Here's a crosspost from Duke Duke Goose, a bonus stop on the Pain Slut tour! Blogger Elisabeth Blackwell and I sat down to get real about masochism.
Hi, I’m J.A. Rock, and super thanks to Elisabeth Blackwell for hosting me on Duke Duke Goose today to talk about my new release, Pain Slut (The Subs Club #2)
In Pain Slut, narrator Miles lets the guy he’s starting to fall for, Drix, play “Ask a Masochist” with him. Drix is a sadist but is new to BDSM, and there are some things he doesn’t totally understand about Miles’s need for pain. Because masochism is one of those oft-misunderstood aspects of BDSM, I thought it would be fun if I could team up with my fellow pain-lover Elisabeth for a co-interview about our pain sluttery.
So get ready. Cuz we’re about to make it hurt so good.
Elisabeth. Do you remember when you first realized you were…you know. A *stage whispers* masochist?
Elisabeth: Let me take us all on a journey of pure imagination with this one. Because, well, frankly, for a long time it was just pure imagination. It sounds fully ridiculous, but once I did realize what my masochism was, I kept trying to trace it back to some one thing that would be like AH that’s when it started. Sadly, for me, there is not a Magical Masochism Moment. I’ve always really liked piercings aesthetically, and needles were never a problem for me, so I started with my first ear piercing at 13 (because I was homeschooled and my parents had weird rules), and that turned into three in each lobe by the time I was 16. Before you know it, I’ve had a needle stuck in me for jewelry purposes 26 times, last count. It was long about the second nose piercing that I started realizing that, regardless of gender and physical appearance, I … super wanted to fuck all of my piercers after the piercing experience. Which sounds ridiculous, I know. I am aware of how ridiculous it sounds to someone not super duper into pain.
I was maybe 20 or 21 at the time. I kept getting piercings because of uh…gratification (and I do really like how they look, obviously). And would go so far as to let piercings heal over so I could either have the holes stretched back out *coughcough* or get them repierced. There really AREN’T that many piercing locations above the neck. And I had no other outlet.
Then, to be totally, 100% brutally honest with you, I started getting bikini waxes. And holy shit. Maybe that was when I really put two and two together. Because I would also get a full leg wax at the same time. What no one really tells you about bikini waxes (because most people say ouch hurt) is that between the bikini (especially a Brazilian) and the whole leg, there are so many different types of ouch involved. Certain areas are more of a sting, certain areas are more of a thuddy sort of pain. It literally became my one stop, very expensive, shop for spending an hour hurting until I felt drifty and adrenaline filled and so calm and relaxed and warm and … well, frankly, a bit sated. (My poor aesthetician.)
That combined with a lot of reading, porn, erotica, and talking to other kinky people just coalesced into me getting it.
I’ll address the masochist not submissive part in your other actually-directed-at-that-question.
That is an awesome origin story. Mine pales in comparison. So…It seems like true masochists are actually a bit rare in the kink world. Or at least, given that S and M are maybe the most famous letters of BDSM, sadists and masochists are rarer than people might think. It seems more common to encounter kinky people who like erotic pain here and there, but who don’t necessarily get off on the pain itself. Do you find that it’s hard to talk to other people—even kinky people—about masochism?
It depends a bit more on the setting. I’ve written blog posts before about being a masochist and not seeing my identity represented in even the kinkiest of the romance novel world. I also have the luxury of having met kinky people through the internet that immediately either got me or were fellow masochists (fist bump) or, of course, my Friendly Neighborhood Sadist, who sadly does not live even close to my neighborhood…or city…or state. Whatever. But in terms of meeting people in person, or having a discussion about my kinks, yeah — I definitely hesitate. Especially with non-kinky people, but even with subs.
There’s this assumption I developed from A) being isolated from the kink world and B) only experiencing it through romance novels that the pain was a bad thing. The pain was a punishment that the sub was sort of ‘forced’ to endure in order to be a good sub. So, to be really brutally honest, I was … worried that I would never find a top/dom/sadist that got that I’m not submissive and also *deep suffering breath* — I’m not good at setting my own limits. The more it hurts, the harder I get off. So far, at least. But I actually have really delicate skin, and I bruise like a peach, and so my marks not only look super intense in comparison to what I’ve done, but I also have to be careful with caning etc. because my skin will split. So I need a top/sadist willing to rein me in without uh … me realizing how much I’m being reined in.
