The sharp ache of getting a hickey. The brief burn of warm wax dripping on your chest. The sting of using a vibrator when you’re already oversensitive. The deep throb of wearing a ball stretcher. The lingering soreness after a really good fuck. The crack of a paddle across your ass.
These feelings are pain – but they’re pleasure, too.
So why play with pain?
The answer to “why play with pain” is first answered with the obvious: because you want to! Maybe you’re curious, or it turns you on, or it enhances your experience of pleasure or kinky submission.
If you don’t have any interest in pain play, that’s okay! You don’t have to explore sex acts or kinks that you’re not interested in. It doesn’t make you less engaging or adventurous as a play partner.
If you are interested in pain play, that’s okay too!
There are so many areas of our lives where enduring experience pain and/or fear in a controlled setting is seen as perfectly normal. Pain is a frequent part of many sports, and fear is the main motivator behind watching horror movies or riding roller coasters. Adrenaline, euphoria, thrill – you can get a “rush” from bungee jumping, quitting a job you hate, or having a partner use a flogger.
Pain is also often tied to feelings of accomplishment and physical satisfaction. The many aches you feel after going for a hike or a long run, or spending all day at the beach or a theme park, are part of the come-down experience. Those feelings are often as good as the initial rush, and can stay with you for several days afterward as a reminder of your experience.
Just like with roller derby or martial arts, it’s important to play in an environment where safety and consent are paramount. Educate yourself on any activities you want to partake in, and decide how best to handle any risks. Be open with your partner(s), and make sure they’re just as engaged and knowledgeable as you are. Take this seriously – don’t worry, it’ll still be fun.
Betty Butch’s pain play tips
I highly encourage you to seek out other kink educators before you jump into your pain play journey. Multiple perspectives will give you a fuller understanding of what you’re getting into – and where your own curiosities and boundaries lie.
Not sure where to start? Kink Academy and Watts the Safeword are two of my favorite resources!
But for now, here are my biggest tips:
- Start off slow and easy. I know that it might sound sexy to have a partner paddle you until your butt is black and blue. You’ll be able to feel it for a week! Except… you’ll be able to feel it for a week. Have you ever had to sit in an office chair with a bruised booty? It’s more painful and distracting than you might think! Go easier than what you think you can take while you’re still learning your limits.
- Do frequent check-ins. Pain might impact you in ways you’re not expecting. It might trigger an upsetting memory or an intense feeling of shame. It might hurt too much or in ways you don’t like and you might have a hard time noticing or articulating that until you take a break. It might cause you to experience “subspace” (a content, “floaty” headspace that comes from feelings of consensual submission) which requires different handling. Make sure you and your play partner(s) plan for frequent pauses!
- Explore different methods. Not all pain play has to be spankings because you’ve been naughty. Pain play can be having a partner worship you with so many orgasms you’re begging them to stop, or staying in an uncomfortable pet position, or fucking a masturbator after you’ve cooled it down with ice, or gagging during deep throat practice. Pain play can be non-sexual, or foreplay, or the center of a sex scene. If you’re inspired, explore!
- Make sure you’re in a healthy headspace. Intentionally seeking painful stimulation can walk a fine line when it comes to your mental health. Make sure you take a full inventory of your feelings before you engage in pain play. Ensure you’re doing it because it’s fun, not because you think you “deserve” to be hurt. No one deserves harm. “Punishment” should only be pretend, and while kink can be therapeutic (the same way that petting horses can be) it’s not a replacement for actual therapy.
Beginner-friendly ways to try out pain play
Whether you’re not yet sure if you enjoy pain play, or you’re exploring it for the first time, there are numerous ways to experiment! Here are just a few:
Ice Cubes: You’ve probably seen ice cubes listed as a way to cool off during summertime sex, but have you ever actually used them? That harsh bite of cold as you drag an ice cube across your skin… it’s mean in the best way. Get the ice slick by melting it slightly with your fingers and then glide it over sensitive places, or even leave some to rest on a trembling stomach or inner thigh until they’re melted away.
Pinwheels like the Lil Devil Pinwheel or Kink Spike Wheel: These prickly little toys are also called “pain wheels” or “Wartenberg wheels.” There are many small variations to the design, but essentially they’re blunt-tipped probes on a wheel that can be rolled over skin. Despite their intimidating look, they’re not meant to pierce your skin – just poke and prod! Depending on your sensitivity level, a pinwheel might feel like tickling, biting, or that fuzzy feeling when your limb falls asleep.
Spanking with the Leather Paddle With Fur Side, Saffron Square Paddle, or Love Street Fashion Paddle: Impact play is probably the most easily recognizable form of pain play. You hit something, and that something hurts. I usually recommend curious players start off with a budget paddle. These light-weight paddles often hurt less than spanking by hand. Wielding a “tool” adds an extra layer of thrill to a session, especially if you’re role playing.
Tickling: Tickling can be absolutely agonizing if you’re particularly sensitive or it goes on for too long. Submit yourself to a thorough tickling – maybe while you’re tied up and blindfolded so all you can do is squirm – and treat a partner to choked, tearful laughter and desperate gasps galore.
Wax Play with Make Me Melt Candles or Temptasia Fox Drip: There’s nothing quite like the quick sting and subsequent cooling of a warm drip of wax on your skin. (It’s fun – but tedious – to pluck off all the waxy dots afterward!) You can draw patterns, try dripping from high away from the body or up close (within reason – watch that flame!), or wildly vary where your drips for a jolt of surprise.
Overstimulation: Heightened sensitivity can happen after a lot of stimulation (such as from touching, tickling, etc) or after orgasm. Sensitive, twitchy skin is prime real estate for pain play, because it takes very little to elicit a response. There are plenty of ways to seek heightened sensitivity, like using a pump to plump up your nipples, vulva, or penis, and then skim over them with a vibrator.
Pinpoint Vibrators: You don’t have to stray from “vanilla” sex toys to find something to mix pain and pleasure. Fluttering-tipped toys like the Fun Factory Volta, ultra-targeted toys like the Zumio, or toys with textured heads like the Lush Juna, can be used to enact exquisite torture. You can turn them “too high,” or use them post-orgasm, or linger on super sensitive parts of the body (like the head of the penis, just behind the ear, or beneath the clitoral hood.)
Forced Orgasms: Sometimes pain is just too much of a good thing. Forced orgasms are orgasms that you (consensually) coax forth through sheer power – whether you’re ready or not! Wand vibrators like the Doxy, the “Hitachi” Magic Wand, and the We-Vibe Wand are a fan favorite for forced orgasms because of their large heads (which are too big to wriggle away from) and incredibly strong vibrations.
Nipple Clamps: Were you ever pinched on the arm by a crush in school? These feel like that, except good because it’s a sensation you’re consenting to and eagerly (or fearful-excitedly) anticipating. You can use them for a quick squeeze, wear them for a prolonged ache, or tug or twist them for some toe-curling torture. If you find out you’re not so keen on your nipples being clamped, you can try them on other parts of your body, like your ears or your inner thighs.