As much as I love writing that deals frankly and unapologetically with sexuality, particularly alternative sexualities, I've always been a bit hesitant to address such themes on Bilerico Project in an explicit manner myself.
Quality sex-positive writing, work and art is hard to come by, and I admire its producers for having the guts to illuminate a subject that can be powerful, fundamentally unifying and instructive to the human experience despite constant censorship and discouragement from prudes, cowards and the powers that be. I haven't done much of this.
Maybe it's because it's a bit unsettling to think of my friends, family and acquaintances reading my personal, sexual thoughts. My parents read this blog, after all.
Something keeps nagging me, though. I can't remember the exact wording or where I read this sentiment, but the general thrust was if you want to be creative, if you want your art/writing/work to truly grow and lead you and your audience to meaningful places, your process absolutely cannot be preoccupied with what certain people will think of you for it. This principle might apply to family more than anyone. So, damn the potential awkwardness; I feel compelled to share some recent thoughts.
I discovered the beauty of sadism a few days ago during a kind of queer retreat. I've never identified as a sadist or felt much draw to such practices. The idea of hurting others never turned me on, and even now that I "get it" the primary appeal still is not sexual in nature, per se.
When chatting with sex partners about likes and dislikes I'm often asked, "Do you like pain?" This is a vexing question. I think it's too simply put.
As a bottom, my answer to this question is always, "I don't like pain, but I like where pain can take me." The pain itself is not a turn-on, for me anyway. What it does for me as a recipient is let me explore parts of myself that would otherwise go completely untouched in everyday life.
In daily life, if you're desperately pleading and begging someone through tears to stop torturing you, crying that you'll do anything for them if only they'd stop, sobbing that you can't take it anymore... something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. Everything we do in our lives is to prevent something like that from happening. We want and need safety, stability and affection.
With those things though, comes a kind of complacency, a lack of challenges - how can we test our mettle and know what we're really made of when our successful lives serve to protect us from the very distressing situations in which we might rise to the occasion and transcend our perceived limitations, or alternatively, crumple in abject defeat? As Brad Pitt so concisely puts it in Fight Club, "How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?"
I'd only experienced these things as a recipient before. It can be an incredible catharsis. Beyond orgasm. Orgasms last five or 10 seconds if you're lucky. Breaking through pain, or having pain break you, can provide a release or trancelike state that can last for minutes, an hour, or even hours.
Furthermore, what I find particularly interesting is that you can grow and learn valuable things about yourself just as much by being broken as by breaking through. Either result will teach you something.
As a bottom, I knew and felt these things, so I understood why people wanted to subject themselves to pain, but I could never see myself as the person doing the inflicting. I didn't see the appeal. I can now, however, because a few days ago I had the honor of breaking someone myself.
As I sat on top of their chest doing my best to make those physical, mental and emotional barriers all disintegrate, I watched a person fall apart before my very eyes . Their lids fluttered, their face twitched, their mouth spread in a dolorous grimace and tears started flowing. Between bleats of pain and shame they told me they couldn't take it anymore and used the safe word.
I immediately pulled them close in a hug, stroked their hair, soothed them, and told them they should be proud of enduring what just happened. In those moments it clicked. I had watched... no, actually I had caused everything this person had constructed to protect themselves from fear, pain and uncertainty in the outside world to crumble helplessly to the ground.
I could see it in their face as clear as words on a page - the precise moment they snapped in two.
It was incredibly moving. This person trusted me enough to let me tear them down absolutely, to methodically strip away all the exterior till there was nothing left but core personhood, that most base state of humanity - raw, wounded, desperate, real. Real with another person in a way we rarely are granted access, even with those we love most.
What's more, they not only trusted me to perform that painful operation of stripping them raw, they trusted that I'd help put them back together afterward. And I did. We did. Together.
The connection fostered, or rather demanded, by an activity like this is incredibly deep. It is not something that often occurs in the outside world, and like I said before, when it does, usually it's because something has gone legitimately wrong - a death, a bad break-up, etc. In contrast, we were able to choose how, when and where we experienced those same feelings, and we shared moments of intense closeness that we'll always remember and always have between us.
If that's not beautiful, I don't know what is.
 Hi Mom and Dad! Buckle up if you choose to read on!
 Let the record show everything I'm talking about in this essay refers to safe, sane and consensual activities between adults. There's a world of difference between exploring these things with a trusted, caring partner, and actual physical and mental abuse.
 Again, consensually! This was what we both wanted. We talked about it at length beforehand.