Elvira Hancock a.k.a. Evie Black is a writer of erotica and essays and recently she wrote an eloquent post about the joys of agony.
The average person doesn’t understand how anyone could enjoy pain, but our mentor this week explains it well and has kindly allowed me to reposted this piece from her blog Evie Black Erotica.
What I Mean When I Say I Like Pain
I am a masochist, which means I like pain.
But what does that mean? After all no-one likes the actual sensation of pain. Pain is your body’s survival mechanism to warn you something is happening that is potentially dangerous to your health. To be an effective warning it has to be unpleasant, and to get progressively more unpleasant the more danger you are in. Given the large gamut of cognitive malfunctions out there I assume there may be some people whose brains are incorrectly wired to experience pain as pleasure but that would be very rare, not to mention very dangerous. It would be difficult to prevent serious injury if you experienced genuine pleasure whenever you were burnt, cut, bruised, or had an illness.
In my experience the people who answer ‘no’ to the question “Do you like pain?” make the mistake of thinking that the people who answer ‘yes’ experience the physical sensation of pain differently, when instead the difference all lies in our emotional and physical response to the unpleasant sensation. Masochists enjoy how the holistic experience of pain in a negotiated scene makes them feel, and that experience changes their intellectual perception of pain from something inherently negative, to something that has positive qualities. When you associate pain with positive things then you can even learn to accept the unpleasant sensation as a pleasurable sensation instead, even though the physical sensation doesn’t change. Of course I’m specifically referring to pain during negotiated scenes with people you trust as opposed to, for example, dentist visits, chronic pain, or random violence.
The same stingy whip of pain that would cause me to moan in pleasure during a scene, would make me curse or yell out in displeasure if it happened outside of play. So what is the difference? How can I enjoy a biological response that has evolved specifically not to be enjoyable?
What follows are nine different positive emotional and physical responses I have to pain during, and after, a scene. This is what I mean when I say I like pain.
Pleasing my partner
I’m happy when my sadist is happy. The push and pull between a sadist and a masochist is an amazing dynamic that works for as long as they are both enjoying the scene. A sadist may love to elicit fear and tears from their masochist, but only for as long as they are given license to do so, and a masochist will push herself (or himself, of course) further to please them.
Fear produces adrenalin, and prolonged pain releases endorphins. To quote Wikipedia: The principal function of endorphins is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals; they may also produce a feeling of euphoria very similar to that produced by other opioids. Translation: A long hard session can get you higher than a kite.
Heightened sexual pleasure
If impact play includes sex then the contrast of the pleasure and pain together heightens the entire experience. The exquisite relief of sex after pain is like diving into a lake after a long hike.
Trust and bonding
The more extreme the session the more trust required by both parties, but even a light session requires a mutual trust and respect that develops a more powerful bond than sex alone ever could.
Pushing through personal ‘limits’
I get a huge sense of personal achievement from thinking I’ve hit my threshold, and then breaking through that and taking more. Gym junkies and masochists have something in common here…
Pain brings us forcefully in to the present moment and gives us clarity and focus. We’re not thinking about the grocery list, or the leaking roof, or the inappropriate guy at work when we’re tied to the bed getting whipped. It’s a form of meditation.
Living life fully
A night being tortured in a dungeon by a sadist may not be ‘pleasant’ in the same literal way that eating an ice-cream on a hot day at the beach is, but much of it’s pleasure to me is derived from the fact that it isn’t easy. It contributes to my character and life experience in a much richer way than if I spent my life avoiding pain and the extremes in life entirely. It provides a way to test and push and expand my physical and emotional boundaries in a safe environment.
Control and perspective
This isn’t really a reason to enjoy pain in the moment, so much as a happy side effect. Willingly choosing to expose yourself to pain to derive pleasure helps you understand that all pain, emotional and physical can be lessened with some effort and the right perspective, and I believe this is a skill that gets stronger and easier the more you do it.
This works in retrospect too. When you deliberately choose to put yourself in a consensually violent situation it can help to take back control and reframe a past negative experience retrospectively. Obviously when really bad shit happens, you’d have to be a Buddhist monk to be able to genuinely not have any negative feelings about that, but my point is that it is always possible to choose your attitude in life, and masochism can help enable that skill.
It makes you feel alive
It’s a combination of all of the above, but it’s really ineffable. In that moment when you are immersed in a scene that is stretching and pushing your pain boundaries you are not thinking about any of the above, you are just experiencing life in it’s purest form. Pure sensation, pure primal impulse. Everything else falls away leaving you stripped bare with the most pure of all emotions. Fear. Trust. Love.
It’s a beautiful thing.