People Might Judge Me, But Doing This Changed My Sex Life

Photographed by Isa Wipfli
I hit puberty when I was 11. Although I had no concept of sexual pleasure or what my genitals were capable of at that age, I had a lot of erotic fantasies. My most memorable type of fantasy was a variation of the "lady tied to train tracks" scenario: I’d be confined in a box or held hostage in a scary situation with impending doom, and my crush would heroically save me. These fantasies weren’t necessarily physically arousing, but they were mentally stimulating and very satisfying. And since I had control over their endings, they were never upsetting — they felt more like thrilling thought experiments. As a teenager, BDSM was mostly a superficial concept to me. I only knew mainstream media’s portrayal of kink with whips and chains as an aesthetic, but I had no context or genuine information about the practice. It seemed like a strange fetish for freaky people who might have emotional issues. I saw no connection between myself and that world; I just thought leather and latex looked cool. By the age of 19, I was attending college in New York and living on a tight budget. I found myself scouring Craigslist ads for miscellaneous jobs and saw a listing for a dominatrix position at a dungeon in Manhattan. Even though I had absolutely no experience as a domme, I immediately applied, because something about it piqued my interest. I considered myself a "type A" personality and I was an intense, strong woman in my daily life. Bossing men around for a living should come naturally to me, right? To make a long story short: I came in for a trial shift and walked out after only a few hours, because, among other reasons, I just wasn’t capable of being a giver of pain. After my dramatic experience at the dungeon, I spent a lot of time thinking about what attracted me to the job in the first place. I hadn’t considered the fact that, even though I’d had many different sexual partners, I had very few experiences with giving or receiving pain. I’d been with a guy who liked to choke me a little, but I wasn’t really into it. I’d been smacked on the butt during sex, and I liked it, but it was very light and playful — not anything that could be considered "impact play." After reading a very informative book about kink, I realized that my general understanding of BDSM was all wrong — specifically, how I regarded the giving and receiving of pain, or "intense sensations." When I read the section about spanking, I felt warm tingles run all throughout my body. I learned that spanking may cause the body to release endorphins and can heighten sensations, a feeling I was already somewhat familiar with but hadn’t understood until that point.

When I read the section about spanking, I felt warm tingles run all throughout my body.

I also learned some crucial BDSM basics: all acts must be consensual, a "scene" should be pre-negotiated and not improvised, and it’s very important to establish a safe word ("yellow" is often used to mean "slow down" and "red" to mean "stop.") And during impact play (like spanking), it’s also important to only hit fleshy areas with a good amount of fat and muscle (like the butt). Otherwise, you risk damaging your internal organs and bones. The next time I saw my hookup buddy who’d dabbled with spanking me previously, I told him that I wanted him to go to town on my ass — and he did. I was surprised by how, at the moment of impact, a pang of orgasmic sensations radiated throughout my crotch. This was something I hadn’t felt before, since I’d only been hit lightly. Sure, it hurt to get smacked a bit, but the pain felt very surface level, while the pleasurable sensations were felt longer and deeper within my body. I was pleasantly surprised by this new discovery, and wanted all my sexual encounters to incorporate spanking. The next morning, I craned my neck around to survey the damage and saw that my backside was entirely purple and green. I bruise easily, but I hadn’t taken that into consideration before I made my kinky request. It was a little sore to the touch, but it appeared much worse than it actually felt. The bruises didn’t bother me — in fact, I actually felt a sense of pride and accomplishment, but I wasn’t sure why I was feeling that way. After a few days, the bruises still hadn’t faded. My friends invited me to go to the beach, and I agreed to go, not sure how everyone would react to my purple butt. So I chose to announce the presence of my bruises instead of hiding them. "Hey, look what I got into last weekend!" I said with a smirk, hiking my bottoms up even higher so everyone could see. My girlfriends collectively took a peek. They were amused by my audacity, and one of them even told me it looked like a beautiful work of watercolor art. My sex-induced marks somehow made me feel even sexier; they were badges of accomplishment, not an embarrassment. Getting hit and spanked was officially my new obsession. Every time I had sex, I asked the person I was hooking up with to hit me as hard as they could. Unfortunately, not everyone I hooked up with was a natural sadist. While no one refused to spank me, I could tell that my propositioning made some guys uncomfortable. They’d say they’d do it, adding that they didn’t want to actually hurt me, but I’d assure them that I genuinely wanted to be hurt. I didn’t want to get spanked half-heartedly — it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable if the person giving the spanking wasn’t as into it as I was.

While no one refused to spank me, I could tell that my propositioning made some guys uncomfortable.

