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05 October 2007 @ 08:56 am
The Pleasure of Pain From Psychology Today...  
The Pleasure of Pain
Written By: Marianne Apostolides

Bind my ankles with your white cotton rope so I cannot walk. Bind my wrists so I cannot push you away. Place me on the bed and wrap your rope tighter around my skin so it grips my flesh. Now I know that struggle is useless, that I must lie here and submit to your mouth and tongue and teeth, your hands and words and whims. I exist only as your object. Exposed.

Of every 10 people who reads these words, one or more has experimented with sadomasochism (S&M), which is most popular among educated, middle- and upper-middle-class men and women, according to psychologists and ethnographers who have studied the phenomenon. Charles Moser, Ph.D., M.D., of the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, has researched S&M to learn the motivation behind it, to understand why in the world people would ask to be bound, whipped, and flogged. The reasons are as surprising as they are varied.

For James, the desire became apparent when he was a child playing war games, he always hoped to be captured. "I was frightened that I was sick," he says. But now, he adds, as a well-seasoned player on the scene, "I thank the leather gods I found this community."

At first the scene found him. When he was at a party in college, a professor chose him. She brought him home and tied him up, told him how bad he was for having these desires, even as she fulfilled them. For the first time he felt what he had only imagined, what he had read about in every S&M book he could find.

James, a father and manager, has a Type A personality; in control, hard working, intelligent, and demanding. His intensity is evident on his face, in his posture, in his voice. But when he plays, his eyes drift and a peaceful energy flows through him as though he had injected heroin. With each addition of pain or restraint, he stiffens slightly, then falls into a deeper calm, a deeper peace, waiting to obey his Mistress. "Some people have to be tied up to be free," he says.

The essential component is not the pain or bondage itself, but rather the knowledge that one person has complete control over the other, deciding what that person will hear, do, taste, touch, smell, and feel. We hear about men pretending to be little girls, women being bound in a leather corset, people screaming in pain with each strike of a flogger or drip of hot wax. We hear about it because it is happening in bedrooms and dungeons across the country.

For over a century, people who engaged in bondage, beatings and humiliation for sexual pleasure were considered mentally ill. But in the late 1980s, the American Psychiatric Association removed S&M as a category in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This decision, like the decision to remove homosexuality as a category in 1973 was a big step toward the societal acceptance of people whose sexual desires aren't traditional, or vanilla, as it's called in S&M circles.

What's new is that such desires are increasingly being considered normal, even healthy, as experts begin to recognize their potential psychological value. S&M, they are beginning to understand, offers a release of sexual and emotional energy that some people cannot get from traditional sex. "The satisfaction gained from S&M is something far more than sex," explains Roy Baumeister, Ph.D., a social psychologist at Case Western Reserve University. "It can be a total emotional release."

Although people report that they have better than usual sex immediately after a scene, the goal of S&M itself is not intercourse; "A good scene doesn't end in orgasm, it ends in catharsis."

PS: This article was five pages long so I have left several sections out and made some very small edits to the section I chose to post. Please visit www.PsychologyToday.com if you'd like to see the article in it's original format, but I'd like to first warn you that there are some pieces of the article which I totally disagree with but overall I found it to be interesting despite being very inaccurate in some cases. So before you click the link above I do want to make it very clear that I do not endorse all of the opinions expressed by it's author. While reading page one I was initially pleased to see this topic finally being approached in a way that seemed to shed a positive light on a majority of the activities that some of us love, but unfortunately I do not feel that later sections of this article positively represented most of us who enjoy S&M on a healthy level.

In the beginning of this article a honest attempt to normalize the psychology of S&M was made, but if you continue reading, the opinions of the writer and those she has quoted seem to fall back into the age old habit of treating S&M as a mental disease, and while in some extreme cases this may true I do not believe that many of the opinions expressed within this article accurately represent the bdsm community as a whole.

For example I was very disappointed to see sexual sadism made out in a way that implies it is a criminal act that is performed on a totally unwilling victims, so I want to state for the record that I completely disagree with that definition especially. While that definition may apply in a court of law it does not usually apply when people within the bdsm community are using that word and the two definitions should not be confused.