There is the myth that the Inuit have some amazing number of words for snow. They don’t- but we have all heard the myth. The concept is that they live with so much snow they learn to distinguish types and have a variety of ways to describe it because it is such a huge part of their daily lives.
While the Inuit may not have 100 words for snow, I have dozens of ways to describe pain. I didn’t always have such a pain vocabulary, but pain has become such a huge part of my life, I have developed a nuanced way of thinking about it.
I was chatting with a friend from the kink world (who also happens to be a masseuse helping me with chronic pain) the other day and I had assumed other masochists and submissives thought about pain in ways which would lead them to develop a large vocabulary for it. I realized through our conversation that I might actually think about pain more than most folks.
Pain, a Taxonomy
Not all pain is the same. All of us have stubbed a toe and had abdominal cramps. It is part of the human experience. If you take a second to think about the different experiences, the pain varies. Sure, it all hurts, but the sudden unexpected pain of stubbing a toe is different than having stomach cramps after eating something that doesn’t sit well. It varies in the onset of pain, the location, the duration, and the emotional experience of pain.
Good v. Bad Pain
For me, when breaking down pain, the first division is “good” versus “bad” pain. Some kink practitioners would separate this into “hurt” versus “harm.” Some folks with chronic illness divide it into “healing” versus “harming” pain. Because I deal with both chronic pain and pain as a masochist, I separate it into “good” and “bad” pain.
For me, “good” pain is pain which results in some sort of growth, positive outcome, or healing. Yes, it is pain at its core. However, the experience of the pain is mentally and emotionally acceptable because the reason for the pain is positive.
When it comes to kink, this would be pain experienced during a scene which aides in reaching the ultimate goal of the scene. For example, if I am engaging in an impact scene with the goal of pleasure and possible orgasm, the pain of nipple clamps, floggers and canes are painful. However that pain is experienced in a positive way. I enjoy it. My body and mind appreciate it. The pain helps deepen the pleasure of the experience.
To get very specific, I would categorize nipple clamps during sex or a kink scene as “positive pain.” Yes, squeezing my nipples with a variety of types of clamps hurts- sometimes a lot. However, my body responds pos