masochism from the Top perspective

I am not a Sadist.

I’ve said that before, and I honestly can’t see how it is likely to change any time in the foreseeable future.

I am also not a masochist.

That isn’t something that I’ve admitted to, but it something that most people tend to assume.  I mean, who ever heard of a masochistic Dom?

They do exist, of course, and I think it might even have been an accurate description for me when I first started to practice as a Dominant.  I had just left a submissive role, after all.  In the beginning of my training I felt like I deserved the pain, that I needed it to make me be who I was supposed to be, but by the end of my training, I no longer felt like I deserved or needed it, but I was determined to face it, and overcome it, no matter what the cost.

Before my car accident, I liked pain.  I still do, sometimes.  One of the issues that I have remaining from the injuries that I sustained then is that I have frequent upper back pain and this often radiates out from the cluster of nerves/muscles that are problematic for me in the center of my upper back, between the shoulder blades, and impacts my shoulders and neck.  When this happens, one of the only things that I can do to combat it is hook myself up to a TENS unit.

If you don’t know what a TENS unit it, TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and the way it works is that you attach electrodes to your skin and then those to a machine that regulates a series of electrical pulses that causes your muscles to twitch.  The sensation itself is not usually painful, but when the muscles under the contacts are already seizing (as is often the case with my back) the feeling can get to be pretty intense.  However, at the end of a timed session, the muscles will be able to relax more than they had prior to the electrical stimulation, and so, I get some relief.

Prior to my car accident, I’d always avoided electro-torture devices.  It was a soft limit of mine.  I didn’t have any information on them apart from word of mouth and misinformation.  I’d been told that it felt like being electrocuted, or that it made one feel nauseated or induced a jelly-like feeling in the muscles.  All of this is bullshit.

In physical therapy after my car accident, the TENS unit was employed quite a lot, and while I both enjoyed the sensation that it invoked and the relief that I had after a session, the biggest gain I think I was able to get from it was the knowledge of what it is really like.  This led me to move on and explore violet wands and other BDSM-specific methods of electro-torture, but it also reawakened the parts of myself that I can recall opening up when I was actually a masochist.

In the intervening time between when I would have described myself as a masochist and when I was reawakened to these thoughts I did quite a bit of research on what makes a masochist a masochist.  I had the perfect platform from which to conduct my research, after all.  As a Dominant, with clients and partners that were masochists in addition to being submissive, I had the perfect opportunity to ask questions, to experiment with different types of pain, different techniques, different sensations… and while I retained the desire to conduct sensation play scenes, I lost the drive to create pain in others.  It’s not that I never feel the urge to hit someone, but it’s a rare thing nowadays.

I asked people, “why are you a masochist,” and not surprisingly, the answer was most often, “I don’t know, I just am.”  But every so often, I would get an answer that was different, and I’ve come to the largely unscientific conclusion that people are masochists for one of two reasons:

  1. Something happened in their lives to cause them to have extremely low self esteem and they feel like they deserve the punishment.  When they receive pain, it allows them to feel the catharsis of paying a debt.  They feel like the pain is the only thing that frees them from the mental torment that they almost always endure surrounding the things for which they feel undeserving or guilty.  They accept the pain as atonement, and the almost religious conversion from pain to elation is palpable, and when you see this type of masochist in scene, you can tell that he is truly flying.
  2. They view it as a challenge.  They feel every ounce of pain, it never gets converted to another type of sensation, but that only intensifies their desire to take on more and more.  They do this for themselves, because they always take the hard path, they feel like they are duty bound to push forward and make it to the next level, or they do it for someone else.  They know that their Dominant Sadist is deriving pleasure from their pain, and that makes them want to take on more, or they feel the energy of the people around them and they want to push even further, to show them all that they can endure anything.

Of these two, I certainly think that the first group have an easier road in the short term, but the second group can bear the long term visible signs with more ease and tend to view them as badges of honor.

At various points in my life, I think I’ve been both of these two. In the beginning, I was ashamed of so much of my life, and I felt, as part of the course of my daily life, that I had to hide it and pretend that it never happened.  The only time I felt like I could be free was when those thoughts were pushed out of my head by pain or booze or the sex drive or something like that.  I was a hedonist and an extremist and to this day I am shocked and amazed that I didn’t end up being hooked on heroin or something similar.  Once my Dominant nature started to come through though, I viewed it as a challenge that must be overcome.  I was better than my Top, and I was going to prove it by forcing her to back down before I did.

As a Dominant, who is not a Sadist, I’ve dealt with both types of masochists, and they must be approached in very different manners.  But in general, and perhaps because I’m not a Sadist, I don’t really enjoy inflicting pain on either type.  If I’m going to be involved in a scene that involves pain, I’d actually much rather do so with someone who is NOT a masochist, and perhaps this is a thing unique to me, but when I’m in scene, I don’t really want to be competing with someone, and there have been a few times when I felt like my bottom was trying to “win the scene,” in some way.  And for the other perspective, while I do enjoy the control aspects of things, and I am always hyper-aware of the physical and emotional states of my bottom, I would very much hate to be wrong and slip past the point where she should have used her safeword and didn’t.

Both of the masochist archetypes that I refer to have their own pitfalls and things to be careful for, but while the motives may be different, the end results are often the same.

The first type can fail to safeword, which is a dangerous thing for a Dominant.  They will let you drive them well beyond their physical capacity to deal with, and they can become injured in the process.  In fact, to properly address their needs, they need to get as close to the failure point as they can, and the headspace that they’re in does not let them see that barrier coming.  The only way to address this, as the Top, is to frequently check in with them, ask them specific questions, sometimes even asking them a specific question about the immediate environment, external to their own bodies, so that they have to come back to ground level for a bit.  Something like, “What color is the floor?” is often enough.  A simple question like that will cause them to become aware of their environment again.  Even if they already know the answer without having to look (though they probably will have to look if they are in an altered head-space) it forces them to think about the floor, which is not a part of their experience right now.

The second type has to be pushed.  It’s what they need most, and they’re going to fight you back for it.  This could take the form of insulting you – telling you that you can’t hit them hard enough, or perhaps that you’re hitting them too hard.  They are very aware, almost hyper-aware, of the safeword, and they will resist using it as long as possible, perhaps even trying to force you to stop before they get there, as a sort of challenge back at you.  Although I’ve never heard of anyone actually thinking this, I can imagine that there are some who would view it as a game, almost as an Alpha contest, to see if they can get you to quit first.  That is no less dangerous than failing to see the safe point pass and not reacting to it for the group described above, but competitive nature will eventually fail, where the first group just doesn’t have anything to react to, so their bodies have to fail first, every time.

This is not to say that it’s impossible for a person to willingly put themselves into injury because they refuse to break down – in fact, that is exactly the sort of thing that I worry about.

I dislike Topping true masochists because when you have a bottom who exhibits behaviors like these, you can never be fully sure that she is going to properly use her safeword, and when I feel like I don’t have a safeword to rely upon, I feel like I’m not in control, and control is why I Top.  I don’t want to give up control, almost ever, in almost any situation, and most certainly not when I should be at pinnacle of my ability to exert control.  I Top because I like it, and when I’m not in control, I’m not even really sure that I’m Top anymore.

Does that make any sense?

Sometimes I’m not sure, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time on these subjects.

I’m not sure what this post is either – I seem to have quite a few of those lately – but I’m still Rant.

Rant off.

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