The Reward of Pain and Pleasure (BDSM Series Part 5)

For a lot of people who are either intrigued or turned off by the idea of BDSM, all they really know is what they see in the movies, music videos and maybe in porn. But depictions on film are often over-glamorized or surreal director’s visions. Sometimes, they’re even hard to distinguish from a supermodel convention or a psychopath’s wet dream. In contrast, BDSM in real life is as individual for the practitioners as the mix of books on the shelves of their homes. From wardrobes to choices of instruments of pleasure, anyone can create their own signature approach.

If you can afford to indulge in Victorian corsets, six-inch platform heels or rubber suits, you can. If you want to collect black leather bondage gear or play with stainless steel dildos and vibrating butt plugs the size of a pinky or a fist, you can do that too. It’s all available – for a price. But you can also rely on plain wooden clothespins and backyard laundry rope, or paraffin candles and wooden spoons. You can be high femme or ultra butch, regardless of your sex or degree of straightness, bi-ness, gayness, or otherwiseness. The sky is really the limit. But the real feast is in the fact that BDSM is a playground where your soul can expand. It’s a realm where eroticism thrives on revelation and creativity. That’s the part you really don’t see in the movies.

The other part you don’t see in the movies is the part where people fumble and get it all wrong and screw up trying to figure out how to tie up their partner and then see it all unravel anyway! Or the care taken in learning to swat a partner AND make sure you hit the parts you’re aiming for. In the movies, they don’t tell you to practice on pillows first or instruct you how to avoid the danger zones – like the spine or the kidneys. They don’t show you how to find the sweet spot on the butt, either – which is low and inside, closer to the thighs, where the cheeks meet. In the movies they don’t show you that every implement requires learning an entirely different technique. A cane is not the same as a riding crop. Dripping a melting candle made of wax on a delicate body part is by no means the same as dripping a paraffin candle, and holding it close to the body is not the same as holding it far away. Holding is close is much riskier, and hotter. The movies don’t show you how to add to a partner’s pleasure by keeping them sexually turned on – by intermittently stroking their hot spots and using implements of pain at the same time, or kissing them and whispering sweet syrupy words as they struggle. Despite the prevalence of the cruel dominatrix in films, they don’t even imply that the harsh and smug vixen can be a real turn off. Seduction, not scathing or scolding, is the rule of the day.

Learning what to do once you have a partner ready, willing and waiting is a whole series of lessons and creative adventures. So, if you’re new to BDSM, you have a steep learning curve ahead and a lot of territory to explore. Take the education seriously, and remember that if you’re the top your partner is depending on you to do your homework – and ego has no place. If you’re the bottom, your partner is depending on you to express what you’re really feeling, and to use your safewords. Better to use a safeword before you’re certain you need it than to have needed it two minutes ago.

Among all the aspects of BDSM that one can explore, sadism and masochism seems to provoke the most fascination AND revulsion. Pain giving way to pleasure? Does that mean it doesn’t really hurt – or does that mean it hurts, and you like it? This is especially tough to grasp for some Tops who don’t respond to intense sensation themselves, especially when they want to excite a bottom who does. They have to have a lot of trust in their partners to believe that pain play is really OK.

If this is an area that confuses you, one way to make more sense of it is to ask yourself have you ever made love wildly and passionately, and felt sore the next day, maybe finding puzzling bruises or bites that you couldn’t explain because you didn’t remember doing anything that hurt enough to leave marks? If so, you already know what it means to perceive pain as pleasure – granted, on a much smaller scale or a lighter note. When heavier sensation is applied, the body responds by surging with homemade chemicals, notably dopamine and the endorphins, our bodies’ natural opiates. Endorphins diminish the intensity of felt pain and can produce a rush, allowing ordinary consciousness to split away and hover in suspension – almost like being in a trance, or meditation.

For example, one bottom – we’ll call her Mary – likes pinchy little clips placed on her labia, and she likes her boyfriend to use a soft leather whip on her inner thighs, bringing searing heat to the area before he penetrates her in the missionary position, pressing against those biting plastic clips, pushing the degree of pinch almost to the edge of tolerability. At that point he starts to remove them – which causes a whole different surge of biting heat when the blood rushes back to the areas. Mary says that this helps her to feel more – feel more pleasure sexually, internally. The sensation, she says, is so big, so hot, that she feels almost faint with it, and she can have an orgasm without any direct clitoral caress, just from intercourse, because the sensation ups the increased passion and intensity so much. The contrast between the pleasure and pain amplifies even the slightest sensation.

Is Mary weird? Well, not according to the latest scientific research. New brain studies have shown that pain centers and reward centers communicate. Pain evokes activation of reward areas that previously were thought responsive only to such stimuli as drugs, food, and money. So…. maybe the “B” in BDSM really should stand for brain!

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