Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Intercollegiate Media Studies

Reader 1

Ryan Engeley

Reader 2

Elizabeth Affuso

Reader 3

Heather Ferguson

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Anne S Farley


Human nature is inherently masochistic, meaning we self gratify through the means of some type of self-harm. The term masochism usually refers to sexual tendencies, but in this paper, it will be used as a reference to some sort of self-infliction of pain whether it be mental or physical. It is rare that we, as individuals, do not partake in masochism on a daily basis. When we engage in an activity or task that inflicts a type of pain, or stress on our bodies and mind, we are rewarded with gratification. This can be observed in gym-goers, individuals who thrive in high-stress environments, and more specifically, people who enjoy horror films. We are driven through our masochistic inhibitions when we indulge in horror films. These films allow us to engage in our psyche’s masochistic tendencies without having to experience the consequences of those masochistic desires. The genre of horror grants us access to live out our greatest fears while providing a type of safe haven. This paper will explore the masochistic psyche, as theorized by Freud in relation to media, our drive as a society towards horror and other masochistic behaviors in relation to media and film, and the specifics of horror films in regards to self-gratification.


I would like to express the deepest gratitude and utmost thanks to my Critical Media Theory Professor, TV Principles Professor, and Thesis Reader, Professor Ryan Engeley. Professor Ryan Engely has provided an unfathomable amount of support for me as a student throughout this semester. He has helped me learn about my passion for the psychology behind media and media consumption and taught me how to write clearly and concisely. His support was extended beyond the classroom and carried out through personal meetings. Ryan even set aside time to sit with me over Zoom for an hour, to facilitate my writing. I would also like to extend my thanks to Professor Affusso. Professor Affusso has been a Professor and advisor of mine since 2018. She has supported my growth as a student every step of the way throughout my four years at Claremont McKenna College. Thank you Professor Engeley and Affusso. I couldn’t have done this without you. I would also like to thank my family and friends for all of their support throughout my college career. Thank you Dad and Mom for listening to me ramble about my crazy essay ideas over the phone. Thank you Virginia for visiting CMC when I needed sisterly support. Thank you Abigail for being my voice of reason. Thank you Eliza for always having the best writing advice. Thank you Wesley for always being a good example of work-life balance. And thank you Gray for inspiring me to work just as hard as you do. My last thanks go out to Spencer Sheff, Camerion Davis, Jacob Norville, Harrison Brenner, Jason Newman, and Grace Drugge, for being my strongest support system of all. Each and every one of you has helped me through thick and thin, taught me love and balance, and been with me every step of the way through this journey.