I am a masochist, a lover of pain, and a fiend for unusual experiences. I am an avid follower of feelings. As a woman who has experienced a great deal of shame around her sexual avocations and desires, I had to unlearn the deeply-rooted beliefs about sexuality inherited as an adolescent and find myself under layers of absorbed influences and cultural messaging. I needed to look through a different lens and embrace my own perspectives. Over the past three years, I have grown to understand myself and what it means to be a masochist. I have learned to lean into the strange, curious, untamed woman that I am because these characteristics are what make me unique and drive my passion for existence.
After reflecting on my very first suture experience with Bettie Bondage, I realized the tremendous amount of love and gratitude I have for the BDSM community, and how much I am mourning its absence in my present life. Not only has it served as a safe foundation to explore new elements of pain, but it has also become an avenue for inhibited creativity and deeply-woven connections.
The Masochist Within
A word derived from Austrian nobleman and romance writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, a masochist is defined as an individual who derives sexual gratification from their own physical pain or humiliation. I am uncertain when I discovered my affinity for legitimate pain, but I had a fascination with exploring a range of sensation ever since I was a young girl. I was drawn to small fires—lighters, candles, matches—and gravitated towards sharp objects. I would watch my mother hem my father’s trousers and discreetly poke the tip of my finger with the sewing needle. I’d twiddle the flames of my birthday candles until my skin was covered in black soot.
When I was older, I remember accidentally cutting myself while shaving my legs, but rather than reaching for the vaseline to stop the bleeding, I took pleasure in the sting and played with the blood as it trickled down my knee.
As I have deepened an understanding of my body and developed a more intimate relationship with myself, I have learned that conscious and consensual pain provides me a remarkable opportunity for liberation. It enables me to quiet my mind and experience what is going on with my physical and emotional self. It gives me the space to sob and scream, to be destroyed in a sequence of suffering and return to myself with inner strength and empowerment. Chuck Palahniuk once said, “It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.”
Erotic pain is much different than unintended pain, and as humans, we tend to stay away from unpleasant sensations and anything that can cause us potential harm. But sometimes, instances of severe pain can yield the most beautiful kinds of awakenings. Whether physical or psychological, leaning into our discomfort is where we gain a new sense of perception and self-awareness. It is where we are able to challenge our endurance. It is a means of learning about ourselves. It serves as a facilitator for growth. Embodying varying levels of pain can bring forth a great deal of emotional distress, but these experiences force me to be present and confront what I am feeling. Sadomasochism, to me, is a form of therapy. It is the catharsis I need to transform and heal as an individual.
Braving the Suture
The first time I became familiar with using sutures as a form of play rather than stitching up a wound after a surgical incision, I fixated on the idea for months. It became this obsession of whether or not I could tolerate the pain, how it would feel, and most importantly, who would facilitate the mischief. I connected with digital acquaintances who had undergone sutures for leisure, gathered as many details as I could to prepare appropriately, and asked Mark Dektor to document it. One evening, I even poured a glass of red wine and Googled a suture video to see the entire process. Big mistake. Nothing could have prepared me for what I would soon endure. The goal: to sew my mouth shut as a means of embodying my submission.
I will never forget my scene with Bettie Bondage. It is an experience that induced an intense nirvana and a full spectrum of acute physical pain. When I arrived to Mark’s studio, I was incredibly nervous and unsure of myself. I nuzzled into a white metal chair and watched him set up his camera. I was fidgety and warm under the softbox lighting. I observed Bettie as she circled the room to uncrate her implements—six mosquito hemostats, three boxes of needles, and surgical sutures. She organized them alongside one another on a wooden table and I stumbled over my trembling words when I asked her questions. I could feel my belly tightening and my nerves growing rapidly. I had to pee, but the rain was thunderous.
Bettie asked if I was ready to begin. I wasn’t, but I said yes anyway. Her energy was fiery and carefree, and unexpected. She selected her preferred music and amplified the volume until heavy metal vibrated the room and set the mood. We initiated the scene with 12 needles in my chest, six on each side to intertwine thread and tighten them into a corset. She was quick but meticulous, ruthlessly tugging on the threads surrounding each piercing. A true sadist. She relished in watching me squirm and laughed when I squealed. I continued to breath and focused in on the sensations against my buttery skin.
An activity that sends me into a deep and instantaneous subspace, needles have become my favorite form of edge play. I could feel myself gradually falling into a state of transcendence as Bettie plucked the needles from my chest one-by-one. We continued to my cheek, an area I had never pierced before, and began with a single needle below my left eye. Bettie positioned herself behind me. She rested one arm atop my shoulder, two fingers pinching a chunk of my skin, and the other slowly pushing the needle down through each layer of my complexion. She paused for a moment and asked how it felt, but I didn’t feel any pain. I looked into the camera and smiled at Mark. His eyes were wide and he was sweating under the glare. I took a brief moment to process the fact that there was a needle in my face. I thought that maybe if I addressed it, I would feel pain, but there was nothing more than moderate pressure. Five more needles pierced my upper cheek and we giggled like children in easy conversation.
We were nearing the sutures, but Bettie suggested I feel one needle in my bottom lip as an experiment and I agreed. She kneeled down in front of me, squeezed my lip, and plunged the needle in, downwards, and out. A moment of fierce burning pain, it felt as though the needle was on fire and tearing bits of my lip apart on the way in. I released a high-pitched scream and began to doubt my courage to persevere, but I had to bear down.
Pain offers an opportunity to challenge myself and I am enamored by a challenge. There is nothing more gratifying than pushing my body through acute physical pain, enduring the torment, and making it out alive with a smile on my face.
We progressed to the first suture and I could feel my heart thudding against my chest. I shut my eyes and allowed the hemostat to tightly hug my upper lip. Bettie slowly began puncturing my mouth in a downward position and out the other end. In that moment, it felt as though time slowed dramatically. I could feel every fiber of the silk thread being sprung and dragged through every layer of my flesh. My eyes swelled and tears instantly fell from their sockets. The pain was excruciating and it was a sensation I quickly learned to despise. Think popping a pimple at your lip line, but devastatingly worse. I screamed and pleaded for the suture to be removed.
Bettie quickly cut the thread and gently removed the suture from my lip. She rushed to my side and held my body to ensure I was okay. I started laughing uncontrollably at my reaction and what I had just willingly put myself through. I can’t do it, I told her. Bettie smiled and I composed myself.
I want to let you in on a little secret. When playing with a partner or attempting something for the first time, you should never feel obligated to complete a scene you aren’t fully ready for. It is okay to slow down. It is okay to use a safe word, to pause and reconnect. Always listen to your mind and body. Take the time you need to recover or move on to something different. The experience is for you.
I will be honest, I was disappointed in myself for not continuing. I felt angry and frustrated. I wanted to try again, but after coming to terms with the pain and emotional distress I withstood, I realized there was no reason to rush through it. I will try again when I am more prepared and it will be beautiful. It will be a new challenge. Pain is funny like that. It pushes us out of our comfort zones and teaches us things about ourselves we may have never known otherwise. It is a powerful motivator and when we can accept it, we have the ability to shift, the potential to expand, and the power to transcend.