Pain and pleasure: how to enjoy pain in bed

Written by: Anel Martínez



Time to read 4 min

Let’s talk about pain and pleasure. Did you know these two concepts are related? You might not know this, but sometimes pain produces a pleasurable sensation. We caught your attention for sure, but first we start talking about how to experience pain in a pleasurable way, we must explain that pain has different types of pain thresholds , some people tolerate it better than others.

More or less tolerance to pain is neither better nor worse. Actually, if you stop to think about it, there are a lot of everyday activities that are partly “ painful ” and yet pleasant and enjoyable. Painful yet pleasurable activities include running, getting a tattoo, getting a piercing or certain therapeutic massages. Although there are other activities that are not tolerable.

In other words, pleasure can be trained . We aren’t telling you to walk on hot coals or be bitten by thousands of ants and find it enjoyable. Also, we do not pretend to enjoy your unbearable back pain . What we want to convey is that there is a wide range of sexual practices that involve pain. Keep reading to find how to enjoy them.

Why do we like pain?

We cannot talk about the mechanism of pain without bringing up basic functioning of the nervous system. So, take a seat, open your mind and discover the wonderful world you are about to meet.

How our body processes pain and pleasure

Pain and pleasure are closely related in biological terms. It all starts when we perceive an external stimulus. Our brain is in charge of processing it and differentiating whether it is pleasurable or painful stimuli. It all depends on the hypothalamus. This part of the brain will trigger an endocrine response, releasing endorphins. And what are endorphins? They are responsible for sending signals to our brain to relieve pain and give a sense of well-being.

Well, this feeling of relief can generate a pleasurable perception that leads to a phenomenon known by some authors as “ benign masochism “, i.e., the search for pain that we know will not have serious consequences on our health.

The psychology of pain and pleasure

It is important to emphasize that safety and control are essential to associate pain with pleasure. For example, we will not experience skydiving as something pleasurable without knowing all the measures than being fully aware of all the safety protocols. In other words, the way to experience pain as something pleasurable is by “tricking” our nervous system and there has to be an underlying motivation.

The interpretation of pain plays a big part in this equation . Certain pain may feel more intense than others. The body will codify the intensity and will activate mechanisms necessary so that the pleasurable pain can take place. But that’s not all. Let’s say that there is another important aspect to take into account: the endorphins , as mentioned above. This neurotransmitter has various functions, one of which is to inhibit pain and to induce sensation of relief.

Endorphins are naturally secreted during sexual activity. Therefore, during sexual encounters, pain can be twice as pleasureable . This is possible mainly do to the release of endorphins during the sexual activity. If we include a painful stimulus during this encounter, the amount of endorphins increases exponentially, resulting in increased pleasure . Let’s not forget that, when we talk about pain during sexual activity, we are referring to that one which is agreed and desired.

On the other hand, the pleasure you can get from sex through pain is proportional to the intensity of the pain: the more pain, the greater the relief. This is due to the “sedative” sensation produced by endorphins. In fact, many people experience pleasure when they are rewarded right after feeling pain. Do you want to know how?

How to “train” this pleasure

Indeed, this type of pleasure can be trained. The how may be quite obvious by now: try to associate pain signals with pleasurable experiences. Let’s take for example spicy food. Normally, children would probably stay away from these foods because they find them unpleasant as a consequence of the molecule capsaicin. This chemical is responsible for that feeling of “burn ” in our mouths. So, why do so many people like spicy food? Let’s say that capsaicin is a harmless substance, so its ingestion results in a controlled and safe pain.

If we get used to spicy food, we will be able to “enjoy” food through physical pain . This will result in enjoyment for foods that contain these special ingredients. Following the theory of “benign masochism”, these foods will eventually lead to feelings of adrenaline and euphoria . This phenomenon is applicable to any kind of controlled pain experiences, such as those we experience in BDSM sex.

What is BDSM?

“Benign masochism” is present in bondage/discipline, domination/submission  and sadism/masochism practice (BDSM). In fact, people who practice masochism process pain as neutral or pleasurable stimuli in itself, regardless of the subsequent feeling of relief. This is not only limited to sexual practices, but to any kind of pain.


The relationship between pleasure and pain is not exclusive to these erotic practices. As we have mentioned, there are a multitude of activities that we enjoy in our daily lives that involve some pain. Of course, there are variables, such as personality , that have a decisive influence on whether or not you get pleasure from these practices. After all, we are all different . But if you have stayed reading to the end, surely pain is not your enemy, but your ally. 

Anel Martínez

Author: Anel Martínez  (Sexual Coach at MYHIXEL)

Sexologist specializing in sex therapy and sex education, mental health and human behavior.