by Eve Minax
If you were to dig around the web or your local library, you will find a plethora of fictional and nonfictional work discussing the masochist. In fact, the term itself came from the surname of the man who wrote the original classic “Venus in Fur”, Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch (see below). Of course, like the proverbial chicken and the egg, one is not sure which came first – the sadist or the masochist. In order to give us an accessible definition of sadist and masochist we will simply say that a sadist is a person who derives erotic pleasure and or gratification out inflicting pain on others, ideally masochists. The masochist derives erotic gratification from receiving pain from the sadist. There have been many arguments over the years as to who wields the power in this dynamic, however, my concerns today are not around the power dynamic in as much as around questions of how a masochist can better develop and grow with the sadist.
First, I want to be clear that I am not discussing masochistic behavior as much as masochism or a masochist. Think of this in terms of narcissism. As, (particularly Western), humans we are all somewhat narcissistic, but not necessarily narcissists. Like narcissists, masochistic behavior, on some level, exists in all of us, but not all of us are masochists.
Secondly, I want to distinguish between pain and intense sensation. I use these terms synonymously, but want to say that “unerotic” or non-consensual “pain” is not part of this discussion. I am speaking only of intense sensation that is consensual and brings potential erotic pleasure to the masochist.
Now, on with the piece…
Over the years, I have dealt with hundreds of discussions around masochists and masochism. Given the definition above, I will add that the following four ways of being are where some self-proclaimed masochists decrease the pleasure in the pain or miss out on the potential for self development, an aspect to the work that I value deeply.
1. Being stoic. This is a classic. I am a masochist because I can “take it” is more of a macho or competitive streak than an actual place of erotic stimulation. One could argue that a “true sadist”, wants the masochist to take it for their pleasure. But if pleasing the sadist brings erotic gratification first and foremost, is that person really a masochist? I feel as though deriving pleasure from your partner’s pleasure is as old as any dynamic in relationship and does not necessarily mean the person is a masochist. For example, I know a slave who absolutely hates the big black rubber paddle in my cabinetry, but will happily receive the blows from me, should it please me. Now, one could argue that you can “create” a masochist, or at the very least masochistic behavior by erotically stimulating the bottom, (see HERE for a discussion on bottoming), whilst they receive intense sensation. Further, I find that people who claim to be masochists but refuse to call safe words or show any expression oftentimes are not fully embodied and are quite possibly “checked out” in the scene. Checking out, although enjoyable sometimes with intention and desire, can be a quick way of causing a lot of harm in relationship as it does not allow for Total Power Exchange. There are ways to ensure an embodied processing of pain. See number 4.
2. Revisiting traumatic history. Speaking of disembodiment, disassociation and retraumatization of the self are not uncommon with people who are survivors of abuse. Briefly, there is a spectrum of trauma: “soft” which can be insidious and long term, (like an alcoholic parent who beats or neglect their child over the years), or hard trauma, which relates to a more immediate and particular incident, (serving in battle, getting mugged or raped), and the fact is that MOST OF US deal with some level of trauma in our lives, but we don’t even recognize it. Further, although there are plenty of well bred kinksters out there, there is also an indication that many practitioners of BDSM are abuse survivors often seeking healing from that trauma, even if they are unaware of it. Check the links at the bottom for more information on this
3. Lacking an understanding of the various types of “pain” or “extreme sensation. Emotional or Physical masochist or both? I’ve had clients call me and say that they are interested in a session, but they are “not into pain” to which I respond, “what do you mean by pain?” You see, if I session with a foot fetishist and during the time we have together I taunt him with the possibility of worshipping my feet, but I deny it, is this not painful for him? I do not have to touch to be a sadist. You see, pain need not always be corporal (in other words: physical). I have a friend who calls herself an emotional masochist. She is not into corporal pain at all, but given the love she has for her tops, she will channel that love into a variety of different forms of extreme sensation, especially the mind fuck. She is not so much a physical sensation player (more on that in a future post), but more so requires an emotional and/or intellectual component to achieve a state of masochistic bliss.
4. Not familiar with pain processing techniques. Finally, I see masochists missing great opportunities to get into the flow of the scene by not knowing how to process extreme sensation. Being able to receive the pain in a way that it flows through their body and back into the top’s body, creating a circuit of intensity is what we call in BDSM Total Power Exchange (TPE). Breath is the easiest way to access energetic flow. Blocking the energy that runs through your body will only make more intensity and decrease TPE. Now, if you are an extreme masochist and want your blows to feel more harsh (or your sadist may want this from you), hold your breath. Breath is the energy and life force within us. As soon as you hold your breath while receiving extreme sensation, you will note that it becomes a lot less pleasant and usually unerotic. I always breathe deeply and fully on my massage therapist’s table to insure a more thorough relaxation and deep tissue work. I suggest you try it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little deconstruction of the masochist.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.