The bad kind of pain

May 20, 2009

Generally Lars Von Trier films are not something I look forward to seeing. Breaking the Waves left me an incoherent mess afterward, and I took a long, boiling-hot shower after watching Dancer in the Dark, scrubbing my skin raw and muttering brokenly, “bad, bad, bad…”.

His latest isn’t exactly breaking with the overall tone of his oeuvre, but the difference is that there’s finally some male brutalization going on. New York magazine has written up a description of a particularly gruesome scene. I read it and laughed nervously the whole time.

I like violence as much as the next sadist, but mine has to be sexual in some way and I have to know that my partner craves and enjoys it as well. Graphic depictions of violence usually gross me out rather than turn me on. I avoid torture porn because the victims are clearly not enjoying themselves (obvs).

If I’m turned on and with an equally turned-on partner, then I enjoy inflicting pain, pushing my partner’s boundaries, and experiencing the rush of power and control from the interaction. But outside sex, I find nothing arousing or hot about violence, torture, degradation, etc. per se. This is the distinction between sexual sadists and just plain psychopaths (though the DSM still lists sexual sadism as a paraphilia, right up there with pedophilia and bestiality). Consent and the knowledge that your partner is enjoying him/herself makes all the difference, just as they do with vanilla sex.

I’ll probably at least put Antichrist on my DVD queue, but will be sure to have a box of tissues and my antidepressants (= the cat and ice cream) nearby.


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