Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Am I a Masochist?

Do you remember when I told you that I wouldn't participate in any online discussions for a while? Well, how long did that resolution last? Hmm, maybe two weeks? But it wasn't my fault! You really can't blame me for the fact that Erica Scott writes such thought-provoking posts, can you? Luckily, this time the discussion was one of the interesting and absolutely positive ones. Because Erica has two clear rules on her blog: 1) Different opinions are always welcome. 2) Flame wars and rudeness towards other commenters are prohibited.

So, what was the discussion all about? It was about the definition of the word masochism and the question whether any of the readers consider themselves masochists. Most of the commenters agreed with Erica that they weren't masochists. In short, there were three main arguments for that point of view: 1) People who don't like to play very hard (= seek a high amount of pain) aren't masochistic. 2) Spanking is more about the headspace and the fantasies than about the pain for most people, so these spankees aren't real masochists. 3) A masochist would seek any form of pain at any time, the more the better. So, people who don't like pain in certain areas of their bodies (i.e. have no-play areas, like for example the breasts or the feet) and who hate forms of pain that don't have to do with spanking (like headaches) aren't masochistic.

There were different definitions and points of view, too, among them one that resonated very well with my definition, but they were the minority. In addition to masochism, other terms came up as well in the discussion like submission and bottom. Interestingly, many of the commenters seemed to have less issues with the term submissive, the term I always had the biggest issues with, while masochist seemed to have a very negative connotation for some of them. Some comments about more severe forms of play occurred, for example about these "masochistic" Russian girls who participate in the more severe films, about pictures of more severe marks that had scared some of the commenters and about possible risks of more severe play without a proper warm-up.

The comments weren't offensive, but they showed fears that were connected with more severe play. Obviously, for some commenters, the term masochism described a dangerous form of pain-seeking which showed in very severe and therefore possibly damaging forms of spanking play. Being someone who had issues with severe play myself and who has now made positive experiences with this form of play, I decided to enter the discussion and share some of my thoughts with the other readers.

I started with an overview of my definitions for the different terms that had been mentioned in the discussion:

First of all, I would like to distinguish between pathological sadism and affectionate erotic sadism. The former is the kind of sadism that for example some killers and rapists are diagnosed with. It's a mental dysfunction based on the fact that these people aren't able to feel any compassion and therefore enjoy torturing others. Of course, this is NOT what we are talking about in the context of erotic spanking at all! My definition for the erotic form of sadism is: An erotic sadist is someone who enjoys inflicting pain in a consensual (erotic) setting. Usually this goes along with affection for the “victim”.

I'm not sure whether there are two forms of masochism as well. Maybe one could say that the mental dysfunction that makes some people who feel completely numb need pain regularly in order to feel alive at all is a form of masochism, too. Again, this is not the form of masochism that plays a role in spanking play. My definition for the erotic form of masochism is: An erotic masochist is someone who enjoys receiving pain in a consensual (erotic) setting.

Given those two definitions, I consider myself to be both, a masochist and a sadist. Like Erica, I don't enjoy any form of non-erotic pain like headaches. I only play with people I trust, I usually prefer a certain amount of pain only and a warm-up, I've got certain no-spanking areas, I only enjoy the pain in combination with certain fantasies and so on. But still I think that I am a masochist because at least in combination with some of my fantasies mere love-taps don't do it for me (that was a point that had been made by another commenter, too). And I'm a sadist as well because when I switch I enjoy inflicting pain on someone who enjoys receiving it.

Concerning submission and domination: For me the former means that someone enjoys being controlled by another person (and giving in to that control) and the latter means to enjoy controlling another person. Concerning erotic play of course consent, respecting limits and so on are the framework for this power dynamics. I don't consider myself submissive or dominant in the context of my relationship or in the context of spanking play in general. But there are very special play scenarios (with my partner only) in which I can enjoy being submissive or being dominant.

