Self: Hey there, self. So, you had a a long conversation about sex with your mom the other month.
Self: Yes, yes I did.
Self: While you guys were hiking in the gorge.
Self: Yup. There’s really nothing like talking rope and power exchange and pain with your mother, whilst passing other PNW outdoorsy-types and their dogs. The brook was babbling, the evergreens were shading. It was classic, really.
Self: I bet. And how’d it go? The conversation, not the hike.
Self: Well, it went okay. She’s actually been really great and supportive. I don’t think conversations like this, about kink, are on the level with coming out about sexuality, but it is interesting to explain to her... well, that my sex life lives in a different world than most peoples. It’s maybe the same flavor of conversation. It’s maybe a cupcake version of the cake, or something. For me, anyway.
Self: Uh-uh. But it went just okay?
Self: Yeah, just okay. We got to the part about pain, and that was confusing for her.
Self: Oh? How so?
Self: Well, she really got most everything else. Even told me that she had, ahem, ‘let some guys tie her up and blindfolds and things like that,’ which is in itself a pretty fantastic sentence to hear your sixty five year old mom say out loud. She just didn’t understand 'the pain part.' Why I liked it, why I wanted it. In her words ‘I just don’t know why anyone would want to be in pain.”
Self: Did you try to explain?
Self: Kind of, but I wasn't doing it very well (it was a long hike). I told her about the blog. I told her I’d written something there, that was pain-related, and that I’d send her a copy (she doesn’t have the blog address - and it’ll probably stay that way). But then I looked through, and I don't really have a post like that.
Self: No, you don't.
Self: No, I don't.
Self: Total bummer.
Self: So, lets start at the beginning. When did you first start liking pain?
Self: I don’t know. I can point back to a lot of young kinky fantasies (which a lot of kinksters can, and it’s strange (we're going to go on a tangent here), because I find people citing these kinds of things - long-held fantasies or games from childhood - often in the context of defending, or backing, or in some way legitimizing their adult kink-hood. And I think it’s great to have a part of your identity that’s so deeply seeded in that way, but I also wish we lived in a world where that evidence wasn’t a requirement. Like, isn’t it just as okay to be kinky if it isn’t what you’ve dreamt of since you were four? But that’s another post). But I can’t point to the same fantasies about pain. I had an early relationship with pain, but it was a different kind of thing. I remember slapping myself, pinching myself, pulling my own hair, in grade school. I started cutting when I was twelve.
Self: Do you think that’s related to your current relationship with pain?
Self: I think it can’t be left unaddressed. Again, a lot of writing about sexual masochism, or adventures in kinky pain, makes a very loud distinction between previous relationships with pain and current ones. I'm talking about self-harm and sadomasochism, just to be clear. Usually they’re characterized as unhealthy and healthy, and I think, again, it comes from people wanting to distinguish BDSM from a lot of the stereotypes out there, which is good.
Self: But you’re not here to talk about other people’s relationship to their pain.
Self: No, I’m not. For me (the only person I ever claim to speak for), they’re... not related, but they have a relationship. It’s hard to admit, because it’s part of what scared my mother (she and I initially started talking about kink with this conversation) when I first told her about identifying as a masochist, because she’d known about the cutting, there had been a lot of heartache, for her, in my adolescence, surrounding that. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that the cutting, the slapping and pinching: these were the ways that I learned to process, at a young age. These were part of how I found release, and catharsis. Whether they were healthy or unhealthy is a question I don't know the answer to.
I don’t think that description (using pain as "process") encompasses my current adventures in pain, not even a little bit, but that’s a part of it. It’s still cathartic for me, it’s still a way of processing with my body what is often difficult to keep inside my head. I’m especially wary, because of my history with this, of my sex life or play with Jamie turning into some kind of therapy. I don’t think kink as therapy is a good idea, but that doesn’t mean kink can’t be therapeutic.
Self: You’re all about those parts-of-speech distinctions today.
Self: I am, in addition to many other things, a grammar slut.
Self: Okay, so what else? Did you always like pain with your sex?
Self: I think I always liked it, yes. But I don’t think I always knew I liked it.
Self: When did you first get pain with your sex?
Self: There was a guy, in college. We slept together a few times, it was actually pretty awful (I accidentally broke up an engagement - bad news), but he was a kinkster, and he brought a little of that to the table (with me over the table, at one point, which was pretty awesome. I remember I had a broken finger, and my arm was in a cast, and it was this ridiculous neon blue thing that I stretched out over the tabletop, as I was bent forward and he was spanking me from behind. I think I was... eighteen? I remember thinking ‘how can he take me seriously with this thing on my arm?’ but I imagine, now, that he was concentrating on other areas of my person).
Self: And then you took an interest in masochism?
