Thursday, December 15, 2005

It Hurts So Good

The other day while websurfing, I came upon this portrait of Jason Isaacs as Captain Hook. The artist, someone named Katie, offered no other caption than “Let your imagination run wild!”

Well, the small hands could be Peter’s, attacking during a vicious battle after having afflicted Hook with some terrible wound. However, they might just as easily be Wendy’s, and Hook might not actually be in pain. Let your imagination run wild....

It’s been a long time since I saw the ambiguity of pain/pleasure on a human face captured quite so successfully. This portrait demonstrates perfectly that the look of agony and the look of ecstasy are identical. And personally, I find this picture one of the most erotic things I’ve seen in a long time. Why it is so powerful is a question I’ve been asking myself for days, so here are my ruminations on the topic:

I think the thrill of sex often lies in its magical ability to bring opposites together. Males and females experience the opposing traits of gender: that is, women are exposed to aggression and men encounter submission. Beings who live much of the time by reason and practicality are flung into the flip side of life--passion and recklessness. And in the realm of sex, the extremes of pain and pleasure inexplicably intersect, in a manner that is totally engrossing.

You don’t have to be into S&M for this to be true. Even people who are repulsed by bondage find a blend of pleasure and pain in the sex act. We use very interesting adjectives to describe sexual pleasure: agonizing, excruciating, torturous. The physiology of the sexual response is remarkably similar to the pain response: tenseness, trembling, thrashing. Erotic moaning can be indistinguishable from groans of pain. Even psychologically there are similarities...arousal can seem unbearable, make you frantic, desperate, overwhelmed. Sometimes if you were asked if you felt good or bad, you might not be quick to answer. Although ultimately the feeling will prove to be pleasure, it is just so intense and severe, it’s hard to sort out.

And that’s the point. Sexual experience is extreme. What sensation could be better than one so intense that it falls beyond the scale of pain and pleasure and can’t even be clearly categorized?

It’s the intensity of the feeling that is important. In a culture that so often requires us to hide or contain our feelings, only extreme sensation will cause a visible, physical reaction like the expression worn by Hook. Anyone wearing such a face has clearly lost control, the way we all do when in acute pain. But what if it isn’t pain? What if that look is born instead of bliss? One can only imagine the extent of pleasure that would evoke such a look.

And in seeing Hook’s expression, it’s hard not to think about what he might be feeling. Since the look is so ambiguous--because it could just as easily be pain as pleasure--therefore we find ourselves studying it, contemplating it, pondering what it would be like to feel what Hook does, or to make him feel it. For a moment it doesn’t much matter whether the feeling is good or bad; the beauty of it is that it is so intense.

Sometimes the erotic urge is just for intensity. That is why we say, “let me die in your arms,” or less delicately, “fuck me till I’m unconscious.” It’s why we like vampires who drink their victims dry. It’s why we dream of sex that is sweet torture and puts us in agony. We like sex (at least in the fantasy world) to be in the context of extreme emotion, no matter whether it is lust, terror, rage, jealousy, desperation, or even hatred. Be it agony or ecstasy, the intensity refreshes and invigorates us.

Very literally, it hurts so good.


moonsoul13 said...

Very good. Thank you for honoring all sides of sexuality, and the experience of sex. Not just the mushy-gushy side of things. Though this is nice and honored, too. It gets plenty of air time in the brainwaves, and not much is said for the highly erotic, passionate, other side. It is true, that it is all perception, and there are varying degrees for each of us. What is pleasure to one, is pain to another, and also back again, where one overlaps the other, for some. The sounds we make, the words, it can be a 'hurt so good' sensation. It is the different degrees that balance each other, and it is definitely subjective to each person. In a world today, where people push only one idea of a supreme model, it is refreshing and nice to see that there is someone expressing value, or at least consideration, to the wide range of experiences, as this is more true than the rigid one-way approach of sex, and making claims to what is the 'right' or proper way to have sex, etc ... in my opinion. With the moral police everywhere, telling us what we should feel and do, according to their pre-set standards, this was a very nice article to come by. You are always inviting people to expand on their ideas and challenge their thoughts. I like that. And those of us that can enjoy the differences, exploring and adventuring all different sides, it is confirming that it does not have to be just one way ... quiet, soft, easy, simple, etc. There is the other side, and it is valuable, too. Don't get me wrong .... oooohhh, I love romantic, sensual, and pleasurable. It is very important. In fact, it is important for me to lead up to the animalistic, erotic, heavy passionate, intense, extreme levels that you mention, from within the safety and sensual side of things. But certainly, there are those who can jump right into those more intense stages, with no problems. I think it is good to have both .. balance. That's for me, anyway. One without the other would be only one sided. I like having my cake, and eat it, too. For me, it's like warming up an engine. Warm, then a little steamy, getting hotter, burning up, catching fire, then explosion!! It hits, and the wild fire is blazing .. watch out!! ... now we're here to the intensity. Keep up, or get burned, baby! hahahaha. Even then, it is sensual, sexual, passionate, erotic, intense, all rolled into amazingness, all things combined, very intensely combined. For the aftermath, a gradual slow down .... fizzle ... aahhh .. the sweet sweat of heated bliss ... a gentle moment of reflection .. and maybe some sleep ... hehehehe. And that's how it is in 'real' world exciting, amazing, dynamic pleasure of Soul Sex. Embracing all sides, and coming back again to the center of the two.
Thanks for the article. Very good reminder to stay open to possibilities.

Diana Laurence said...

Hi Moonsoul,

Thanks for your fascinating and eloquent (and zesty!) post. Part of what my blog is about is expanding one's idea of the erotic. I'm glad you're enjoying reading and hope you'll visit often.


bainst said...

I became so enamoured of the picture I tried to hunt down the artist to try and purchase it. I was reduced to copying it and getting it blown up to poster size and framing it. So if the artrist see's this please contact me and I will reimburse accordingly.
Now, I totally agree with what you stated. I love soft word and pretty music, but the darkness that the picture implies is so seductive. A little pain never most definitely hurt me. I find it so erotic, just like the portrait. It's in my bedroom right now, and whenver I look at it it gives me goosebumps, in a good or maybe so "good" way.


Diana Laurence said...

Hi Tamar,

What a story! It's amazing that someone else also was so drawn to this picture. I'm glad you found my blog so I could hear about your reaction! I hope you connect with the artist someday.