By Lisabet Sarai
Much of my erotic fiction includes aspects of dominance and submission -- partly because that's what pushes my personal buttons. One of the most perplexing aspects of BDSM, for people without real world experience, is the question of how pain could be arousing. In a consensual BDSM scenario, both the dom and the sub supposedly enjoy what's going on. But how could activities that hurt be enjoyable?
The answer to this question is multi-faceted. At the biological level, there is significant evidence that sexual arousal changes pain thresholds and pain perception, although the mechanisms underlying these changes are not completely understood. Both hormones (epinephrine and norepinephrine) and endogenous opiates ("endorphins") are believed to play a role. Thus, experienced dominants will often "warm up" a submissive, starting with less extreme pain and mixing it with sexual stimulation, before moving to more painful activities. To put it succinctly, when you're horny, things don't hurt as much!
Meanwhile, there are many psychological factors that motivate a submissive to accept or even desire pain administered by the dominant. One aspect involves conditioning. When painful and pleasurable stimuli are experienced together, the sub "learns" to associate pain with pleasure. For example, the bottom may be penetrated with a vibrator (normally an arousing activity) while being whipped. Eventually whipping alone may evoke a sexual response.
The submissive also derives emotional satisfaction from the notion that the master is getting off, even though the dominant's pleasure may require the sub to endure significant pain. Every relationship is different, but this aspect of submission -- devotion to the dom and dedication to pleasing him -- was one of the most potent aspects of my own BDSM experience.
Still, the cut of a cane, the sting of a crop or the burn of melting wax don't stop being painful, no matter how much you love your master. I remember introspecting once, in a scene that involved rubber bands and a wooden ruler, thinking "What am I doing? Am I crazy? That hurts like hell!" Yet I didn't tell my master to stop. I didn't want him to stop - far from it. The pain somehow just pushed me higher - I wanted more intensity, not less.
I started out trying to explain the appeal of pain in a D/s context, but I find that at its heart, it truly is a mystery. Maybe it's just something you have to experience. Or perhaps you can understand, a bit, if you can identify strongly enough with a fictional heroine. Here's a snippet from my story "The Understudy", in the upcoming anthology Master Me:
“You’re late.” He didn’t rise to greet me.
“I’m sorry, sir…I fell asleep.” Desperation clutched at my throat at the notion that I had displeased him.
“Excuses will not help you escape punishment.”
“Punishment?” A thrill rippled through me, of fear or desire, possibly both.
“Come here, Sarah.” He patted his lap. “I hadn’t planned on spanking you so soon, but you give me no choice, do you? I need to teach you. If you are going to be mine, you must obey me completely—or face the consequences.”
“Um—yes, sir,” I mumbled as I stretched myself across his body.
I couldn’t believe that I was doing this, willingly it seemed. Gripping the chair arm, I leant my cheek against the upholstery. He was so much bigger than I was. My chest, belly and thighs rested on his lap. My lower legs hung awkwardly on the other side, toes just touching the floor.
His flesh was warm under his slacks. I could feel the muscles shift as he adjusted my position. His scent tickled my nostrils, summer sweat and expensive cologne intermingled. I could smell my pussy, too, ripe and salty, announcing my brazen arousal. He flipped my skirt up over my back, exposing my panty-less bottom.
“I do like your attempts to follow my instructions,” he commented, his voice softer and more intimate.
He brushed his hand across my bare butt. Every contact between his skin and mine struck sparks.
“You’ll learn better how to please me over time.” He dipped a sudden finger into my sopping cleft, gathering my juices, and chuckled. “You’re remarkably wet, Sarah. You want this, don’t you? You want to feel the sting of my palm on your ass.”
I thought I’d die of shame. I burrowed into the cushions, hoping the question was rhetorical.
He dabbled his fingers in my cunt, making me squirm. “Well? Answer me!” He pinched my butt hard.
“Ow! Um—I can’t…”
His gentle fingers stroked my hair, working out the tangles. “Tell me, little one,” he practically whispered. “Don’t be afraid. You can tell me the truth. Do you want me to spank you?”
That hint of tenderness broke me. “Yes,” I moaned, as he plunged deeper into my pussy. “Yes, please…”
Without warning, he withdrew his fingers from my sex. I didn’t have time to cry out at the loss of contact.
I heard the smack an instant before I felt the sting of his palm meeting my ass.
He slapped me again, on the other cheek. The site of the first blow pulsed as the sharp pain morphed into something quite different. Tendrils of sensation blossomed, travelled, twined their way around my clit. His hand landed again, near the first spot, amplifying both the pain and the pleasure.
“Ouch! Ow! Oh—ow!”
He spanked me harder and faster. Each slap hurt more than the one before. Each brought the seething cauldron in my pussy closer to a boil.
“Ah! Ow! Ow, ow...argh!” My bottom was on fire. I jerked each time his hand connected.
He paused. “Should I stop?” The mocking knowledge in his voice made my face burn as hot as my bum.
“Um—no—well, it’s up to you, sir.”
“I suggest that you not cry out so loudly, then. The walls in these old buildings tend to be thin. Maybe I should gag you. Would you like that?”
I had a terrifying vision of my mouth stuffed with one of his monogrammed handkerchiefs, unable to cry, scarcely able to breathe. My pussy clenched and flooded at the image. I shook my head, stripped of every remaining shred of pride.
Fortunately my gesture was enough to satisfy him. He resumed his assault on my ravaged buttocks, each smack more vicious than the one before. I writhed in his lap, my mouth pressed against the cushions to muffle my yells, tears leaking from the corners of my eyes. I raised myself on tiptoe, trying to escape his inescapable blows. I couldn’t help myself. He forced me back down without breaking his rhythm.
It seemed to go on and on. After a while, I found myself floating in a throbbing crimson haze. The bite of his blows seemed far away. My cunt felt heavy, swollen, ready to burst, but there was no urgency. I was willing to lie there forever and be punished, for as long as he thought necessary.
Very peculiar indeed. But don't knock it until you've tried it.