Ambiguous Borderlands (the paradox of masochism)

By | April 20, 2007

I’m delighted to be bringing you this pair of posts as the latest in my regular series “The Journey”. Last month brought insight into Mistress160’s view of her relationship with her husband Solipsist. This month we gain an insight into Sol’s perspective.

Ambiguous Borderlands (the paradox of masochism) 

BY: Mistress 160 and Solipsist


Masochist: “Hurt me!!”
Sadist: “No!”

(Mistress160’s favourite SM joke)

My article “A D/s Life: Becoming” a few weeks ago explored how I became dominant , triggered by my husband Solipsist’s submissive and masochistic needs.  In “Ambiguous borderlands” Solipsist presents his own account of becoming aware of those needs.

True masochism, as Richard Evans Lee points out, is not an easy thing to live with : “many people seem to misunderstand masochism. I need the agony and misery. But that doesn’t mean that I enjoy it in the same way I enjoy good music, prose or a fine meal.  It is the ultimate oxymoronic experience: wanting it, hating it – at the same time”.

What does the term actually mean? Wikipedia states:

  • “Sadism is the sexual or social pleasure or gratification in the infliction of pain and suffering upon another person. [It’s] counterpart is masochism, the sexual pleasure or gratification of having pain or suffering inflicted upon the self, often consisting of sexual fantasies or urges for being beaten, humiliated, bound, tortured, or otherwise made to suffer, either as an enhancement to or a substitute for sexual pleasure. The name is derived from the name of the 19th century author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, known for his novel Venus in Furs that dealt with highly masochistic themes…

    Havelock Ellis, in Studies in the Psychology of Sex, argued that there is no clear distinction between the aspects of sadism and masochism, and that they may be regarded as complementary emotional states. He also made the important point that sadomasochism is concerned only with pain in regard to sexual pleasure, and not in regard to cruelty, as Sigmund Freud had [earlier] suggested. In other words, the sadomasochist generally desires that the pain be inflicted or received in love, not in abuse, for the pleasure of either one or both participants.The term BDSM describes the quite common activities between consenting adults that contain sadistic and masochistic elements …. [a] masochist in consensual BDSM is someone who enjoys the experience of pain in a particular context and, usually, according to a certain scripted and mutually agreed upon “scene.” These “masochists” do not typically enjoy pain in other scenarios, such as accidental injury.”

How does this impact on the individual in real life?  How does one discover one’s masochism, and come to express it?  Here Solipsist picks up his own story:

“I’ve always been kinky. In fact I was kinky long before sex ever came into the picture. I won’t dwell on this stage of my development too much because I know it can be a potential minefield. If at age 5 you have fantasies about being made to undress in front of a room full of people, is this a sexual fantasy ? What if by a couple of years later you have constructed a whole fantasy world that you use to entertain yourself for half an hour or so before going to sleep almost every night?  By the time I was seven, the fantasies included pretty girls that I used to admire from a distance at school, and were including serious pain.

“So you see I’ve always been a masochist.

“For most of my life this was only in theory. Many people’s accounts of their early years talk about how they were spanked as a child or as a teenager and this gave them early erotic associations. I didn’t. I vaguely recall being smacked on the back of my thigh by my parents once when I was about 3, but that was it. If my parents were annoyed with me I would get a cross look and a telling off, like parents these days are supposed to do. So no childhood CP to start me off.

“I learned to masturbate when I was 12. It was as though a missing connection had been made and the masochistic, submissive fantasies that I had always had suddenly had a real purpose – they weren’t just fantasies, they suddenly became sexual fantasies.

“I lost my virginity when I was 19, after my first year of university.  While I knew instinctively that I was going to be sexually adventurous (when I finally managed to pluck up the courage to ask a girl to have sex), I assumed that my fantasies were always going to be private and would never play a part in my sex life. That somehow they were an adolescent ‘phase’ that I was going to leave behind or be ‘cured’ of once I started having ‘real’ sex. But of course they weren’t.

“So when a few months later my next girlfriend and I were lying silently together in post-coital bliss, she asked me ‘what are you thinking’, and I was stumped. My mind had drifted back to my masochistic fantasy world and I could hardly tell her about THAT. Or so I thought. A few months later we became close enough that I could actually start to share my fantasies with her, and via Penthouse Variations magazine, she started to show me that there were other people like me out there, and that people actually played out their fantasies in real life.

“For several years, we used this shared understanding in our sex life by sharing fantasies as we made love. We played a little bit with a dominant/submissive dynamic, and a little with pain. I have very sensitive nipples, and she would tease me by flicking a fingernail across the tip of my nipple, and gradually get harder till she was scratching, gouging and pinching occasionally to the point of breaking the skin.

“And other times we would play with a D/S dynamic. One moment I remember vividly was where she and I and several friends were relaxing together, and I and a male friend were going out for a couple of hours. My cigarettes were on her side of the table and I reached over to pick them up. She picked up the packet, to pass them to me, I thought, but she just put them in her lap. I asked “can I have my cigarettes”, and she just looked at me with an expression that I couldn’t decipher at the time, and said “no”. Our eyes met, and she held my gaze, as my mind raced. Do I say “please ?” Do I reach over and take them anyway ? Or will she just hand them over. But I looked into her eyes, and the act of submitting to her for no real reason in front of a group of our friends gave me a great erotic rush. So I let her have her way, and left.

“What else could I do then, but marry her ?”

In Part 2 solipsist reveals how he and Mistress160 moved from theoretic to real time masochistic exploration, and explores the question of how masochists experience pain.

Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex
Richard Evans Lee How does a Masochist Capture the love and hate of pain  – Masochism: an oxymoronic experience 30 March 2005

Thank you:
the title of this article is drawn from
Richard Evans Lee’s
What is Pain Like for the Masochist?
25 April 2005