Three years ago, I was fresh from what was then the worst breakup of my life. I drank a lot, smoked even more and stopped going to school. I spent all day angry and sad and confused. I wanted to feel something else, so I sought out some play partners and had a super rough threesome. We crossed so many of my boundaries; going along with it was easier than saying the pain wasn’t good for me. And maybe, if something hurt more than the pain of my breakup, it would erase it and I could function again. But even though I let my body be used in a way I thought I wanted it to be used, and even though I had bruises for days, I didn’t feel any better. The physical pain was exactly what I wanted, but I also wanted it to erase my emotional pain, and it didn’t.

Last May, I finished a project I’d been working on for a very long time and rewarded myself with hand tattoos. I drafted them with the artist and sat very still as she began. The pain was exquisite: sharp, pointed, endorphin-laced. I left the tattoo parlor with sweet new body art and a clear head. It was like I’d been in a stuffy home heated by a radiator and had stepped outside into crisp winter air. My pain took me exactly where I wanted to go.

Ignoring my limits is different from pushing them. Pushing my limits is a fun challenge; ignoring them can force my play out of the realm of play and into dangerous territory. For me as a masochist, there’s a thin line between (intentional, safe, risk-aware) self-hurt and (risky, non-negotiated) self-harm. Assuming I take care to play with safe tops and dominants, I become the greatest risk to myself if I’m not thinking about masochism holistically.


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Bottoms Up: Holistic Masochism by Al(aina)

December 13, 2016