Self: In a manner of speaking. It’s like when you pull the bottom stick out from a beaver damn (note: I have never actually seen a beaver damn, but I imagine this is what it’s like). Everything went tumbling over itself, and it was kind of a mess, but full of movement and energy and a kind of... whole different shape when it was over. I was a but of an overnight sensation with myself, suddenly this self-identifying, vocal, advocating little kinkster. I didn’t have much practical experience, because I did what I usually do when I take an interest in something: I read a lot of books. But I wanted to get some. So... well, so...
Self: So you went out and got some?
Self: Like what?
Self: I had this really intense friendship with this woman in my Spanish class. She wrote me a love letter towards the end of the year, and it was the cutest thing: she hand-delivered it to my dorm room wrapped in the explicit personals page of a cheap weekly. If there was ever a way to my heart, it’s a love letter wrapped in bad porn...
Self: And I was dating someone else at the time, but then after a little while I wasn’t, and she... well, she may have been some of the impetus for that. It was the big end-of-the-year party at the college, which is sort of like a little wee burning man, and she came to my floor on Saturday morning under the pretense of making pancakes. We spent the better part of the day in bed. I remember her running her nails up and down my body, hard, looking down and seeing the marks she left. I remember her holding me by my hair, remembering her digging her fingers into my arms, into my tits. I remember feeling... closer, about that pain? Like, with the pain, in that relationship with her, there was a vulnerability I hadn’t had before, with anyone? We didn’t actually ever get together again, and we didn’t stay in touch. I wonder where she went...
Self: So, we’ve got catharsis, we’ve got processing, we’ve got connection. What else we got?
Self: I don’t know if this is related to the other ones, but it’s a way that I feel really beautiful. And I’m not talking centered, from-the-inside, everything-is-beautiful-in-its-own-way beautiful (although I do believe those things, a lot, and I believe that there might be a time in my life when I do feel that about myself. For now, it's a rare moment). I mean, I feel gorgeous. I glow.
The first guy I ever seriously dated who was at all into this, he took me to the moment where I figured that out, I think. On maybe our... third date? He suggested we go to the hardware store and buy some chain. Which, in retrospect, is pretty fast, but whatever, chain is cheap. I lived in this studio apartment that was shaped like half an a-frame house, and it had these white rafters that started about ten feet off the floor and crisscrossed all around the high ceilings. Fuck, that was an awesome apartment...
Self: Your readers don’t care about the apartment.
Self: They care about the sexy stuff. And also this pain exploration. Maybe. We hope they do anyway.
Self: Right. Anyway, so, we were playing around one night, and I was wearing this black slip, a super ratty, old-fashioned full-body fifties slip that I used to wear in high school, over another one like it, as a dress. And I’m wearing this slip, and he puts me in leather cuffs, practical ones, wide and double-layered, and chains my hands above my head to the rafters. It was high enough so that I couldn’t bring them down, but so that I could stand, or kneel on the bed.
Self: You’re sending this to your mother?
Self: Yeah... yeah maybe not. We’ll see.
Anyway, he had me chained up, and I was kneeling on the mattress, and he pulled my breast up and over the top of the slip, and he started pinching it, and pulling at it. I think he was touching me too, or kissing me, but we weren’t fucking. It was exquisite. The lights were off, it was night. My bed was next to the window, and the blinds were down, but they were still blinds, and not curtains, and the light from the balcony of the apartment across the way sort of cut into the room, cut across me in slats. My shoulders got more and more sore, and he just... didn’t let go. He just kept pinching me, would bite around it, would twist. And I remember, at some point, just breaking. I just broke, cried a little, just sort of gave into it. I saw myself as maybe he saw me, a little, in that moment. I felt, for a second, that he was a lucky boy to be there with me. It was pretty cool.
Self: What does that mean, you gave into it?
Self: I think... I think it can be a kind of test, for me, in a few ways. It’s a test in the obvious way, the how-much-can-you-take, how-tough-are-you way, and I’ve always been drawn to those sorts of things, especially when they’re... macho? I guess? I like to drive a nail down in one stroke, so to speak (although I’ve never actually been able to do that). I like to be tough. And yeah... yeah, it’s not just for me, I like other people to think I’m tough too. I think the part that’s for me is more important? But it’s also because... because I wanna be that tough chick. I like that tough chick, and I want other people to like her too.
Self: But there's another kind of test? A second kind?
Self: The giving in, the surrender. That can also be a kind of... threshold to cross. To be able to give in to my body, to what it’s experiencing. To stop fighting it, or to... endure it long enough that I can’t fight it anymore. Maybe it’s more like a test, and reward, although some days, it seems like I could take all the pain in the world, and still not get there.
Self: You’re talking about it like it takes you somewhere? Is that an actual place?
