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The Pleasure of Pain

By Edited Mar 8, 2016 3 6

Could pleasure and pain share a common source?

Vampire ecstasy(112465)

Why is it that vampires and werewolves are so popular? Why do so many girls allegedly have fantasies of being bitten like Bella Swan in Twilight? What sort of twisted romance is this? Aren't they supposed to wait for the prince on the white horse?

They are, but the noble prince or knight is just one side of the fantasy, the superficial one. The other side is deeper, darker and quite older. Blood, violence, pain and pleasure have all danced together since the dawn of time. It is a jungean archetype, rooted in our DNA, one which Hollywood and publishers do their best to milk as efficiently as possible. Vampires are just for show of course, creatures that inspire awe and terror, but also wonder and excitement. 

The real attractor is blood. Along with the pain that occurs when that blood is poured. That pain induces a “latent pleasure” to some people. The reasons vary, but quite often it is guilt, the feeling (either imaginary or not) that you have done something bad and need to be punished for it - quite likely a childhood remnant. When someone feels guilt and thinks he can blunt it through pain, he may either find a "master" or a "mistress" to "punish" him or inflict pain on himself, usually by cutting or piercing his skin. Guilt is very arduous. Guilt is the ultimate, most toxic emotional poison. It is the strangler of the soul.

Some psychologists argue that it is actually healthy to  express ourselves through "BDSM" (bondage, discipline and sadomasochism) and similar practices. Others do not think it is unhealthy. BDSM was until recently officially considered a "paraphilia" by psychiatrists, id est a sexual or mental disorder. This started to change in 1994, when American Psyciatric Association's DSM-IV asserted that "The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning in order for sexual sadism or masochism to be considered a disorder".

Marquis de Sade

Marquis de Sade was a French aristocrat, philosopher, politician and writer. He lived in the period before and right after the French Revolution, and spent in total 32 years in prison, almost half of his entire life. Before the revolution his writings were regarded as "blasphemous".

After the revolution Napoleon himself ordered his imprisonment (without trial) for 13 more years, due to "Justine" and "Juliette", two of his novels that Napoleon called "abominations". De Sade wrote extensively on sadomasoschism; sadism itself was named after him. He is the pioneer of the genre but he paid it with his freedom. The fact that he was an alleged frequent sexual offender and an aristocrat during the French Revolution naturally did not help him.

Pleasure and pain appear to contrast each other, yet they are often closely linked. Apart from vampirism and BDSM there is also depression, or at least moderate sadness. Occasionally we choose to sink ourselves in it despite the fact that happiness might just be a "go out with my friends and have some coffee" away. Why? Because seclusion is easier, more convenient, allows us to have our piece and quiet, be free from noise pollution and possible annoying friends. Or just enjoy our laziness, even when we are reluctant to admit it. So we might not really be happy but there is a "latent pleasure" in it. Should we enjoy it? I would say yes but not overdo it. We are both social and lonesome beings. The key to happiness is to find a balance between the two.



Sep 13, 2012 10:36am
Well, it appears that not much has changed since the days of the French Revolution : Google has inexplicably censored the adsense ads of this article, displaying hideous yellow boxes instead...
Sep 17, 2012 3:54am
Oh dear, the irony of this seeing as my comment is my first thought... being; We forget the age when writing could get you punished or killed.
Very interesting article Pindar.
Sep 17, 2012 9:24am
Thank you Ddraig. That age should not be forgotten and also there is no guarantee we won't have it again. In my country (Greece) the far right / fascist party Golden Dawn took advantage of the dire socio-economic situation and managed to enter the Parliament for the first time, in the last elections of June. Golden Dawn managed to elect 21 members of parliament (out of a total 300), a huge number. It is a party consisting of dangerous and violent imbeciles, with a mixed ancient greek and greek orthodox religion loving attitude that to every other sane mind conflict each other. Their entire political program could be summed up to this : get rid of all the foreigners.

Even the first day after the elections they started attacking immigrants. They gather in groups of 5+, they all have knives, and at night when they get the chance they even stab them to death. The situation in my country resembles the interwar period of Germany that gave rise to Hitler and nazims, more with each passing day. The Minister of Justice a couple of days ago ordered the police to arrest even Golden Dawn MPs that attack immigrants, which is of course ridiculous since they all enjoy parliamentary immunity. But I think I should write an article about this instead of writing huge comments :)
Sep 17, 2012 9:29am
P.S. A fine selection of Golden Dawn MPs. Yeap, these people represent the voters in Parliament : http://www.pinnokio.gr/arthro/gnwriste-toys-21-boyleytes-ths-xryshs-ayghs
Sep 17, 2012 3:06pm
Research has shown that where there is existential angst, unrest or fear, conservatism becomes the dominant ideology and the belief in the supernatural becomes more prominent. Coming with this is greater tribalism and an 'us' and 'them' mentality. A very interesting article about the psychology of pleasure and pain, however it would be interesting to hear about the situation in Greece also.
Sep 17, 2012 6:06pm
This comment has been deleted.
Sep 17, 2012 6:07pm
Thank you Etcetera. I have always had the bad habit of writing more words in comments than in my articles, possibly a forums / message boards remnant :) The situation here in the last 2,5-3 years has been an utter mess. I really do not know from where to start but I will try giving it a shot. Though I like this article of mine it seems incomplete to me (no real psychanalytic references, no development of some key parts like guilt etc). So I'll also try a "sequel" in a depression - bipolar oriented article, areas I am much better acquainted with.
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