The Pleasure Principle of Pain
Peter Baltensperger is
a Canadian writer of
Swiss origin and the
author of ten books of
poetry, fiction, and
non-fiction. His poems,
short stories, essays,
and articles have
appeared in print and
on-line in several
hundred publications
around the world over
the past several
decades. He makes
his home in London,
Canada with his wife
Viki and their two cats
and a tortoise.
Peter Baltensperger

Pleasure and pain are ordinarily diametrically opposed sensations and
experiences. They exist at opposite ends of the spectrum of feelings
human beings experience in their lives. For most people, pain is an
extremely unpleasant sensation, to be avoided at all costs or then to be
alleviated as quickly as possible. From minor aches and pains such as
headaches, toothaches, back pains or joint inflammations to the
debilitating pains of life-threatening injuries or post-surgical trauma, the
physical and mental suffering associated with these negative sensations
is something most people rather do without.

As a result, people have always been looking for ways and means to
deaden any kind of pain. Ancient societies already experimented with
many natural substances derived from various plants to alleviate pain.
Today, pharmaceutical companies all over the world are producing all
kinds of drugs to achieve that result, from over-the-counter pain
medication to prescription drugs and hospital-administered opiates.

Yet there are some people who actually thrive on pain, often to the point of
sexual arousal and, ultimately, orgasmic gratification. Sexual arousal
from receiving or administering pain and often involving erogenous zones
has been classified as algophilia or algolagnia, from the Greek words
algos, meaning "pain" and philia or lagnia, meaning "love of" or "lust for",
respectively. It is sometimes also known as doleros, probably from the
Spanish word dolor, meaning "to have pain". This sexual deviance is
related to masochism, sadism, and sadomasochism, although it is
classified separately in medical and psychiatric literature for various
medical and psychological reasons.

At the basis of all this is the fact that pain releases endorphins into the
system, and they, in turn, produce a certain euphoria to cover up the pain.
When that euphoria reaches the level of sexual arousal in predisposed
individuals, the endurance or administration of pain becomes a fetish and
pain itself a sexually charged sensation.

Pain fetishes have long played a significant role in the BDSM community,
but increasing numbers of individuals have come to employ the giving
and receiving of pain in their regular relationships as part of their own
sexual activities or simply as part of their foreplay. A whole range of pain
plays can easily be employed by anyone interested and/or so inclined,
and the necessary paraphernalia are readily available from sex shops
practically anywhere.

At the lowest end of pain play are such well-known and widely used
activities as spanking, paddling, slapping, whipping, and biting. The
gentle use of nipple and genital clamps with or without strings and
weights attached falls under this category as well. In all of these activities,
the amount of pain caused can easily be controlled by both partners by
means of clear communication or the use of "safe words" to discontinue
the procedure when the pain gets too much for the recipient. The amount
of pain applied and tolerated depends entirely on the individual's pain
threshold and varies greatly from one person to another. It is therefore
important to be aware of one's own and one's partner's level of comfort
and tolerance.

For some people, this kind of low pain isn't nearly enough to generate a
sufficient level of sexual arousal. These are the true algophiles who thrive
on severe experiences of pain, whether administered by partners or by
themselves, and know how to derive sexual enjoyment and satisfaction
from their activities. The pain play in these cases is sometimes used by
itself for its own benefit, or in conjunction with other sexual activities,
including regular intercourse.

One such method is sexual cutting, also known as scarification and
cicatrisation. This involves slicing the skin with a sharp knife or a scalpel
and then letting the wound heal to form a scar. The procedure produces
the euphoria associated with pain and results in extremely satisfactory
sexual arousal and, ultimately, orgasm. If the cutting is repeated often
enough, the wounds can be arranged in the form of simple or complex
patterns or designs, with the scars being slightly raised from the
surrounding areas of the skin. This method usually results in bleeding,
allowing a couple to lick (or "drink") each other's blood. Although this is
not considered to be a safe sex practice because of the risk of infections,
it is an exciting and arousing indulgence for its aficionados.

Sexual cutting doesn't have to involve partners. It can easily be utilized for
autoerotic pursuits, whereby individuals engage in the activity by
themselves and on their own and decorate their bodies to their own
preferences and indulgences. The sexual arousal from such self-inflicted
cutting is often enough to provide the desired gratification for algophiles. It
can also be supplemented by sexual self-manipulation (of the breasts, for
example, or other erogenous zones) and/or masturbation to achieve the
most satisfying effect.