Self: I don’t think so. I’m not talking about subspace, or the forever place, or the experiences like those that bottoms talk about. I mean, sometimes that’s there too, but I think what I’m talking about it more personal. When I can get to a place with myself where a lot of pain isn’t scary anymore, or it’s scary, but I’m okay with that scared: that’s an honesty with myself, and an confidence, and a... very present existence that’s hard to find another way.
Self: You can’t be present in sex without pain?
Self: I can be. It’s a lot harder, and I don’t like it as much.
Self: Is that... worrying at all?
Self: I don’t think so. I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I have a busy brain. Even when I don’t want it to be busy, it’s busy. Pain is a way to quiet my mind. It’s not unlike meditation.
Self: And now, for the hippie woo-woo portion of the interview.
Self: No, no. Nothing like that. I mean, I’m kind of a hippie sometimes, but I’ve already written about buddhism and pain. It’s here.
Self: So, you like pain. You had some partners who liked to give you pain. Then what happened?
Self: Then I met Jamie.
Self: Who is Jamie?
Self: Jamie it my fusband. Future husband, fake husband. He's my fiance. He’s my man dude friend. When we first started dating, he identified primarily as a sadist. We’ve gotten into all other manner of things together, but sadomasochism is still a big part of our play together.
Self: How big?
Self: I’d say we don’t do a scene without it ever, and we don’t fuck without it hardly ever.
Self: What’s the difference between those two things?
Self: I don’t know. I sort of actually hate the word “scene.” But what I mean is: even in the quickies, even when the... I don’t know, focus of what we’re doing is sex and getting off, as opposed to power exchange or pain or bondage, there’s still a lot of pain.
Self: Has having a consistent kinky partner changed your relationship with pain at all?
Self: It’s let me explore a lot of new things, things I don’t think I would have explored the same way with other partners, or other people than Jamie, even if I had found other long-term play partners. Our relationship is... awesome, in a lot of ways, and exploring pain is one of them.
Self: What kinds of new stuff have you gotten into?
Self: Well, I tried a lot of new implements with him that I hadn’t tried before. Nothing to outrageous, by kinkster standards, but we’ve got a nice wall of toys now.
Self: What’s your favorite?
Self: Favorite? They’re all different. Flogging is, in a way, the easiest to take. It hurts, and it hurts a lot, but in a way that doesn’t scare me as much as the rest of them, most of the time. So that’s good in some ways, and... not as affective in other ways. Caning is very difficult for me. It’s frightening. Remember the second kind of test? The threshold? That’s really hard to get a sense of with caning. It’s just... exactly the wrong kind of pain. Which is why it’s also a lot of fun, in exactly it’s own ways.
Self: Is there any kind of pain you don’t like, in a real don’t-like way?
Self: I haven’t had good experiences with electricity, but I haven’t had very many experiences with electricity, so I’m leaving that one open. I don’t like pain on my genitals. I haven’t done anything with cutting or burning, because those are a little too reminiscent of what I used to do with pain. I’ve never done play piercing, but I’m fantastically curious about it. Everything else... everything else is great. I guess, mostly, I like hitty things. Lots and lots of different kinds of hitty things.
Self: Is there anything you would change about your relationship with pain?
Self: Not really. The classic answer that people give, when asked, like my mother asked, why someone would want pain in their sex life, why it would ever be in the same category of appealing as caressing or squeezing or what have you, is that these people, who like pain: they want the whole breadth of sensory experience. And I think, for me, that isn’t quite right. Because I don’t really want the gentle touches. I mean, I like them (a lot) in certain contexts (as reward, as manipulation, as part of voyeur/exhibitionist dynamic, etc), but I don’t want them the same way I want pain.
I just... it’s delicious. All by itself. The toys aren’t essential, although they’re awesome. The feeling of a hand slapping, hard, against my skin? That’s... where I feel connected to the person I'm with, where I feel connected to myself. That’s long walks on the beach and piña coladas, for me.
Self: So really, there’s nothing you would change?
Self: I would bruise easier. They don’t tell you this, but often, when you bottom for a while, you stop bruising and marking as much. For some people it’s a relief. For me it’s a huge bummer. I like the marks, I like seeing them right after, watching them fade, showing them off (in appropriate, or mostly appropriate, contexts). That’s probably another part of it. Watching the external heal, feeling marked, owned, like someone’s territory claimed.
Self: But... (prepares bad British accent) do you have a flag?
Self: Actually yes. But that’s another post.
Self: So. Are you gonna send this to your mom?
Self: I don’t know. I keep trying to write something here that’s appropriate for her, and it keeps... not happening. My mother and whatever readers I have here are... very different audiences.
Self: This is a sex blog.
Self: It’s true.
Self: Last words on pain?
Self: More please!