Tag Archives: pain

Damage

If you follow me on Twitter you may have realized that my nerves don’t always necessarily work the way they should. Peripheral neuropathy is not constant but normal. I can feel my feet but they rarely register pain.

Menstruation is a problem. Setting aside the shame and highly unpleasant associations (if only it were that easy), nerve issues sometimes kick in. I can feel but it doesn’t register. It’s like my cunt is made of plastic, or has been hit with novacaine. I can feel it, vaguely, but it hardly feels like mine.

What I can feel is visceral pain. Cramps severe enough that I can’t do anything but curl around them and try to breathe. Orgasm is the only reliable way to abate the cramping for a few hours.

Orgasm is either very difficult to achieve or just impossible on days when the pain is worst. There’s the mental blocks, doors I have to make sure are closed before I even try. Then the plastic feeling, the thoughts that come out of that, the shaking sense that whatever this thing is that I’m touching definitely can’t be part of me. The simple lack of sensitivity.

I’ve spent an hour with three of my favorite toys trying to get off, not even for the sexual relief but just to stop the pain enough to sleep. And failed. So now I’m pushing back disgust that I can’t get myself off when it’s normally so easy, grumpy, frustrated, exhausted. I’m feeling petty that this is the thing that I focus on, not the risk of falling or passing out on a bad day, not the blisters and cuts and broken toes that nerve issues usually let me miss. Feeling damaged and broken and unusable.

I’m not looking for advice or sympathy on this, just taking the space to vent.

Pain

I had to vent. I’m friends with maledoms. A few of them. Lately their wives and girlfriends have been showing a lot of jealousy. They’ve made new rules, baiting remarks; I’ve made reassurances that ought to be unnecessary. “I just don’t see why they think I’m a threat. They do understand that their partners stay with them for a reason, right?”

“They’ve seen you play. They think that because you like more pain than they do, that you’re better at kink.”

That’s wrong. The conclusion is wrong: more masochistic does not mean better at kink. Want better at kink? Be awesome at knowing and communicating what you want and how to do it safely and well, from either side of the slash. That’s how you do better at kink. Which kinks you like and in what doses are all personal preference. There should be no value attached.

The underlying assumption is wrong. I like heavier impact than most, but there’s no reason to assume that means more pain.

Pain is not a simple response to stimulus. If you line up a dozen masochists in front of tennis ball launchers, hit them all with the same force over the same muscle, they will not rate the pain the same. Do this to the same masochist in different contexts, different moods, after exercise or after rest, s/he will not rate the pain the same.*

Part of this is the subjectivity of pain scales. Ask someone to rate their pain on a scale of 0-10, and two things happen: people exaggerate because they want to be taken seriously, and you realize that 10 (“the worst pain you can imagine”) varies a lot from person to person. I’ve experienced a lot of pain. Look at Hyperbole and a Half’s pain scale. A correctly administered injection usually just grazes over a 1. Having my cervix forcibly dilated was about an 8. Having part of my lip torn off by a dog bite was a 9 or 10. A long, heavy impact scene might hit a 6-6.5. Most don’t. Someone who’s never experienced higher thresholds of pain probably can’t imagine it. If my 6.5 is the most they’ve ever felt, they’ll call that a 10. This is perfectly legitimate; pain scales do not use objective units of measurement.

Beyond the subjectivity of the measurement, we also need to consider the subjectivity of our responses. A punch in a scene feels “ooh yes ow,” I lean into it, want more. An unexpected slap on the shoulder will be “ow! What’s wrong with you that hurt!” Less impact, leads to more of what a non-masochist would call pain. This can be true for a non-masochist in other ways as well. Exercise hurts, but the context convinces us that it’s a good pain, a type of reward. Getting a piercing or tattoo is also somewhat painful, but most of us sit quietly through that even though we’d cuss up a storm if we stepped on a roofing tack. This is in part because reward contexts extend dopamine signals to unrewarded stimuli. If pain is giving us something we want, it makes brain go happy place (I am good at science talk, right?).

We masochists know pain isn’t just one sensation. I said needles were barely a 1, right? But I hate-hate-hate needles. They freak me out. Needle play is “oh hell no” unless I can get a permanent piercing out of it because needles make Nic go to an on-edge and unhappy place. But if someone wants to whale on me with a steel pipe? Yes, please!

Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, pain is an interpretation. The stimulus provides sensation, but you interpret that off-site to decide whether it tickles or stings or hurts; whether to cuss or giggle or moan. The same physical sensation feels very different if we want it, if our muscles are tense, if it reminds us of past trauma. This video does a good job of explaining the process.

