Historisk Tidskrift. Utgiven av Svenska historiska föreningen
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Historisk tidskrift 129:3 • 2009

Innehåll (Contents) 2009:3

Uppsatser (Articles)

Sadomasochism i svenska uppslagsverk. En historia om misshandel, våldtäkter och lustmord

Kim Herburt

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Sadomasochism in Swedish encyclopedias: A story of abuse, rape and sex murders

The article investigates the construction of sadomasochism in some of the most common Swedish encyclopedias from 1876 to 2006. The most significant conclu- sion is that there existed a remarkable continuity in the presentation of sadoma- sochism over time. The entries studied, ”sadism”, ”masochism”, and ”perversion”, reveal a distinctly negative description, with clearly value-charged words and an invisible norm, dominated by a context of disease. Sadism and masochism were described as problematic forms of sexualities, and the possibility that they represented voluntary actions by consenting individuals was hardly ever consi- dered. The most common word to describe them was abuse – a word which is synonymous with criminal abuse and associated with physical injury. There was a clearly marked concern for antisocial consequences of sadism, such as criminal abuse, rape and sex murders.

Although the dominant image is one of continuity, the year 1980 in many respects represents a watershed. For instance the number of examples given of perversions increased by about three times and the causes of perversions were explicitly described as mental illness after 1980.

One way to interpret the negative description, the invisible norm and the sup- pression of the possibility of sadomasochism as a voluntary act by consenting individuals, is to see them as means to demonize the perversion and implicitly promote a heteronormative description of sexuality by negating the combination sex and violence.


Sweden, encyclopedias, sadomasochism, sexuality, gender