And, last but not least: Top and bottom. For me, these terms only say something about the side on which someone likes to play. In my definition a bottom simply is someone who enjoys to be on the receiving end of a spanking (for whatever reason) and a top someone who enjoys being on the giving end. A switch enjoys both positions. According to that definition I'm a switch with a higher preference for playing on the bottom side.

I added a few words about severe play and health as well which I don't want to repeat here, as you all now my stance on that point. In case you don't, you can read more about my experiences in my recent post Healthy Severity. I also wrote a few sentences about how I see the connection between more severe forms of play and masochism. I would like to share those with you as well:

I am into more severe play from time to time and I know several people who are. Some of them have also made severe spanking films (for example for Lupus Pictures). But most of the people I know don't enjoy the pain during such a severe spanking at all, it's either about flying afterwards or about the experience of letting go.

As you know, I neither fly after a severe scene nor do I want to let go. For me it's all about my heroine fantasies and about combining both, a challenge and healthy play. While I can enjoy lighter forms of pain, though, the pain during a severe scene isn't enjoyable for me at all. When everything goes well, it's bearable, but joy is something different...

So, I would love to hear your definitions of the different terms! What do or don't you consider yourself to be? Have you got issues with any of the terms? And what do you think: Are people who play harder (from time to time) also the bigger masochists? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!

9 comments:

Respecting Mistress said...

Kaelah,

Great to see you're resolution wasn't so resolute after all. I really love your thought-provoking posts. I only wish I was able to articulate my thoughts as well as you.

Am I a masochist? I think I am until the punishment starts whihc push me way over my pain threshold (just to see what happens) but then I'm not so sure. But then why do I always want more when Mistress has finished - and what makes me come back, time and again to chase than same buzz?

I've always been keen to suffer severe punishments but the thought of the kind of deep cuts you see in some of the videos you talk about would simply scares me too much. So maybe I'm not masochistic enough?

But then I'm not sure about any of the labels. I don't really buy into the train of thought that you are only a masochists if you play to high levels of pain. Surely the simple fact I like to feel the sting of a cane means I have masochistic tendancies? I've always known different people have different pain thresholds. I'm my head, there's no need for a league table to determine who is more masochistic than someone else.

I actually like your suggestion of being 'an erotic masochist' but I'm also an erotic submissive because most of the time I don't like playing a submissive role - I even doubt I could sustain it full time in my relationship with Mistress. But then again we'll probably never get the opportunity

So maybe that means I'm not submissive at all..... but then I melt when Mistress does adopt a more domineering role - but would I want to live that regime 24/7 for ever? I'm not sure. But then again.....

If it sound like I'm mocking, please accpet my apologies - but I'm not. I'm simply trying to come to terms with my own thoughts - as well as the questions you've posed. It's all so confusing. Mistress asked me a couple of searching questions tonight which I've just blogged about - and I was just confused over them.

But one thing I'm sure of, I'm definitely a bottom in terms our the erotic, sexual side of our relationship. And there's no hint in my head of wanting that any other way.

Annapurna said...

My dear Kaelah,

If you were to ask me whether I thought you were a masochist, my answer would be, “Of course you’re not!” But I don’t think you’re canvasing opinions regarding your own state of mind.

If you were to ask me the same question, I would have to say, yes, but not always, and not in every circumstance.

Erica did provide a good dictionary definition of masochism so I won’t repeat it here, but I would like to add, at least from a societal point of view, a masochist, for most people, is anyone who is a glutton for punishment, both metal and physical. So am I a glutton for pain?

Masochism as a term is overused and often improperly applied. Calling someone a masochist is about as useful as calling that individual neurotic or schizophrenic, terms that are also widely misapplied. It may be more useful to talk of masochism as it applies to a specific behavior, a state of mind in a given situation, or a particular emotional reaction rather than using the word to label someone, and thereby reduce that person’s entire existence to a narrowly defined category, a category that carries a pejorative connotation.

