Science World Report
by Thomas Carannante
Sadomasochism is defined as sexual behavior that involves getting pleasure from causing or feeling pain. Previously thought to be a pathological practice, current research has found no evidence of harmful effects as a result of sadomasochism.
Scientists have found sadomasochism may actually lead to a meditative experience and that such practices are not entirely about sex. Two studies, one conducted by James Ambler of Northern Illinois University and the other by Brad Sagarin of Northern Illinois University, have found that these painful, sexual practices actually contribute to an altered state of consciousness.
The first study involved participants who were assigned to either the "receiving pain" role or the "giving pain" role. Before and after the sexual tests, the participants completed a cognitive test as well as questionnaires that sought to examine their brain function. Results of the cognitive test revealed that the "receiving pain" participants had poorer results, which led the researchers to believe that the pain caused by the sexual experience actually may have caused blood to flow away from the region of the brain that is responsible for executive control and working memory. This is believed to alter one's state of consciousness, particularly to a state of focus and enjoyment.
The second study focused on a pain ritual in a nonsexual atmosphere. Sagarin's participants were involved in a ritual called the "Dance of Souls" in which people received temporary skin piercings that were pulled by rope while music was being played. These "energy pulls," as they are called, were shown to make the participants feel less stressed after they filled out surveys about stress, emotions, and flow (the state of focus and enjoyment).
The researchers found that these practices may elicit similar feelings that one experiences during yoga or meditation. Additionally, the participants reported that they feel more connected to others when experiencing pain. While this may shoot down previous beliefs about sadomasochism, Ambler and Sagarin believe that further research is needed. More specifically, they want a closer minute-by-minute monitoring of these participants.