Masochism and Redemption

I was a self harmer.

I have never been a masochist.

To me, one could easily be a precursor to the other, and I’ll explain that in a moment. But, call it my martyr complex- when I take pain in a kinky session, it’s because I want to be absolved of guilt or to prove I can do it, not because it’s sexy for me.

I have self-harmed off and on since I was about 12 or so. It started as a vent- a way to release some steam when it seemed like things were too much for me. Then, it became a way to feel better, to reclaim my body and control in a way that kept others at a distance- I could cut my breasts and inner thighs, and yes, I felt blissful. It was painful, and unpleasant, but I felt in control of myself afterwards, focused, clear. Later it was because I felt like I couldn’t speak what was in my head or heart- cutting was easier than telling someone how I felt who would then, I worried, be apathetic to my pain.

When I discovered BDSM, I read a lot about being suffering and finding bliss within that suffering. Many of them took pain for the pleasure of their partners. I tried to find the erotic within that sort of pain- tried to blend it with sex and make it more enjoyable. But it never was- pain just hurt, and I resented those inflicting it on me.

It took me a while to realize this didn’t mean I was a bad submissive, it just meant I wasn’t a masochist, and that was ok. Later I realized that I enjoyed pain only if I was in control of it- and, to me, whether I was cutting my breasts or someone else was piercing them, the feeling of release and relief was the same. I began to realize that I didn’t need to cut myself- I could use that desire for suffering and give myself over to someone who desired to give pain- I could channel that energy into something clear and powerful instead of hiding it away and being ashamed. I found myself able to ask for a severe flogging or a piercing ritual, and through that, the ability to scream and cry my way out of the dark hole I found myself in into relaxation, almost meditation.

Now, I guess one of the questions would be what constitutes self-harm. I suppose that cutting your flesh when you’re not feeling great is self-harming. It’s never been erotic for me. But it’s been… freeing, I guess? So to me, it was self-harm, and I felt guilty about it, because OTHER people would see it that way, OTHER people would medicate me and tell me I was crazy. It wasn’t what I thought at first, though I ended up feeling that way eventually.

Now, however, I begin to play with the idea cutting was a way for me to inflict on myself the trials that people going through adolescence have gone through for centuries. It was a way for me to find who I was, in those flashes of clarity. It was a tunnel I felt I had to go through to come out the other side. And I wonder if there’s a deeper, primal reason for people to do self-harming activities- this need to go through something difficult and painful, full of blood and sweat and tears, so we can realize our own humanity. So we can remember that we’re not immortal, and find relief in that.

Now, I tend towards the dominant side of these things- no longer seeking my own martyrdom, I sculpt and play with those tendencies in others. I am starting to explore using the desire to suffer and be redeemed within structures like domestic discipline, trying to transform a self-destruction into an act of creation and healing. Is that entirely possible? I’m not sure, but it’s interesting to examine.

This whole idea will take a lot longer for me to put together, and I know there’s a thesis in it somewhere, if it hasn’t been done already.

But I look at my small scars from my younger years with a little bit of pride. Other people may judge me for that. But for me, I see it as a symbol of who I was, and the fact that they’re healed, a symbol of who I’ve become.

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Kitty Stryker

Kitty Stryker is a geeky sex worker, Burner, rabid writer and feminist activist with one high-heeled boot in San Francisco, California and one in London, England. In London, Stryker worked with the TLC Trust, an online organization connecting people with disabilities with sex workers experienced with emotional or physical limitations. She is the founder of the award-winning Ladies High Tea and Pornography Society, and was nominated by the Erotic Awards as Sex Worker of the Year for her charity and activism work. Now back in the States, Stryker has been presenting Safe/Ward, a workshop on combating entitlement culture within alternative sexual communities, along with being the PR rep for the Bay Area Sex Workers Outreach Project promoting sex worker rights. She has written for Huffington Post, Filament, and Tits and Sass, built a social media strategy for Cleis Press, and consults with sex workers about their online presence. In her copious free time, she enjoys switching things up with her two hot lovers. Read more from Stryker on her personal blog, Purrversatility.

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