So even if the king of crazy town were correct in thinking higher pain tolerance=more better at kink, the stimuli that cause pain are not the things that hurt. Your body is, and your nerves. Stimulus response is variable. This without even discussing nerve damage and sensitivity from a physiological standpoint–you wouldn’t call someone with CIPA the best-ever masochist because nothing hurts them, right? They’re not taking more pain. They’re taking zero pain.

I’m a masochist. The sensations I seek out do genuinely hurt. But it’s not just pain I’m after. It’s what that pain comes with. It’s the dopamine surge, it’s the exquisite ability to come out of my own head, it’s the connection to another person and the way we have to open up to each other. Pain is a route to this, and to the bruises (which I love). People who think it’s important to experience the most pain without concern for what that pain does for them seem to be rather missing the point.

*Oh my goodness. Please? I can do this for science?

(More about pain here. I love so many lines from this page.)

Human Punching Bag

His fist is part of the pain is part of my shoulder. It lands again and again, knuckles conspiring with scapula to gnash like teeth at the muscles between. He punches the same point over and over, until I lean forward too far, trying to get away, not wanting to get away; until he pulls me back with an arm across my chest, until I lean into his fist again. The air feels too hot around my mouth. I gasp, filling it with curses, inchoate sounds.

He leans in. Asks “okay?” almost too quietly to hear over the music, over the quiet space settling around my mind. Harder, I think. “Good,” I say. He sits back. His fist is part of the pain is part of my shoulder. I hear the beat of music, feel it in the impact followed half a beat later by a fugue of white pain like a tooth cracked in half, nerves exposed. I hear voices, calm, sitting at the same table in matching chairs, hear my own voice curse softly in order not to interrupt their conversation. I move into the half beat between impact and pain.

He moves. Shifts to pummel the left side. Back and forth. Six beats on the right. Four to the left. I slip between. The music isn’t a phenomenon of sound anymore. It becomes the beat, the pain, the image of shoulder blade slicing through a pulp of muscle. I twist, lean forward, wish I were sitting backwards in this chair so that its back could stop me pulling away. His arm across my chest again, coaxing me upright. “Okay?” “Good.” I’m amazed that I can speak, even a monosyllable. Sound and pain and light and pain are blending into one sense that I can only describe obliquely. The surface of the table, the bodies in the room swimming across my vision like the green and violet fringes of a migraine.

His focus moves to the right again. It’s surer on that side, steady and bright and explosive; the silent, impossibly hot flare of a spark in a jar of oxyacetylene. I push myself back, towards him, though for a moment there is no him, only moments of bright impact followed by a welling up of soreness. I focus on breathing. I choose random numbers and convert them to base six. List favorite words beginning with P. Anything to keep my mind clear above the pain. Then his arm moves around me again, and stays there, holding my torso rigid and upright as he punches hard, harder, and I am pulled into it wholly. I try to bite back an unmistakably sexual moan, but my mouth won’t close. I let my head fall back against him, eyes closed. “Okay?” he asks. “Fine.” I know it isn’t the same as good, am not sure how much more I can take.

The impact is lighter now, no less pain but the force of it no longer shakes me from wrist to hip. I think I’m approaching a limit, like I’m surfing a good wave but losing my balance. The point of my scapula burns. It will crack from stress and heat, spill marrow, burst shards through skin. The sounds coming from my mouth are cracked already. His fist moves, not far, from infraspinatous fascia to teres major. I lean back into it and for a moment the fist-is-pain-is-shoulder bites down hard enough that I forget to breathe, only for the length of a hiccup, only until the next blow forces air out and I remember to bring more in after it.

He pulls me back against him. I hear song instead of beat, see objects instead of images. I relax. Sit up straight, rotate my shoulder to feel the damage. He flexes his hand, offers water, talks in low tones.  I press the fingers of my left hand under my shoulder blade, twist my body to provide resistance. I hear a frown in his voice. “You okay?”

“Yeah. There’s a crunchy spot.”

“Like a knot?”

“Mhmm”

“Here?” Two knuckles, pressed against the knot.

“There.” He hits the spot, hard, precise, I don’t know how many times. When I rotate that shoulder again, it moves more smoothly.

A day later he sees a picture of the bruises, looking small and innocuous on top of muscles too sore to carry a purse without wincing. I get a message: “Note to self: SAP gloves and kicking next time…”