Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Revisiting Sadism in Both the US and India

Back in April I wrote the following line (click the line to read the entire post):

"Indians are quite sadistic, careless and selfish in ways I'm not used to (because people in the US can be sadistic, careless and selfish as well)."

I meant it, though it's not the friendliest line I've ever wrote. But I would like to readdress it now that I'm home and can see the US through fresh eyes. People the world over have sadistic tendencies. Not every person, but there are sadistic people in every country. That's a fact and all you need do to find proof is search Google. There are tons of sadistic sites out there that show videos of people dying or being injured and they get more traffic than you can believe. I won't list them here because they don't belong on this blog but if you need references, contact me using the contact form above and I will send you a list of some of the most popular in the US.

Before I explain myself, I want you to know that ALL of my information is based on information contained in official and academic references. All of them are listed either in this post, or at the end of this post.

According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, Revised (American Psychiatric Association, 1987, pg. 371) sadistic personality disorder is diagnosed when a person:
  • Used (1 or more times) physical violence or cruelty to gain dominance over another person
  • Humiliates or demeans other people in front of their peers
  • Disciplines others harshly (for example: beats a child with a stick or padlocks his wifes genitals together)
  • Enjoys the suffering of others
  • Lies to intentionally hurt others
  • Uses fear to get others to do what they want
  • Inhibits the freedom of the people they love (not letting their spouse leave the house alone or at all, preventing family members from attending social functions)
  • Has a fascination with violence or violent things (like weapons, torture, etc.)
  • Directs their sadism toward multiple people and is not engaging in the sadism for sexual purposes.

In India,I have seen almost all of these things on a grander scale than I ever saw in the US. As I've also mentioned previously, my MIL and Chachi were not allowed to leave the family home during the first year of their marriages. The newspapers are littered with stories daily of how young brides are tortured, burned or killed because they didn't pay their new in-laws enough in dowry. Fear is one of the widest used tools for keeping children and family members in compliance with family rules.

Dogs are beaten for no other reason than that some people are afraid of them or perceive them to be an unwanted nuisance. Humiliation is widely used as a form of putting someone deemed less than you in their place. (Such as how DIL's are humiliated in front of elders so they don't feel like they are good enough and will work harder.)

I'm not the only pardesi who has witnessed these things and you can check The Times of India or The Hindu for daily stories to back up my claims. Whether or not these things happen is not up for debate.

In the US, the majority of the sadism manifests in domestic violence cases. However, in the past few years we've also seen horror stories of women being held hostage in basements. But, just because you don't see it as much doens't mean sadism doesn't exist here. And just like with India, I am not talking about the open outlets for sexual sadism. Sexual sadism is an accepted practice and often does not involve intentionally enforcing cruelty as one might suspect. Google for examples - once again this has no place on my blog.

People are typically ingrained with common courtesy and even if we want to, we rarely engage in public humiliation, physical violence, etc. Yes, it happens here and can be seen in the news daily but in different forms than in India.Sadism here is more focused on child abuse, spouse abuse and other forms that one can hide behind closed doors. We know it's illegal so we do not expose these things openly and would rarely act that way in public. Because of this, (and the fear of the law that is ingrained in most of us) there is a lot less sadism going on here in our daily lives.

Additionally, Americans do not except sadistic practices as common, ordinary, etc. We strictly enforce our laws to prevent anyone from engaging in these activities and to punish them if they choose to engage in them. This doesn't make it better and this post is not about which country is right or wrong or better or worse.

What I've noticed since I came back to the US is that this sadism is an education issue. People who have less education tend to be more cruel and sadistic toward others. I've been paying more attention to this since I've been home.

Those people I know in the US who completed high school (grade 12) or less were more likely to engage in the type of behaviors listed above. They were also more likely to watch sadistic videos or look at sadistic sites online. I'm unable to find any professional or reputable websites that have made this connection so I should warn you my sample is fairly small. I just noticed that those people in my life who never went to college seemed to gravitate toward these behaviors.

Then I started wondering if maybe education just provided new ways to be cruel and sadistic. After all, words can often hurt more than violence. So I started watching all of my educated friends but I didn't see more sadism. I noticed more maturity and that they were less prone to aggression altogether.

So then I started thinking about those people I knew in India and how the uneducated acted in comparison to the educated. I wasn't able to make the same correlation. Some educated people were more prone to watching sadistic acts while some uneducated people were the sweetest most docile people I've ever met. This group was smaller than my US group but still large enough to get a decent sample I would have thought. I did notice another trend though.

In India where there was a relationship where one person was educated and the other was not, the uneducated person tended to be much more aggressive and sadistic. As if this was a way to try and maintain equality or their standing in the relationship. (Just my observation.) Another interesting point was how the sadism wasn't directed toward the spouse as often as it was directed toward others - especially people the uneducated person felt should be beneath them (like father/son relationships).

Given the definition of sadistic personality disorder above, what have you noticed as differences between your home country and India? Did education play a difference and how?

Additional reading:
Aggresive Personality Type
Sadistic Personality Disorder and Comorbid Mental Illness in Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatients

Not what I would consider a reputable website but this article gives a good overview and I like the terminology used in it.
I Love India: Sadistic Personality Disorder


  1. Ummmm......
    Sadistic Personality was dropped from the DSM-IV. It was in the DSM-III but was dropped for political & scientific concerns.
    That being said, I've also noticed that what you describe (bullying, corporal punishment, obsessively controlling behaviors) are socially & culturally acceptable in India. Unfortunatlly I've seen it at all socioeconomic & educational levels. Quite a few Indian physicians (supposedly well educated folks) I've met display these behaviors towards their patients & peers.

  2. I didn't realize it was dropped. I still think the list was a good overview of sadism in general so I'm glad that site was still up.

    I noticed the same as you, that even educated people (doctors especially) are quite sadistic. They have little to no compassion toward human suffering. I do know uneducated people who not cruel or sadistic at all. But, like you said there doesn't seem to be any way to discern who is and isn't sadistic there based on education.