Erotic Pain
A Bottom's Perspective

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by Peggy aka O

 
I love pain. I hate pain. Not to be too coy about it, but many people, myself included, have a love/hate relationship with pain.

Pain in an erotic context is the ultimate focal point. Nothing consumes attention the way pain does. One can be focused on serving a Dominant or focused on one's submission, but nothing demands the complete and total attention of physical pain. The body is geared to override all other cognitive functions when pain occurs - the body's focus is re-oriented to dealing with, and subsequently avoiding the pain. Primal responses occur when one is confronted with pain. This is why pain is such a powerful tool not only in terms of a power exchange relationship, but also as an end unto itself.

Force me to run
The gauntlet of pain.
Drive my awareness
Back into my body

Pat Califia, "The Come On"

The key to pain is its ability to focus our consciousness completely into our physical bodies. People react to pain in very different ways. In part this is due to physiological responses and in part it is due to psychological views on pain. Some people simply have a greater physical capacity to deal with painful stimulus; their bodies are quicker at producing a biochemical response and are able to manage pain more efficiently. Physiological response can be "trained in" to a certain extent. With frequent painful stimulus the body's capacity to respond becomes greater. Psychological response is also a factor. If the person's psychological energy is focused on "enduring" an unwanted external stimulus and opposed to "merging" with the stimulus, the likelihood of a lower capacity to process pain becomes likely. Some of the psychological factors can be trained in also. A person can be brought to enjoy pain because of the approval of the pain giver or by some other known reward once the pain is over.

Managing pain from the bottom's perspective in a multi-layered process that includes both physical and psychological aspects. Before a bottom can process erotic pain physically they must have the psychological trust that the top will not harm them. Once the primary trust is established the bottom can concentrate on the physical aspects of pain management.

Serious pain bottoms seem to have the ability to "merge" themselves with the painful sensation. Instead of experiencing pain as an outside force, they are able to experience it as part of themselves. This enables them to process it and experience it as a pleasurable, albeit intense sensation. Although there is no empirical evidence to support this, it is also likely that their bodies produce biochemicals such as endorphins in greater quantities than people who are not masochistic. As a result, not only do they process pain psychologically in a more efficient manner, they also have the ability to experience the physiological "high" more intensely.

I do not presume to dictate
Methods or terms to you
If you will only promise me
A ride through the long nightmare
That leads to bliss.

Pat Califia "The Come On"

Many will readily identify three phases to their pain play. The first is an anticipatory phase where the desire for play is so intense as to be termed by many as an "itch", a "need" or a "craving". The next phase, when actual play begins, is the phase when the pain is experienced as pain. At this point the bottom has not yet converted the pain into an intense and pleasurable sensation. This is the phase where warm up needs to occur.

The third phase is when the bottom has pushed past pain being pain, the biochemicals have kicked in and the sensations are perceived as pleasurable. For many pain bottoms, this last phase is the pay off. The sensations in this phase can be so pleasurable that in some cases orgasm can be achieved with no direct genital stimulation. One woman is able to orgasm from being flogged on her back. Another is able to come from steady intense application of a single tail. A strong emotional release is common; uncontrollable crying is often described as one of the most enjoyable parts of an intense pain scene. One bottom rates how good the top is by whether or not she cried. This is also the point where many describe experiences of transcending their bodies. A feeling of intense closeness and intimacy with the top is also frequently felt. Some of the most intimate and moving moments I have felt in a scene have been when I have been held close by my partner, crying uncontrollably after a very intense pain scene, feeling myself melt into their arms. It is the intensity of physical well being and emotional closeness that is experienced as a release, or "bliss" as Pat Califia calls it. The bottom is not just playing for the "high", but also for the intimacy and bond they feel with the top who is able to take them into that third phrase.

Pain bottoms are a frequently misunderstood subset of the community. They are frequently dismissed as "just players" or "sensation junkies" with little attempt made to understand what motivates them. Some people are uncomfortable watching their play. The intensity frightens some spectators who then dismiss the play as "abuse" and the participants as "sick". In the online community in particular, there's a strong delineation between people who are into "D/s", which is "ok" and people who are into "S/M", which is considered to be second best in terms of quality of relationship and intimacy. In fact pain bottoms are no different than the rest of the community in what they seek. They create strong, intimate relationships with their tops as much as people in other community subsets. They have the same emotional needs as everyone else. It is merely the way they seek that is different.

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