Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me." Then the Lord said to him, "Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him.
Book of Genesis, Chapter 4, Verses 13-15
(Gustave Dore, "The Death of Abel", 1866)
It is said that after Cain slew his brother Abel, God placed a curse on him, forcing Cain to wander the earth for the rest of his life because he would be unable to grow crops. He also put a mark on Cain as a warning that whoever harmed him would face God's wrath. To this day, there is debate among Biblical scholars about the passage. What exactly did the mark look like? Was it visible or more of an "aura"? Was it to alert others to the presence of the murderer? And why did God keep Cain alive and protected?
Even as a non-believer, I find this Bible tale quite intriguing. Especially after I heard in a literature class that the German writer Klaus Mann considered his homosexuality to be a "Mark of Cain". He felt that, rather than being shameful, it was something that enobled him and made him a member of an exclusive elite. I don't know if Mann ever used the specific term himself, but the comparison with the mark has stuck with me ever since.
Somehow, it appeals very strongly to me as a spanko. Kinky people aren't murderers, of course, but we are still seen as immoral or objectionable by some groups. We don't have a visible mark (although we sometimes use handkerchief signs), but in a way, we are like Cain - he was unable to grow crops and thereby lead a normal life, we are unable to be fully content just with vanilla sex. So we often become wanderers and seekers, in a metaphorical sense. Whether it is true or not, I also liked the story about Klaus Mann and how he turned the (even worse) prejudices of his time around - choosing to view his "affliction" as a blessing rather than a curse.
I think it's a question we all ask ourselves at some point: why am I different? Why am I turned on by spanking, corporal punishment or bondage when most people are not? Why do I gleefully fantasize about whippings or torture when I certainly don't support the real, non-consensual thing? What is it that "marks me out"?
Scientists have dozens of theories, but no consensus on the phenomenon of BDSM. Psychologically, it is often categorized as a "disorder of sexual preference" - not a full-blown pathology that is harmful and needs to be cured, but unusual none the less. We knew it's unusual, but how does it arise? And how much can science tell us about our strangely ineffable desires, anyway? Isn't that a fruitless approach, and moreover, doesn't it threaten to take away the mystique we hold so dear?
Personally, I think scientific theories are interesting and have their place. Needless to say, they don't explain "everything". But they don't diminish the fascination of erotic CP for me, either. It's simply another angle of looking at it. Take another example: imagine that you're looking up at the stars in the night sky, and it fills you with awe. You could describe everything that is happening here in scientific terms: stars are huge masses of mostly hydrogen and helium, they produce visible light through nuclear fusion, the light hits your retina and causes impulses that are transmitted to your brain through the optic nerve, those result in certain neurochemical processes, and that is why you feel the way you feel.
I wouldn't say that this is a "wrong" description. It's certainly valid in its way and quite informative - but also very incomplete. Third-person science can never capture the human experience of what it's like to see the night sky and feel this tremendous wonder. That's not even the scientist's job, really. His task is to give us one very specific type of account that explains certain aspects of what is going on. But you can't simply "reduce" the phenomenon to a purely scientific description, because a lot of questions remain open - and usually they're the real interesting ones. Like, why does it feel like that to see the stars? And why should it feel like anything at all? How can we even bridge this mysterious gap between the physical world and our subjective mental states?
Before I get all philosophical, let's return to BDSM. It's really the same thing in regards to scientific theory. One popular approach focuses on endorphins. Your brain produces them when you experience pain, and it's somewhat similar to a marathon runner's "high" or the afterglow of orgasm. We even know that just looking at another human being in pain, or fantasizing about it, can have a similar effect - a sort of sympathetic response. So maybe that's part of the reason why we are "floating on clouds" after an exciting scene or why we enjoy watching spanking movies.
I think all of this is fabulously interesting stuff. But again, it's a very limited way of looking at erotic CP. Like the "nuclear fusion" description of the night sky, it only covers one particular aspect. To say that we spankos are "endorphin junkies" by another name would be a gross over-simplification. Not only because it fails to even approach the complexity of the experience, but also because a lot of important questions remain. If we all have largely the same brain structure and even the same reactions, why do only a select few of us ever get into erotic corporal punishment? Why not all? Is a spanko's brain just "wired" a little differently? Doesn't seem like a very satisfying answer to me.
I can't rule out that part of it is genetic, but I find it more promising to go beyond mere biology and into psychology. For most of us, the fascination starts at a very early age, even if we are never spanked at home. There could be other childhood experiences like just hearing about spankings or witnessing one, as I did. I will write about this another time. Still, it remains a mystery to me why I found it arousing when most others probably wouldn't have.
At the end of the day, we should simply acknowledge that we have the Mark of Cain and that we'll probably never fully understand why or how that is. What matters is that we make the best use of our gift. Klaus Mann gave a very good example, I think.