Friday, May 20, 2011

Different Flavors of Pain

The BDSM acronym doesn't have a P for Pain in it, but most people jump straight to the idea of pain when they see the term. Most of the letters reference pain either directly or indirectly though:

  • B&D - Discipline gives the idea of punishment, which most people consider should involve pain, though it doesn't have to.
  • D/s - An indirect reference -- when the bottom is not a Masochist then any pain the Top chooses to give is generally there to illuminate the power exchange.
  • S&M - Sadism and Masochism leave no doubt about there being pain involved.

Those are three types of pain, three different mindsets around pain: the pain of Discipline versus the pain of the Masochist versus pain for the sake of D/s when the bottom may not be a masochist or when the pain given may not be something the masochist enjoys.

One of my favorite quotes from BDSM erotica comes from Deviations: Submission by Chris Owen and Jodi Payne:

Pain is a present, active reminder that someone else is in control.

There are submissives who are not necessarily masochists who enjoy pain for this reason. Their suffering is proof of their submission, proof that someone else is calling the shots.

And then there are masochists who are in it for the pain. They may or may not be submissive, they just want to feel.

I also know someone who enjoys the anxiety and fear before the pain, and the memory of the scene afterwards, but doesn't especially enjoy the scene while it is happening.

For me, I can appreciate all of the above. There are certain types of pain that I enjoy, that I even crave, at times. And then there are certain types of pain that scare the bejeebers out of me, but I submit to it because it is a personal turn on for my husband, and the idea that it is turning him on is enough. Usually.

This means I can enjoy books that come from the mindset of the masochist who can enjoy the pain as well as the submissive who is terrified of it but who still needs it. It also means I can relish a good punishment scene, because when those are done correctly it is the epitome of showing who is in control and who is not. That doesn't mean I like all BDSM books, it just means I can usually appreciate the diverse types of pain that show up.

From reading various reviews of a lot of books, I get the feeling that how someone experiences pain, the reason they choose to submit to pain... my theory is that this has a great deal to do with how they perceive the pain in a book. For those who haven't experienced it yet, I think that the reasons they are considering it are paramount. Do they want to submit, and part of submitting means they take the pain a Dom/Master/Sir wants to give out, or do they crave the pain itself and not the submission so much.

Do you think this may be why you enjoy certain scenes that others are negative towards? Could it explain why you are angry about a scene that others think is hot? If those are your reactions then they are honest reactions and there is nothing wrong with them. But sometimes it's good to understand why you react to things a certain way, when others react a different way.

My trigger is trust - I find myself getting angry when a Dom or sub becomes untrustworthy.



  1. Holy moly, I also just did a list of acronyms on my blog. Kinky minds think alike. :)
    I think it's important to differentiate between a sub and a masochist, and a Dom and a sadist. Just like there is a difference between a sub and a slave. And a huge difference between pain and exploitation/abuse.
    The truth is, most of the books out there, especially the ones written by women, have subs who are also, to some degree, masochists; they crave the pain and the subspace. And I have certainly never read a book where the Dom doesn't enjoy applying pain to his sub, especially when necessary. It's easier to find the differences in real life than in fiction.

  2. I can think of lots of situations where the sub has things done to them they don't like, but it's part of the D/s so they take it. Roxy Harte plays around with that in a variety of ways in her Chronicles of Surrender series, for instance. Yes, the submissive is a masochist, but she has a lot of trouble handling many of the things done to her. They don't just do the kinds of things to her she likes, they make sure they take her out of her comfort zone. We also get the opposite in that series, where one of the Doms eventually has issues taking her as far as she craves to be taken.

    I loved Annabel's Club Mephisto, but if you read some of the reviews there are people really angry with the way the slave was treated. To me, it was hot. And the fact that some things were done to her that she didn't like, but she put up with because of who/what she was... it worked for me. But it made a few people angry.

    There is nothing wrong with what Annabel wrote, and the anger people felt was an honest reaction. It's all good, I'm just working my way through one reason that people may react in the way they do when confronted with something outside of their own personal comfort zone.

  3. Wow, Club Mephisto was very intense, and some of the scenes did go beyond my comfort level. Part of that was because I wasn't sure if that's what Molly wanted. The point was driven home that she had become completely cut off from the world except for her master, so did she really want those things done to her, or did she feel like she didn't have a choice anymore? She had a few twinges of regret here and there. I got the sense that Mephisto was trying to get a message through to her...

    Anyway, I still think about that book months later, so obviously it made an impact on me, and that's a good thing.

    ~ Diana

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  5. Candace, I think you're absolutely right that the further a written scene is from someone's comfort zone, or from what turns them on, the more likely they are to be squicked, and the more likely they are to bring in the kinds of questions Diana mentions, like "is this really consensual?" and so on. When you're into some particular kink, you tend to assume it's consensual, and to see any related struggle and distress -- or isolation, for instance -- as part of the way the characters like to play out that kink. If you're not into it, it starts to look abusive.

    For instance, Kitty Thomas and I tend to squick each other. She includes nonconsensual stuff, which I have a hard time with, and I include a lot of objectification and animal roles and general extreme kink -- but consensual! -- which puts her off. I don't think people should be locked in empty rooms until they lose their sanity, and she doesn't think people should be locked in cages like puppies. Who'd have guessed? ;-)

  6. Diana - I think I compartmentalized things into two compartments with Mephisto. There is the "things that are done to her" compartment, and some of the things Mephisto did to her worked for me because she didn't like what was done to her, but she took it because she was Mephisto's for the week and she had no control over what Mephisto chose to do to her (within the limits, of course).

    The second compartment was the larger story of how she has chosen to live her life. Since Annabel didn't finish the story for us, in my mind either she will bring it up to her Master if it continues to weigh on her mind (because she is His and he should know about things that are bothering her), or he will sense that something is bothering her and she will answer honestly when he asks. And then there will be a conversation that will resolve the issue in a way that works for both of them. Or, once she is back with him a while she'll realize this is really where she wants to be and it won't be an issue.

    But more than that, the way Mephisto asked her these questions, it showed me that he did care about her, did care for her as a person, even though he was using her as an object. It helped me enjoy the objectification more. Without his questions, I'm not sure the objectification would have been quite as hot. It's counter-intuitive, that objectification works better for me emotionally if the person being objectified is actually cared for in some way... but I never claimed to be completely logical.

    I'm still hoping that someday Annabel gives Mephisto a happily ever after menage' arrangement.