in mainstream films, to say the least. However, film-makers often find some way to incorporate BDSM imagery into many films. The following films feature BDSM as a major plot point, not just as an exploitative add-on.

Sado-masochism is featured as a central plot element in the following mainstream drama films:

Art movies:

  • The Whip and The Body (La Frusta e il Corpo) (1965) (starring Christopher Lee and Daliah Lavi)
  • Belle de jour (1967) (starring Catherine Deneuve)
  • The Libertine, (La Matriarca) (1969)
  • The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, (Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant) (1972) directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • The Night Porter, (Il Portiere di notte) (1974) (starring Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling)
  • Story of O, (Histoire d'O) (1975)
  • The Image, (The Punishment of Anne) (1975)
  • Maîtresse, (1976) starring Gerard Depardieu and Bulle Ogier
  • A Woman in Flames, (Die Flambierte Frau) (1983)
  • Crimes of Passion, (1984)
  • Seduction: The Cruel Woman, (Verführung: Die grausame Frau) (1985)
  • Blue Velvet (1986)
  • Nine and a Half Weeks, (1986) (starring Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke)
  • Tokyo Decadence, (Topazu) (1991)
  • Bitter Moon (1992) (starring Hugh Grant, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Peter Coyote)
  • Spanking Love (1994)
  • Venus in Furs (1994)
  • The Bondage Master (1996) (Japanese indie film directed by Keisuke Konishi)
  • Of Freaks and Men, (Pro urodov i lyudej) (1998)
  • Lies, (Gojitmal) (1999)
  • Moonlight Whispers, (Sasayaki) (1999)
  • Romance, (Romance X) (1999)
  • Quills, (2000) (Historically inaccurate biopic on the Marquis de Sade)
  • The Piano Teacher, (La Pianiste) (2001) (starring Isabelle Huppert and Benoit Magimel)
  • Secretary (2002) (starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader)
  • Bettie Page: Dark Angel (2004)


  • Personal Services (1987) (starring Julie Walters)
  • Exit to Eden (1994)
  • Preaching to the Perverted (1997) (starring Guinevere Turner)


  • Tightrope (1984) (starring Clint Eastwood and Genevieve Bujold)
  • Basic Instinct (1992) (starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone)
  • Body of Evidence (1993) (starring Madonna and Willem Dafoe)

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