Can You Hate Pain But Still Play Like A Sadomasochist? Part 1

Note: This story contains graphic descriptions of my own sexual experiences. If reading about my sex life might be TMI for you, then you’ll want to skip this post.

Can you hate feeling pain but still enjoy kinky, sadomasochistic play?

Edit (5/25): Based on some of the comments I received, before posting Part 2 of this story, I decided to go ahead and change the title to more accurately reflect my experience. The question I’m discussing is: Can you enjoy the types of kinky activities that sadomasochists do (i.e., “play like a sadomasochist”), even if you aren’t a sadomasochist yourself?

Over a number of years, I’ve come to think of myself as kinky, and to become involved in BDSM, despite the fact that I don’t like being hurt or hurting other people.  If you’re not familiar with some of the activities associated with BDSM, you might want to go check out Wikipedia before continuing. I use the term “BDSM” throughout this story, but I’m really focusing most on its sadomasochistic aspects here.

A lot of my friends now have known since they were fairly young that they enjoy sadomasochistic play.  This is definitely not something I always knew about myself, so I wanted to share what my journey has looked like:

When I first learned about the concept of BDSM (probably as part of some erotica I found in college), it made absolutely no sense to me.  I could not possibly understand how people could enjoy being tied up, or whipping each other, or being humiliated, or any of the things that the label “BDSM” brought to mind. I was completely baffled, especially with respect to sadomasochistic sex: Why would you take a perfectly good experience and ruin it with a bunch of pain?  All of these ideas ran completely counter to my own physical experience and to how I was raised.

My personal perspective on pain is that because I deal with enough pain in my life already, I have no desire to experience more.  I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome, which is characterized by chronic pain and fatigue.  Sex is one of the few things that’s consistently effective at relieving my pain.  There is no benefit to pain for me, and I find it to be particularly distracting during sex.

I was raised in a very conservative, Christian family, which taught (unsurprisingly) that it was morally wrong to hurt other people physically or emotionally.  Growing up, I worked very hard to make sure that I never harmed anyone. Even after I left Christianity, I held tightly to that principle.

For a number of years, then, I had no particular interest in or connection to BDSM practices: I didn’t know anyone who was into BDSM, and when I did stumble across images of BDSM play, they made little sense to me.  I couldn’t relate to the people who were receiving pain (“Why would I want to feel more pain?”) or to people who were giving it (“How can they do that to their partner?”).

Eventually, though, I started spending time on IRC with a group of people who self-identified as kinky and into BDSM.  They would talk about how they liked being spanked, or being tied up, or being flogged, and I did my best to take them at their word. “YKINMK” (Your Kink Is Not My Kink) is a phrase that often came to mind.  I couldn’t really understand their interests, but I could accept them.  Around that time, I also started reading the web-lit Tales of MU, in which the protagonist starts discovering her sexuality and learns that she becomes physically aroused by things like being spanked.  The writing was so clear and so descriptive that I started to wonder: was the author writing about sensations and experiences that real-life people could have?

My curiosity was piqued enough at that point that when I found out that Good Vibrations was having a class on spanking, I gathered my courage and signed up.  I had never been to a sex education class and was pretty nervous, but the instructor, Midori, had a great sense of humor and was fascinating to listen to.1

Midori started out by explaining a number of reasons why people might like to be spanked.  Spanking someone’s ass leads to increased blood flow to their nether regions, so it can be sexually arousing.  This definitely got my attention — I’m always happy to learn new ways to turn my partner on, or to be turned on.

What she said next was what really convinced me to give spanking a try — being spanked causes vibrations to run through your ass and your genitals. You could almost have seen the light bulb going off over my head: Vibration. Ohhhhhhhh. That I knew something about! I had learned quite some time ago that a vibrator pressed against my clit made fingers, a toy, or a cock feel amazing (and much more likely to result in an orgasm).  Spanking as a way to feel more delicious vibrations? Sign me up!

The next opportunity I had, I told my partner all about Midori’s awesome class, and we started doing a bit of experimenting.  I was a little nervous as he raised his hand for the first strike. How much would this hurt? We had talked about the importance of starting out lightly, but still…

When that strike landed, I almost laughed with relief: It didn’t hurt at all! As Midori had promised, my fleshy ass was an excellent shock absorber.  My partner gradually increased the amount of force he used, checking in with me after every stroke, until we found a level that brought out the wonderful vibrations but wasn’t particularly uncomfortable for me.  It was awesome.

This was a major epiphany for me: even though a particular toy or activity might be associated with BDSM, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be used in a way that will cause intense pain.  Starting out slowly or gently means that I have plenty of opportunity to get used to something new, and I’m not likely to experience a lot of pain if I don’t want it.  There are certainly toys that are more likely to cause more pain right away (like the pain stick), but I’ve found a lot of things that initially seem scary can be fun and interesting without being particularly painful.  I’ve realized that, while I don’t enjoy pain, I enjoy new sensations — including being spanked, being caned, and being flogged, to name a few. I don’t like pain any more now than I ever have, but when I have a partner who’s trustworthy and a good communicator, I can explore a huge range of new experiences.

