I’d estimate that I’m in pain about 80% of the time.
I have hypermobile joints that often end up out of place, meaning that I spend the majority of my waking hours experiencing at least one nagging ache, if not multiple aches of varying severity. On my worst days, I struggle to walk normally, I can’t open bottles or undo buttons, and I cannot put the pain out of my mind.
Except, well, with other pain.
I’m a masochist, though it took me rather a long time to realise that. I was under the impression that masochists derive pleasure from all pain, and I found my joint pain to be a nuisance at best and truly distressing at worst. It was only when I came into the world of sex-positivity, sex blogging and open discussions about kink that I realised what the crucial differences between chronic pain and masochistic pain were: consent and purpose.
By consent, I mean that I don’t want my joints to hurt. It’s distracting, unpredictable and inescapable. But the pain I experience through sadomasochistic play is none of those things: I sought it out, it’s the sole focus of the scene, and it’s fully within my control since I can safeword at any time. My joint pain overwhelms me by being near-constant and difficult to opt out of, but pain I feel during S&M scenes is confined to a particular context that I can remove myself from at any time.
The reason that I don’t remove myself from those contexts, though, is purpose. My chronic joint pain is pointless. It most likely happens because my body produces insufficient or faulty collagen (the stuff that makes your connective tissues work correctly) and, aside from enabling me to do cool party tricks like touching my right thumb to my right wrist, it serves no function. By contrast, the pain I experience through S&M serves a number of functions: it builds intimacy between me and the sadistic top(s) involved, it can be used to demonstrate my devotion to a sadistic top or dominant figure, and it can even induce the endorphin-fuelled, embodied, near-meditative state of subspace.
Since these two types of pain are so different, I sometimes want to avoid my joint pain creeping into my S&M pain play sessions so that I can fully focus on the sadomasochistic experience at hand. I do this in a few different ways:
- Planning ahead. If I know I’ll be having some kinky and painful fun, I’ll try to have an anti-inflammatory painkiller 30-60 minutes before the scene. This takes the edge off any joint pain I might be experiencing already, and the anti-inflammatory properties of drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen will stop any swelling up during and after the scene – so if I’m in odd positions or am being hit really hard, I won’t have heightened joint pain as a consequence.
- Identifying & setting boundaries regarding my body. There are a lot of things that other bottoms might be able to do that I know will do me harm – like bending over and grabbing one’s own ankles, or having one’s arms or legs separated with a spreader bar. Being aware of these limitations (knowledge which is usually hard-won through mishaps in kink or in vanilla life…) and staying firm in my refusal to compromise my safety and my enjoyment of the scene is crucial to successful S&M.
- Being kind to my body during and after a scene. Lots of common aftercare strategies (removing restraints, getting warm, drinking water) work in my and my joints’ favour, so I make sure never to skip this important part of a scene’s aftermath. More than that, though, there are ways I can practice self-care during a scene to minimise the recovery I’ll have to do in the following hours (and sometimes days). These include making sure I’m warm enough in a play space (thigh-high socks and a cardigan can go a long way whilst still permitting access to fun body parts), drinking water throughout a scene (which can be used to tease me, especially if I’m in restraints – as long as I get a drink of water at some point!) and asking for breaks or to switch positions (which can also serve to encourage variety in the bedroom, so that you don’t get stuck in a kinky rut).
Chronic pain can truly suck and is often painted as a barrier to good sex and/or kink, but if you’re creative enough, determined enough and kind enough to your body, you can use it as a tool to stimulate a varied, exciting and fulfilling sex and kink life wherein you’re in tune with your own body, your partner’s body, and all the fun pain you can experience together.