Posted at 19:35 on 3 Oct 2008 by Pandora / Blake
Natty has been writing some excellent posts lately on kink, sexuality, and chronic pain or illness. This is an issue that is very close to my heart, as both of my partners have chronic pain, and one of them also has a chronic illness. I've wondered in the past the extent to which my choosing two dominant men who aren't fully able-bodied had something to do with my submission. Nursing has certainly become a consciously submissive act in one of my relationships, and I find caring for my partner when they're suffering almost as rewarding as I find sexual submission. It also makes the power imbalance feel more natural - we are dependent on each other, it's not all one way. They look after me as my Dom, and I look after them as their sub. We care for each other.
I don't write much about the sexual consequences of my partners' physical health, and I don't think I ever could - it's far too private, and not my secrets to share. But I do want to tell you two stories about pain and kink which I think follows on from what Natty has to say.
I have a switch friend who I'll call X. X enjoys exploring both facets of their sexuality, and find that their submission and dominance tend to arise in very different circumstances, with very different types of people. One day, their life is changed by an awful accident. They are bedridden for months, and suffer from chronic pain and impaired movement to this day. Since the accident, they have not felt able to explore their submissive side, and instead have focussed increasingly on their dominance. Being forced to lie still for so long, being forced to endure pain they did not want, having control of their life and their body taken away from them, removed any desire they had to play with those things. Now, they are determined to be as fully in control of their life as possible. Their body, their environment - these are things they are not willing to surrender to anyone else. They don't know if they'll learn to switch again in the future, but even if they do, their personality has been deeply affected by the accident, and they'll never enjoy submission and pain in the way they used to.
I have another friend who we'll call Y. Y has a condition which means they've suffered from chronic pain all their life. Like X, they were a switch, and enjoyed playing both roles in power games with lovers. They enjoyed giving and receiving pain. Eventually, they started receiving surgical treatment to correct some of the symptoms of their condition. They spent a considerable amount of time in hospital, and then bedridden, in pain unable to fully care for themselves. The medication they were prescribed for the pain had unfortunate side effects, and they preferred to avoid it. Instead, their switch relationship shifted while they were recovering from the surgery. They started submitting to their partner much more consistently than they ever had before. They sought out sexual pain because it was empowering. By surrendering control of their body to their partner, they wrested it away from their illness, from the doctors. Pain became translated for them, became something with positive associations. By choosing an affirming, intimate, conscious pain experience, the pain experience they had no choice about became easier to bear.
I don't really have anything to add to the story, except to say that Y still mostly identifies as submissive, and that I don't really know of any outside factors that might explain why X went one way and Y went the other. I just think it's fascinating, the way the human mind and body is capable of responding to these experiences. And I defy anyone to talk to X and Y and then try to argue that kink is damaging and unhealthy.
There are more people out there with invisible disabilities than you might think. If it wasn't so widely misunderstood and stigmatised, I wonder how many more of them might find solace and empowerment through a sexual exploration of pain.