Masochists and everyday pain

I know that masochists enjoy sensations that non-masochists would find objectionable when they’re having sexual encounters.

Does this difference extend to non-sexual experiences, too? Does a masochist hate stubbing her toe against the leg of the kitchen chair or getting a paper-cut while paying the bills as much as I do, or are these perceived as pleasant surprises?

If this is a fantastically stupid question, then I apologize for my fantastic stupidity.

FWIW I think it’s a great question.

I too am waiting for an answer.

I’m not going to try and answer for all of the above. Partly because I’m pretty sure I do not fall into S&M. However, I have had experience with “cutting”, and other deliberate acts to induce pain.

Random pain isn’t fun. Stubbing a toe is a nasty shock, just like for anyone else. The deliberate mutilation of my own body, now, thats something different. Sometimes (well, in the past, anyway) purposeful injury to myself can be a release from psychology anguish. In other words, I am transforming psychic tormet into physical.

The physical is much easier to deal with.

So I assume (and all that goes with that word yadda, yadda) its the same for S&M.

I can only answer for myself here, of course. I enjoy some (not extreme) sexual pain, and I’ve done and enjoyed a fair amount of peircing and cutting. FWIW, I’m not trying to externalize inner pain, I do it for much more positive reasons (but that’s a whole different question to answer).

I have a fairly high pain tolerance in general, and the ability to control reflex reactions to sudden pain, but I by no means enjoy day-to-day injuries. Stubbed toes and paper cuts elicit the same amount of swearing and limping from me as from anyone.

Part of this difference is context, of course. Everyone interprets sensations differently when aroused - someone brushing by your butt on the subway doesn’t feel the same as a lover running his/her hands over you lightly.

For me, at least, much of the difference is damage done to my body. When I dislocated my knee (several times) or when my ovary had twisted around to cut off its own nervous and blood supply - these were very, very painful. Knowing that something horrible and destructive is happening to your body makes you want it to stop, and makes the pain much worse (again, IMO).

Volutary pain, however, I’ve always done with someone who I trust to not injure me (in a sexual context), or to only leave marks that were planned and that I consider beautiful (in the case of scarification and peircing). Being able to relax about harm has always allowed me to interpret pain as straight sensation - overwhelmingly powerful, but with none of the instictive revulsion and, well, pain, that injuries produce. It helps that, especially for scarification, I’ve taken lots of time to mentally prepare myself.

To summarize an already too-long post: IMO, masochists experience everyday pain the same way everyone else does, and whine about it as much. I only enjoy pain in special contexts which are both safe and rewarding in some way.


(Who also thinks it was a good question.)

I too just wanted to applaud the question.

yes very nice questoin!

I too think it an interesting question. And the answers so far seem to support that non-sexual pain is viewed much the same by most folks.

As to why this might be let me throw out the following as a possible explanation. During sex, particullary the way better than average sex that comes along way less than half the time, your mind and body become so, “Sensation Orientated,” that almost all sensations are percieved as an extenion of the sexual pleasure package, as long as the pain isn’t overwhelming at any rate.

I’d like to hear more from the proponants.

My personal experience in this area is rather limited - a touch of spanking, a little bondage.

Doing it where you might get caught is a lot more fun, IMHO.

I asked my SO, a psychotherapist who has counselled a few couples where one partner has S&M interest and the other doesn’t, and she tells me that part of the pleasure on the part of the masochist comes from the ritual aspect of the practice (the same can be said for lots of things - I recall that when I smoked the whole thing of tamping the cigarette, lighting it, holding it, watching the smoke, etc. was a big part of the attraction). As a result, without the ritual and context, the pain isn’t pleasurable - getting a paper cut isn’t anymore pleasurable than it would be to you or me.

I’m with SandyHook on this one, in that I think that in a sexual context, virutally all sensation becomes sexualized.

The same ability to “reinterpret” pain into a non-threatening sensation makes cutting immensely enjoyable, although not specifically sexual.

C’mon, guys, there must be some more people on these boards with something to say on this matter.


