There are many different types and levels of masochism, and so often you’ll hear a conversation in the BDSM community where the two people are struggling to communicate because they are using the word in two different ways. As a term, diverse people with diverse intentions fall into the grouping.
If you do a quick search on the definition of masochist, it is easily defined as a person who obtains sexual pleasure from pain, likes to suffer, and/or derives meaning from pain. But I would challenge the simple definition of masochism, and stretch the term a little.
There are different types of masochism — sexual masochism, physical masochism, emotional masochism, mental/power masochism, and probably masochism that i have yet to discover.
Sexual masochism is probably the most common one, where people get sexually turned-on by pain. The kind of pain associated with submissive energy and power gives them a sexual kick. Within this array of sexual masochism, there are an array of intensities – from people who are into minor pain like gentle spanking, all the way up to cutting and intense whipping. Sexual masochism per se does not relate pain to anything other than sexual pleasure.
Emotional masochism is complex, and the negotiation of consent often is difficult. Emotional masochists derive emotional pleasure from emotional abuse. It certainly sounds problematic, but it is often a negotiated journey, where the Sadist emotionally abuses the masochist consensually and with a great deal of aftercare to ensure that the trust is reformed and enhanced. It is not without a high level of danger and risk. Emotions are not visible or tangible, and so it is difficult to know where limits and thresholds lie, and when abuse would be permanently damaging the sub. It carries a high risk of tripping off the established trust between the partners. Nonetheless, this is a form of masochism that can be intriguing, satisfying, and even necessary for some people.
Mental/Power masochism is a term that i use to describes people who are into Total Power Exchange (TPE) and who don’t fall neatly into the groupings of sexual masochism or emotional masochism. This type of masochist doesn’t instantly derive sexual arousal from pain, but is into stretching the power dynamic between Master and slave. A mental/pwer masochist wants to experience mental challenges through both physical and emotional pain, and derives meanings from suffering.
The most important part of using the term “masochism” is not to negotiate by the term, but explain what kind of masochist are you, and to what extent, to what intensity, that is for you.
There is no checklist for you to tick off, no standards, no definitive words you can use to convey your masochism to someone. The term masochist carries an absolute subjectivity, depending on who you are negotiating with. For a gentle Sadist, a gentle pain lover can be defined as a masochist in His context. But for a serious Sadist, a gentle pain lover isn’t considered a masochist. He is looking for a pain pig.
The terms masochism and masochist are built entirely within the context of discussion, and they are always relative to their binary opposites.