Every now and then, there’s a word or phrase that goes floating around the local community or FetLife that’s useful, relatable, and catches on as part of the widespread vocabulary. While lifestyle masochism is a phrase that came to me basically at random and, to my knowledge, currently lives only inside my head, I hope someone else might find it useful or relatable, because I’d love to be able to just say it and have people really understand what I mean. (Though anyone in the community might get a basic picture from the phrase itself.)
Of course, first I have to explain what it means.
When we talk about lifestyle D/s, kink, or such, we’re talking about 24/7 dynamics, community involvement, or things that bring kink out from being the dirty secret in the bedroom to something a little more (or a lot). Something that makes it part of the way we live, not just an activity we partake in from time to time. Y’know, a lifestyle.
Masochism: deriving pleasure from one’s own pain or humiliation. For some, this pleasure may be sexual; for some, it may not. It’s sexual or physical for me at times, but on the lifestyle front, the sexual part is small. It’s something more like spiritual. A relationship pattern, not a series of isolated incidents. It gives me creative inspiration and catharsis, too. And when I really talk about masochism, I’m talking about the lifestyle version.
I think this has been partially true for me basically forever. Early fantasies revolved around patterns more than single instances. My desire, my need for this type of masochism—and my ability to actually handle it—has grown with time. Isolated scenes used to be a lot more fulfilling, something I craved a lot more. And I still enjoy a proper scene, whether mostly sexual, sensual, or sadistic, now and then. Sex machine? Inverted rope suspension? Hot wax? Fire? Shock collar? Proper beating? Just rough sex? I’m usually down. I can go for hours for impact, and I can orgasm from pain by itself, without sexual stimulation. But it’s not really what I talk about when I talk about masochism. It’s an occasional craving, not a need.
While parts of my needed lifestyle version have been a part of our dynamic for a long time, we had a conversation a while back on this. Decided to up the frequency, intensity, and such, and really explore the area, cutting our weekly scenes in favor of focusing on this, still leaving room for occasional proper scenes. Mistress’ first concern, which was fair, was: Can you do this?
A lot of people, she said—well, if you’re deep in the BDSM world, “a lot of people”—say they want this. Fewer actually do, and fewer yet have both the desire and the ability to handle it. Sometimes you want things you can’t have. Sometimes you find out it’s not what you want at all.
I agreed; but I was, and am, reasonably confident. We’ve had elements of this in our dynamic for a long time, and a solid foundation of mutual respect, trust, and love. We understood the risks and felt willing to take them. I’m not too fragile. She agreed.
One minority niche we fall into is (and this is another kink phrase I basically made up, as far as I know—though I’ve seen it in law occasionally) irrevocable consent. It’s my current catch all for what some call CNC, some call TPE, some call blanket consent—all with a lot of leeway in meaning. Irrevocable consent, for me, means I gave Mistress full consent once, and I can’t take it back now. No no, no safewords, no limits, no contract termination, no rights, no privacy, no initiating a divorce. Down to no suicide, there is no way out. She has 24/7, no conditions power over me, all areas of life. I don’t get a guarantee of aftercare, sobriety, or safety practices. She does things I would call limits if I currently defined them (inside of play and out), goes past when I would use a safeword if that was something I did. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. The agreement may be honor bound, but that doesn’t mean I take it lightly.
What with this being our framework, this means that by introducing more lifestyle masochism practices, we ran one major risk: that if I could not truly say no (via safewording or declaring limits or whatnot), and with these practices designed to bring about certain emotions, it would be hard to tell what was the desired level of suffering and what was the you can’t handle it; this is a bad idea scenario. We agreed to ongoing “outside of the moment” communication, mostly via adding a question about it to Meta Saturday (our weekly check in, via written survey) and agreeing to use the written form we have for raising such issues if it came up. I’d recommend these highly.
Now that I’ve said all this: what is it I’m on about?
What we decided to introduce was more—what we call—“random acts of violence”. Slapping, hair pulling, choking, collar grabbing, biting, scratching, pressure point using, pinning, knifeplay—on the short and quick side. Just throughout the day. Not as sex (necessarily), play, special event, discipline. Just as its own thing, scattered throughout time. Things I can dislike in the moment, but overall gain a deeper sense of submission from, because I don’t like it in the moment, but submit anyway.
None of these acts were new; it was just increasing frequency and intensity. Making it look less like kinky flirting and more like something easily mistaken for abuse. On the slightly longer side: more watersports (sometimes complete with turning the shower on cold), beating (less so the multiple implement, long, planned scenes in the dungeon with warmup and cooldown, but more of impulsively grabbing the nearest suitable object and going hard and fast wherever we may be in the house—kicking and punching always easily accessible), sex when I’m not in the mood at least to start (maybe paired with not being allowed to orgasm) or with humiliation and pain. Also nothing new, but now upped. All paired with suited verbal exchanges—mostly humiliation, themes of Stockholm syndrome and victim blaming, martyrdom and the kicked puppy complex, possessiveness. A consistent element of truth—not taking it back—is essential for me.
A character touched on this recently in my BDSM fiction series:
“No. Don’t take it back. Say it. Mean it. Mean it even when we’re done, and don’t care. Tell me I’m worthless. Mean it. Prove it. Make it true. Keep me anyway to tell me again tomorrow. Let me be nothing and love me for it. Break me just so you can fix it and do it again. Make me harder to break next time. Make me able to take more and more. Just for the challenge. Make me run so you can catch me. Make me fight so you can pin me down. Make me bleed so you can treat my wounds. Hurt me until I beg for mercy just so you can give it to me and feel good about it. Let me be grateful for it. Make me wait longer to beg next time. Make my head spin. Make my world spin until I can only cling to you; control it until you become my God. Take out the rest of the world on me. Hurt me when you want to hurt someone else, because I’ll let you. Let me be good and love you and love you and love you no matter what you do. Let me love you because of it. Be sadistic. Be cruel. Be merciless. Teach me to love you anyway. Let me feel good about it. Let me be the kicked puppy that follows you home anyway. Take it all out on me and let me love you for taking it out on me instead of the world who didn’t ask for it. Let me be your reward for being good to everyone else. Tell me that’s pathetic. Believe it. Love me for it anyway. Tell me I’m pathetic. Mean it more than you’ve ever meant anything else. But keep me to tell me again tomorrow.”
It’s been excellent so far, and we are diving deeper into it.
There are other ways that forms of masochism creep into our dynamic. We thrive on 24/7 high protocol, and being a service slave is happily my full time job. This introduces elements of masochistic asceticism (in protocols that limit my “indulgences”—whether it’s wearing something that’s not my very specific uniform, sitting on or sleeping on furniture, etc.) as well as the energy challenges of providing consistently excellent service (full time level hours and 24/7 on call adds up; not to mention my love of serving the kink and vanilla community—volunteering, teaching—and guests). Keeping focused requires a level of minimalism and mindfulness. There is not room for much in my life that doesn’t come back to being a slave in some way, distractions, and I have to be constantly “on” to not slip on protocol, no matter what, even if it’s the tiniest details—finger or toe placement—of our daily slave position repertoire. We have a firm disciplinary dynamic as well, and while I behave, there are occasional accidents and such—and lack of lenience here goes hand in hand with everything else (complete with two daily inspections and weekly maintenance discipline). I’m summing these elements up quickly here, but they’re not a small part of it.
It’s definitely not for everyone, but it seems like it sure is for us.