Pain receptors carry notification of physical discomfort to the brain. Pain perception, also referred to as nociception, will trigger the release of hormones throughout the body in response to painful stimuli. These hormones can act as pain relievers or they can give you an impulse to do something – such as a rush of adrenaline causing you to run away or fight your way out of a dangerous situation.
Let’s talk hormones
Melatonin, serotonin, enkephalin, epinephrine, endorphins, and norepinephrine, can all be issued by the brain in response to pain. This is how your brain helps your body deal with the situation.
Pain doesn’t have to be painful
A Tens machine (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) can be a useful pain reliever. It works by sending small electronic signals (shocks) to the brain. The body is said to compensate by providing endorphins, its own brand of Tylenol, to help ease your discomfort.
Similarly, you could try a gentle spanking or flogging to trigger the release of endorphins. If the stimulation is applied for long enough, pleasurable hormones can be released in the brain, and in BDSM this is sometimes referred to as ‘subspace.’ When adrenaline and endorphins are combined, it can provide quite a rush.
In an intense BDSM scene, where the subject may be tied up and being flogged, the body can find itself flooded with a massive cocktail of hormones, and those experiencing subspace often compare it to feeling drunk or getting high. The euphoria that this mind-altering state provides can often last for hours after a scene, and bizarrely, sometimes even days. On the other side of the coin, everyone deals with pain in their own unique way, and for some, subspace will be unattainable, no matter what stimuli is applied.
Even le petit mort or the little death can be confusing in regards to pleasure and pain. Intense orgasms can sometimes be as painful as they are pleasurable.
An ancient tradition
Combining pleasurable, sexual acts, with a measure of pain has been documented by the Romans, and also features in the Kama Sutra. African tribes have long practiced their own painful, sexual rituals combined with incredibly hedonistic lovemaking techniques. Now take a look at China’s almost ten-century love affair with foot binding. It all started in the Five Dynasties when the emperor’s favorite concubine bound her feet and danced on the lotus. Then, girls everywhere were breaking bones in their feet in order to squeeze them into the tiniest shoes imaginable, whilst men openly lusted after these tiny appendages.
In fact, the pain and pleasure connection has a long and distinguished place in history and experimentation on the subject has been far and wide reaching.
These are people who rely on pain, suffering, or humiliation in order to achieve sexual gratification. The current terminology used to describe it is, ‘Sexual Masochism Disorder,’ but you could only be diagnosed with the disorder if you experienced significant distress or impairment in other areas of functioning. It’s estimated that around five percent of the population have masochistic tendencies and the condition has been described as addictive.
Acts such as bondage, needle play, electric shocks, self-mutilation, the use of restraints, spanking, cutting, whipping, piercing, and BDSM edge play are often associated with masochism.
Whilst there seems to be sexual revolution of the world, the truth is that a lot of this ‘sexy pain and pleasure stuff’ has been going on for quite some time.
Always remember, even though pain can be pleasure… keep it safe, sane, and consensual!