Wednesday, May 28, 2014

pain and pleasure

I'm checking out the news and interesting articles of the week recently when I came across an article about how orgasms can dull pain on The Atlantic website. The title is a bit misleading. It's not just orgasm, but arousal that diminishes pain.  It's a fascinating read, and I encourage y'all to do so.
If you read that article, the scientists first tested the hypothesis by squeezing the paws of rats, and measuring how firm a squeeze it took and how long it took for the rats to pull their paws away.  Then the scientists inserted glass tubes into the vaginas of rats and squeezed their paws. The rats with tiny glass dildos inserted were able to withstand firmer paw squeezes before pulling their paws away. Now, there are a lot of crazy pictures I find on the internet to illustrate my blog, but I couldn't quite come up with an appropriate illustration for that experiment.  However, since my mind is applying everything said in the article to spanking, a wooden spoon and a rat seems fairly fitting. 
a cute bare-bottomed Mrs. Frisby and her bondage-loving friend Jeremy the Crow was a close second
Back to the link between arousal and pain... this seems almost intuitive.  The facial expressions one has during orgasm often look almost identical to very painful expressions.
Migraine? or orgasm?
Maybe I should consult someone who might know a little more than me. I decided to do some research- a quick Google search later, "Sara Nasserzadeh PhD, DipPST, is a New York based Social Psychologist, specializing in sexuality and relationships." She explains:

Why Do People Look In Pain When Experiencing Orgasm? from Sara Nasserzadeh on Vimeo.
Oh Okay. I get it now. Thanks for that thorough, helpful and scientific explanation! Not.  (And yes, as if I haven't already, I've certainly labelled myself a child of the late 80's/early 90's by including a pic of Meg Ryan's fake orgasm scene and then using a Wayne's World Not joke in this post) I looked up DipPST and for the life of me I can't figure out what sort of degree it stands for. Let's just go with "dipshit". 

Let's try something different. There's an amazing site called Beautiful Agony. It shows movies of people's faces who are having an orgasm.  Interestingly, the free sample movie shows a cute young lady with a tattoo on her shoulder of... wait for it... a hairbrush. Seriously.
its a java script link and I'm not smart enough to figure out how to post it on here, but here's a screenshot. Just click the link above.
Where was I? Oh yeah, a link between pain and sexual pleasure.  Obviously, (to me) they're connected. Yes, there's the similarity between the "O face" and a painful expression. There's more to it than that, I suspect, though. There are few activities that marry arousal and pain quite like a spanking for a true spanko. From my own experience, I'd say that both I, and my spankees, can take quite a bit more pain than expected when we are excited and aroused.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that many dominatrices employ the tactic of "milking" their male submissive (i.e., bringing them to orgasm) prior to their punishment, so that the spanking (or other punishment) hurts more. I haven't experienced this personally, but have heard about it more than once.  

Perhaps the connection between pain and arousal (at least in regards to spanking) is due to increased blood flow to the pelvic region as a result of the spanking, that also triggers an involuntary response of arousal because blood flows to the pelvic region during, well, normal arousal. Or maybe blood flow from arousal and the endorphins generated by pain allows one to tolerate it more. I truly don't know the answer. (However, here's a cool scientific explanation of endorphins as well as a much more thorough discussion of what Dr. Nasserzadeh was trying to say, complete with references.)

I suspect that, whether you believe humans were designed this way by a loving God, or whether we evolved this way, that the connection between sexual pleasure and pain stems from mammalian birth.  Yup, I said it. Thankfully humans don't have barbed penises. As I was reminded the other night when I heard screetches from the neighborhood, sex for cats is inherently painful. (Here's a National Geographic video explaining.) But childbirth can be quite painful.  Passing a kidney stone is pretty painful too.  Fortunately, I have zero first-hand experience with either of those, but I've been told they're both among the most painful natural human experiences, and they both directly involve the genitals.  There are reports of orgasm among women giving birth. Perhaps humans are designed/have evolved to deal with that pain.  Perhaps spankos are just taking advantage of this evolutionary anomaly/design flaw when there is arousal associated with an inherently painful process i.e., a spanking.

I'm curious what y'all think, but leave you with these images- are they in pain? in the midst of an orgasm? giving birth? It's sorta hard to tell.      


  1. The experiment in which vaginal stimulation decreases pain in rats is an old one by Linda Watkins, I believe. That research was discontinued and discredited because the rod was impacting the uterus of the rat and producing pain. Therefore, it was the familiar "pain inhibits pain" response and not a true sexual stimulus. I tried to improve the experiment in my own lab by having rats have actual sex and then looking at endorphin release in their spinal cord. We could not detect any endorphin release in preliminary experiments and then had to discontinue the experiment when the project was not funded.

  2. Wow- thank you so much for an informed comment. I find the field fascinating, and find it more intriguing that a discredited experiment is used to support a click-generating article on a respectable news site.