The Unsure Masochist – Gaining Confidence
There are typically a few questions asked in the kink community that we hear over and over. These are questions that seem to be the most troublesome to novice kinksters especially. Oftentimes, a simple structured response isn’t enough — a complete guide is needed. In this article, I will attempt to guide you through a common question that’s often posed:
“How do I learn to tolerate pain better?”
(assumed to be asked by s-types, typically bottoms, and for the scope of this article, I’ll base the information on S&M participation.)
When I hear this question, it seems cut and dry, but in reality, it’s often accompanied by the wish to gain confidence as a pain-receiving bottom as well. Let’s talk about both.
What is S&M
Beyond the terms the acronym stands for — sadism & masochism, or sadomasochism — let’s clarify the definition of S&M. In general conversation, many will tell you that S&M play involves one party inflicting pain upon another party for some level of gratification. While this is true, it’s a very limited view of S&M and leaves out important segments that comprise the whole of kink play.
Sadomasochism is the application or reception of discomfort for the purpose of pleasure.
Discomfort is a keyword in the definition. It is a more appropriate umbrella term that is inclusive of things like pain, humiliation, fear and more, all of which can be a part of kink play. S&M does not have to include all types of discomfort. You can play without pain, having say, a session that’s all about humiliation with no physical pain involved. Also, while many written definitions of sadomasochism include reference to sexual pleasure, S&M doesn’t have to include sex or anything sexual at all.
Starting with that base definition, we can build from it to suit our individual needs. Everyone can craft their S&M participation to suit.
Pain and your uniqueness
It’s very important to keep in mind just how unique you are. Kink memes, articles and general community chatter may leave you wondering why you haven’t achieved some standard level of tolerance or enjoyment when it comes to S&M. But your levels will never perfectly equal that of others, and neither will your reactions to pain. Your pain threshold is yours alone.
Worthy at all levels
Your level of pain tolerance doesn’t determine your level of worth as a masochist. Neither does your pain preference, whether that’s a little pain or a lot of pain. Please don’t allow yourself to be pinned as a “real” or …unreal(?) submissive based on how much pain you can endure “for” someone else. Submission and masochism are individual elements of BDSM, and you may certainly be one without being the other. (Some of my writings are based on horror tales I’ve heard over the years!)
All pain is not alike
A paper cut does not a masochist make. In fact, for many of us (even us painsluts), a paper cut is call for being rushed to the ER! The sensations felt at the swing of a flogger are unequal to that felt under other circumstances. Even the boldest masochist may succumb to a paper cut, a twisted ankle, period cramps and more. Masochism does not naturally cross over the kink border and cause many of us to be more tolerant of “other” types of pain. “I thought you were a masochist!” can be heard when you stub your toe or hit your funny bone, but we know better.
Comparative pain & reactions
The personal path to gaining more confidence as a masochist can be impeded by using comparisons outside of oneself. Keep these two things in mind:
- Your pain reception and tolerance should not be matched against that of others. Yours is different from theirs and theirs (and theirs, too), and even different from your own! What’s that mean? You may experience the same relative pain differently from day to day, even moment to moment because of certain variables (more on this below). If your own pain level is subject to variances, then certainly there’s no sure fire way to adequately compare yours to that of another person. “You don’t quite take nipple torture like PainGirlXYZ does,” but of course you don’t, and the comparison is fraught with misconceptions.
- The reactions to pain that you experience are just as unique. There is cause to be careful when relying on the reactions of others to gauge how you will react to the same stimuli. Just because SamanthaBunz orgasms from OTK spankings doesn’t mean you should expect to also get great joy from them. While many of us may share some common generalized reactions to pain play, our physical, emotional & mental reactive responses are highly unique.
A note about “pain charts” online
Pain charts, memes and diagrams found online are typically inaccurate except for the person who created each one, and may even be inaccurate for them! Remember:
- Judge your own pain tolerance level based only on personal variables.