I could understand why they’d be hesitant, too. After all, spanking and hitting is generally associated with abuse. And it’s especially uncomfortable to think about a man hitting a woman sexually when you factor in how often women, in particular, are the victims of intimate partner physical abuse. Even though I genuinely wanted to feel the pain, I can respect that it’s not a natural inclination for someone to want to hurt another human being, even when they’re given the green light. That’s not to say that my partners who were into spanking me were less moral than those who refrained; they just understood that this was how I genuinely received pleasure and sexual satisfaction. Instead of introducing impact play to casual hookup partners, I began to go to BDSM-oriented places to seek out the types of men who genuinely felt a sense of sexual gratification from hitting me. I went to a sex party and lingered in the BDSM area, where I was flogged by an experienced top. On a trip to Berlin, I went to a fetish shop called McHurt and purchased three handmade leather paddles and hitting instruments, then went to a few recommended sex clubs and found an eager sadist. I also joined several dating sites geared towards kinksters, but I wound up ditching my accounts after I decided I didn’t feel comfortable meeting up with an internet stranger for an S&M encounter. As strange as it may sound, I shared a very deep bond with my sexual partners who inflicted pain on me. In many ways, being spanked felt more intimate and sensual than intercourse, since I felt a heightened sense of trust for any man I’d allow to hit me. In fact, I think I intuitively trusted these men more than my "vanilla" sex partners. As the receiver, I was the person in control of how far the scene would go, but I still had to be sure that they would respect my limits. Through all of my experiences, not one man stepped outside the boundaries I had set. The fact that I was trusting them to such an extreme degree with my body also created a deep sense of mutual respect, as though we were both going out on a limb and had to make sure that the two of us had each other’s back every step of the way. Whenever a scene would end, the moments after were full of hugs, cuddling, and admiration.

Being spanked felt more intimate and sensual than intercourse, since I felt a heightened sense of trust for any man I’d allow to hit me.

A few months after my initial dive into the world of masochism, I met (and quickly began dating) a man who truly loved to fulfill my desires of being hit. It seemed like a dream come true — he loved being a giver, and I loved being a receiver. Sometimes, we would have sex, but our sexual relationship primarily consisted of impact play. He would give me the most intense beatings I’d ever received, and I loved it. We eventually began to venture outside the realm of spanking, and I began asking for riskier types of hitting, such as getting hit in the face (which is incredibly dangerous and highly discouraged by the BDSM community, since it can cause serious permanent injuries). But when I began to get frightening bruises on my face, I quickly had to check myself about how safely I was playing, so we returned to only engaging in butt-spanking. Even though we had no problems with our impact play, my relationship with him ended rather quickly. He’d been dishonest with me about several things, and our positive sexual energy faded. And when the relationship ended, my interest in getting spanked and hit vanished. It felt as though our intense kink had caused me to reach my carrying capacity, and my desires imploded into a need to return to very "vanilla" sexual encounters. It’s now been two years since that six-month period I spent actively seeking out pain. With so much distance between those days and my present life, I have no idea how I was ever into such hard-core play, and I have a hard time recalling what attracted me to it in the first place. A person’s interests and tastes change naturally over time, so I think I satisfied my need for spanking to the point that I didn’t feel the need to continue engaging in that type of play any longer. (But I have absolutely no judgment for people who safely and consensually continue to enjoy impact play.) I think other people who hear my experience might make assumptions about me — that I chose to behave this way because I’ve been abused or that I’ve experienced some sort of mental trauma. But there was no dark secret shrouding my kink, which is something that’s true for many, if not most people in the BDSM community. (In fact, a 2013 study found that BDSM practitioners scored higher than non-kinky people on tests that measured certain aspects of mental health.) It’s much simpler than that: I just genuinely enjoyed the mental and physical experience of being consensually spanked and the unique bond it gave me and my sexual partners. These days, I approach sex much differently than I used to. I started my own business in the past year, and I’m generally more anxious and stressed on a daily basis. So I find myself enjoying sex that is sweet, slow, and pleasantly lazy. When I spend intimate time with my partner, I want sex to feel rejuvenating and healing, not dramatic and performative, like it did during my masochistic phase. I still have the floggers and paddles from those days, but they now decorate my bedroom walls as ornaments instead. I’m still unpacking why, as a strong, direct woman, I gravitated toward a sex act that made me feel helpless, passive, and even humiliated. But I don’t judge myself anymore, and I’m not troubled by it; I just find it interesting. And even though I no longer want to be spanked, I think that same sexual energy still lies within me; I just express it in a different manner. Those six months might make me uncomfortable to think about, but I know I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I refuse to be ashamed of my desires. And I’m learning that that’s what makes me a strong woman in the bedroom, no matter what kind of sex I’m having.

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