Raji Manjari

At Home With Pain


ISSUE 12 | HOME AND PAIN | JAN 2012

I bruise easily because I am either too graceful or too clumsy. I see colonies or sporadic settlements of once-overflowing blood capillaries, frozen in time. Temporary sites of pain. Pain I enjoy. Superstition holds strong among some that a bruise surfaces due to a witch’s attempt to bite. A witch will attempt to bite you out of envy but fail because you have good stars lined up in your favor. But what are they envious of? Youth? Yes, youth, I was told. The witches inflicted the pain they felt of youth lost by bringing the gift of bruises to young girls. Sites of pain. It had to be true as all the evidence lined up—I was young and the bruises were there. I felt special.

A Case of Pain

There are kinds of pain that invade the body. Unwelcome pain that may have a location but is non-negotiable. And there are kinds of pain that are hard to locate, like heartache or grief that gnaws from the inside of one’s being and settles into helplessness. In both cases, my body is taken over by unwanted, unwelcome settlers. I am no longer welcome in my own home. These are not the kinds of pain I desire. I am talking about a different kind of pain: the kind that I experience when being whipped or spanked or bitten.

If one desires this pain, then what is more fulfilling than a bruise? What could be more satisfying than seeing pain settle somewhere in one’s body where one can visit later and relive the experience? In that case, one is at home with the pain and all is well.


Illustration by Zachary Nash

For me, pain inflicted through S&M play is uncomplicated and its location on my body easy to navigate. I have always known that I would enjoy rough play. I remember inspecting bruises and thinking: how can I participate in harvesting these bruises on myself, since I enjoy them so much?

However, contrary to common S&M settings, I have never associated the moment of being hurt with the “perpetrator” who hurts me. For me, it’s not about them and it’s not about the humiliation. The fact that they derive pleasure from hurting me is obvious, but my pleasure solely lies in feeling the pain. During the act, everything is blocked out and I am most aware of my body and pain, conversing. I am aware of every inch and every cell of my body as pain ripples and marches down my legs and up my spine. I am submitting to pain, but we acknowledge each other, we are in dialogue. I feel at home with pain.

Who wants to spank me? Me! Me! (And Me!)

I am standing outside a club on the Lower East Side. A few people walk out bundled up in winter garb. Only their shoes stick out—ridiculous heels, leather and steel. I start imagining what they might be wearing and I smile, realizing that I won't have to imagine much longer. One wouldn’t just stumble upon this place—or at least that’s what I think, since I came here with friends fully knowing what I was getting into. But no amount of description on their part and imagination on mine has prepared me for what will follow. I am told at the entrance that watching is fine but we are all expected to converse and get to know each other because that is the only way we can form a community. I quite like this rule, since regular bars can be so antisocial.

I feel the pinch of the corset under my coat. I walk in. It is red inside, rosy red. I see black lace and skin. I smell leather and perfume. I hear laughter. I feel warm skin and cold steel brush my skin as I walk through a crowd. I stop to watch people help each other get laced up and tightened. I see hands everywhere. It’s exciting.

My friends propose we go upstairs to the Play Area. I follow them.

Suddenly, I am in a greenhouse. It’s hot. There is a fountain surrounded by tropical plants. Faux leather couches are scattered around the room. A woman walks up to me and gives me a lollypop. I think this is apropos since it’s play time.

I walk up to the bar and the bartender encourages me to stand on a gentlemen who is wrapped in an Ikea carpet. (I can see the tag!) The sign “Step on Me, Please!” reiterates the bartender’s suggestion. And I play along. I walk around more and I watch intently; I haven’t been spanked in a public setting before, so I am taking notes. Everything starts sinking in and I close my eyes for a bit and listen. Beyond the conversations and the laughter, I hear the sound of spanking, the percussion of hands on buttocks. It starts making sense. I know why I am here. In these parts of town, I am told, if you are into pain, you are into either getting spanked or being flogged. Spanking involves hands, more contact equals more pain. Flogging involves strips of leather ropes, still intense but a different kind of pain.

I walk around a bit and rejoin my friends. There is an older guy talking about his daughter going off to college. I introduce myself and say I am new here. They welcome me and say they are excited for me. One of them warns me to look out for “skeezeballs” who might ruin a newcomer’s experience and tells me that I should report it if anyone bothers me. Respect is central to the community. Also, I am told, I should thank anyone who plays with me. It’s play etiquette. Hmm…where have I heard this one before?

My friends go off to begin their planned escapade for the night. I sit for a while and watch one of them getting mummified in Saran wrap. I get up and introduce myself to anyone who passes by and seems to know my friends.

At one point, I find myself standing between two people, a guy with a hipster mustache and a beautiful woman. I am feeling confident, so I take the plunge.

“So how does one approach someone if they want that person to spank them?”

I am requesting information, but my tone betrays me: it is more desperate than my words, and my need to get spanked, more urgent. And they can tell.

“You want to be spanked?”

I hear three voices and one of them is from inside my head.

I could have just bent over and they would have known. The guy, the woman, and I, all want to see me spanked.

But this is a safe space. The woman asks me to lean and hold on to the ledge. She tells me to position my legs so that I have a good grip. Lastly, she reminds me that I can stop her anytime.

Pain.
Pain.
Pain.
She stops and asks how I would rate the pain on a scale.
I am out of breath. 8, I say. Keep going, I add.
Pain.
Pain.
Pain.
She stops.
I am disappointed.
But the guy takes over.
Okay.
Pain.

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