It has always been thought that intimate encounters should be equal.
But thanks to the book 50 Shades of Grey, which popularised BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism), as it is referred to, many are re-thinking this long-held belief that a couple should be equally in charge in the bedroom.
Two cases that happened recently come to mind. The first was Monica, a middle-aged lady married for the last eight years.
Monica came to the Sexology clinic for advice. She was worried that her husband had lost interest in her. "You see, for the years we have been married we fight often," she explained.
"That is sad," I interjected. "In this era and age people should not be fighting, especially with the ones they love." "No, you don't understand," Monica interjected.
"I worry that for two months now, he just won't fight. As usual, he comes home late and just goes to bed; I feel neglected and rejected; I want the wars back."
I reclined back on my seat, trying to fathom Monica's issue. It was confusing. I however encouraged Monica to explain more and it turned out that Monica and her husband did not fight in the true sense of the word.
Their foreplay included inflicting pain on each other and that for them led to sexual arousal. Monica's husband inflicted the pain and Monica enjoyed receiving it.
"The fight includes slaps, punches, pinches and even kicks," Monica explained. "At one point I had a fracture of one of my finger bones but did not notice it until after the act; the pleasure in the heat of the moment was just too intense."
The second case was of a man, John. He came to the sexology clinic with an infected wound in the upper part of his back. The wounds were sore.
"They were inflicted by my girlfriend," he explained. "I think they got infected because she keeps injuring the same place so the wounds do not heal."
Just like Monica, John enjoyed the pain and seemingly his girlfriend enjoyed inflicting the pain. "I’m sorry but I didn't imagine they would get this bad, I encouraged her to do it," he explained remorsefully.
My conclusion in both of these cases was that they were in sadomasochist sexual relationships. This is a sexual relationship where one gets pleasure by either inflicting or receiving pain as part of sex.
The one who inflicts pain is the sadist while the recipient is the masochist. Occasionally, roles may change but there is always the one who predominates in inflicting pain.
At some point, psychiatrists and psychologists thought that sadomasochism was a mental illness. They just could not figure out how people would have sexual pleasure by causing or receiving pain.
Later, research has shown that sadomasochism is a normal variant of sexual behaviour. It may vary from very mild forms to severe acts of violence leading to injury.
Mild forms may include scratches on the skin, bites or gentle punches, among others.
There are three rules if you happen to have traits of sadomasochism. The first rule is that it should not cause you mental stress since it is a known variant of sexual expression.
Consider yourself a normal person with a rare sexual trait. Some sadomasochists get into anxiety and sometimes depression because they cannot come to terms with their behaviour.
The second rule is that any sexual act must be consensual. If you are a sadist you should look for a masochist. Do not inflict pain on people who do not appreciate it.
The laws against intimate partner violence are applicable if your partner has not consented to your style. Communication is most vital in letting your partner know what makes you happy and finding out if they are ready to be a party to your ways.
The third rule is that any form of sexual act must consider safety as fundamental. Whether it is missionary style or whatever gymnastics you may want to employ, your safety and that of your partner must be the overriding factor.
This rule applies equally to sadomasochism. The pain inflicted must have a limit. The couple has to openly agree on what can be done safely.
Fractures and infected wounds are definitely beyond what one would consider safe. Again, communication is vital in letting your partner know if the pain is too much to bear.
Back to our two clients in question: Monica was right. Her husband had lost sexual interest as symbolised by a lack of ‘fighting'.
The couple was recruited into sex coaching classes to revive their intimacy. John received treatment for his infected wounds.
Also, he and his wife were recruited into coaching to learn how to keep safe in their approach. Strange as it may sound, that is the nature of sex; it is as varied as the number of people having it.