Important note: This post discusses my personal sexuality, in a great deal of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read about that stuff, you absolutely, positively, 100% do not want to read this piece. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Rose flogger
Do other masochists run into this conundrum?

If so — how do you deal with it?

There’s a kinky paradox I run into sometimes. It’s entertaining, but it’s also a little frustrating at times, and I’m wondering how other people deal with it.

Here’s what it is.

Sometimes when I bottom, I just want it to feel good. I physically enjoy pain — certain kinds of pain under certain circumstances, anyway — and the sensations and endorphins and whatnot are just pure sexual fun. It’s like eating very spicy food: it’s a complicated pleasure, but it is a pleasure, and my body processes it as such.

But sometimes, when I bottom, I want it to hurt.

I mean, really hurt.

I want it to hurt harder than I want.

Consensual sadomasochism
Real pain — pain that’s genuinely hard to take, pain that hurts harder than I like — is what makes me feel helpless, and out of control. It’s what gets me tapped into my fantasies of non-consent; it’s what gets me feeling like what’s happening is being forced on me against my will. Or, at other times (actually, sometimes at the same time, which is weird and contradictory but I’m not going to worry about that too much), pain that hurts harder than I like is what makes me feel submissive. It’s what gets me feeling like I’ve put myself into my partner’s hands: like I don’t belong to myself any more, and have given myself away as a gift, to be used and played with at my partner’s whim.

All of which is awesome. All of which I like very much, in a way that’s very different, and in many ways more intense, than the relatively simple, easy- to- take, endorphin-y fun stuff.

But here’s the paradox.

Because I like being hurt harder than I like… do you see where I’m going with this?

Because I like being hurt harder than I like, that means that I like it. And when I like it, it isn’t harder than I like any more.

Circle of two arrows
There are a couple of ways that this paradox plays out. One is largely physical. If my partner is hurting me harder than I like, and I ride it out — if, instead of struggling with it or safewording or giving off my “this is too hard” body language, I sink into that submissive “do with me what you will” state and just go with it — then I can (often) get to a place where the “harder than I like” level of pain actually feels good. Maybe it’s just the endorphins kicking into high gear or something… but I can get to a place where a difficult, seriously painful, “this is fucking hard” level of pain gets transformed into “pure sexual fun.” Albeit on a more intense level.

But then, as soon as the “harder than I want” level of pain becomes “pure sexual fun,” it stops being harder than I want.

And I want it to be harder than I want.

Hence, the paradox.

The other way this paradox plays out is almost purely mental. Again: A lot of the reason I want to be hurt harder than I want is that it gets me into a particular emotional state: a state where I feel helpless, out of control, like my desires don’t matter and I’m just a toy in my partner’s hands. I like these emotional states. I get off on them.

But as soon as I start letting myself experience the erotic pleasure of force and submission and being a helpless fuck toy… then, paradoxically, it gets harder to lose myself in the fantasy that it’s against my will. It becomes harder to forget that I negotiated it, orchestrated it, possibly even begged for it. Pain that’s harder than I want it to be catapults me into this experience that I very much want.

And I want it to be harder than I want.

And once again — paradox.

Infinite regress
There’s an infinite regress quality to this paradox as well. Once I’ve adjusted to the higher, harder level of pain, once the pain that was harder than I like has become pain that I just like… the obvious way out of the paradox, at least temporarily, is to go even harder. But there’s an obvious law of diminishing returns to that. Just like there’s some spicy food that’s just too fucking spicy, so spicy it’s actively unpleasant and even inedible, there’s a level of pain that I really and truly do not like and cannot tolerate. I’m obviously not going to let my arm get broken or something just so I can keep dialing up the heat.

So I’m thinking about what it is that I’m looking for here — what the actual crux of the “harder than I like” experience is.

Some of this conundrum, of course, has to do with the difference between fantasy and reality. Real pain in your body feels rather different from pretend pain imagined or re-created in your brain. In my masochistic whack-off fantasies, when I’m somebody’s helpless fuck toy being hurt harder than I think I can take and having to take it anyway… it doesn’t actually, physically hurt. Actual pain does actually hurt. It’s complicated, it’s challenging. It’s, you know, painful. And when actual pain is harder than I like, it’s… well, it’s harder than I like. Fantasy pain, even “harder than I want it” fantasy pain, always feels exactly how I want it to feel. Both physically and emotionally.

