Dr Estela V. Welldon contests the view that sadomasochism is an isolated ‘perversion’. Using numerous examples from literature, film, opera and other media, she undertakes an exploration of the psychodynamic aspects of sadomasochism that carries us from the writings of de Sade and von Sacher-Masoch to the contemporary underground S & M club scene. Challenging our expectations that S & M is concerned only with ‘bizarre’ activities, Dr Welldon illuminates the dynamics of power and control in everyday family life and sexual relationships. Her investigation deepens to include the downward spiral of domestic violence and child abuse, and the ‘malignant bonding’ between couples in cases such as Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, and Fred and Rosemary West. Is sadomasochism invariably present in the victim-perpetrator cycle? Is it learned or innate? Are sadism and masochism complete opposites or do they complement one another? Are they specifically related to the genders? Dr Welldon asks these questions and many more in a fluent, thought provoking essay.