It even took me a while to find a way to quantify to other people that like the pain, but aren’t pain sluts, that yes — I can (and DO) have a paingasm. This is not any less intense than what someone not familiar with it would consider an orgasm. It’s an orgasm. It’s just … I need no more stimulus than intense, prolonged pain. I could tell my favorite implements for getting me to that point, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, my body loves the shit out of pain, and it takes that pain and turns it into something completely incandescent and almost transformative. But I also don’t have a ‘sub-space’. I’ve talked to other bottoms, ones who aren’t necessarily primarily masochists, and apparently there’s a sub-space where you’re less aware of the actual sting of the pain and you’re floaty and high and all hopped up on endorphins.
Yeah, I don’t do that. Or I don’t do it yet, and thank God, because man, that would ruin the fuck out of the whole point of my masochism. It hurts and then it hurts more and more and more and then boom. *fireworks emoji*
Ugh, I diverged from the point. All of this to say, this series of emotions, this joy in the pain, this turning pain into an orgasm without making a detour around to straight Pleasureville, it confuses people that don’t love the pain. It confuses the fuck out of some people. And I think the hardest part is … I’m also a super duper exhibitionist. I have a huge exhibition kink. And Ilove my marks. And let me tell you what people do not react well to: a young pretty, soft looking woman with whip marks on her back. If the world were my ideal place, I could walk around in a backless dress after playing and everyone would be jealous that I got the thing I wanted. They should all be so lucky as to get something that felt as good to them as those marks felt to me. Something that made them feel as empowered, as sexy, as beautiful, as capable, as strong, as happy, as satisfied as those lash marks make me feel.
It’s also hard to quantify for some people that my masochism is such a selfish thing. Yes, I much prefer to play with a sadist who gets just as much pleasure out of hurting me as I get out of hurting, because both parties should be enjoying the proceedings equally, in my opinion. But it’s still an incredibly selfish thing for me. In the moment it’s like, “Man, I hope you had a good time and all, but I had a great fucking time and I am so self-satisfied right now that I got this.” Good for me, I got the thing I wanted. Like, I hope the person that gave it to me got what they wanted, but my pleasure in that pain has nothing to do with how much the person enjoys giving the pain. My body isn’t reacting to knowing I’m giving another person what they want. My body is reacting to me getting what I want from them.
Which makes me sound like a selfish asshole, but I think it’s important for people to understand that my masochism is not something I give to someone else. It’s not submission. It’s not, “Look at me, being able to give this person what they want.” It’s a dominant, “Look at me, getting what I want from this person.” I’m kind of okay with being an asshole here.
I very much get that. And it leads into my next (not really a) question: You are a dominant masochist. Rarest of the unicorns. Explain.
I’m super glad I get to talk about this. Mostly because I SUPER like talking about myself. (Don’t a lot of bloggers?) This was actually the hardest thing for me to reconcile, and it’s not, by any means, this granite, rock-hard thing that I feel solidified in that I can explain in full in front of a dissertation committee.
I feel like popular knowledge and even the vast majority of BDSM romance, and frankly, probably just identities, lumps masochism in with submission. It’s the masochism that seems to ‘bother’ the non-kinkies in the world. Here I am, a formerly homeschooled, mostly always living in small Bible Belt towns, virginal budding kinkster who … for some reason recoiled at the thought of being submissive to someone but desperately also wanted someone to whip her. I didn’t know how to convey that without feeling like someone was going to look askance at me, like I was some damaged little butterfly that wanted to be hurt *gasp, clucking noises, pitying looks*.
