Types of Pain


Types of Pain – Selection from ‘The Loving Dominant’ by John Warren

One of the things that makes discussing BDSM so difficult is the word ‘Pain”  submissives don’t necessarily seek “pain” — even though many enjoy many forms of “pain” as part of the play.  What many of us do would seem to be painful, but most dictionary definitions of pain include phrase like “leading to evasive actions” or “which are avoided.”  Yet, these stimuli, far from being avoided, are sought.  Therefore, they cannot be pain. Or, can they?


This conundrum reminds me of a story about a politician, who being asked if he opposed liquor, said, “Are you referring to the Demon Rum that destroys lives, reduces families to ruin and is the shame of our cities, or are you referring to the delicious elixir that rejuvenates the tired, gives peace to the troubled and contributes so much in taxes to our national treasury?”


The problem seems to lie in a failure of the English language; 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?


The answer could be that the pains are different.  Popular myth has it that Eskimos have dozens of different words for snow.  We have only one word for pain (and only one for love, which is another interesting shortcoming for English.  But not one I want to address — Not here, at least.)


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.