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The online diary of an ethical pervert.

Monday, 15 December 2008

A manifesto for masochism

"Now I think I'm going to hurt you a bit more now." Shuttered Lens wraps white rope around his arm in a practised gesture as he speaks. "Because you like it."

I wonder if he's right; certainly he's not wrong. I've never previously identified as a masochist, but what else is this situation except for a very considered and pre-planned consensual request to be put in pain? It is all of these things, I've always said that within the contexts of BDSM I don't do anything that I don't want to do, however that may be expressed, and whatever apparent contradictions may come from that. Society hates pain and a great many individuals and organisations dedicate vast amounts of time and resources to overcoming it in all its many forms. Here am I not merely allowing it to happen but specifically seeking it out and exploring it. I am not psychologically damaged and therefore unable to separate "affection" from "control". I am not an abuse victim seeking some form of catharsis. This is not an abusive relationship, I am getting no more and (hopefully) no less than what I explicitly asked for. It is a controlled environment, those I play with are smart, safe and enjoy what they do.

We enjoy pain, although "enjoy" is a difficult word for those outwith these situations to grasp because we have a socio-linguistic disconnect between pain and pleasure. That which is painful cannot, by standard definitions, be pleasurable. Yet we know this is untrue, from experience, even vanilla non-controversial experience: the tired ache in calf muscles after a good run speaks of satisfaction, of physical prowess. Marks on the face and body inflicted by boxers give intense adrenaline rushes, not to mention the roar and sway of the crowd as each blow falls. The sporting world acknowledges pain as part of the process, and thrill seeking as a natural urge. Yet extremes of sexuality still provoke a challenge, especially when the pain is directed towards a woman.

I am perfectly clear on what I'm doing and accept the risks in order to gain the rewards. The bruises are my trophies, the stripes are my badges of pride. I'm not ashamed or frightened about what I want or what I need, however the wants and needs of pain are very different to the daily requirements of eating, sleeping, breathing. I don't have to do this, it is not a pathology, but neither do people need to buy new shoes, to consume champagne, to dance. They want to, and because these things are not considered problematic by society (and indeed are often posited as signs of positivity and happiness) there is no difficulty in doing so. In order to make things a little less problematic, or perhaps just to set my stall out as clearly as possible the follows is a small but perfectly (to my mind at least) formed manifesto for masochism. These points only refer to consensual adult adventures in pain, and are in no way shape or form an acceptance or supporting document for truly non-consensual abusive infliction of pain.

  • The exploration of pain is also an exploration of pleasure. One cannot exist without the other and both are equally important and valid, indeed pleasurable-pain and painful-pleasure are contradictions that enrich sexual experience and interactions. Without pain, pleasure would have no meaning.
  • A desire for pain is not wrong. Masochism is not a mental illness. Historic medicalisation of BDSM has led to a failure in understanding and accepting the drives that underlie these activities, and causing society to formulate unhelpful categories of "right" and "wrong" desire, which do not truly exist. Consensual pain can be actively sought by individuals. Just as it is possible to consent to be pleased, so it is possible to consent to be harmed, provided all are aware and accepting of the type of harm and the potential risks involved. True consent derives only from a sane consideration of the facts. Without pain, we cannot truly be sane.
  • Masochism is a fetish. It is not for everyone and it is not necessary that everyone enjoy pain, but that does not mean it is not enjoyed by some people. In order to live freely, and to allow others to do so, we must accept that some people will want to do things that we could not imagine or countenance doing, but that this is their choice. Without pain, we are not free.
  • Pain is part of human experience. Love of pain and love of inflicting pain are desires to be analysed and understood, not feared or rejected out of hand. Thrill seeking, endurance, curiosity, satisfaction, joy and exhilaration can all be found in pain and these are wholly acceptable reasons for seeking out pain. Pain is personal and makes us unique. No-one can speak of anyone's pain but their own, each person's pain is unique to them, and belongs to them in its entirety, however our pain can help us empathise with the pain of others, and by sharing painful experiences we can grow close to each other. Without pain, we become less human.
  • The body is owned by the self not the state. It is not the duty of the state to legislate for what sane, consenting adults chose to to their own bodies and to the bodies of other consenting adults. The right to self-authoring, to control our existence, to live a whole and full life should encompass the right to affect our bodies in whatever way we chose. Without this right over our bodies, we are incomplete selves. Without pain we are less in control of ourselves and our world.

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