- Don’t feel shamed because of not matching others’ tolerance or likes.
- Don’t feel guilted into taking more than you’re comfortable attempting to handle.
- Don’t expect to be marked the same as others have been. Your body/skin will react on it’s own accord.
- Don’t attempt to apply advice that’s not relevant to you (most memes do not account for Bottoms of Color or bottoms with different figures).
Your pain mileage may vary
In the scene, there are factors involved in how one might perceive pain during play, any of which can vary from partner to partner, session to session, and even moment to moment. The way a person receives pain, tolerates it and derives pleasure from it can depend on any of the following (and this is not an exhaustive list):
This shouldn’t scare you, only make you aware that S&M and all of what we do in kink is 90% art, and we adjust our stroke as needed for the beauty of it.
I have had the exact same action done to me by the same person in nearly the same environment & setup, yet had a near polar opposite reaction to it at another time. To this day I cannot adequately explain why this happened or point to any particular factors involved.
What can you do?
There are some clear, key ways you can help to improve your confidence as a masochist. It’s really a mix between being sure of what current level of masochism you’re comfortable with and learning to handle levels of pain you may crave.
You may never get rid of the butterflies, but you can teach them how to fly in formation. – author unknown
First, know that some fear is normal, even for the well-seasoned kinkster. Let’s rearrange that fear and repurpose it into anticipation. Now take it and use it as fuel.
Secondly, understand you may never be that masochist who orgasms from OTK spankings. You may detest spankings but absolutely love the bullwhip. Again, your individual expression is key.
Third! Work one step at a time. Becoming the massiest of masochists (yes, I made that up!) is a process and doesn’t happen overnight. Give yourself time.
Here’s an interesting resource on speaking the language of sensation: Sensations: Speaking the Secret Language of the Body While the site focuses on women’s care, the article can certainly be a resource for all genders.
A little self-review
Next, review the following questions with as much self-reflective honesty as possible:
- Do I like pain? Why or why not? What kind? To what degree?
- What sensations feel good to me? What feels bad? (thuddy, stingy, pinchy, hot, cold, hard, soft, etc.?)
- Does anything trigger me? (Perhaps avoiding certain types of pain play & sensations is appropriate.)
- Do I have any hangups? (ex., You’ve witnessed violence and simply want to avoid play that reminds you of it.)
- Do I really want this? (What is your purpose for engaging in pain play?)
- Do I want just a little or to go all out? What does a little or all out look like?
- Am I OK with marks? What kind (welts, bruises/discoloration, other)?
Include your partner(s)
Chances are, if you’re contemplating how to improve your confidence and pain tolerance as a masochist, you’ve had or will have one or more partners with whom to engage in S&M play. Involving them in your quest is both smart and responsible, and can lead to improved communication overall and shared energy during play.
- Communicate your issues, even if you don’t have all the right words just yet. Be honest, open and as clear as you can.
- If you’d like to be challenged, ask for it. Your partner(s) can assist with moving you past your current pain threshold.
- If you remain guarded about something, let it be known. Recognize if something is a soft or hard limit or has changed for you.
- Ask for a “tolerance session” where the purpose to test sensations, tolerance and reactions. Discuss each aspect with your partner(s).
- Prepare for the scene together — hydrate, stretch, breathe, set the scene, meditate, prepare skin and more… together.
What can D-types/partners do?
So glad you asked! Our partners are a crucial part of our kink journey and can be of great help in strengthening our role(s). Here’s a few things partners can do:
- Create a judgment-free zone.
- Create a safe space for the s-type (similar to the above — should not have to worry that each movement is being judged, ridiculed, teased).
- Create a welcoming environment for the s-type to feel relaxed and comforted.
- Do a pre-session check to see if there are any special needs they may have for the current session.
- Ask them what they need to help facilitate the best experience.
- Employ aftercare! Be sure to conduct open discussion after the scene.
What steps have you taken to gain confidence and improve your pain tolerance?