Pain on Purpose

OBB has more than pictures of the bottoms of delectable women. Here is something to think about. It’s from a new book — Hurts So Good: The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose by Leigh Cowart.

There are degrees of pain that masochists enjoy. It’s not just about spanking or BDSM. Think of a marathoner running on a searing summer day, a hot pepper addict, those that rush into frigid water, ballerinas, boxers.  All of these choose to feel pain on purpose.

I think we all compare ourselves to others on the pain scale. Like belts are OK, but wood paddles are off-limits. While I have never thought of comparing myself to a pepper eater, perhaps I should? I suspect I am on the light end of the pain spectrum. This narration is about one on the other end of the spectrum.

“We have company coming over. We’d better get out to the shed now.” Earlier today, I had been crying in the parking lot of a fabric store, my slide into the familiar despondency of seasonal depression proceeding apace, but at this moment I am pert and excited. I follow him barefoot on a worn path through the long, wet grass in his yard. He’s been running space heaters in the outbuilding of his house in preparation for our time there: a touching gesture, but a tease nonetheless. He knows how much I hate the cold, and seeing as we’re standing here because I’ve asked him to do terrible things to me, the ominous fact that I am getting the niceties of warmth has not gone unnoticed. 

I have no idea what I’m in for, other than it will hurt. I twist my feet together. He’s jovial; I’m chirpy. We’ve had a sweet date involving poorly prepared German takeout with his mother, followed by boozy coffee drinks at a red-lit hole-in-the-wall cocktail bar down by the river. My skin is already feeling a little warm and soupy from the bowl I smoked in the kitchen. He unzips my dress. I step out of the black, low-cut scrap of fabric, and he gently removes my glasses and bra. My panties stay on because they are precisely the size of a postage stamp. It’s the little things, you see. 

I’m blindfolded and lying on an antique gynecological exam table, my feet corralled in the menacing chill of wrought-iron stirrups. I’m tied down to the table at the neck and under my breasts. Straining against these ropes makes me feel panicky and air hungry, so I work on my breathing exercises while he slips industrial rubber bands onto my arms and legs. My breath is already shallow, fast; I feel light-headed with anticipation. Right now, the adrenaline is from the dread, and there’s a lot of it. He cultivates this feeling, a gifted curator of my experience. 

He begins to snap the rubber bands. Right upper thigh near the hip. Left inner thigh near the panties. Outside of the legs, the sides of my arms. The seams of me. I start out okay, on top of the cresting waves of sensation, but soon I succumb to the reality of the pain. Early whimpering ends in a shriek, and he binds my hands with zip ties. I’m moving too much. 

Now he really gets going. The rubber bands bite hard; I’m seeing orange and white in the backs of my eyelids. There’s one spot on my arm that gets it bad, and every time he snaps it again, I make a pitiful sound, as if hearing my voice crack when I oscillate between endurable erotic pain and actual physical agony isn’t exactly what I asked for. That arm will have some purple tomorrow. 

The moment fills my brain in a singular way: like if you could inflate a balloon inside my skull and make it fill the whole area, and the only thing in that balloon was just that one thing. When was the last time you were thinking and feeling one exact thing? Just one fucking thing. 

Just. 

One. 

Fucking. 

Thing. 

I’m sobbing into the blindfold, and he makes me come with his hands, and I’m still crying and he’s snapping the rubber bands again and I’m dizzy from bucking my scrawny-ass neck against my ropes. The Hitachi clicks on, and he’s making me come over and over in a way that is also agony. I am squirming away from him, going nowhere. It’s too much, it’s too much, it’s too much. 

I miss the too much immediately when he returns to snapping rubber bands. He does this for what feels like an unknowable length of time, this back and forth: a fury of forced orgasms followed by searing pain. I presume there is a puddle on the floor, my thighs covered in thick, stinging welts. When he presses his body between my legs, it is a relief; I can take more pain this way. He is like a grounding wire. 

I am wet with sweat and endurance, and it’s just me and him and that one thought: pain. Still snapping the wide rubber bands across my raised pink skin, he cranks up the Hitachi to its highest setting, now a brutal power tool. He’s shoving fingers in my cunt, fucking me hard with his hand. I am shaking on the table. Everything hurts, my body feels swollen and slippery, and he leans over me, mouth to my ear, breaking the silence with a cruel laugh. 

“Is this high enough sensation for you, dear?” 

I come around his hand. I feel like I am dying. Things get quiet. My body is ringing like a bell, and the crickets outside sing me back into the room. 

He cuts off my zip ties and releases me from the table, removing my rubber bands with the tiniest of playful snaps. He takes off my blindfold. He’s standing over me. I look up at his big, pellucid eyes and catch them just for a second before he kisses me. He pets my hair. We smile while we do this, my soggy face brushing up against his salted beard. 

And just like that, I felt bad, and then better.”

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