Pleasure and Pain

Simon Sheppard,

Most of us draw a pretty firm distinction between "That feels fucking great" and "Ouch!" But for some guys, the line between pleasure and pain is so fine as to be invisible. Whether it's a matter of enduring whippings, being subjected to elaborate ball torture, or just getting slapped around, hurt makes many a horny homo happy.

"I first found out I like getting my ass paddled a few years ago," says one self-described spanking slut, "when a boyfriend gave me a few exploratory swats. It made me tingle all over, and got my prick extra-hard. Since then, I've learned to enjoy taking more and more. And more."

What accounts for this seeming confusion between feelings to be sought and experiences to be shunned? Says one longtime participant in the SM scene, "There are almost as many explanations as there are bottoms. Is enjoying the consensual infliction of pain a matter of internalized homophobia, arrested sexual development, a testing of personal limits, or just wanting to have a hot time on Saturday night? Well, sure...and plenty of other stuff, too."

Certainly, suffering – or, as some aficionados prefer to term it, "intense sensation" – can, in the right circumstances, provide a powerful high, thanks to the pain-prompted production of endorphins, the body's natural opiates. Says another bottom, "When my partner play-pierces me, sliding needles into my chest, whatever initial discomfort I might feel melts into a fuzzy cloud of pleasure."

But sometimes pain just plain hurts, and that can be part of the sexy fun, too. Maybe it goes with the hardwired territory. Our longtime SM-er says, "Hey, have you ever seen cats fucking? There's all this biting and scratching, and nobody accuses them of being perverts."

Well-executed leathersex scenes aren't a simple case of butch brutality. A good top knows how to ramp things up, expanding a bottom's tolerance for pain, and an experienced bottom is able to profitably process what's inflicted.

And it's not a case of one sadomasochistic size fitting all: not everyone likes their nipples worked over; and a knee in the nuts may leave one guy enjoyably aching, but another ready to bolt out the bedroom door. "A big part of the challenge," confides one veteran SM top, "is figuring out where a new partner's limits are, and then taking him there. Go too easy and he'll get bored. Get too rough and the scene collapses."

Conversely, a bottom's reaction may well depend on who's doing the beating. Says one fellow, "I've been with guys I've liked and trusted and let them flog me hard. But there were others who had no idea of how to make me feel good by making me feel bad, so I safeworded out of the scene."

If you're going to mess around with kink, preplay negotiation is vital. It's important to keep in mind the "safe, sane, and consensual" guidelines of experienced players. Know both your limits and those of your partner, and don't bite off more than you can kinkily chew. It takes a practiced hand to safely swing a single-tailed whip, and a man with a certain amount of tolerance to enjoy its stinging blows. Our veteran player says, "It concerns me that novices will see pictures of SM play on the Internet and do something stupid that might cause permanent harm. And that goes double for edgy activities like piercings, cuttings, and stressful bondage."

There's no doubt that – despite the increasing visibility of the SM scene – pain play still has a bad reputation among some queer men. "There's something screwed up," says one, "some wires crossed somewhere." But perhaps that forbidden edginess is part of the fun. As another confirmed kinkster says, "The leather-community propaganda that makes SM play seem innocuous is, in my view, off base. Playing with pain is like playing with fire...and playing with fire can be a helluva lot of fun."

There's nothing wrong, of course, with preferring "gentle" to "jolting," nor with dabbling instead of plunging in. For every homo with a closetful of leatherwear and a penchant for being worked over weekly, there are no doubt several who enjoy an occasional spanking as a bit of spice. So whether you crave the caress of titclamps or want to make your boyfriend's butt turn red, you might want to give an owie or two a try.

Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion

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