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June 2024

Misha Cross and Agatha Vega
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Hurts So Good: The Science of Pain as Pleasure
Featured Article

Hurts So Good: The Science of Pain as Pleasure

Kink has come a long way when it comes to smashing stereotypes. But even in 2019, BDSM [bondage & discipline, dominance & submission, sadomasochism] and those who embrace it still face considerable stigma when it comes to experiencing pain as pleasure. In a bid to demystify this oft-misunderstood lifestyle, some well-meaning eggheads in Canada recently published a study! And it’s…well, it’s not light reading, but in the interest of enlightenment dug into the study like a needle penetrating an eager sub’s flesh. 

Researchers at the University of British Columbia set out to explain the relationship between pain and pleasure, the complex conditions that define it, and how this contrasts with the experience of vanilla folk (we’re paraphrasing, but you get the gist).

The takeaway is that pain is “more than a physical sensation”; it can also be expressed as an emotion, informed by events, memories and experiences both past and present. This can describe pain in any context, like the memory associated with a bad bike accident or tumble down a flight of stairs. However, “in the case of consensual sadomasochism, neurological, psychological, environmental, and interpersonal elements come together to create a pleasurable or rewarding experience of pain,” the study notes. 

But how? The study zeroes in on the premise that experiencing pain as pleasure “begins with a positive headspace geared toward consensually receiving pain.” And there are all sorts of factors working in concert to enable this context: visual stimuli, environmental contributors, emotional state, interpersonal connection, memories and yes, sexual arousal. Together, these conditions create “a desire for and receptivity to pain.” Sadomasochistic pain is wanted and consensual, and further distinguished from “ouch” pain by the safety and control of being able to withdraw from the act whenever one wants.

The study’s findings were double-checked by bona fide BDSM practitioners, but here at, we take peer review very seriously. We asked three of the best Dommes in North America, and possibly the world, to tame this unruly mess for us. Kneel before the might of their unflinching insight!

Miss XI, Vancouver

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