When I am teaching professionals about being open to and
aware of the broad spectrum of the kink community, I often feel people’s
discomfort or struggle to understand pain play in sex. For those not so inclined,
this can seem contrary to what they are hoping for in their sex experiences.
But for others, the sweet intensity of being taken to a physical edge is
Most of our experiences of pain come without our consent,
with lots of unknowns attached. These experiences of pain involve fear as well,
fear of what is happening to us, fear of how long the pain will last, fear of
the pain getting worse, fear of our lives changing because of this pain, fear
of losing control. This type of pain feels like damage is being done to us. And
it is out of our control, something that is happening to us and all we can do
is try to tolerate it as we wish for it to stop.
Pain without fear is something else entirely. Within a
sexual exploration, if done appropriately, everything is done completely within
the context of choice. In receiving pain or intense sensation, you first choose
a partner you can trust to stop if you ask, to go slow enough for you to take
in the sensation and track your responses and edges, and who is there to give
you something you want. You know sensation will stop of fade when you need it
to and so have a freedom to experience it differently.
Let me put it in a sensual, but non-sexual context. When I
studied deep tissue massage, I got to experience people digging in to just
about every part of my body. Sometimes this caused pain, more pain than I had yet
experienced at that point in my life. Strong fingers reaching in to get
underneath your Achilles tendon – this is a special kind of pain, trust me. But
I was never afraid, so I was able to feel the intensity, breathe, and open to
it. And I knew that if it got too intense I could say, “stop” and it would.
This ability to open to the sensation without fear blew my mind. And I learned
to love the clear focus this provided me, totally in the moment, and the shift
in my mood, energy, and awareness that came with it.
Some of you may have experiences of intense sensation that appeal
to you, times when you could note the difference between fearful pain and
exciting intensity. You may never choose to bring this into your sexual
exploration, or maybe you will. Either way, maybe this understanding will help
you be more aware of a range of sensation play, including pain, that can be
available to each of us.