The Submissive’s Body & Chronic Pain

The submissive’s body is a unique thing. Our body is ours, first and foremost. We have the right and the responsibility to keep it safe. We also keep and prepare our bodies for a dominant’s use and enjoyment.

Many submissives, though not all by a long shot, enjoy some form of pain, be it mild or more extreme. Our relationship with pain is different than people who do not receive some form of satisfaction or enjoyment from certain types of pain. This means in caring for our bodies, our relationship with pain and understanding of bodily pain is different than the vast majority of people.

I am a classic example of a masochist. I get sexual satisfaction from certain types of pain. I get a great deal of emotional satisfaction from certain forms of pain which communicate obedience and dedication to a dominant. I need pain for some forms of sexual pleasure and satisfaction.

The universe with it’s infinite jacked up sense of humor has also cursed me with chronic, debilitating pain. This is not good pain. This is not pain which indicates healing. This is not pain that brings enjoyment. It is demoralizing, debilitating and to be honest, sucks ass (and not in a good way).

Living with chronic pain has changed my relationship with my body and with masochism. I am far from the only masochist who has to deal with debilitating pain. As kinksters of my generation age dealing with undesirable pain becomes a bigger issue in the community. There are some great resources out there for us (see Andrew Gurza, Kinkly “8 Tips for sex with a chronic illness” and “Bondage and Disability” to start). I have also included a few things I have learned from lived experience.

1. Good Pain vs. Bad Pain

Kinky people sometimes like to distinguish between good and bad pain, or “hurt verses harm” in some lingo. There is a big difference in types of pain a person experiences, especially those of us living with chronic pain.

I know many people, even non-kinkly folks, who make a distinction between types of pain. When a good friend underwent a double mastectomy for breast cancer, she said that the pain afterward was intense, but tolerable because it was a “healing pain.” This is something those of us who have experienced pain kind of understand. When pain is associated with healing and getting better, it lacks the physical and emotional drain of “bad pain.” Yes, we still hurt. Yes, it can interfere with our ability to function. But knowing it will end and we will be better makes this pain tolerable.

Bad pain is often associated with damage, lack of healing, or something which is chronic and unchangeable for the better. Bad pain, over time, makes everything hurt more. If I have been in pain for a long time, stubbing my toe by accident hurts much more than if I have had a few days with low pain.

People who live with chronic pain develop a language about it. I know organ pain and joint pain, muscle pain, bone pain, achy, throbbing, stabbing, acute, chronic, neurological, itching (a type of pain), and more.

If you have a partner who has a pain condition, learning what these types of pain mean to them will help in communication.

2. Our bodies are not always safe places.

Chronic pain makes me (and other people I have talked too) feel like their body is attacking us. Our bodies become unsafe. In my case, this is amplified because it comes from an autoimmune condition so high pain literally means my body is attacking itself as a foreign object.

For a masochist, this can mean pain-based kinks are very threatening. I am generally someone who really enjoys heavy impact, especially stingy pain like caning. I enjoy it when I feel grounded and safe in my body. This type of play when I am in a lot of physical pain can trigger a panic reaction in me. I have had to learn to communicate with partners when I can and cannot engage in types of play.

3. Pain can make you feel like a failure.

I take great pride in the amount of heavy impact play I can enjoy and withstand. I have very proudly displayed black and purple bruises, skin split open from caning, and welts. When I cannot take even a basic caning, there is a great deal of shame. I feel like I have failed as a submissive.

This has nothing to do with a partner’s demands or reaction. I have been lucky to play with dominants who understand and have a good deal of empathy for my condition. They have never shamed me. In fact, I get gold stars for scenes I would normally consider mild. It is my own internal issues that make me feel like I have failed.

This is not uncommon among masochists. When we have to give up something which is important to us (pain-based play) and we cannot perform for our partners in ways we have in the past, a lot of us feel like failures.

It is important to develop alternative types of play with partners we feel good about. I have developed a greater liking for sensation play and bondage now that I cannot do extreme impact on most days. I generally shunned these types of play for my preferred impact play until recently. Now, I focus on creativity, sensation, and other aspects of my kink to develop.

4. Pain can be demoralizing.

I accept I am getting older. I accept that I should (slowly) be able to do less and recover more slowly than I did at 20. I never thought at 43, there would be days where the 150 foot walk to the mailbox would leave me winded and limping. I am not okay with that type of aging and pain.