Exposing The Five Taboos of Sadomasochism

We’ve just investigated the various aspects of trust, but what exactly in sadomasochistic play is it that I need to trust? The answer depends on what is currently in focus. What is sacrificed so to say. This changes gradually as a relationship grows deeper. I like to teach it with the following five taboos exposed. I use the word taboo as these are five private things that ‘should’ remain controlled and protected, locked away safely, because when these taboos are exposed, they make us vulnerable; hence the connection to trust.

The first taboo is losing agency of the body, for example, by obeying orders to hold a particular position by will or being bound by ropes. To do this, the submissive must trust that the dominant can take care of their physical body and not put them into situations that they can’t handle, like kneeling for a long time if one has bad knees. The submissive must feel safe to be touched, shaped and moulded by the dominant and to understand their body language, so they can follow their will.

Pain and Pleasure

The second and third taboos to be exposed are, pain and pleasure, which are experienced very differently across people. Some are more challenged to lose agency over pain, and others, pleasure. If the submissive agrees to be pleasured, most often sexually, the dominant can decide when and how much, turning it into a reward or tease-and-denial game. Pain, on the other hand, creates a physical challenge for the submissive. For example, by impact play or painful bondage positions, etc. To surrender to pain or pleasure, another kind of trust is required. Trust when it comes to pain is much related to knowing how it will impact the body, like bruises and scars, and what the submissive is willing to tolerate. While pleasure is the balance between arousal and satisfaction at the same time as understanding what is pleasurable and what is not. Pleasure and pain work very well together because they enable each other and are similar in high doses.

These first three taboos are all focused on the physical body, whereas the others step into the realms of the mind and soul.

Image of the Self

The fourth taboo is exposing one’s selfimage. Here the submissive lets the dominant decide who and what they are and should be. Typical expressions are objectification, pet, and shame play. The reason to engage in such sessions is permission – for the submissive to be something they usually are not. We ourselves most often define and limit who we need to be. For example, for those who feel that they must always be beautiful to be loved, it is a relief to be made ugly. It’s a way to learn to not take one’s picture of ‘the self’ so severely and open up to be something else. Often this process is masochistic as the ego will complain – I usually describe it as emotional masochism rather than physical. The most important thing in exposing one’s self-image is trusting that the dominant will lovingly and respectfully hold space for this process. In a way, it can be described as the dominant replacing the ego of the submissive with their own will. While humiliation might be harsh, the key is that the submissive can stay in the experience without being overwhelmed or disassociating.

Ultimately, Devotion

The fifth and final taboo is exposing devotion, and its most defining aspect is that the focus shifts from the submissive to the dominant. The first four taboos focus on the submissive’s experience and how they can journey through different sensations, from the physical to the emotional. Here, the focus changes to the desire of another. Exposing this taboo requires the submissive to find the dominant worthy and trust them enough to let go of their desires, knowing that they will be taken care of in some way meaningful to them. I experience that to fully let go into devotion, one must first expose the first four taboos. Then, because these focus more on the submissive, they build the trust needed for the fifth taboo.

Much of the fiction incorporating sadomasochism focuses heavily on devotion – to indeed be someone’s slave. But I want to point out that in my experience, one must first move through the body, pleasure, pain and self-image. Otherwise, one can simply pretend to be ‘a slave’, but it won’t feel the same because it will just be a play that ultimately aims to please the submissive. So a good question to ask – is devotion really the goal?

I’ll end here with a counter argument proposed by a friend, that perhaps pain and pleasure are the ultimate expressions of trust as they are the most ‘real. Meaning that self-image and devotion are but philosophical ideas, while pain and pleasure, when they flood our nervous systems, are impossible to ignore.