The Power of Pain

Sexual sadomasochism—the enjoyment of pain for sexual gratification—is oft and widely misunderstood. There are a lot of different parties to thank for this, but it mostly boils down to sensationalized representation in popular culture, combined with the APA’s historical and ongoing pathologization of sexual sadism (and masochism, to a lesser extent). People who are new to BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadomasochism) often assume that our predilection for pain is rooted in some past trauma, or is a symptom for some deep-seated psychological problem.

Well, I can’t speak for every pain-player out there. But I certainly can speak for myself, and for many who are dear to me: Just because we like pain, doesn’t mean we’re post-traumatic. It also does not mean that we are sick, or fucked up, or a danger to the children.

(image: quickmeme.com)

(image: quickmeme.com)

Pain is a complicated thing. As is pleasure. Our bodies are unimaginably complex organisms, the wiring of our nervous systems wrapping around us in miles upon miles of sensory receptors. I firmly believe that no two people experience any sensation in exactly the same way. We are incredibly intricate creatures, fine-and-custom-tuned to our environments and preferences. Our brains block out multitudes of sensory stimuli as each minute passes, because we are incapable of processing it all at once.

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Introducing… The Fetish Friday Feature!

I did say that I would talk about sex!

In what I aim to be a weekly feature, I want to get down and dirty exploring the sexy side of humanity and shine some light into the dark corners of sexual pleasure and enjoyment. Sex education is one of my passions, and there are far more than fifty shades of misinformation and misrepresentation about kinksters out there (heh heh) that I’d like to do my bit to dispel.

(But before I get started, here’s an excellent article by a friend of mine that very neatly illustrates why Fifty Shades of Grey is such a steaming pile of elephant dung)

Author’s Note: if any of my family members (or friends who are surprised by this aspect of me/this blog) happen to be reading this, yes, I will be drawing on aspects of my own sex life in these posts. While I won’t be going into pornographic detail, things might get a little shocking for the uninitiated. This is normal! Don’t be afraid.

nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope

image from cheezburger.com

Please know that I don’t feel awkward about any of this stuff. That’s why I chose to write about it on the internet! I don’t feel awkward or weird about you knowing this stuff about me, either; I am not ashamed of who I am and what I enjoy. I firmly believe that sex is a big part of many of our lives (whether it’s solo, partnered, multi-partnered, private, public, paid or pro bono), and that our sexuality and sex lives (or lack thereof, but I’d argue that not having sex doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have a sex life, but that’s another post so I digress, ahem) have a very significant influence on how we understand and feel about ourselves and our bodies, in and out of the bedroom.

So! I think we need to have more frequent, honest, frank conversations about the glorious playground that is the scope of adult consensual sexual activity.

Seriously. Really. I promise.

No, really, I promise. (image: bajiroo.com)

Let’s get one thing out of the way. Lots of people are kinky. By “kinky,” I mean the enjoyment of activities during or peripheral to the sex act that are, shall we say, “unconventional.” Some people like a little spanking. Some like to be tied up. Some like to stuff gags in open, eager mouths. Some like to worship feet. Some like to be tickled. Some like to wear diapers. If it is a thing that exists in the world, odds are, someone’s got a fetish for it.

What is a fetish? Fetishes—grouped with paraphilias, as they are called in the fields of psychology and psychiatry—are objects, situations, or experiences that are not inherently sexual, which become sexualized and cause arousal in the person with the fetish. There is some debate over whether it is truly considered a fetish if a person can achieve arousal or climax without the unconventional stimulus, but to be quite honest, I find that entire argument counter-productive and utterly beside the point. I’m summarizing here, because there has already been some excellent work done on what it means to be kinky or have a fetish or whatever, but basically, if something not-sexual (outside the bedroom, like a finely contoured stiletto shoe, or the sensation of latex against your skin, or getting spanked) gets you all hot and horny, congratulations! You have a fetish. You kinky little pervert, you.

Welcome to the fun club! We’ll have you swinging a flogger in no time.

Please, Mistress, may I have another?

You’ve been very, very naughty indeed. (image: underthecoversbookblog.com)

I kid, of course. The weird and wonderful world of kinksploration is best enjoyed at one’s own pace. If that means you never paddle past the shallows of a light spanking now and again, that is totally okay! There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s also nothing wrong with eventually finding yourself greatly enjoying being tied up and whipped until welts rise and burn red on your tender skin, or landing anywhere in between, or in another kinky galaxy altogether. That’s the great thing about being intelligent, creative, human adults; there are endless options when it comes to safe, consensual, erotic play. And yes, I did say safe. And yes, it is possible to whip someone safely. I know from experience (in both a giving and receiving capacity)!