I’m not sure whether I should call myself a masochist. My body has no secret alchemy that transforms pain into pleasure, and I don’t even usually feel a blissful rush of endorphins in the aftermath of a good thrashing. On a few occasions I’ve experienced something like a giddy, flighty high after a close encounter with a sadist, and I guess endorphins were probably to blame, but “blame” is exactly the word from my subjective and probably hopelessly warped point of view. Endorphins aren’t something I crave or even welcome in the sacred precincts of the torture chamber, because they interfere with what I perceive as the purity of the experience.
What I do crave, and feel profoundly grateful to My Lady for providing on a regular basis, is abject suffering inflicted with a high level of thoughtfulness, deliberation, creativity, and responsibility. Having considered the matter carefully, I don’t think the motivation of the person dishing out the suffering is particularly important to me. Though I’ve never been seriously tormented by anyone other than a sadist who enjoyed watching me squirm, I can imagine (ignoring, in some cases, the bounds of verisimilitude) other possibilities that seem equally erotic: a submissive instructed by someone else to work me over, a professional torturer just doing her job, a slave trainer breaking me in to transform me into a more valuable commodity, a prison guard seeing to it that I’m properly punished for real or imagined misdeeds, even a heathen priestess subjecting me to some bizarre ritual.
I’m also far from insensible to the many different guises in which suffering can approach, beyond the sting of the cane and the thud of the paddle. Oh goddesses of agony, leave me squatting in a tiny cage for hours on end! Bind me till I cramp, exercise me to exhaustion, bore me to tears, make my food bland and meagre, chill my showers, harden my mattress, clutter my to-do list with menial tasks, parade me naked, deluge me with urine, work me round the clock, priff my shuckle (I don’t even know what that one means), make me sweat, deny me orgasms and good books, scrape the hair off my chest with a rusty razor, hang me upside down, lock me in the basement, leave me out in the sleet, shove dildos down my throat and up my ass, forbid me to listen to anything but Justin Bieber, throw me in the deep end, pelt my nude body with snowballs and beanbags, probe the depths of my urethra, drive me round the bend, scare me shitless, clip my wings, shatter my illusions, rain on my parade, take me to the woodshed, force me into perspiring intimacy with another male body, eat my lunch, kick my butt, hunt me down, box my ears, burst my bubble, bust my balls, put me up for jury duty, make me lick your wasabi-smeared boots and kiss the thorns on your roses!
It’s all good, quite honestly. If what another person is inflicting on me is at all uncomfortable, harsh or unpleasant, if it’s vexing or cruel or degrading, if goes some way towards making me feel helpless, frightened, downtrodden and miserable, if it seems like a mean and nasty thing to do to someone, then I’ll almost certainly welcome it at some level, provided consent is in place and the treatment being applied won’t somehow wreck my life. The only real exception that comes to mind is the kind of humiliation that involves telling me I’m worthless, stupid or otherwise contemptible, or that I don’t deserve my tormentor’s attention. I do long to be valued, if only (or perhaps especially) as an entertainingly responsive plaything.
Nevertheless, I do acknowledge sheer physical pain as the queen of torments, as the essence of suffering in its most raw, intense and unadulterated form. Being hurt by a sadist captures my attention and underlines her power over me like nothing else in the world, and incidentally makes me moan, whimper, writhe in my bonds, and wish desperately to be elsewhere while simultaneously savouring every second of the rare and extraordinary thrill ride I’m experiencing. That contradictory response is a tricky thing, and I suppose it makes me a complicated and difficult submissive in some respects, as if my mind is operating at two distinct levels. Superficial Wheldrake is a straightforward character who likes beer and pizza, hates pain, and would rather be pretty much anywhere else than tied up in a torture chamber. Deep Wheldrake, on the other hand, is a subtle, twisted inner presence whose greatest joy in life is peering out from the shadowy recesses of my psyche and watching poor Superficial Wheldrake get terrorised and tormented by sadistic oppressors, whether the torment involves Queen Pain or only some of her handmaidens. Superficial Wheldrake values things that are congenial and pleasureable, whereas Deep Wheldrake is more drawn to things that are interesting and exciting – and there seems, for whatever reason, to be nothing he finds more interesting and exciting than the experience of being deliberately but consensually made to suffer.
It’s Deep Wheldrake who is writing now, as Superficial Wheldrake is an agreeable fellow who doesn’t assert himself much as long as he’s physically and mentally comfortable. Under those circumstances Deep Wheldrake can come to the fore, explain his perspective, and sometimes even get Superficial Wheldrake into terrible trouble. It was Deep Wheldrake who agreed to submit to My Lady, and Superficial Wheldrake who had to feel her cane while Deep Wheldrake (deeply shrouded, at that point, in the blazing curtains of Superficial Wheldrake’s suffering) silently cheered her on and worshipped at the altar of her sadism. I expect a Freudian would identify Superficial Wheldrake with my id and ego, and Deep Wheldrake with my superego.
The following quote, from The Story of O, goes some way towards capturing my feelings about being helpless in the hands of an expert tormentor:
O had never really understood, but she had finally come to accept as an undeniable and important verity, this constant and contradictory jumble of her emotions: she liked the idea of torture, but when she was being tortured herself she would have betrayed the whole world to escape it, and yet when it was over she was happy to have gone through it, happier still if it had been especially cruel and prolonged.
I first discovered that passage in a different translation, I think, but I’ve liked it ever since I was barely legal. For me, however, the underlying dynamic is that Deep Wheldrake is usually at the helm when I’m not actually being tortured; and Deep Wheldrake, naturally, both likes the idea of torture and is happy to look back on it in retrospect. When the torture is actually happening, though, Deep Wheldrake tends to find himself elbowed aside by mewling, desperate Superficial Wheldrake – although of course Deep Wheldrake is still down there somewhere, not plotting to betray the world but rather savouring Superficial Wheldrake’s hot tears of desperation. Superficial Wheldrake’s tears and Deep Wheldrake’s excitement both tend to be more muted if the torture involves something other than physical pain – mere discomfort, say, or some form of degradation – but the basic psychology is basically the same. If I’m a masochist, then my masochism is a broad thing that embraces the erotic possibilities of a whole cornucopia of large and small cruelties, indignities and impositions.
But am I a masochist at all? I honestly don’t know, and I try not to worry too much about the label as opposed to the reality of my emotional response to being consensually tormented. I do know that part of me craves suffering in nearly all its myriad forms, and part of me doesn’t. But it’s usually Deep Wheldrake who gets to sit down in the sober light of day and make decisions about what experiences and interactions I’m going to commit to, and poor Superficial Wheldrake who then has to live with the agonising consequences. It’s a very specific and lopsided kind of ambivalence, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s widely shared among my fellow submissives.