Nevertheless, are there people who could be classified as being masochists? Perhaps, I’ve certainly done so, but I must admit there are some individuals who seem to fit the category perfectly. Such a person may carry a slave mentality, for example, and be obsessed with dungeon scenes in which he or she is whipped or beaten indiscriminately simply for the joy of pain and whatever humiliation is thrown in, such as degrading insults, urination, defecation, and even torture and various forms of deprivation. But I firmly believe such people are quite rare.

As I have admitted several times on the blog you share with Ludwig, I like to be spanked on my bottom, preferable over the knee or lap, and by Tigger, the only person I trust in this regard. In this context I enjoy feeling pain, but not humiliation or degradation, which would be more hurtful than any spanking. While being spanked, I don’t employ any fantasies that I’m aware of other than the sensation of feeling more feminine as a result of the spanking. Does this behavior make me a masochist? In this narrow context, I would have to say yes. Are there any other areas in my life that show masochistic behavior or thinking? Again, I would have to say yes, but my exploring these areas would take the discussion too far from the topic of spanking/caning and its relationship to masochism.

So when does masochistic behavior become problematic? That’s a good question, which I hope to explore in my next post if I may.

Annapurna said...

My dear Kaelah,

At some point, those of us who assume a submissive role on a regular basis may begin to wonder whether we’re masochists or whether being submissive is dysfunctional at some level. While the issue of being a masochist has not been a problem for me in the past, the potential dysfunctional aspect of my interest in spanking, both as a switch and as a submissive, certainly has caused me to wonder about my own sanity. But I’m probably not alone in feeling that my preoccupation with spanking is somehow wrong, bad, or simply crazy. So when does an interest in spanking, caning, or flogging become a problem for the submissive who may feel that he or she could be a masochist, at least some of the time?

Psychotherapists view a specific behavior to be problematic when it causes a major disturbance in a person’s daily functioning that leads to offender behavior, a decline in school or work performance, a disruption of important interpersonal relationships, considerable intrapsychic conflict, or is deemed to be non-life affirming. Any behavior that doesn’t cause a major disturbance but seems to fall outside the norm is considered a life-style choice or simply an eccentricity of only minor importance.

Offender behavior is seldom a problem for those of us who are considered to be “masochistic.” Because we are always on the receiving end, there is no perpetrator behavior and there’s nothing to prosecute, unless the chastisement takes place in public. In that case we could be charged with various violations, such as disturbing the peace, indecent exposure, or lewd and lascivious conduct. But public spankings, canings, or floggings are extremely rare, and for those of us who get a “charge” out of such experiences tend to be very careful about discovery so getting caught is a very rare occurrence indeed.

A decline in school or work performance that can be directly linked to spanking, caning, or flogging would be seen as problematic. There are numerous reasons why this decline in performance might take place, far too many to list here. We might, for example, become overly fixated on spanking to the point where our concentration is considerably impaired. We might spend too much time reading about spanking stories, viewing online spanking, caning, or flogging videos, or dreaming about our next spanking, caning, or flogging encounter that we don’t have enough time or energy for our school or work duties. In short our impulses in regards to spanking, caning, or flogging become overpowering, pervasive, and intrusive to the point that they cause us to fall behind in our studies, do poorly on tests, fail to submit key papers on time, fall behind in our work schedule, or simply produce work of substandard quality. This poor school or work performance usually shows up as declining grades or mediocre work evaluations. In more severe cases, we are forced to drop out of school or get fired from our job.

(To be continued)

Florin said...

I agree entirely with the statements and analysis of the post, appearing in Italics and centered around the: "Given those two definitions, I consider myself to be both, a masochist and a sadist."
So well and complete, I could not add to, improve, or dissent to any of it.
I admire this column/corner very much and this is why: it rewrites with an unified personal perspective all those topics written about in related literature, be it formal and scientific, or rantings.

