One of the most pervasive questions in this lifestyle is whether pain is essential in a BDSM relationship. The answer is an unequivocal “no.” One can have an awesome Doninant/submissive partnership with absolutely no pain being involved. It could be a sex slave arrangement, a service slave situation or any number of D/s unions. Then again, there could only be symbolic or light pain involved. A hand spanking when a submissive misbehaves or a light crop on the palms can be the basis of a very hot D/s relationship. Or just a light hand spanking in a kinky vanilla relationship. (After all, this is Kink Weekly!) The possibilities are virtually endless. We have no scientific data, but we would bet the number of non pain or light pain relationships far outnumber those using significant pain. Of course, the Sadist who whips his masochist in a dungeon attracts more attention than the Master with a sex slave whose service is limited to the bedroom. But, that is just the way it would appear to a casual observer; on closer analysis, it does not mean that pain is the preferred, or more popular, way to go. There is no one right way to do BDSM. That being said, the question remains, why is pain often an integral part of a BDSM relationship? What we propose is that there are three distinct aspects to pain that make it so pervasive. We will term this trio “the ‘Story of O’ effect,” “the subspace effect” and “the bonding effect.” Let’s examine them in order.
1. The “Story of O effect” alludes to the landmark novel of Dominance and submission by Paulene Reage, available for free. which took the world by storm in the seventies. At its core is the old school romantic proposition that a slave will do things for her/his Dominant that he/she would not do for anyone else. “Suffering for one’s Master” as a sign of submission. The novel, and a subsequent movie, has some odd, and debatable, takes on love and sacrifice; but, the overall message is that the devotion a slave has to her Master/Mistress can be judged by the amount of pain the slave takes. As BDSM progressed from the 70’s, this concept evolved into the common practice of pushing the submissive’s limits. Here the submissive/slave (for convenience, we will use these terms interchangeably) is being taken to places that she would not ordinarily go to for any other Dominant. “Pushing limits” does not have the verbal pizzazz, nor the romantic luster, that “Suffering for one’s Master” does. But, the effect can be almost identical. In both instances, we are using pain thresholds as a way of measuring the dedication of a submissive.
2. The “subspace effect” is commonly intertwined with the “Story of O effect.” Subspace often occurs during a pain session. What is this mysterious state called “subspace?” Although subspace will be explained in another Kink Weekly article (amazingly, it is titled “Subspace!”), it can safely be stated that subspace is a mental/physical state caused by a rush of endorphins flooding the body. Among subs who have experienced it, it is likened to “flying.” In fact, “flying” is a synonym for it. By all accounts, subspace is an incredible high. And here is the hook: it is accessed most easily and predictably by…guess what…pain!
The most effective way of putting a submissive into subspace is to spank/flog/cane him/her over a period of time. (Note: always observe safe words during BDSM play.) To put it succinctly, pain is popular because it works. As opposed to the “Story of O” effect, one does not have to push limits to get a submissive to fly. Moderate, or even light pain over a longer period of time, can be just as effective as extreme pain. Besides, what one person’s sting can be another person’s hurt.
3. The “bonding effect” might be an even more notable facet of pain than the previous two – if only on a subconscious level. Rarely spoken about in BDSM circles, its bonding power can be unbelievably potent. It appears the pain/pleasure/endorphin dynamic that is actuated when pain is given and received brings the duo together in unique ways. Whether they are play partners or a Dom/sub couple, the trust involved in pain play invariably bonds the two people together. Even casual players develop a close friendship that is deeper than being just golfing partners. Add into this the enjoyment that the Dominant gets from flogging – and even marking – a submissive. Perhaps this is one of the great appeals of pain!
Taken in totality, when these three aspects of pain are actuated, the partners can amplify any type of BDSM relationship they have agreed too. Light pain, medium pain or heavy pain can all be equally effective. Whatever pain threshold you decide to work with, the concept of three “effects of pain” might give you an insight into its power. After all, pain can be a potent tool for pleasure!
After a ten year run as head writer for the legendary bondage.com, and an equally long run as the host of the hit internet show “Baadmaster’s Dungeon,” we are pleased to welcome the one and only Baadmaster to KinkWeekly. His thoughts about all things BDSM will now appear regularly on these pages. From the mental aspects of D/s to the nuts and bolts of S&M play, Baadmaster will cover every facet of this ever expanding lifestyle.
Isaac Kalder says
@BADMASTER So even after reading this article, I still will not tolerate, or accept any pain, or discomfort into my life. It’s just not in my DNA. Vanilla Sex, and normal pleasure is all I can handle. Does this make me inferior to all of the people who do enjoy pain?
My slut (male) HATES pain, but a bit of it, spaced out correctly, or mild, or slow (as in an ache from a difficult position) lets him know that he is helpless. Helplessness seems integral in one meaning of Primal (predator/prey type), and anything to add to it deepens the scene.
If he liked pain, it wouldn’t work, or would take a whole lot more. He also takes it for me – but this is a “selfish” reason it works on him, too.
I have a type of touch-play I call “sensing” which turns out to use the Chinese medicine meridians. It seems to raise endorphins. We were using the “L” word, and I told him I’d always loved him. He said he knew; that no one could touch someone like that unless they loved them.
I want my limits pushed – because it’s integral to the whole point of BDSM – being on the edge makes me vulnerable and puts me right into the headspace I am looking for. I am far more open at that point. I am finally out of the thinking part of my brain and into the feeling entirely and it’s a hell of a ride.
It’s got nothing to do with being something for the dominant just for his sake – it’s for me to do that for the dominant – because doing that is what unleashes that experience.
If that’s the way it is for me, no doubt it is for many other submissives – certainly I’ve talked to others that feel the same way.
I think people place too much importance on subspace. I don’t always like going there even with my partner and I love being with him sexually. But sometimes, mentally I would prefer it to end the same way it started because I want to talk, to be able to think as clearly as I could before it started. And of course when it starts I don’t really know how good its going to be sexually. So whether it ends with me in subspace or not, the real marker of success is “did it end with me mentally where I wanted to be and if not, was I able to get there in a reasonable amount of time?” Sometimes I tell him not to take me that far. It doesn’t mean that the sex was less satisfying if he doesn’t. Its always satisfying. And if for some reason I ask him not to and I get there anyway, I just assume that is what my body and mind needed so it was still good. We talk later and nothing changed between us for it. The success and failure rating leads to more failures than it should. Just let what is meant to happen, happen.
For me, subspace came with trust and experience. I also never thought I’d be able to achieve it. You have to relax enough to let it happen. It is honestly a 2 person process involving both you and your play partner. Take it slow, and remember that going into subspace or not does not dictate that a scene was “successful.” It’s different for everyone.
Keith M. Anderson says
anniebear, I feel there’s a basis for a whole other article in your saying, “and remember that going into subspace or not does not dictate that a scene was “successful.” ” As a Master, I’ve often, in my mind, questioned my worth as a Master when I have failed to take a session into subspace for the recipient of all I’ve been dishing out. This is a fruitless mental flogging I can give myself, much like asking, is my kink healthy. What matters is, what did we both come away from it with, is she happy? Am I happy? In life, it doesn’t pay to measure one’s success by the physical structures or accomplishments one’s left behind, but rather, by how truly happy one has made themselves and others in achieving them.
Felecia T says
subspace sounds interesting, i don’t feel like id ever get there
I plan on devoting a whole article on subspace. There are many ways to achieve it. I will explain. Mystery?????