The Critical Essay on the Economic Problem of Masochism by Sigmund Freud

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The critical essay on The Economic Problem of Masochism by Sigmund Freud is very informative. The essay has to be read carefully to grasp the important information and also to develop a point on view. From a personal perspective, the understanding from Freud’s finding about Masochism is purely a feminine trait. It is classified as a habit a person develops to find pleasure whether sexual or non-sexual, from past experiences, whether positive or negative. Usually it is the negative experiences that cause masochism. In addition, it can also be said that satisfaction derived from pain or trauma can cause masochism.

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In some components of Freud’s essay, I disagree; especially the findings about the Oedipus complex. Freud’s stated that boys feared that they will be castrated as a form of punishment by their fathers for desiring their mothers. This essay was published in the 1920’s and to compare life from then till now is difficult. Education is more advanced now and what I mean by that is men back in the 1920’s would’ve been more empathetic and compassionate with their son. It could’ve been said that boys were actually paranoid at that time due to how they were treated by their fathers.

I believe if back in the days when this study was conducted, if people were educated the finding would’ve been different. Freud concluded that girls experienced penis envy and perceived their vaginas as wounds that result from their castration. Would this finding be relevant in today’s world? I highly doubt it. In this component of Freud’s research, I disagree with his findings. They seemed to be relevant back in those days except now they might now.

“Suffering in some way satisfies something or someone,” this was noted by Freud in Economic Problem of Masochism. “The suffering itself is what matters,” Freud added. I agree with this idea based on a personal experience. I’ve witnessed my neighbor’s boyfriend physically abuse her multiple times. Most times she would play the victim just to get some action and after every fight they would make love so loud that it could be heard from my first floor of my house.

Also according to Freud, “The true masochist always turns his cheek whenever he has a chance of receiving a blow.” The collaboration of these findings is to support my agreement with the above statement. I have observed my neighbor’s behavior whenever she thinks she had done or said something wrong. It is as if she prepares for a smack or punch without her boyfriend showing any signs of anger. Her paranoia was obvious even though at times she would purposefully try to be the victim.

There are films in that I’ve encountered that contributes to my understanding and assent of these findings. For example, the film Belle De Jour showed multiple examples of how suffering can actually satisfies someone. The protagonist, Belle de Jour suffered psychologically with this bizarre sexual fantasy of being controlled and dominated by men. This character ‘Belle De Jour’ which is her prostitute name, is married to a successful man ‘Pierre’ who loves dearly and provides the best of things for her. Her fantasy is obtained by working as a prostitute. She’s struggles to escape this fantasy as it haunts her.

Her sexual desire usually seems to bother her before and after her sexual encounters. These sexual encounters are not for monetary gain either, but for merely sexual satisfaction. Freud stated that women are innately passive, masochistic people. Belle De Jour is a prime example of Freud’s finding. She was not attracted to her husband sexually mainly because he loved her exactly how a man should love his wife. That is to ensure that he was romantic and careful. Pierre also took her out on vacations; instead Belle De Jour yearned for the opposite.

At the beginning of the film showed a scene from Belle De Jour’s imagination. Pierre took her for a stroll through an abandon park on a horse and carriage. They were having a conversation in which Pierre seemed to be begging for her to love him. Belle De Jour was neglectful of his effort. Pierre then commanded his riders to forcefully take Belle De Jour out of his horse and carriage and tie her up. He whipped her and left her for one of the riders to rape her. I noticed her face was calm, anticipating the rider to undress her and rape her. This is exactly relatable to my personal experience with my neighbor. At times she would verbally abuse her boyfriend in order for him to retaliate and physical abuse her. This example proves my reason for agreeing with this component of Freud’s findings on Masochism.

Another scene shows exactly the type of guy she was attracted to. The character Marcel who is a criminal visited the sweat shop, upon meeting the three prostitutes, he only wanted Belle De Jour. After their sexual encounter, they both fell in love with each other. Pierre noticed a strange behavior in Belle De Jour so he took her out of the city for vacation. Even that failed Pierre. Belle De Jour’s wished is to be back with Marcel until 5pm fulfill her sexual fantasy. She is confused as to why she is attracted to such an erotic lifestyle. She showed less of a sense of hopelessness but it can be seen that she’s trapped in her mind. Her thoughts are what influences her actions and therefore she cannot escape her fantasy world.

Belle De Jour’s imagination sets the tone of the entire film. Every desire that was shown is played at some point in the film. Her imagination shows what is it that she wants to be dominated and punished, not loved and cared for. In total, these ideas are included to validate my understanding to Freud’s finding that, the true masochist always turns his cheek whenever he has a chance of receiving a blow and also how suffering in some way satisfies someone. 

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