Masochism: Not All Pain is Good Pain

{Content Warning: self harm, masochism, abuse. All references are my own and not intended to summarize or speak for any other person’s experiences.}

As someone who must actively manage, and have help managing, their mental health, the correlations with kink and sex and want and need, have all been prominent concepts for me for awhile. The discovery that I was, in fact, quite masochistic in certain settings, was very uncomfortable at first, in no small part because I have a history of self harm. My harm came in a few forms, some bigger and scarier than others, but all of them were exhausting, all of them were painful and none of them were a solution. From what I understand of self harm in the general sense, most of us who have experienced it, took action out of sheer desperation. Most people don’t self harm out of boredom or curiosity, not without a powerful motivator, be that external, like the abuse or criticism of a parent, or internal, from the private monologues we utter to ourselves when only we are listening.

All forms of self harm that I engaged in were private and never crossed into kink in any way. There was the release and catharsis of self harm, where in the moment, things were so pressurized that I just needed to tap a valve of some kind and let off some of that heaviness. Other times it allowed me to come back into my body in a way that my mental health otherwise prevented. Sometimes I just needed to feel something. Anything. There was no pleasure in that pain. Any value that the pain held for me was gone as soon as it was felt and it was replaced by crushing fear and guilt. There was no joy or freedom in the pain of self harm for me. Not once did I ever pursue it to feel good, only to try to feel vaguely better or to stop the numbness.

One place where kink and mental health does cross streams for me is spanking. I am not keen on punishment in general, I don’t learn or grow well under someone’s thumb – it’s too triggering and reminiscent of my memories of actual abuse from my younger life. When I have been the D in a D/s scene I have struggled with punishment and discipline, because I believe in using one’s words for conflict, but one’s words and hands for pleasure. Spanking can, and is, used for discipline for many BDSM practitioners and enthusiasts, but it’s not for me. Being spanked is “good pain” , something I had to learn to reconcile and not misconstrue with harm or the desire to be harmed. Harm, is, after all, not the same as hurt. Spanking can be absolutely “therapeutic” (which I by no means intend to be interpreted as a form of therapy or in place of therapy), however, the focus and intimacy of spanking, along with the positive reinforcement of aftercare, is very valuable to me and can be a very effective activity in the maintenance of my emotions or simply clearing my head.

Certainly I can see parallels between my masochism and history of self harm, but only if I squint. They largely live in very different parts of me and even if the expressions looked more similar, the feelings and motivations behind them are entirely different. One was self destructive and worsened my mental state, the other is a joyous intensity that is only possible within the framework of absolute trust and safety. One was a desperate attempt at freedom with no results, the other is like a cosmic portal swinging open so I can feel and cry and express myself. Self harm prevented me from growing, masochism let’s me just be.


Violet Fawkes (she/her) is a freelance writer and sex blogger focusing on pleasure education, erotic fiction, and the intersection of identity, kink and mental health.

4 thoughts on “Masochism: Not All Pain is Good Pain

  1. Very thoughtful and informative Violet. The title in itself says so much as well. When we are stereotyped it is assumed that we like all types of pain and that is quite far from the truth. We may have some similarities, but we process pain completely different than the next person.

  2. The last line is so poignant and that is how I feel – I have never self-harmed in the way that leaves marks – but have in others that stopped my growth. I love to be spanked and I actually feel that whole scenario helps me grow x

  3. I wrote my thoughts about this and I am the opposite, I feel self harming lead me to understand that pain can be pleasurable. I think that time was my first footsteps into understanding I enjoyed it

    That being said my reasoning to begin with originally most def weren’t me on the search for pleasure – I was on the path for destruction but I am happy it took an unexpected turn x

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