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Warped Eroticism: A Case Study on a Sado-Masochism

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  1. Introduction: The film 'La Pianiste'
  2. The existing psychoanalytic theory on sexual perversion
  3. The character of Erika
    1. The opening scene of the movie
    2. Madame Kohut's rhetoric during Erika's early years
    3. Erika's acceptance of being a subordinate to her mother
  4. Erika's super ego
  5. The two factors affecting the developing psyche of Erika
  6. Erika's attempt to express her sexuality
  7. Concluding remarks
  8. Works consulted

The film ?La Pianiste? is not only a stunning work of art; it also brilliantly portrays the psychopathology of Erika Kohut, a repudiated piano professor at the Consevatoire de Vienne. By leading us into her private life and exploring her "abnormal" fantasies the film creates a striking paradox: A talented artist whose musical renderings are filled with a passionate yet rigorous technical perfection desires to be brutalized and tortured during sex. Unable to realize this fantasy until meeting another brilliant musician with whom she attempts to act out her sado-masochistic desires, Erika inflicts the pain upon herself; she mutilates her genitals with razors. Forced to lie to her domineering and omnipresent mother, Erika goes to sex shops where she watches peep shows and sniffs left behind paper towels saturated with ejaculate. Her voyeuristic tendencies become more apparent when she goes to a drive-in movie theater and spies on a young couple making love. Once excited, she squats and urinates over the open wounds of her mutilated genitals, apparently eroticizing the burning sensation. For Erika, the sensations of pain and brutality are inextricably linked with sexuality and romantic intimacy. The purpose of this essay is to elucidate the heroine of this film by better understanding the reasons behind her extreme sado-masochism and their possible roots. What psychic mechanisms could be at work behind the motivations of such a complex and paradoxical woman?

[...] She allows her to scold her as if she were a child, indicating Erika's failure to develop into an autonomous person capable of making her own decisions and of knowing, much less pursuing her own pleasures and pursuits. As stated in the introduction, the separation and individuation processes by which a child departs the paradise of the symbiotic union was never completed in Erika's psychological development. These processes by which the child develops autonomous ego functioning are open-ended. There is no specific age limit by when these processes should be complete. [...]


[...] It is clear that Walter has awakened a romantic longing inside Erica. After he reads the letter, she states that she does not know why she chose him. It is as if she has found in Walter a figure that she will allow to control her. Why? We can speculate that his own artistic virtuosity puts him, in the eyes of Erika, on the same haughty plane as herself. He is someone "special" enough who Erika would allow to turn the violence she feels toward eroticism and intimacy against herself. [...]


[...] In Erika's case we are not dealing with a simple case of sado-masochism. Rather, we have a woman with an extremely harsh if not brutal super-ego indicative of the psychotic. More importantly we are dealing with a woman trapped in a prolonged symbiotic union with the mother, one of the most well documented causes of psychosis. It is the combination of an extremely rigid, punishing super-ego and an extended symbiosis that account for Erika's mental illness. It would be easy to place a person like Erika in the psychotic registrar. [...]

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