The masochism spectrum

The current Details magazine (April 2013) has a section on “The Body: The DETAILS Sex Report”, giving some results from the magazine’s 2013 sex survey. Things like men’s preferred (non-vaginal) targets for ejaculation (mouth 65%, chest 63%, butt 51%, back 42%, face 39% — obviously multiple responses were welcome). The survey is a mess: readers chose to provide responses, so the nature of the sample is totally unknown and likely to be skewed in complex ways; the magazine doesn’t provide basic statistics — even how many readers responded to a particular question, not to mention means and variances  — at least anywhere I could find (even on And some of the material is just fabricated.

Like the piece on p. 98 about the pleasure-pain spectrum, ranking masochistic practices.

The text:

HURTS SO GOOD: If only the Marquis de Sade could see us now. The Archives of Sexual Behavior reports on a new form of autoerotic activity, called milking, in which guys are inserting needles into their perineum, the sensitive area between the testicles and the anus (a.k.a. the taint). Find out where that and other fetishes fall on the pleasure-pain spectrum.

The low end of the spectrum is labeled “pain curious”, the high end “major masochist”. From low to high, the practices are:

spanking, biting, nipple clamps, butt plugs, pegging, scrotum stretching, fisting, sandpaper hand job, strangling, milking, play piercing, hot-wax play, anal hooks, caning, testicle clothespinning, electrotorture

No hint as to where these rankings come from; I’d guess that a bunch of staff just sat around a table and tossed out ideas, gauging their personal eww factor for individual practices. Or tossed dice. There’s certainly no science here.

Butt plugs and pegging (a form of receptive anal intercourse for men — that is, ‘getting fucked (of a man)’) really don’t belong here at all; they’re intended for pleasure, without pain. Fisting is dubious; it’s kink, but not (to many fistees, anyway) masochistic. (You’ll see that anal practices get put on the spectrum.) And several other practices, like soundingedging, and impact play, don’t make the chart. In any case, some of the rankings, like hot-wax play way above nipple clamps, are just baffling. Spanking at the very low end sounds right to me, and clothespegging testicles and electrotorture probably belong at or near the top, but the rest of it looks to me like a random array.

On the details of pegging, from p. 102:

“People still connect preferred practices with sexual orientation, like the one linking gay men with anal sex,” says Carol Queen, a staff sexologist at the San Francisco store Good Vibrations. “But this idea has long been sidestepped by men who really wanted the experience of anal.” [note truncation of anal sex to anal – nouning by truncation] Now even a typical wife is donning a strap-on: Anal-centric sex toys such as beads, butt plugs, and strap-ons are top sellers among straight couples. It helps that there are now porn and instructional videos featuring men on the receiving end, as in the cult-favorite movie Bend Over Boyfriend, and that sex columnist Dan Savage popularized the term “pegging” to desbcribe the practice. “Once something has a name,” Queen says, “people can Google it.”

So pegging is specifically heterosexual: the woman gives, the man takes. A guy, straight or gay, getting fucked by another guy doesn’t count, Nor does a guy, straight or gay, wielding a dildo on himself. It takes a woman to peg.

2 Responses to “The masochism spectrum”

  1. Straight vs. gay orgasms | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] A blog mostly about language « The masochism spectrum […]

  2. Will Says:

    The ranking is indeed bizarre. Electricity play can range from the nerve-wrackingly hard to the merely sensual, depending on the specific tool and the intensity of the discharge; a violet wand on a low setting and using a glass attachment is suitable for even the least masochistic bottom.

    Hot wax play similarly depends very much on body part and wax composition; pure beeswax is a recipe for severe burns, but paraffin melts at a rather low temperature and, if dripped from sufficient height, is far more dramatic than painful.

    They could have asked someone into BDSM, you know. It’s not as if we hide any longer.

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