When the first scene doesn’t live up to its billing
I was recently contacted by a lady who was quite concerned that her first real-life BDSM scene turned out quite different than how she had envisioned it. To be precise, it HURT. Below is my response.
What you describe is not all that uncommon for novices to experience. After all, what you have been fantasizing about is not the reality of pain but the idea of it. I’m sure that at a gut level you distinguish from the “pain” that gets you all wet and horny and the everyday aches and pains that you probably would go out of your way to avoid.
Part of this problem is semantic. Obviously there seems to be at least two, and perhaps more, kinds of pain. I’ve never known a submissive who got off on a stomach ache from a bad hotdog. However, many greatly enjoy the very similar pain resulting from an enema. A swat from a closing spring-loaded door is annoying; one from a leather-clad lover is exciting.
Nor is it simply situational, more than once I have had to pause during a session to untangle a strap which was pinching my submissive or to ease her leg cramps. Why did these pains “bring her down” when she was receiving a substantially greater pain from the whipping, strapping or waxing?
Popular myth has it that Eskimos have dozens of different words for snow. We have only one word for pain. As far as I know, psychologists have not examined this terminology shortfall (perhaps, scientists involved in BDSM prefer to remain in the closet); however, there has been considerable research into stress, which affects the body much like pain. The stress researchers found that there are two kinds of stress: eustress (good stress) and distress (bad stress). Interestingly, the distinction between these two stresses is completely within the soul of the individual. Where one person might see a rollercoaster ride as the high point of her day; to another, it might be a glimpse into hell.
Even the same stress can be distress (let me out of here!) for an individual at one time and eustress (having a ball) at another. We all know individuals who glory in the push and tug of office politics; however, occasionally, even these “political animals” get fed up and need to get away when the eustress of political infighting becomes distress.
People in BDSM instinctually recognize that there are positive pains and negative pains. Our discussions are laden with indirect references to them. We may talk about something with “gets me off” or “sends me ‘somewhere else'” while another activity/toy/person “turns me off” or “brings me down.”
It can be even more than just two different kinds of pain. One of the things that a “pain lover” loves is the endorphines produced by the body in response to pain. This is the famous “runners high” that so many people literally pursue at the cost of bad knees and flat feet. Some people don’t easily produce this chemical. Pain, instead, produces a rush of adrenaline and what psychologists refer to as a “flight/fight reaction.” Instead of the pain being dulled, the body is brought to “red alert” in preparation for either fleeing the source of the discomfort or fighting it off. Sadly, this heightened state also makes the damned pain hurt worse, which increases the flow of adrenaline, which heightens the reaction, which makes the pain hurt worse, which… well, you get the idea.
There are several approaches you can take to deal with this sort of body chemistry. One is to begin with a much lower level of stimulation than you long for in your fantasies. While you are masturbating, you may dream of being hung from handcuffs while a leather clad lover flails your back with a singletail, splattering the walls with blood. Great, I have that kind of fantasy too… from the other end of the whip. However, it may be wise to have your first few experiences over someone’s knee for a light, sensual spanking, or naked with someone running a knife over your skin. Mild exercises, but what you are doing is teaching your body to treat a certain kind of discomfort as benign and not something for which it has to dump “go and fight juice” into your system.
Some people, however, have stubborn bodies. “After all,” the body says, “I’ve got a few million years of evolution telling me that when I feel pain I’d better damn well get ready to run or fight.” Just before Libby came into my life, I had a young lady come all the way from the Midwest to my Manhattan apartment to experience her first scene. She had told me of fantasies right out of the Marquise’s writings and wanted to experience them all NOW.
Unfortunately, she turned out to be a veritable well of adrenaline. Even toning things way down didn’t prevent a panic attack at the first stroke or pinch. So, I shifted gears. I tied her blindfolded and spread eagled on the bed and then, resting next to her, slowly ran my hands over her naked body and whispered into her ear all the bloody and horrible things I “was going” to do to her. Without the presence of actual physical pain, she was able to get off wonderfully on the fantasy and the weekend was a success.
In short, what you experienced wasn’t all that unusual. There are ways to deal with it. All you need to do is try to examine the why behind what happened and communicate it to an attentive and inventive lover/master.