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.

Interview with a racist

This post is not even peripherally related to BDSM, but if you have been following along or you know me at all you will see how it is something that I care about, so it kind of fits.  For those of you who were hoping for a juicy story about pain and suffering or another rant about feminism, or even an instructive piece about how shibari can be employed to give an under-the-clothes reminder that is even more intimate than a collar, you might be a little disappointed.  But if want to hear about my weird day today, follow along and be entertained and just a bit frightened.

So – I was in a car accident a few years back.  I’ve mostly healed, but I still have a hard time sitting for long periods of time.  This has led me to the habit of taking a walk in the afternoon every day when it’s not raining outside, and today it’s not raining.

There is a popular cafe downstairs in the building where I work.  It’s right next door to a very popular local and independent bookstore, and pretty close to the Stanford campus as well as lots of businesses, so it’s pretty busy pretty much all of the time.  My walk was well after the lunch rush, and the tables come out onto the common area in front of the building, so there is really no way I cannot walk through the cafe to get to the elevators to go up to my office.

Today as I was passing through, I saw two young men, probably college students, of indeterminate ethnicity take a seat at an empty table next to a table with an older Caucasian woman.  They were being slightly effeminate, and a little bit boisterous, but by no means over-the-top in their behavior.  They were not dressed in rainbow colors and they were not displaying any flags that I could see, but their presence was obviously quite disturbing to the woman at the table next to them.  She put a very intense look of disgust on her face, gathered up her things, and moved to a table three tables distant.

I saw this whole thing go down as I was merely walking through, and had no intent of doing anything in the cafe at all, but I got this mental worm embedded in my head and wondered to myself – is she upset because they’re loud, or is she reacting to their apparent sexuality, or is it their race that has her upset?

Ordinarily, I’d file it away as yet another case of Peninsula old-money conservatism and just keep on going, but for some reason today I decided that I wanted to know what was going on, so I went over to her table, took the seat across from her, and said, “Pardon me, ma’am, but I can’t help but notice that you seemed uncomfortable with those young men over there and felt the need to move away from them, do you mind if I ask why?”

She looked at me over the rim of her reading glasses in a way that I don’t think I’ve seen since my English teacher would do the same thing to me in high school when I was being a smartass.  But eventually she let out a long sigh and answered me.

I wish I had been recording what she said, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to start recording things on my phone, and I didn’t have anything on which to take notes, so I’m relating what she said as best I can, from memory.  I have a very good memory though…

“Well, see, here’s the thing.  The damned gay Mexicans are ruining this country.  Those two are just another part of the problem.  They should be deported back to wherever they came from and leave all of us good folks alone.  I can’t even enjoy my book here anymore without having to hear their squealing and watch them paw each other in public, it’s obscene!”

I should mention at this point that I do not believe that either of the young men in question are of Mexican descent.  I can’t be certain, but they looked more Fillipino to me, not that it matters in the least.  They were acting slightly effeminate and were definitely well dressed, but they could just as easily be metrosexual hipsters as homosexuals; I have no idea.  I was positioned to be able to see them while she spoke at me (as opposed to to me) and I never once saw them touch each other, let alone paw each other.  They were talking in a rather animated fashion, and I could not quite make out what they were saying, but it did not seem to me that they were squealing about cocksucking or anything so interesting – I think they might have been talking about baseball…

“I remember when this area was actually nice,” she continued.  This is Menlo Park, California we’re talking about here.. it’s one of the most affluent communities in the country, and therefore the world.  “People here used to be the right kind of people you know? Like you and me.”  The emphasis was hers.  I felt like I wanted to say something about being the “right kind of people” myself, but before I could get a word in, she was off on her tirade again.

“And I remember when the Mexicans knew their place too!  The only time you would see them is if they were mowing a lawn or going to church, and I bet those gays don’t even go to church, you know, because even the Catholics don’t like ‘em.  And now we even have them in my church! It’s so I don’t even want to go anymore.”

Again, I was about to say something, and she launches into it again.

“Well, except for Margie, who watches my grandkids and helps clean my daughter’s house, she’s good people, Christian, you know.  I’m sure that she wouldn’t let her son be gay.”

I think I was actually sitting there with my mouth open at this point.  This woman was a caricature of a person that I didn’t think existed anymore.  Perhaps I’m too sheltered in my little utopian bubble of acceptance and inclusion, but this woman had no trouble at all spewing vitriol at me, a complete stranger, just because we have the same skin tone.  I wasn’t really sure what to say at this point, and rather regretting sitting down to speak with her at all.

“And that’s not even the worst of it,” she continued.  “They live in all of those new apartments and they get special deals because they’re not white and all the young white kids like my daughter who live in the same complex have to pay three times as much just because she’s white.  It’s not fair!  It’s reverse discrimination is what it is.  Obama is ruining this country and I hope they shoot him before he gets voted out.”

I won’t even go into the factual inaccuracies of that statement, I was pretty well flabbergasted that I was hearing an apparently educated and generally affluent woman condone assassinating a sitting President.  There have been rumors floating about ‘the coming race war’ since the Civil War, but it’s things like this that make me wonder if it might not become reality, and that’s a scary thing.  Mind you, I have not said a word since asking her the initial question yet.

At this point, I was almost afraid to try to say anything, but I waited a few moments, and then when she didn’t launch into another rant, I broke my silence.

“How do you know that I’m not gay?” I asked.

She had the good sense to look at least a little bit embarrassed at this point, but she quickly turned it around and gave me a hard stare, “Well, at least you’re white, and I don’t believe you’re gay anyway, you don’t have the look.”

“I don’t have the look?”

“No, I can tell.”

“You can? Just like you can tell that those young men are Mexican?”

“Well, they might be a different kind of Mexican, maybe they’re from Venezuela, that would be even worse, they might be supporters of that guy, whatshisname..”

“Hugo Chavez,” I supplied.

“Yeah, him.  He’s a communist.”

“He’s dead.”

“Good. That’s a start.”

“Ma’am, I’m going to leave now.  Have a wonderful afternoon.”

“You’re not really gay are you?”

“As far as you are concerned, I am.” I said, though I felt a little bit guilty about the lie almost directly afterwards, but I wanted to shake her confidence in her world view.  It didn’t work.

“Traitor,” she said to my back as I walked to elevator and went back to work.

What a weird day…

It’s been several hours now since that event, and I wonder what I could have, or should have done differently.  I wonder if I should have tried to persuade her to be more tolerant, or if I should have attacked her right back, but I think that perhaps what I did was the best I could have.. I was polite, I let her speak, I didn’t interrupt, but I let her know that I disagreed.  At least, I meant to, but I’m not really sure that I did.

I was off balance the whole time.  These are things that I simply don’t deal with anymore since I’ve ostracized myself from my father and his side of the family.  I feel true compassion for all of the LGBT people in other, less accepting parts of this country and the world in general, who have to put up with this shit on a daily basis.

I’m not sure how to classify this entry, but I’m still Rant.

Rant off.