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Masochism is the condition of enjoying one's own helplessness or pain. It can be sexual or non-sexual.
Some sexual masochists may be aroused or gratified by suffering violence or pain, while others simply enjoy submission to a dominant sexual partner. Masochists often engage in sexual activity with sadists, and many people in the BDSM scene are both sadistic and masochistic. It should be noted that sexual masochism is not a mental disorder except in certain rare and extreme cases.
Non-sexual masochism is a tendency of some individuals to seek, usually unconsciously, situations which undermine their happiness and cause them suffering. It is sometimes regarded as a personality disorder, and may be caused by negative childhood experiences. Masochistic individuals may be drawn into relationships or situations which will cause them unhappiness, and may have feelings of guilt or confusion when they do experience pleasure.
The term is named after the writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895), who not only practiced sexual masochism himself, but authored several works that glorify the practice; most notably Venus in Furs.