But there’s more to it than that. If this were just about the difference between the reality of erotic pain and the fantasy of it, then erotic pain would be strictly in my “like to fantasize about it/ don’t actually like to do it” category. And that’s clearly not the case. There’s real pleasure here, and real connection, and real, deep satisfaction, in the actual, physical, real-world pain. Including, and in some ways especially, pain that’s harder than I like.

I’m still thinking this one through, and if people have thoughts or insights about it from their own experience, I’d very much like to hear them. But I have a partial, provisional theory.

I think at least part of this phenomenon has to do with that moment of dropping.

I think the “liking it harder than I like it” experience I’m talking about is the moment of dropping from struggle to surrender. It’s the moment when I stop hanging on to control, and let myself drop into my partner’s hands. It’s the moment when my body drops into the endorphin bath my brain is generating. It’s the moment when I let go of trying to make the world go the way I want it to, and let myself drop into experiencing the world as it is. It’s the moment when I go over the top of the rollercoaster, and drop into the long, fast fall.

But that moment of dropping is just that: a moment. It’s almost impossible to create on purpose: all we can do is put ourselves, and one another, into a state where we’re open to it. And kind of by definition, a moment of dropping can’t be sustained. What with it being a moment and all.

Again, I think part of the conundrum here has to do with the difference between fantasy and reality. In my fantasies, I can experience that moment of dropping, that soaring rise up over the top of the rollercoaster… whenever I want, and as often as I want. And I can stretch that moment out for as long as I want.

In reality, though, these moments are more elusive. They’re a whole fucking lot more intense than they are in fantasy, what with them being real and all. But they can’t be forced. We can create conditions where they’re more likely to happen, but trying to force them will actually chase them away, and trying to capture and keep them will make them slip through our fingers. Moments when we feel alive, conscious, present in the world and in the moment and with one another… those are rare, hard to create and harder to sustain.

But it sure is fun to try.

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6 thoughts on “Harder

  1. 1

    Interesting column, and I know what you mean. To put it another way, this sounds like a real-world version of one of my favorite semi-joking observations:
    Q: What does a true sadist do to a true masochist?
    A: Absolutely nothing.

    Enjoy your search!

  2. 2

    I think it comes down to pushing limits, playing with those edges. Even with something pretty directly physical, there’s ultimately an emotional limit; finally giving up that level of control and letting go is a good expression of it. You’re giving up to the process. And it’s in the process where you can continue to take it deeper without simply increasing the obvious pain. Deliberately layering emotional or mental elements (i.e. mindfucks) can help push those limits when you’ve reached literal physical limits (like potentially breaking bones, rather than just outright pain).

  3. 3

    Thank you for this most intimate post Greta.
    I can relate on all levels and in doing so can only add this.
    I am a soul with a body, not a body with a soul.
    That being said, when i am in that place where i long to be, my skin is stripped away and i am no longer seeing with my eyes, hearing with my ears or feeling with my skin.
    I am free.

  4. 4

    I know exactly what this feels like. I LOVE CBT and my ex could make me squirm like crazy. There were two levels: the endorphin-y and the if-you-don’t-stop-i’m-going-to-have-to-safeword.
    I loved taking it. I’d have to continue to pleasure her while she made me feel agony.
    It got to the point where we trusted each other enough that I couldn’t safeword. (I am always reticent to admit that, cos it’s so taboo to some people, but we never did anything outside of SSC)
    I loved saying “red! red! RED REDREDREDREDRED!” and she wouldn’t stop.
    But your paradox was there. I loved it, I was her toy, at her whim, but I enjoyed it so conversely it wasn’t enough.
    I don’t think it’s never enough. Like you mentioned, the in-your-head fantasies are what we strive to feel in the real world and we never get close.
    But we never stop trying!

  5. 5

    Could a more developed verbal component help reset the limits? Becoming another person’s fucktoy involves you; when the situation shifts from you breaking down into submission to your actually becoming inert and irrelevant (outside of your physical self), you’re no longer there. There is a desired endpoint that extinguishes the desirer. If you keep protesting, finding reserves of resolve…or if you rp well enough to set a very low threshold for what you will can take, possibly you could talk yourself into having more than you want become something that could easily be exceeded again and again. I know, it’s still episodic, but as you so eloquently stated, you’re looking for episodes.

  6. 6

    I don’t have anything helpful or interesting to offer, but I’m a sub who has been alone for six months after six years of always having at least one dom, living in a small town with very few friends who have even the slightest comprehension of the strange stuff I’m into. It’s lonely out here. So I really, really needed this post. It’s good to remember that other people have similar experiences and dilemmas and needs, and you beautifully articulated some of the things I can only think of wordlessly. Thanks, Greta.

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