Over the course of my recent writing and the feedback I have received, especially in regards to fs01, I feel like I am starting to get a better grasp of sadism. It is quite fascinating to me since I'm finding a ton of "middle ground" and seeing just where certain lines disconnect. For the sake of this post I will assume a sadist has to let their sadism out to play on some level and doesn't just keep it buried inside.
I believe for most, he term sadist seems to bring about certain images and associations that we have of what we believe a "sadist does" even if we have no understanding of what it does to them inside as the driving force for why. I think to the general populace, they view most sadism as a physical act. To obtain joy from inflicting pain and suffering. I think it is mostly within the BDSM community that we understand on some level that sadism extends to the mental/emotional level as well.
If you think of a teenage bully, passing boredom by terrorizing a victim with physical and/or mental harm, rarely does the term "sadist" come to mind. I believe the difference is the factor of control. The bully is out of control and uncertain of why he does what he does while the sadistic Domme is completely in control, carefully crafting events and behaviors that cause the victim to suffer in an exquisite way.
What keeps the sadist from being anti-social (in a clinical sense) is consent. The thought of kidnapping and torturing someone is not something she would actually perform, although she may be willing to pretend to kidnap a consenting individual and act out this fantasy in a controlled way. Acknowledging this difference is what keeps them falling into the realm of the negative words that end in ____path. Consent is what makes it okay and guilt free. A willing partner craving her sadism is no more weird than her desire to wield it.
The reactions to some of the events in my fiction have left me a little bit confused. I don't quite understand why some events spoke to readers while others provide a fairly drastic split: namely, some events did nothing for the Dominant readers but the same events drove the submissive readers wild.
To be honest, when I began to first write overt sadism into the story it was with F in mind. She had kind of a straight-forward way in which it affected her arousal... a "general sadist" so to speak. The more it hurts him, the more he suffers, the more he struggles... the more she liked it. This applied to both external and internal suffering. I understood her mind and as she spread her wings she was fearsome. I have read about women similar to F and had guessed this was sort of... how things often were. Most subs that crave sadists tend to like this idea of general sadism. The more she exerts her power the more attractive it is... the deeper into subspace they tumble.
What I am finding out is that F was more of a special case than a general rule. Most sadists are quite a bit more complex... they have areas that speak to them strongly and others that are of no appeal at all. I still feel like things are incredibly hit or miss as I do not fully grasp the extent of the limits and boundaries within their own fantasies (or realities) and I believe each has specific factors that are their own unique triggers setting this off.
In many ways it is probably better for a sub to not understand all of its intricacies... that keeps this interesting... a guessing game... the possibility for surprise. Predictable gets boring.