For many people, the scariest thing about BDSM is sadism and masochism. It's certainly the type of play that can be confused most easily with abuse. Plus, so much of what people see or read about it is extreme. But here's the thing that most people don't understand about BDSM: There is so much more to pain and masochism than the extreme stuff you tend to see online. You can like some pain without wanting all of it. If you thought you were a masochist, only to be surprised that you didn't like certain kinds of pain, welcome to the club! I like to get my ass spanked, but I hate stepping on a Lego in the middle of the night. It's all about personal preference and the situation. (Read about the softer, gentler side of kink in Does BDSM Have to Be Hardcore?)

The Two Common Types of Pain Physical Pain

When it comes to experiencing pain, there are two key types: surface pain and deep pain. Stinging pains are only skin deep, most of the time, and are often caused by implements that are light or thin in nature. A cane, the tips of a flogger, and a whip can easily cause a sharp, stinging burn. Don't be fooled by heavier toys, though. A paddle or large flogger wielded in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing can sting and burn too.

Thuddy pains, my personal favorite, are deeper. They're felt in the muscles. In some cases, the sensation is similar to a deep tissue massage. Deep pain can be caused by paddles, floggers, and hands. Punching is a form of impact play that feels almost exactly like a massage. Only the large muscles are targeted and while a fist is used, the flat part of your fist is what should make contact, not the knuckles. (Note: Don't try punching unless you're trained in massage or can learn from someone with experience.)

Emotional Pain in BDSM

Often referred to as humiliation, emotional pain is another legitimate kink in BDSM. It requires plenty of trust on the part of the submissive and great control from the Dominant. Like physical pain, if not handled properly, this type of play can cause real damage. It's not for everyone and should be negotiated carefully. Safewords should be used. Aftercare is a definite must with all forms of play, but especially humiliation.

Humiliation takes many forms and is unique to the person who enjoys it. Boot licking, crawling on the floor, urinating in front of your partner, being called names – the list of possibilities is endless. For me, light emotional pain is most effective when crossed with physical pain. I allow my Dominant to smack my face in scenes or during sex. The physical pain and the humiliation from the act turns me on and makes my eyes roll back in my head.

Pain Tolerance

Kink and sex are physical, but they are also mental. When you're in the mood to play, you might eye the flogger or paddle and start imagining all the fun you'll have. Yet, if you're stressed about work or kids, that painful sensation you love could easily become unbearable.

Don't worry that you've somehow lost your masochist way just because you're not feeling it in the moment. I adore pinched nipples, pulled hair, paddled asses, and more during a free moment with my own Dominant. However, if my head's not in the game, the smallest tap on the ass could leave me yelling my safeword.

Another thing to consider is that the more you play with a specific kind of pain, the more tolerance you may build up to it. Leather butt is a real thing that develops as a result of your body becoming conditioned to spankings, to the point where even the hardest spanking may not register as painful (or exciting). It doesn't happen overnight, but it is a possibility.

Feeling Something Other Than Pain

There are plenty of other sensations to play with. These can be great for those who hate pain, or can just be used to keep a submissive on their toes. Tickling, scratching (lightly or not, depending on your preference), massage and simple stroking of your partner's skin are the easiest to manage with your hands. Almost any toy can be used to create similar sensations – floggers, paddles, crops and even the Wartenberg wheel, used primarily to cause stinging pain, can be used with a light touch to create other sensations.

Not everyone will like every pain all the time. What turned you on last night might make you scream and cry today. Experiment with different sensations and toys and find what works for you. Above all, talk to your partner before and after you play so that everyone's on the same page. Pain can be a major turn on or, but when its handled incorrectly, it can be dangerous. Play safe, y'all!