8 Things to Remember About Pain Play | 30 Days of D/s
There are no “standards” in BDSM and kinky fun. The only standards are the ones you set with your partner — those you’ve discussed thoroughly and consented to, and those can change over time. So just because “everyone” (it’s never everyone) seems to enjoy playing with pain doesn’t mean you have to. You can absolutely reject it as part of a power exchange relationship or your kinky life and that’s okay. But also, like every other part of BDSM, pain is a lot more complex and subjective than what we think we know about it.
If you’re trying to figure out if you want to play with pain as part of your kinky life, keep these things in mind.
Pain is Subjective from Person to Person
One person’s, “Holy fucking shit that hurts like a motherfucker! Make it stop!!” is another person’s, “Fuuuuuuuck yes, give me more of that!” So when we say we don’t like pain, we mean we don’t like our definition of bad pain. Granted, for some people, all pain is bad pain. But for a masochist or a submissive willing to submit to these sensations, that’s not true at all.
If you’re willing (and only then), play with different sensations like tapping, thumping, smacking, buzzing, heat, etc. to figure out how you feel about sensations that fall within the spectrum of “pain.” You may find there are certain sensations that you don’t consider a bad pain and would like to experience at some point.
Pain is Subjective Moment to Moment
A smack on the ass that I handled with ease yesterday might be unbearable today. It depends on a lot of factors:
- How my body physically feels
- How my mind feels
- The intensity of the smack
- The angle of the strike
- Whether a toy or hand is being used
- Whether I’m in a submissive frame of mind (for any reason)
It’s important to communicate these changes to a partner so they can adjust the sensations for you. When you learn the signs of what affects how you feel pain, you’ll be better able to communicate it ahead of time, too.
It’s Okay to Like Only Specific Pain
You can only want and enjoy a specific painful sensation and fully embrace the label “masochist” if you want. Being a masochist doesn’t mean you lose all rights, limits, and desires. Some masochists might be up for any painful sensation they can get, but many of us want specific sensations only. We might be open to experimenting and trying new things, but we also get to determine our own boundaries, too.
Once you figure out what you like and what you don’t, it’s important to communicate that with partners. It’s not enough to say, “I like pain” — that’s too general. What kind of sensations do you enjoy the most?
Pain is More Than Sting or Thud
Pain can feel like so many things. The sting vs. thud choice tends to come up most in impact play with spankos determining if they prefer a stinging burn or a thuddy smack. But there are so many other ways to describe and feel sensations. Pain Play for Everyone by Luna Carruthers has a great section on different types of pain. We tend to talk about pain in very simplistic terms but what we’re capable of feeling — and enjoying — is much more complex than that.
Knowing exactly what you enjoy makes it easier to let your partner know what does and doesn’t work for you. It offers more thorough and clearer information that allows you both to figure out how best to play with pain together.
Any Toy Can Hurt Like Hell…or Not
I don’t love canes. I don’t completely loathe them, but they’re not my favorite. That’s because, when John Brownstone puts any intensity behind it, I feel painful sensations I hate. But that doesn’t mean the cane always hurts. It’s about how it’s wielded. The meanest cane can be used for light taps that don’t cause pain. The nicest, gentlest flogger can sting like fire.
Pain Isn’t Always Physical
While I love a good thump on my ass, I also enjoy humiliation play (within my limits). This is a form of pain that’s more mental than physical, although I often experience it within my body as much as my mind. Think sweating, blushing, holding my body in a lower or smaller position than usual. Enjoying being called “mean” (again that’s subjective) names or made to do things that embarrass you makes you just as much a masochist as someone who wants to be beaten until they’re bruised.
It’s Okay to Reject Painful Play
You don’t have to be into pain play at all. It’s not a requirement for power exchange. Submissives aren’t automatically masochists and Dominants aren’t automatically sadists. Thinking that way often leads to disappointment or unnecessary worry. Outside of power exchange, kinky fuckery is about sensation, and there are infinite sensations to experience that aren’t painful. Go forth and find the sensations that feel good to you.
S/m Doesn’t Always Equate to D/s
In power exchange relationships, someone dominates and the other submits. Maybe these are static roles, or maybe you switch. But in many other types of kinky play (like Sadism/masochism), it’s not always about that kind of relationship. It’s about topping and bottoming — how you experience the activity. So yes, a Dominant partner can be a masochist — a person who wants to receive and experience pain. And yes, a submissive can be a sadist and enjoy dishing out pain to a willing partner. They may do this with each other or they may have other partners to play with. Bottoming or topping with specific activities doesn’t negate your power exchange role.
As part of 30 Days of D/s, we include a prompt that asks participants to think about how they feel about pain. Not because everyone will be into it. But because we’d rather you take time to consider how you feel about it without making assumptions about what “everyone” is into or what D/s is “supposed” to be. Knowing where you stand (at least for right now) on pain helps you better advocate for yourself, communicate your needs, and figure out how you’d like to navigate kinky play with current or new partners.
Want to figure out your D/s self? Sign up for our free 30 Days of D/s email program and receive daily prompts in your inbox for a month. You can use them as private journal prompts, conversation starters with a partner, or within your own kink community as discussion topics.