Scarification has a long history in the evolution of the human race and has
been practiced the world over by primitive tribes and ancient societies.
That kind of cutting and decorating of the body with scar patterns and
designs is not, however, the same as sexual cutting since it was, and still
is, performed as a ritual, most notably in rites of passage and maturation.
If there would have been any kind of sexual arousal, it would have been
incidental rather than intentional, although there is no direct evidence of
that. It is entirely possible that ritual cutting already contained certain
sexual elements far back in our history.

Piercing, for the sake of the pain it generates rather than for the insertion
of jewelry, constitutes another form of pain play. This particular pain fetish
is called belonephilia, the sexual obsession with pins and needles and
other sharp objects. It involves penetrating or puncturing the skin with the
instrument of choice and pushing it vertically into the flesh or then
horizontally through a piece of skin. To produce special effects and more
intense pain, the nipples, labia, penis, and scrotum are often pierced in
addition to sections of skin. Piercing can also be performed alone as a
masturbatory enhancer, or with a partner or in a group as one of many
aspects of more involved sexual activities.
Piercing, like cutting, has a long history among humans and was used by
many ancient cultures. In that context, it was also carried out primarily for
ritual purposes rather than for sexual arousal, at least as far as we know.
The Mayans, Hindus, and Chinese in particular developed and employed
various methods of piercing to test the mettle of an individual's character
as well as the person's endurance and courage. The bed of nails is
arguably the best known of these ancient methods and has survived to
this day.

The practice of branding is another high-pain play and works in a similar
fashion as cutting in that it results in raised scars and can be utilized to
produce specific patterns and designs. The method is the same as the
branding used for the identification of animals. A piece of iron on a handle
is created to feature a desired patterns or designs, is heated to a high
enough temperature to burn the skin, and is then pressed against the
skin, usually in one of the less sensitive areas of the body. The hot end of
the iron featuring the design chars the skin and leaves raised scars
similar to those created by cutting.

Branding, like cutting, is obviously permanent and similar to tattoos in that
respect, except that the designs usually consist of simple lines or curves
and the resulting patterns don't contain colors. The lines have to be very
thin because in the process of branding they expand to four times their
width. Any shapes such as circles or triangles have to be open so as to
avoid uneven scarring. The branding is usually done on flat surfaces of
the body and can be repeated any number of times to create interesting
patterns as well. Some lovers like to brand each other with their initials,
although that should probably only be done if the couple is in a serious
long-term relationship so as to prevent any future embarrassment.

Burning is related to branding in that it involves a source of heat to
produce the endorphic rush, which constitutes the primary motivator in
pain play. Burning can be done with such agents as acids, cigarettes,
matches, or hot oil. Some aficionados use torches to graze the skin with
their flames or apply alcohol to a piece of skin and set it on fire. To
generate prolonged intense pain, pieces of incense are glued to the skin
in a line or in a pattern and are lit in succession so that the pain becomes
a continuous sensation over an extended period of time.

Electric shock can also be used to inflict sexually arousing pain and has
been shown to be an effective stimulant. Called electrophilia (the sexual
arousal from electricity), it is only applied below the waist so as not to
affect, and possibly damage, the heart. Some electrophiles use small
battery operated gadgets to deliver the shock, but any source of electricity
can be used as long as the individuals involved know exactly what they
are doing. Electricity is a dangerous agent that can easily lead to serious
injury or even death.

Clamps, as mentioned above, can be utilized for inducing mild
sensations of pain, but they can also be used by pain enthusiasts to inflict
(or self-inflict) much sharper sensations. It all depends on how much
pressure is applied to them, and how and where they are placed on the
body. Erogenous zones and genitals are, of course, the preferred
locations for the application of clamps and weights. The problem with
clamps is that they can leave serious bruises and damage the tissue
underneath the skin. This is especially true for clamps used on breasts
and on genitals where the tissue is very sensitive and prone to damage.
Of course, for a true pain lover, it's still all worthwhile.

Whether the discomfort in pain play is mild or severe, individuals who
delight in the experience of extreme sensations find their sex lives
dramatically intensified. Their sex play, be it alone or with a partner or in a
group, will contain tantallizing ingredients of excitement and arousal.
These sensations are quite unique and very different from and far more
intense than the regular, more traditional, stimulations. Very few
individuals are capable of generating sexual pleasure from pain, and
willing or even eager to endure it, especially of the extreme kind. Yet for
those who do, it is said to be an incredibly arousing and totally satisfying


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