pain: bile, phlegm, cold, heat

high at the top of my “more” list for 2020 is teaching workshops. i decided that i wanted to teach an impact play class first! overall, impact is something that is pretty easy to do in the realm of sm skills - low barrier to entry, inexpensive, and relatively low risk. as such, it’s probably the most common sm practice. it’s true- you don’t need a class to learn how to spank someone. but there are lots of ways you can improve the way you spank someone that we can really nerd out about!

since i’ve never taught impact in a workshop before, i’m currently creating an outline for the class. reviewing skills like how and where to hit is really important, but that’s just the beginning.  impact is something that happens to make my heart melt and loins explode because it’s all about pain and suffering. my mind is racing just thinking about all the wonderful things i want to share about violence, pain, and sm in general. this exercise has been so much harder than i anticipated, mostly because there isn’t enough time for everything. there are some really juicy aspects of impact play that didn’t make the cut - so luckily i have another outlet for that! 

the body in pain, by elaine scarry, is a seminal text dedicated to the theory of pain. the opening chapter, also the only part of the book that could keep my attention, is on military torture. there are several kinds of military torture that i regularly practice for fun, which made the book even more relevant. scarry, however, doesn’t talk about sm at all in her work on pain and there were no interviews that i could find where she is asked to comment on it. if we use our imaginations and replace military torture with consensual sm, there is a lot to unpack.

“physical pain does not simply resist language but actively destroys it, bringing about an immediate reversion to a state anterior to language, to the sounds and cries a human being makes before language is learned.” elaine scarry

we can think about it this way - the world of the masochist is deconstructed and unmade through torture, and this pain effectively strips them of language. willfully reduced to slobbering screams, grunts, and curses, the masochist is elated at this regression. it is a humbling. on the other side we have the sadist, the monster causing the torture, the pain doula uniquely positioned to take someone to that slobbering place and also to bring them back. to be present and hold a space for someone to breathe life to language again is nothing short of world-building.

i’m a sadist, which i write with pause, because there are unfortunately many people who don’t want to hear from women about how they like to hurt other women consensually. i will assume you are not one of those people and i will write about it anyway because my truth is that being a sadist feeds me. every energy exchange i have with a masochist gives me a deeper understanding of trust and intimacy outside of the normative ways of human bonding that i could never fully relate to. it is restorative. having a masochist suffer for me feels like my own personal choir singing my praises with every scream.

the most common ways that i engage in pain-giving is through rope bondage and impact. both of these pain mediums steal conventional language while also forging their own. i think about my two partners who coincidentally each have a preference for one over the other. when the rope-lover is suspended, she is silent, she is in it. the language we create is through movement, through shifting levels of intensity, like a marionette i move her through a set of positions and she follows me. my brain is one step ahead of my hands, which move quickly to tie and untie, tense and release. she can feel my words and my love when i move her into a more challenging position and i watch her facial expression to receive her reply. the impact-lover laughs and screams and cries. she regresses to baby and hands me control of her whole world. when she doesn’t care for the particular way i’m hitting her, she frowns and recoils. when she laughs after a blow, i know i’m doing something right. she hears my love in the rhythm of each implement striking her flesh, and i feel out her reaction. we do these pain dances mostly without words, not because we don’t need them, but because in this space our language takes a different form. 

this (leather) is the closest thing to a spirituality that i have ever known. it’s the reason i probably take it all way too seriously-- but then, maybe everyone else doesn’t take it seriously enough. i can’t help myself. i want to dissect the meat of the scene when it’s over, i want to know how it made you feel and what were your favorite parts and what brought you closest to death and how does it feel to have pain steal your language and how much louder could you have screamed if we were in the abyss and does getting the shit beat out of you alter your dna and i want to see how big your smile is the next day when you look in the mirror and see those bruises turning purple and. and. and.

the ancient syrians thought that pain was the result of bile and phlegm mixing with cold and heat. there have been much more recent historical debates over whether pain should be named our sixth sense. the intensity theory of pain classifies it not as a sense, but as an emotion that occurs when a stimulus is stronger than usual (plato). in the twilight movies, each vampire has one unique super power in addition to their universal strength and immortality. dakota fanning plays a vampire who has the power to give pain. when she holds up her hand and says “pain,” her enemy doubles over unable to move. i think of this often, as corny as it is, because it would be a really amazing super power. what’s interesting is to think of this debilitating power as extreme emotion-giving. from what i’ve heard that definition is pretty spot on.

over the years i’ve had several masochists write to me after a scene explaining how much it meant to be able to choose pain, to invite it to wash over them, to hand the giving off to someone else, to sit in the discomfort of feeling in their own body for the first time in a long time. there is an image that plays in my head, a scene that is both slow motion and backwards. there is a figure kneeling down to pray as they get hit several times with a cane until their body shatters like glass, shards flying all around the room. it’s playing backwards because the repeated, welcomed blows to the body aren’t what cause the bursting, but what brings all the pieces back together, a body remade whole. 

i will be announcing how to sign up for this workshop soon, so nyc please come talk about pain with me :)

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