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Pleasure of Pain: Kink and Trauma – Hellove Class #13


Kink is one aspect of human sexual behavior that, unfortunately, is often misunderstood, stigmatized, and pathologized. Sex is taboo, but complexity rises with kinks, fetishes, power dynamics, and BDSM games in discussions about sexuality. Controversial kink discussions involve using it to address and heal from sexual trauma, a challenging concept for some individuals. In reality, there are many methods for healing from sexual trauma, and just because certain things may seem like unhealthy coping mechanisms for some individuals, it doesn’t mean they cannot have therapeutic effects for others. Continue reading to learn more about the psychology of pleasure and pain, and why kink, in a safe and consensual context, can contribute to recovery.

What Makes Pain Feel So Good?

Sexual arousal from pain can be perplexing, as pain, typically avoided, contrasts with pleasurable activities like sex for some individuals. In reality, there are some neurobiological reasons that can explain why some individuals find pleasure in pain. Due to the unique nature of each person’s brain, it affects individuals in different ways.

The background is crucial when it comes to how the brain responds to pain. For instance, if you suffer severe burns from cooking, it’s likely an accidental and undesirable pain, as you were simply trying to prepare a meal for yourself. In BDSM scenarios, an environment is typically created for individuals to experience pain while feeling safe, as they have full control over the type of pain they undergo.

Duration, location, intensity, frequency, and sexual context play roles in kink, invoking specific erotic blueprints and desires in individuals. The brain is intricate and can distinguish between “good pain and bad pain” or unwanted pain and pain felt in a pleasurable context. Sexual arousal with pain releases dopamine and oxytocin, linked to pleasure and love. Pleasure results from pre-existing emotions and interpersonal context. The combination of arousal, context, and positive intent towards pain collectively creates a pleasurable experience.

Kink and Sexual Trauma: A Path to Healing

Utilizing kink practices for healing from sexual trauma is often misunderstood and pathologized. One controversial form, consensual nonconsent (CNC), involves role-playing forced sex fantasies. CNC can be liberating for survivors, allowing them to reframe traumatic experiences, reclaim control, bodily autonomy, and establish pre-disclosed boundaries.

In a 2023 study, sexual trauma survivors using kink for healing found that replaying traumatic scenes in a safer context empowered them, restructuring limiting trauma narratives. The key is consent, safe words, and the ability to slow down or stop. While some view forced sex play as an unhealthy trauma reaction, for some survivors, kink has proven profoundly healing and reparative to their relationship with sex.

Try Your Own Way

For those interested in exploring the therapeutic aspects of kink, collaborating with a mental health professional versed in trauma and supportive of kink can ensure safety and facilitate the processing of emotions and experiences without judgment. There’s no shame in pursuing authentic and cathartic healing. You hold the reins to your sexual narrative, empowering you to shape it in the most meaningful way for yourself.