Ludwig said...

As some of you may have noticed, Blogger had a major hiccup last week, which resulted in any posts / comments made after the restore point they eventually went back to getting lost.

No posts by Kaelah or me were affected, but two comments disappeared - one here, one under another post. I was informed of the comments per email, as I always am, so I still have them and I am able to restore them. See below.

Respecting Mistress said...

Kaelah,

Great to see you're resolution wasn't so resolute after all. I really love your thought-provoking posts. I only wish I was able to articulate my thoughts as well as you.

Am I a masochist? I think I am until the punishment starts whihc push me way over my pain threshold (just to see what happens) but then I'm not so sure. But then why do I always want more when Mistress has finished - and what makes me come back, time and again to chase than same buzz?

I've always been keen to suffer severe punishments but the thought of the kind of deep cuts you see in some of the videos you talk about would simply scares me too much. So maybe I'm not masochistic enough?

But then I'm not sure about any of the labels. I don't really buy into the train of thought that you are only a masochists if you play to high levels of pain. Surely the simple fact I like to feel the sting of a cane means I have masochistic tendancies? I've always known different people have different pain thresholds. I'm my head, there's no need for a league table to determine who is more masochistic than someone else.

I actually like your suggestion of being 'an erotic masochist' but I'm also an erotic submissive because most of the time I don't like playing a submissive role - I even doubt I could sustain it full time in my relationship with Mistress. But then again we'll probably never get the opportunity

So maybe that means I'm not submissive at all..... but then I melt when Mistress does adopt a more domineering role - but would I want to live that regime 24/7 for ever? I'm not sure. But then again.....

If it sound like I'm mocking, please accpet my apologies - but I'm not. I'm simply trying to come to terms with my own thoughts - as well as the questions you've posed. It's all so confusing. Mistress asked me a couple of searching questions tonight which I've just blogged about - and I was just confused over them.

But one thing I'm sure of, I'm definitely a bottom in terms our the erotic, sexual side of our relationship. And there's no hint in my head of wanting that any other way.

Kaelah said...

@ Respecting Mistress:
Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts! And I don't think that you sound like you're mocking. I'm sometimes confused about my kink as well and writing about my thoughts often helps me to sort out my mind. :-)


@ Annapurna:
Thanks for your comments!

It seems to me that for you the word masochist has a rather negative connotation. I only use it as a kind of description for my preferences. When I say “I'm a masochist, a switch and sometimes also dominant or submissive” it is almost the same for me as saying “I like heavy metal, but not so much avant-garde metal, and I like progressive rock, but I'm not into pop music”. Of course these labels don't tell too much about me as a person, but they can give others a first impression of my preferences.

I think you are right about the question of when a certain behaviour or preference becomes problematic. To my mind SM isn't dysfunctional, unless it affects someone's daily life in a negative way and causes a major disturbance.


@ Florin:
Thank you very much for your kind comment! :-) I haven't got any scientific background regarding spanking or psychology in general, though, all I do is to write about my own observations and thoughts.

Annapurna said...

Hi Kaelah,

I hope you didn't misunderstand my comments.

I, in fact, don't consider being a masochist to be negative at all or to carry a negative connotation. For the most part, I consider myself to be masochistic, and carry no guilt about this observation.

I was only trying to expound upon the idea of when being a masochist could be a potential problem, and nothing more.

I was hoping to finish my thoughts on the subject, but perhaps that would not be a good idea after all?

Kaelah said...

@ Annapurna:
It seems like I got you slightly wrong then. I thought you might connect masochism with rather “extreme” forms of play only. That's what I meant with “rather negative connotation”. I'm totally with you about the distinction between harmful and not harmful forms of submission or masochism, though. And of course you are welcome to finish your thoughts on the subject!

What has become of your idea to run your own blog, by the way? It seems to me that you've got so many thoughts on your mind that you wouldn't have any problem with publishing posts regularly. :-)