One of my first BDSM experiences was with a guy who bent me over on his couch, lifted up my dress, and spanked me until my ass was red and bruised. I didn’t want him to stop, but was it because I was a masochist or because it made me feel submissive?
It would take me some time to answer that question. While the same guy spanked me during future encounters, it was never with the intensity of that first time. It was simply an accompaniment to other activities, so I didn’t get a clear sense of what I liked about it.
Pain without Masochism
A year or so later, I met a vanilla guy on Tinder who was willing to indulge my kinky tendencies during a one-night stand. He spanked me with enough force to leave welts after fewer than 10 hits with his hand. He stopped and apologized when it was clear that I was in pain—not the fun kind. Although he’d done what I wanted, the pain had prevented me from eroticizing the act as I’d done in the past. It was then that it began to dawn on me that I’m not a masochist—not only because I didn’t enjoy the pain, but also because I had no real interest in learning to push past it or endure more.
As a newcomer to kink and being submissive, most of my associations with BDSM had to do with stereotypical images of whips and chains—in other words, impact play. Once I realized that I wasn’t a masochist, I wondered how, or if, these elements of BDSM had a place in my sex life.
Pain as a Means to an End
As it turns out, I’m far from alone. Research shows that while the majority of people who practice BDSM engage in some form of impact play, most of them are doing so to a relatively mild degree. The pain is more likely to be symbolic than anything else. Further, just because someone identifies as a submissive in BDSM does not mean they’re a masochist and vice versa.
Once I recognized that my submissiveness wasn’t connected to masochism, I began to see pain and impact in a different light. Rather than being goals unto themselves, they were a means to lose control and allow myself to be dominated, which was my primary desire.
Pain and Intimacy
With Vagabond, I’ve explored this intersection of pain and submission in greater depth and have learned a few things about my relationship to pain along the way.
Our first foray into impact together was on our second date when he spanked me over his knee—something I hadn’t experienced before. While my pain tolerance was (and is) pretty low, I liked that it made me feel simultaneously connected and submissive to him. Since then, we’ve explored various types of impact play aside from spanking: flogging, paddling, punching, slapping, to name a few. I discovered that I physically prefer thuddy pain over stingy because it hurts less. But I mentally enjoy being spanked and slapped in large part because the act of Vagabond hitting me with his hands is so intimate and erotic. That said, it’s rare for us to do scenes that involve extended periods of impact given that pain detracts from my pleasure past a certain point.
It wasn’t until we added Wartenberg wheels to the mix—first the classic and then the 7-wheel version—that I found a pain that I liked on a physical level apart from any symbolic significance. I was surprised by how much I loved the repetitive, almost tickly, pinprick feel of them rolling over my skin, especially in sensitive areas like my inner thighs. Pressure and speed can instantly communicate a particular mood within a scene. What begins as a gentle caress with the wheel can easily take a more sadistic turn. Not knowing what’s coming next heightens my arousal.
While pain signifies my submission mentally, the bruises that sometimes result are a visible reminder. I’ve never been a fan of the solid swath of black and blue that some subs like, but I must admit that I get a thrill from seeing a constellation of small blue bruises amid the red paint splatter of petechiae. The last time this happened was after a scene that involved more spanking than usual. It took about a week for the bruises on my ass to fade, and I was a little sad to see them go.
Although I doubt I’ll ever transform into a true masochist, I do think my relationship with pain and BDSM will continue to evolve in tandem with my relationship with Vagabond. After all, we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible in that realm of kink.