Why You Should Say No To Hazing

There’s a social group that you really want to join because you want to be accepted, have a gang of pals, and feel like you’ve got some protection from being the last chicken in the pecking order. The only problem is that they say you can’t join unless you first go through some initiation rituals, or hazing. From what you’ve heard, those rituals tend to be rather nasty. There is a lot of pain and degradation involved. You might even wind up with some rather serious injuries. But if you can just survive the process, you’ll be in, so it’s worth it…isn’t it?

Well, it all depends who you want to be in with. Take a moment to think about the kind of social experience you’re hoping to have once you’re in with the cool people. Then ask yourself: does that happy picture involve you being frequently bossed about and having to deal with being the butt of jokes that you’re only pretending not to mind? Does it involve you feeling rather nervous among a group of folks that you know you can’t trust? Does it involve you feeling rather uncomfortable in the presence of the group’s ringleader because the guy (or gal) seems to be a bit disturbed? I’m guessing the social dynamics that I described aren’t what you are going for. I’m also guessing that you don’t love the idea of being forced into a situation where you will feel like you have to pretend to enjoy torturing someone and then look back on yourself acting like a total creep. If I’m right, then you really should pass on this group’s generous invitation to publicly degrade you because you can do much better elsewhere.

The Lure of Hazing

The more violent and debasing a group’s hazing rituals are, the more dysfunctional the group’s social dynamics are. To understand why hazing even exists, you need to step into the mind of a sadist because there is always a sadist leading the charge in hazing rituals, and he is the only one getting any real enjoyment out of what’s going on.

Sadism is caused by unresolved psychological trauma. As is the case with all trauma coping methods, no one chooses to be a sadist–it’s just a direction their mind automatically goes in as a response to overwhelming terror. The common scenario is that a person goes through a traumatic experience in which he (or she) feels horribly degraded, often in front of witnesses. Often there is a powerful abuser who is using a long, drawn out style of assault. Often there are many rounds of assault with the victim having no ability to escape, while the abuser demands specific, humiliating behaviors from the victim in exchange for the abuser lessening his punishments.

Your mind obsesses over what stresses it, and the minds of sadists are obsessed with the concept of torture. Not because they are just “sick”, but because they feel that their own experiences of being tortured have shattered them on a core level. With recovery feeling like an impossible dream, sadists turn their focus onto trying to manage their mental stress.

Not all minds will turn towards sadism as a coping method, but for those that do, very real stress relief is experienced by getting to witness torture. The more involved the sadist can be in doling out the torture, the more relief his mind will experience. In clubs that perform hazing rituals, it was a sadist who originally decided what those rituals would be. As time goes on and the original rule writer leaves, new sadists join and revise the rituals to be a better match to their personal needs.

The sadist’s own experience with being tortured will directly impact the kinds of torture he wants to dole out. The more violent, degrading, and drawn out the hazing rituals are, the more psychologically disturbed the lead sadist feels. Are victims being forced to strip? Are private parts of their bodies being targeted? Are they being told that they can’t “pass the test” unless they successfully suppress all signs of pain and distress while they are being physically beaten or socially mocked? Examining the kinds of rituals a sadist is presiding over will tell you a lot about the kinds of horrors he has personally been through in the past. In this kind of trauma coping method, the mind’s goal is to keep reenacting the past by setting up situations in which the sadist can experience reversing roles with his past abuser. The closer he can match the current forms of torture with the methods that were used on him in the past, the greater his relief will be in the moment.

For sadists, the relief they experience at getting to torture others often comes in the form of a strong adrenaline rush. If the sadist was tortured in sexual ways, he might also experience strong sexual arousal at the sight of others in agony. These responses are automatic, but they are very intense. Since the sadist’s subconscious is stuck in a state of trauma, his relief never lasts long, and when it fades, he starts looking for a way to experience another high. His method of trying to abuse others the way that he was abused deeply disturbs his soul, which recognizes his behavior as immoral. So the sadist is in a royal mess: caught between a severely agitated mind and a repulsed soul, with no ideas on how he can find peace.

For sadists, hazing is fantastic, because hazing is a chance to torture someone without getting into trouble with legal authorities. Like BDSM games, hazing has become socially acceptable under the excuse that everyone involved is participating voluntarily. Of course in real life, victims of hazing often aren’t told exactly what they’re getting into because the sadist doesn’t want them running away. Often rituals are started, victims panic and want to leave, but they are not allowed to. On many college campuses, hazing rituals even lead to death. This is not surprising when you consider the timing. After all, for many young adults, living in a college dorm is their first experience of feeling “free” and independent. Since the experiences that lead to sadism often happen prior to the college years, the sadist arrives on campus desperate to get relief from his psychological stress and suddenly finding that he is in the perfect position to experiment on an endless supply of willing victims who are desperate for social approval.

An Agitated Leader

Due to the precarious position their minds are in and their absolute terror of being dominated, sadists tend to be rather tyrannical in their control over social groups. You cannot form functional relationships with sadists, because in functional peer friendships, power must be shared equally between the two partners, and sadists cannot risk sharing their power with anyone. To keep any sense of calm, they have to feel like they are holding the majority of the power in all of their relationships, which means they are going to treat their followers like their slaves instead of their respected peers.

For a sadist to remain securely in his position as top dog, he can’t afford to allow anyone into his group who might seriously challenge him. Here is where hazing rituals prove to have a useful second purpose. Not only do they give the sadist a chance to satisfy his craving to torture people, but they also screen out other alpha sadists. An alpha sadist is so freaked about being dominated and abuse that he will run from the threat of being forced to submit to torture and degradation. This is great for the current ruling sadist, because it means his main candidates will be submissive passives who will quickly accept their roles as his perpetual doormats.

Understanding the psychological issues that a sadist is grappling with can help you see why these are not safe people for you to relate with. Until they get real help for their own problems, sadists can only feel comfortable when they are abusing others. Even if you make it through the hazing rituals, you will continue to be kicked around by the members of the group that you sacrificed so much to join. The leader of the group will be an agitated sadist who everyone else is afraid of crossing so they will all capitulate to his agenda. Because they are so nervous and fearful, sadists are hypersensitive and quick to take offense at the slightest thing. Whenever they feel threatened, they tend to lash out with excessive malice. With a group of followers willing to do anything the sadist commands just to keep his attention off of them, you will find yourself caught between two ugly options: either submit to the sadist and be forced to participate in his own dark fantasies, or stand up for yourself and have the whole group attack you. Like all humans, sadists deserve compassion for the misery they are in. But you can be compassionate from a safe distance. Signing up to be yet another victim for a sadist to kick around is really not worth it. You only end up hurting yourself when you let other people trounce all over you, so before you sign up for any kind of club or social group, make sure you understand what they require. Say no to any groups who demand the right to abuse you before they will put on a phony act of liking and respecting you.

Looking for advice? You can submit an anonymous request through the Ask a Question page.