Ambiguous Borderlands (the paradox of masochism)

By | April 22, 2007

Thanks again to Mistress 160 and Solipsist for this, the final part of their splendid contribution to The Journey.

Ambiguous borderlands (the paradox of masochism)

BY: Mistress 160 and Solipsist


What is Pain Like for the Masochist?
1. It just plain hurts. Battered nerve endings waiting for cessation.
2. Delicious: imagine your lover’s fingernails moving across your back, finding an ambiguous borderland where gentlest agony mixes with erotic delight.
3. Sometimes my mind has departed for parts unknown I think. Sadly I depend on Alexandra’s memory not my own.
4. You fill in the blanks
(Richard Evans Lee)

In Part 1 of “Ambiguous borderlands” my husband Solipsist documented the history of his submissive and masochistic needs.  In Part 2 he discusses how we moved as a couple from theoretic to real time masochistic exploration, and how masochists experience pain.

“For some time after Mistress160 and I married, my masochism remained theoretical.  We played with mild pain as an adjunct to sex, but my fantasies resolved around severe pain.  I had daydreams of being caned with strokes so hard that it was a struggle to stand still, and after each stroke I would have to say “thank you Mistress, may I please have another”, while she tried to make them so painful that I couldn’t speak, and would have to have repeat strokes. 

“It was only on my 40th birthday that we finally embraced this side of my sexuality, and she spanked, whipped and caned me, leaving bruises that lasted for days.  How it is that a fantasy I had nurtured for over 30 years but never come close to experiencing turned out to be just as good as I imagined I will never know.  All I know is that it was”.

I know that many people are interested in how masochists perceive pain, so I asked Solipsist to comment on this.  He wrote:

“Some people describe masochists as experiencing certain types of pain as pleasure – as though the nerves are somehow wired to different centres in their brain.  It’s not so for me.  The pain is just pain.  I feel the stroke of a cane much as I would imagine anyone else does, I just happen to like that pain in that context administered by someone who cares.  Psychologically I like the fact that I am submitting willingly to being hurt, and it’s hard to do if I don’t feel I am submitting.  There are times when I would like to have a session, but can’t bring myself to ask, because if I have asked for it, it’s somehow not as satisfying.

“Pain on the ‘sweet spot’ of my ass is ‘good pain’, and when a flogger or cane strays outside that area, for example if it ‘wraps’ around to the side it quickly becomes intolerable.  But a well chosen word from Mistress (‘Did I wrap ?  Oh dear.  Don’t you dare move, let me see if I can do it again’, or laughingly “that got your attention!’) can snap me back into a space where even the ‘bad’ pain can be enjoyed.

“Another often touted explanation is that masochists are endorphin junkies – I certainly get enjoy the endorphin high that some sessions produce, but I also enjoy sessions that don’t get that far.

“I have occasionally likened the start of a session with beginning a rock climb.  If you have ever led a free climb, you will be familiar with a surge of fear and excitement that comes when you start a climb, particularly one that is poorly protected.  You think ‘I can’t do this’, ‘Why do I put myself through it’, but you push yourself, concentrate on the technique, and when you reach the top you look back at how exhilarating it was”.

Sol and I know that masochism is a difficult subject, that for many in the vanilla world the line between it and abuse seems a thin one.  So it’s worth our repeating that BDSM activities only ever take place between consenting adults, and recalling for you once again the wise conclusions of Havelock Ellis who in Studies in the Psychology of Sex noted that the sadomasochist generally desires that the pain be inflicted or received not in abuse, but in love.  And there is extraordinary love between Solipsist and myself.   How could I deny such an important part of him?  After each session with  him I remember the words of Raven Kaldera who asked of those who reject SM:

Look into our eyes. When we return with those bruises, do we walk taller and stronger? When we touch our cuts, are we more serene? When we give up our power, do we grow more sure of ourselves? When we accept power over another, do we learn more compassion? Do we return from the Underworld better for the journey? That’s how you know, those of you who are worried, whether we’re doing it right.


Raven Kaldera as cited by lili The Spirituality of Sado-Masochism (excerpt) 2005


Wikipedia entry on Sadomasochism (discusses the history of the term, biology (regarding the release of endorphins) and psychology as well as providing examples of SM in popular culture)
Richard Evans Lee How does a Masochist Capture the love and hate of pain  – Masochism: an oxymoronic experience 30 March 2005
Richard Evans Lee What is Pain Like for the Masochist? 25 April 2005
lili The Spirituality of Sado-Masochism (excerpt) 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