Continued: In Part 2, I talk about how I learned to give pain to someone who wants to receive it.

  1. I had no idea at the time that she is one of the most well-known sex/BDSM educators, and I have had the pleasure of hearing her speak several times since then.


Can You Hate Pain But Still Play Like A Sadomasochist? Part 1 — 7 Comments

  1. In a word, no. You can’t. You’re just pretending and falling into the trap of the latest “hot topic – sexually speaking”. Sadism and Masochism are clinical psychological conditions in which – respectively – the infliction of pain on others and the receiving of pain inflicted by others is required – REQUIRED – for sexual arousal and/or climax. If you’re not impotent or frigid without the pain element, you are not a Sadist or Masochist. New experiences are not a psychological condition. Everyone does not have a little Sadist or Masochist hidden away inside them waiting to be explored and released.

    • So I appreciate your point — these are clinical terms, and, you’re right, if I’m not experiencing that physiological phenomenon, I’m not likely ever to do so. Sure.

      At the same time, I’m considering the cultural context around BDSM practice. Probably a more accurate title would have been “Can you hate pain and still enjoy activities commonly associated with sadomasochistic play?” or “Can you hang out in a BDSM community and have satisfying experiences if you don’t like pain?”.

      If I’m interested in activities commonly associated with BDSM, or S/M, it’s a convenient cultural shorthand to say “yeah, I’m into S/M”, even if pain isn’t the focal point. It’s a way to find people who have similar interests, regardless of if I need pain to get off.

      I will also observe that there are asexual people who identify as being kinky or into BDSM (see, even though sex may not be a component of their interests at all. Thus the clinical definition doesn’t work well there, either, but they can and do participate in the BDSM community.

      • > Probably a more accurate title would have been “Can you hate pain and still enjoy activities commonly associated with sadomasochistic play?” or “Can you hang out in a BDSM community and have satisfying experiences if you don’t like pain?”.

        I know we’ve already chatted about this post, but I would have really loved to see this be the language you actually used. While I disagree with the OP of this thread — the clinical and psychological definitions of many things, including sadism and masochism, are not really useful in context of the BDSM community — but I do believe the terms were used incorrectly/inappropriately here.

    • Sadism and masochism do have definitions as clinical terms, sure, but the clinical terms are *not* how the terms are commonly used in the BDSM community. In fact, even my dictionary defines the terms a lot more generally than you are here, and, despite the fact that I’m very involved in the BDSM community, am not sure I know *anyone* who meets the diagnostic criteria listed in the DSM-IV for either of them even though I know dozens of people who identify as sadists or masochists (even some that might require pain for arousal).

      Or, to summarize: words can have different meanings in different contexts, and the clinical definitions are not the only ones.

  2. I agree, there are plenty of people who identify with various terms and they are the reason that “common usage” is so variable and mushy. The same is true of Dominant and submissive. Unfortunately, the more mushy and vague these terms become the more useless they are. In the community, we see lots of people who identify as one thing or another and then turn right around and ask newbie questions about the practices, etc. I can identify myself as a cowboy but if I have never herded cattle, I am not one.

    • Remember that the is the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”. It’s a tool for helping professional psychologists & psychiatrists diagnose and categorize mental DISORDERS.

      As such, it’s about as useful a yardstick for measuring the cultural and sociological/recreational aspects of an activity as, say, using the DEA list of scheduled drugs is for discussing the social and cultural aspects of recreational drug use, the community, the music, the art, etc. (i.e. – not very useful at all. If you just say “these things are all illegal, and have no value whatsoever” then you’ve chosen the wrong scope & framework for discussing matters of artistic/social/cultural relevance and merit.)

      Just as people who work in law-enforcement often end up with social blinders on due to the circumstances of their job and the people they surrounded by all the time (criminals and suspected criminals), their worldview begins to be shaped by the belief that EVERYONE is like that, when that’s actually not the case at all. And people who work professionally with the DSM–IV also may end up with this kind of filter: seeing everything as some sort of clinical mental disorder, and missing the larger context of social and cultural relevance.

      You may not be fond of “common tongue” with its mushy and variable language, but when commenting about social things and art and music, it’s usually the best language to describe what’s going on. It may not be able to technically describe the specific notes & rhythm used in a musical piece, or the specific nanometer wavelengths of light reflected by pigments in a painted artwork, but it can much more capture the “feel” of the scene, and convey the relevance of it in real terms that people can understand and relate to.

      Sure, she could’ve used slightly different words in the title of the piece, to more accurately convey the message that she was putting forth. (And it looks like she’s already found words that better capture it. Thanks to the power of the “edit” button, she may well revise that to more accurately capture the feel she was aiming for.)

      But to get all hung up on the specific words, and an unuseful/ill-suited scope of reference, is to completely miss the entire POINT of her article. (Which to me, seems to be about trying to convey a bit of an explanation about a sometimes baffling concept to people who might not be familiar with it. And which I think she’s done an admirable job at! :-) )

  3. Pingback: Can You Hate Pain But Still Play Like A Sadomasochist? Part 2 | The Toymaker Project

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