Masochists enjoy pain only as the nerve impulses of the pain are overridden by the pleasure impulses of the sexual setting. If there be no sexual setting, the pain impulses come on through to the pain. For example, your nipples are sensitive and are objects of sexual pleasure in both sexes. However, piercing a nipple is generally painful, but if the sexual pleasure is greater, the pain is not felt. There are nipple clamps that would be painful, but the pain is not felt because of the nerve impulses are blocked by the pleasure impulses in some people who become used to it. If you have sexual pleasure through a nipple clamp and climax, then you will feel the pain as there is no longer the blockage of the pain impulses.

barbitu8, there aren’t two sets of nerves (“pleasure” nerves and “pain” nerves) running through your body. And pain nerves only produce one set of impluses - there are no separate pleasure impluses that can block pain. The issue here is how your brain interprets these impluses.

Unless you were speaking metaphorically?


There are afferent and efferent nerves. So there are two sets of nerves, but we are speaking only of the one set, the afferent. Obviously this set consists of many types of sensation, else we would feel only one type. Before any of these can be felt by the body, it must enter the brain, but there is a gate at the brain which precludes two antagonist sensations to pass at the same time. We cannot feel pain and ecstacy at the same time. The pain sensation is suppressed at the time of sexual excitement.

soft-core masochist checking in. During sex I enjoy sometimes enjoy some level of pain, and the more turned on I am, the higher the level of pain I find erotic. However, when I stabbed myself in the finger while slicing veggies the other day, I was not aroused! When I get a kidney stone (and I get them frequently), sexual gratification is the farthest thing from my mind!! I think it must have something to do with being turned on before the pain starts (for me, at least), because if hubby starts with the “ouchie” stuff too soon, I have to stop him, because I find the pain too distracting for me to get turned on! This doesn’t seem to make any sense, and I’ve never really stopped to analyze it. I just go with the flow.

Do most people get aroused when kissing fish? It’s the experience, not the sensation (I hope that the analogy isn’t too insulting of answer for a good OP.)

On the other hand, we’ve all heard the story of the twelve year old who “discovers” the washing machine spin cycle. There might be masochists (coseted or otherwise) who have the occasional “accident.” Also (though off the OP), I’ve occasionally really got into a hard workout at the gym as I put my body through its paces–self topping? You decide.


Sure there’s some pain involved, but it is overridden by the pleasure, so it is really not “painful”, unless the activity continues past gratification. There are also endorphins to consider. The body produces endorphins (endogenous morphines) in response to some situations. (Some say this accounts for the runner’s high.) I’m sure in the sexual situations endorphins are produced producing a pleasure sensation.

I believe everybody can enjoy sex more if there is some mild pain, as this produces more endorphins. It is possible that everyone can be a masochist with enough experience in those matters, as that is just the natural progression of the pain + sex situation. However, the sensual sensation must be there. Some masochists enjoy being whipped, but there is the sensual sensation of leather against the body.

IIRC the concept you are looking for here is called the “Gate Theory”. Your body can only acknowledge/respond properly to so many sensory inputs at a time. Think of it like a crowd of people trying to cram through a small door. Considering that during sex there is often quite a bit of intense stimulation going on a smaller percentage of the hurt registers to your brain as pain because part of those of those sensations are are getting blocked from getting through by the sheer volume of sensations.

I don’t know if this is relevant, but when I had a PE class a year ago, it was a stressful period of my life. If I had been having a particularly bad day, when I would go in for PE in the weight room I would work myself to the point of physical exhaustion. By the end of the class, my whole body would ache, and I’d be too sore to barely even move. However, this got the stress out of me, and though I’d be sore and exhausted, I’d feel much better emotionally. I guess you could say that vigourous excersize could possibly apply here- sore muscles are pretty typical and for me it tends to be a ‘feel good’ kind of pain.

Also keep in mind that when many people play with pain, it is not just random hurting. It tends to be confined to specific areas, and used to produce a sexual response. If a person is getting off on an intense whipping, then someone accidentally steps on their toe, it can send them flying back to reality and solicite an “ouch”, where as the whipping produces pleasure.

A masochist is someone who begs for pain, a sadist is someone who says “no.”