For the majority of people who are into BDSM, pain and pleasure seem to walk hand in hand. How you feel and the way that you experience each will vary greatly from person to person and will be dependent on a variety of other factors, but there is usually a close relationship between the two. For hundreds of years, the relationship between pleasure and pain has interested scientists and psychologists alike, and there are various theories as to why, particularly within sexual arousal, the two work so closely together.
How do you like yours?
It can be difficult to rate your own pain threshold with regards to sexual play, especially when you play in the safety of your own home, without an audience, as you really don’t have much to compare it with. Although some are heavily into Sadism and masochism, those who are not may still become aroused by the ache of nipple clamps, the sting of a hand, the slap of a crop or the thud of a paddle. Working out your own tolerances, preferences and limits and communicating those to your partner is a key part of making pain and pleasure work for you.
For some, it may be the pain itself which becomes pleasure when delivered in that context and that setting. while for others it may enhance the pleasure that they already feel, although without the pleasant sensations, the pain on its own would become too much to bear. However we are stacked, the combination of the two, in which ever amounts work, can bring about a heightened experience, elicit fantastic responses, and can actually become quite addictive.
Muscle Memory – mind and body
Muscle memory can mean that the pain sometimes becomes pleasure much more quickly than it might. This works because your mind remembers and so does your body. So if you have experienced the pain, shortly followed by the pleasure of a climax then your body will remember that and move more quickly to the pleasure part. In fact you can actually get to the point where the pain alone will trigger a response because of the associations to the pleasure.
Endorphins – chasing the highs
Endorphins are the body’s natural pain relievers. They are morphine-like chemicals which the brain releases in order to reduce sensitivity to pain, therefore increasing the pain threshold. The fact that endorphins are released in bursts means that they can be manipulated if you are the one inducing or controlling the pain. Once an endorphin load is released, it will take the body about ten minutes to produce another one. During this time the body should be stimulated somehow, within the current pain threshold.
Once the body is ready, then an increase in stimulation over a five-minute period, building up to a peak to push the pain threshold, will trigger the body to release another dump of endorphins into the system. Essentially you will become high on the natural chemicals, and having a heightened sense of well-being and, hopefully, a feeling of euphoria. This is the feeling that people often refer to as subspace but it comes from the triggering and control of the body’s own pain response system.
Not all about the pain
Other emotions such as shock and excitement may also play into your response to the things that you are doing. For tops or D-types, the focus, concentration and the feeling of control that they experience can provide a heady rush and for subs and bottoms, the giving up of control can do the same. How we process and interpret sensations is a complex thing and one that cannot always be explained or understood. At the end of the day, when playing with pleasure and pain, if one seems to heighten or compliment the other then so much the better.
Please note that I write from experience and do not claim to be an expert in BDSM or in pain. It is always essential to communicate fully both before, during and after experimenting with this sort of play and important to consider Consent, Safety and Aftercare. If you would like to read more about how pain works for me, then you might want to read The Painful Truth.