The first sadist I met, likely, thought, “Sure, this girl thinks she knows what she wants but –” I mean, I was untouched, untried, untested in literally every single way you can possibly imagine. I don’t think everyone wants the nitty gritty details of exactly how much I could’ve qualified to join a convent, but I would’ve qualified. Granted, said sadist also ended up scratching so many of my desperate itches, and I probably shouldn’t put words in another person’s mouth/brain. But I think a lot of people probably thought, “Sure, this girl thinks she knows she wants to be whipped, but EVERYONE says they have a ridiculously high pain tolerance.” But it was in this conversation with the sadist, that I tried to parse out this masochism when paired with my dominant personality. Thankfully for me, said sadist identifies primarily as a sadist and therefore it wasn’t just super duper weirdsauce to them that I had … no submissive streak to the best of my knowledge.
After I started playing — yeah, I have no submissive streak in the kink world. Or in the real world. But it did surprise me a little. Only a little bitty bit though. I am awesome at being a masochist, frankly. Duck to water, that’s me and masochism. And so, a sadist I have played with is maybe the only person in the entire world I’ve thought, “I really get how someone would kneel at their feet,” about. Yet, beyond that hindbrain knowledge of, “Oh, this must be what that feeling is like,” in practice … no. And I’m not a brat or whatever you want to call someone that wants to fight back but ultimately submit. I don’t know how to submit nor do I want to submit nor do I get an ounce of pleasure from the notion of submission. I don’t even care if someone I sleep with is submissive. I kind of like playing with other dominant personalities, because it feels a bit like bickering and bantering but…you know. With sex.
Awesome! I’m a switch, and I lean submissive, but I’ve definitely discovered that being toppy is sometimes a more direct route to getting the kind of pain I want. Because some tops are a bit intimidated by the idea of causing a lot of pain. So it sort of helps to offer to take the dominant-bottom role and be like, “Hey, here’s this whip. And here’s what you’re going to do with it.”
Elisabeth: Now my turn to ask J.A. questions!
When you were writing, or even planning, Pain Slut, were you nervous about writing a character into such extreme play? Were you concerned that even the average BDSM reader wouldn’t be able to connect to someone who was a masochist first?
J.A.: I wasn’t too worried, but I did feel some pressure along the lines of, Okay, this is the kink thing I should most be able to write about from a place of compassion and experience without screwing it up…WHAT IF I SCREW IT UP?
But I think some readers might actually have an easier time with the kink in Pain Slut—because at least it’s sexually gratifying for Miles—than with, say, the discipline in The Subs Club or the hardcore humiliation in 24/7. It’s sometimes harder to get readers to connect with nonsexual kink, because even people who understand that BDSM isn’t always sexual might still feel like, “But okay, then why am I reading this? I read erotic romance for the part where the people have the sex.” And I’m almost the opposite. Orgasms are awesome, but the psychological components of kink are so much more interesting to me.
Miles was a fun character because he is getting off on the pain–but there’s also a psychological component for him that’s less about submission or power exchange, and more about learning to truly share for the first time in his chronically-nettled, cardigan-stifled life.
Since I bared my soul, such that it is, would you like to talk about your own ~journey to masochism~?
*Greek chorus walks onstage in diaphanous costumes, chanting*
I always had fantasies about being whipped, even as a kid. I mean, like, would read the flogging scene in The Prince and the Pauper over and over again (and my copy was illustrated, so yeah, confusing feelings about the illustration on that page.) And as I got older, and got on the internet, I realized that wanting to be hurt was a thing. But when I was a teenager, it seemed like the only BDSM info on the internet was really creepy, woman-dehumanizing porn. So I did struggle for a while with the idea that my interest in pain was something I ought to keep secret or forget about. Because I didn’t want to be a dehumanized woman, and I didn’t like the idea that I was into something that seemed violent. And then I worried because “masochism” is technically a disorder, in that it’s a clinical term for people whose need to receive pain interferes with their ability to function.
