Friday, December 16, 2011

I am Bothered Because I am Bothered

Wesley: Does it sting you, my betrayal?
Illyria: Betrayal was a neutral word in my day, as unjudged a word as water or breeze. No. Or perhaps...I am only bothered because I am bothered.
Wesley: That sounds very close to human.

I realize I left you on a hanging thread there, and I'm sorry. I'm also sorry I will not be cutting you down from the thread today. Perhaps I do in fact have some sadist in me.
I'm writing this post fast, and will put it up without polishing, because I simply don't have time to make it look all pretty and shiny. Time is running away from me faster than my five year old runs away from his underwear, and right now, I look just as silly trying to run after it.

But there is something that has been on my mind lately, a lot: how much judgement we put on concepts in the BDSM lifestyle. Words like sub, Dom, predator, and prey. I suppose that's normal, these words act like labels that suggest behavior and reaction. But the one word that doesn't fit any label and yet intrudes on every nuance of a D/s lifestyle is this one:
And I don't know how to explain it, and I don't know how to describe it, because the word is so general and simplified and injected with so much judgement, we don't have the words in the English language to pick it apart.
And if you don't know what I'm talking about, let me ask you this: What is the opposite of pain? Pleasure? That is not right, because pain itself can be the catalyst for pleasure. For some, pain is the pleasure. They are not opposites. If you are not in pain, are you "fine?" But then, can't you be fine if you are in pain? Not just in spite of it, but because of it? Being "fine" is not the opposite of being "in pain."

There is no word to describe the opposite of pain, because it is a noun, not an adjective; just like there is no word that acts as opposite to chair, or water, or breeze. Pain is its own thing. Pain is neutral.

And yet we treat it so negatively. When one is in pain, that is BAD. One has to qualify if the pain is good. One has to explain oneself. Because it is not natural, it is not normal, and it is not what general society accepts.

We have rejected the idea there can be a noun that means "the feeling of not being in pain." That all the words we use to describe this absence are unsuitable, because they suggest the absence of pain is a good thing, when sometimes, for some of us, it is not.

Pain can fill a person's heart like heady emotion, or take root in the mind like thought. The void of pain can bring a feeling of emptiness and longing, like something is missing from the person's soul. It is far from positive.

Judgement stems from emotion, and we are all too quick to attach emotion to labels we don't think through. Why does pain have to be judged as something negative? Or for that matter, why do other BDSM labels have to be treated the same way?

Sub, Dom, predator, prey. Can they not be muttered as fact without feelings spilling out, too?


  1. Many words elicit emotions. This post of yours reminds me vaguely of a post of my own called Why So Controversial. Words can be powerful, and there is certainly a certain stigma associated with some words. Pain is indeed an interesting word. Is all pain a bad thing? I'd have to say no. The English language is a bit limited in having only one word to describe pain, and love and a lot of other things that are often much more complex than a simple word that makes an attempt to fulfill every possible meaning.

  2. I think the opposite of pain might be comfort. We usually think of comfort as a good thing, but sometimes it's boring and makes us restless. There's such a thing as "too comfortable."

  3. Grace, you are right that the English language is limited in these things. It's a huge problem

    Lorrie, I don't know if you're right, either. One can be in pain and still comforted *by* the pain, if that makes sense.