Archive for January, 2008|Monthly archive page

Pain Processing

While proofreading an acupuncture manual last week, I came across a warning: “Those suffering from stress are usually more sensitive to pain.”

My relative enjoyment or hatred of pain is something that’s confounded me for a while. Some types of pain are fine; others aren’t. Some pain I can enjoy on one part of my body, but on other parts of my body the same degree of pain is intolerable. Some days, I revel in pain, fully eroticize it, let it drive me into ecstasy; other days, the thought of any sort of pain makes me curl up into a ball and cover myself with a blanket.

Recently, I’ve realized that there is definitely a strong connection between particular mental states and how I process pain, and that at times when I’m anxious or depressed, it only makes sense that a whipping wouldn’t feel quite so good as it did last week.

Some of that runs counter to what my conscious mind thinks I need; when I’m stressed, when I’ve had a hard day at work, when I want to escape from the world, I often fantasize about giving up power, surrendering, complete submission. And often, those fantasies involve quite a lot of pain. It seems somehow logical to me that a good solution for stress would involve pain, in part because I’ve sometimes inflicted pain on myself in order to break myself out of difficult mental states, in part because there’s always a strong caretaking element of that sort of play, or at least as I’ve experienced it within a loving, long-term relationship.

But then, maybe all I really want is the caretaking, at times like this. This past week, I was startled at how any sort of pain was completely unbearable for me, the same pain that a week before had me begging for more. It threw me, because I was so desperately wanting some sort of relief from the internal pain and stress and depression, and had expected that heavy S/M play would provide at least some sort of respite. Instead, it seemed to make it worse. So we stopped, and haven’t been playing for the week since then.

And yet, on Sunday, when things were so bad that I shut myself up in my room all day and shook and cried for no discernible reason at all, I eventually turned to pain to make it stop. To still myself. To cut through the fog in my head. And it worked.

I’m still not sure why.

For the Very First Time

This is a story about how I realized that everything I thought was submission wasn’t, and how a few seconds changed my entire perspective on my sexuality. (NOTE: This post contains explicit sexual imagery and descriptions of BDSM play.) Continue reading

Assumptions and Expectations

It’s always been a struggle for me to talk to my partners — or anyone — about
sex. In part, I know that’s because my earliest lessons on sex were awkward and uncomfortable, and were more concerned with “don’t” than anything else. But it’s also because of my specific desires around D/s and sado-masochism, and my intial experiences in exploring those desires.

I confessed to my ex-boyfriend, some four or five years ago, that I thought I was a submissive, and that I wanted to explore more of that in our sex life. I bought a book on rope bondage, and some cheap handcuffs, and nervously prodded him into using them on me. He did everything you’re supposed to do, in such a situation: he didn’t judge me, was enthusiastic about trying new things, and, in fact, never denied any of my requests. (Of course, at the time, there weren’t very many; I didn’t really know what I wanted, yet.)

But it never really did anything for me, because — whether or not this is true — I could never be convinced that he really wanted to be doing it, that it wasn’t just him being a good boyfriend and indulging my fetishes. Personally, I only can be turned on by any act of BDSM if I believe that the person doing it to me is doing it for their own pleasure, not just for mine. But I know now that while I may have been correct in my assumptions, there’s probably nothing he could have done to convince me that he really got off on dominating and controlling me: I couldn’t accept that I actually wanted a partner who would not only fulfil my own horrible perverted fantasies, but was sick enough to be turned on by it himself, as well. I handled it terribly. I would insist that he wasn’t doing it right, that I didn’t feel like he was in control; it wasn’t good for me unless he really wanted it, I would say. He would insist that he was into it — and I still wouldn’t believe him. All of that, of course, is incredibly painful to hear from your partner. It’s not something I look back on with a great deal of pride.

The point of all of this is to say that I have something of a history of (a) not feeling comfortable with my own sexuality and kinks, and (b) not trusting that my sexual partner is actually interested in the sort of sex and the sort of relationship I desire.

It really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to me, then, that the conversations my current partner and I have had about my desire to be owned, to wear his bracelet, have been extremely difficult and emotional. But it’s caught me off guard, a little, just how terrified I am that his agreeing to the bracelet, and to pretty much anything new that I suggest, is him just…being agreeable. Just doing what will make me happy. And that, of course, would mean that he doesn’t really understand what any of this actually means to me.

I should know by now that it does. All of it. His dominance and sadism run as deep as my submission and masochism, and he’s never given me any reason to think otherwise. But I finally realized, last night, that most of this perceived inequality in our interest stems from the fact that we approach our D/s in very different ways.

When I’m curious about something, my first instinct is to research it, and then write about it (whether publicly or privately). I’ve sometimes gone so far as to make phone calls to corporate headquarters or file information requests with the police to get information not for a story I’m writing, but just for something I want to know. So naturally, when I began to explore BDSM, my inclination was to learn as much as I could, through books, blogs, websites, and classes and community groups, and to process all of it through thinking about it, talking, and writing.

When he has something he’s curious about and wants to explore, he simply goes out and does it. With BDSM, he feels that books haven’t really helped him learn anything about how to construct a scene or how to play safely; that’s only come through direct experience with me, with cautious trial-and-error, with communication about what works and what doesn’t. And that hasn’t really been much of an issue thus far, because we haven’t really done much that put me at risk, physically or emotionally. (We both agree that for more “at-risk” stuff we’re interested in, like knife play, some classes are in order before we start experimenting.)

But I realize now that I’ve been disappointed in him for not coming at this in the same way that I do; I’ve been disappointed that he doesn’t write about all of this, doesn’t comment here, doesn’t read any BDSM nonfiction, doesn’t initiate taking classes with me. And that’s just holding him up to an absurd and unrealistic expectation. There’s no reason why he should have to approach BDSM in the same way that I do. It doesn’t make him any less interested in sex with me because he doesn’t blog about it afterward; it doesn’t make him any less concerned with my safety because he’s never read any “beginners guides” to S/M.

The other major difference between us is that while I feel a need to spend a lot of time thinking about what all of this means, and still worry about whether or not my desires are “okay,” he’s more concerned with whether or not something feels good and right, not whether he’s thought about it a lot first. “I don’t want to own you just because we’ve discussed it and decided on it,” he said to me last night, “I want to own you because you belong to me. I want you to be mine because that’s what your heart desires.”

In the end, simply, it is what my heart desires. And I need to trust that it’s in his heart, too.