Then the internet got better with time, and I reached an age where I could legally pursue kink, and I realized that I’m not strange or terrible. I don’t feel that my being a pain slut has an impact on my day to day existence–it’s just that once I’m in the bedroom, I want all the pain. Like you, understanding my limits was a learning curve. My first dom ever stopped in the middle of a flogging scene to take me over to the mirror, because she was afraid I didn’t realize how far things were going. And I didn’t. If you had asked me what I thought my back looked like based on the way the flogging felt, I would have said “A little pinkish.” I looked in the mirror and saw all these welts and bruises, and I was really scared for a minute, because I didn’t understand how my mind and body could be on such different pages. But I also kind of felt like a superhero. Like holy crap, LOOK AT MY INVINCIBLE BODY AND ALL IT CAN WITHSTAND.
Once I started topping, I also had to learn to adjust to other people’s pain thresholds. I was really afraid of falsely assuming my bottoms could take the same amount of pain I could. Even now, sometimes I’ll deliver a spanking or whipping that I think would feel mild to my body, and the bottom will be like “Oh God, that’s the hardest spanking anyone’s ever given me.” And I’m like, okay, thank God I didn’t go harder then.
In short, it took a while to be fully comfortable with my pain-love. But I feel confident now in my ability to pursue pain safely–or as safely as possible. And like Miles in Pain Slut, as I age, the need to have scenes be all pain, all the time has faded. Over the holidays, I spent a night with my dom of eight years, and she and I played Scrabble and fell asleep at 9:30 without doing anything remotely hardcore. And I was fine with that.
I know you in real life, so I know this about you without asking, but it’s one of the most interesting parts about you, can you talk about how open you are with your family/loved ones/non-kink friends about your kink identity?
Ha! I’m very close with my family. And I’m part of a group of five (nonkinky) friends who have formed a deeply in-love, wildly codependent secondary family, much like the Subs Club. So the idea that I wouldn’t share with these people a part of my identity that was really important to me was unthinkable. Plus I was living with my mother when I met my dom at twenty-two, and I got tired of making up weird excuses whenever I left town for kink trysts. I didn’t want to refer to my dom as my girlfriend, because she’s not, so one day I just asked, “Mom, do you know what BDSM is?” She’d been paranoid for years that her daughters were going to develop eating disorders, so at first she thought I was talking about Body Dysmorphic Disorder. So she looked really horrified, and I was like, “Oh God, I’ve finally done it. I’ve devastated her.” Then we got the confusion cleared up, and she was so relieved that I was just talking about whips and recreational enemas that I don’t think my coming out fazed her. We went to an equestrian expo together a few months later, and she nudged me as we passed the bin of riding crops and was like, “Do you need one?”
So yes, I’m very lucky. Friends, family–everyone’s really supportive. I mean, they make fun of me a lot, but in a nice way.
And since this is technically about your book, is there anything you want to talk about with regard to the relationships in the book? Personally, I’m a little obsessed with Drix and a lot obsessed with the fact that the B/D aspect of BDSM didn’t play into this story.
Part of the reason it was so exciting to meet you last year was that I’d just written a sort of dominant-masochist character with Miles, but I had yet to meet one IRL. Not that you’re some kind of kinky Pokemon to me, but it’s just cool. Miles has identified as a sub in the past because he does bottom-y things, but in Pain Slut he really comes out and admits Actually, I prefer instructing others on how to hurt me. He’s not particularly submissive, so discipline didn’t factor into PS. Even his big pain scene at the end where he “gives up control” is less about “Okay cool I’m submissive now!” and more about “I want to be surprised by everything that happens tonight–so I’m letting you write the script.” And Drix was fun because I liked the idea of a very sweet sadist who is not into BDSM. I wanted to acknowledge that sadism and masochism exist outside of a BDSM context.
Thank you for this mutual interview, Elisabeth! Wishing you much painful happiness in life.
Thank you so much to J.A. for this idea and for being so honest and open with me. I hope you enjoyed this and that maybe we even gave you a tiny bit of food for thought about a lesser known/explored area of kink.
Now it’s my turn to say that Pain Slut is the first time I saw myself in a book. Maybe ever. Especially this aspect of my identity. Please, please, please read this book if you don’t have an exceptionally weak constitution. (There is a scene where Miles gets his dick stapled and it’s GREAT, but it does involve CBT so..)
Buy this book. It is funny. It is hot. It is warm. It made me feel loved and accepted.