The Sting is the Thing: Pleasure from Pain in BDSM Play

Sadists and masochists? S&M? Why do some people get pleasure from experiencing pain, or inflicting it on others?

Often people who are not in the BDSM scene ask us about the floggers, paddles, slappers, and riding crops we sell, wondering why people would like being hit with them, or like hitting another. It boils down to three things: the kink attraction; the feelings generated by the serious neurochemicals produced by the S&M play; and, the powerful bonding built out of complete trust.

It’s fun to play in “taboo” realms, expressing your kinky fascinations with a partner and being accepted and supported for it. The person being tied up enjoys that it looks sexy and is a turn-on to the partner who tied them up. The person who enjoys being a masochist gets a thrill from being with a person who enjoys playing in the role of the sadist. The person who enjoys being in complete control gets off on the person who wants to be controlled by them. In all of BDSM, there is pleasure from the coming together of these opposite roles towards each party expressing their kink fully and with not only complete acceptance, but also with encouragement. This relationship is commonly called the power exchange.

Next, the neurochemicals involved in S&M play generate potent, heady feelings that are quite addictive.  Adrenalin, endorphins, and enkephalins reward the receiver of whippings, floggings, and paddling. The build-up and release of these chemicals during the session creates an increasing state of euphoria, and are very intoxicating! Meanwhile, the “top” is enjoying adrenalin rushes as well from the excitement of seeing the bottom’s reactions, which are a huge turn-on by themselves.

However, it is the increased feeling of connectedness with a partner that can be the most intoxicating. Enhanced by oxytocin (also known as the love hormone), S&M play is deeply intimate, involving trust on a level that the participants may  rarely have experienced before. This is the most compelling reward for the top: the bottom’s total trust while in the top’s control. This is why most practitioners of BDSM prefer to play with someone they already know and trust. The existing bond is strengthened through this exchange of respect and trust as each person’s fulfills the other’s needs, wants, and fantasies.

Building the bond doesn’t just occur during the scene. The flood of hormones and neurochemicals lasts long after the session ends, and the aftercare needed offers another opportunity to build trust and affection. An attentive top caring for the bottom with tender touches and soothing words counteracts the adrenaline crash until it dissipates more comfortably. If the adrenalin crash is dealt with in a loving, bonding fashion, it can leave the bottom floating in an endorphin-induced bliss for up to an hour or longer.

The true reflection of a top’s affection comes in the days after the session. A phenomenon known as sub-drop can occur, a drop in mood due to changes in cortisone and prolactin levels. Purposefully communicating is key during this time to abate these feelings. This will raise oxytocin levels in the bottom again through the top’s continued reinforcement of a loving bond.

As you can see, a top is not simply as a person who enjoys being “mean” to the bottom, and a bottom benefits from receiving physical pain. The  chemistry, dynamics and agreeable, mutual power exchange benefits both parties in their favored, sexy, and delectably kinky form of play.