I expect this to be a controversial post. Not only because opinions will vary, but because the definition of pain itself is vastly different among different people – especially among people engaged in kink.

There are sexual practices that are enjoyable (to some) despite of the pain, and there are sexual practices that are enjoyable (to some others) because of the pain. Does fisting belong in one of these categories? Well, here’s my personal, highly subjective opinion: NO. Fisting is not supposed to be painful, and it certainly does not need to be painful to be enjoyable.

Let us distinguish first between unpleasant sensations: feeling discomfort, feeling pressure, and feeling friction, are not the same as pain. Pain is a very specific warning that your body uses to tell you that something is going wrong. When you are truly experiencing pain, nerves are already being damaged and destroyed. Pain is basically a signal that you need to stop what you are doing – in most cases.

Of course people cause themselves pain all the time. Exercise can be painful – both during and after. Massage, and other forms of therapy, involve sensations of pain to some extend. And then there’s sadomasochism. Humans are able to “manage” pain to some measure, and to make conscious decisions about what type of pain is acceptable and what is not. But the evolutionary origin of pain is clear: it is a stop sign.

So does pain belong in fisting? Does fisting have to hurt? This top’s perspective is that it should not, or that at least it does not have to. Sensations of pressure, the discomfort created by “fullness”, and the irritation of friction are all to some degree inevitable (and for many bottoms they are part of the pleasure), but pain is not.

If you are a new bottom and you find that fisting is painful, you are probably doing one of the following: either you are going too fast, or you are not using enough (or the right kind) of lube. Slow down, and experiment with different lubes. It’s not a contest – you don’t win a prize for getting there first, so just take your time. At the risk of sounding like a new age guru, controlling your breathing is also a great tool for managing pain, discomfort, and excessive stimulation. Many bottoms become tense and hold their breath either because of or in anticipation of a strong sensation (pleasurable or otherwise). This causes the muscles to come stiff and tight, and results in pain – or more pain.

If you are not a beginner, remember that your body is not the same every day. You will not be able to play exactly in the same way and to the same level every time. So be open to signs that things are different this time – including signs of pain. And of course, let the top know. In some cases, if something that used to not hurt begins to hurt, you might want to investigate that. For example, if you used to enjoy prostate stimulation but you find that it is now painful, there is some reason for concern. If the change is persistent, it could be an indicator of a prostate infection, or even cancer. Of course these are rare cases – often things just feel a bit more sensitive on a given day for much more benign reasons.

There are different sensations that you might experience during fisting that can all be considered pain, but it is important to distinguish between them:

  1. Dull, persistent pain resulting from pressure (usually on the sphincter, sometimes on the bladder or the prostate). Arguably, to some this is actually pleasurable. This pain should stop immediately when the stimulus (ie. the fist) is removed, and it is nothing to be worried about.
  2. Sharp, acute pain that stops immediately. This is usually a sign that your top might have been a bit clumsy or hasty, and it is easily corrected. Just ask him to avoid exactly what he was doing at the time. If the pain stops immediately when the activity stops, again, you really don’t need to worry.
  3. Persistent, sharp pain even when the fist is removed. This is a pretty good sign that your session needs to end! Note that some external soreness of the sphincter after fisting is normal. It is the equivalent of the muscle soreness you get after heavy exercise – and a good reason to take some time to recover before your next session. But acute, internal pain after a fisting should  not be happening.

And then there are those sensations which occur naturally during fisting, which cannot truly be considered pain, but might be aversive to some while pleasurable to others:

  1. Pressure on the sphincter, or stretching. This is to some degree inevitable, and to most men part of the pleasure of fisting. This pressure should be consistent and persistent – sudden pain at the sphincter is a bad sign.
  2. “Fullness”. The colon’s natural instinct is to empty itself – if something is in there, it is because your body wants to get rid of it. To some degree, both the pleasure and the challenge of fisting is about managing, overcoming, and exploiting this “vacating” instinct. In evolutionary terms, fisting is “unnatural” – the colon is mean to be a one way street. So it is normal for this fullness to feel uncomfortable. However, a lot of pleasure can come from this source as well, and for many it is the reason why the “expulsion” moment is so pleasurable. If you want to experiment this, anal beads are great!
  3. Pressure on the bladder. Generally this is experienced as a (mostly false) need to urinate, but it can be intense enough to be painful. This can be aggravated if you feel anxious about loosing bladder control – which does occur during fisting.
  4. Pressure on the prostate. You would think this would be automatically pleasurable, but often, especially for men who never experienced it before, direct prostate pressure can be painful. This can also happen if you are starting “cold” – if you are not already aroused, many sensations that are normally pleasurable can feel uncomfortable or even painful.

Bottoms use a variety of means to mitigate pain (as well as discomfort and irritation), ranging from over the counter painkillers to illegal drugs. A solution that I have often used successfully – not because it eliminates pain, but because it tends to prolong sessions but delaying the first signs of irritation at the sphincter, is locally applied benzocaine or lidocaine. You can get these in various forms of “extreme” lubes (often the black package version of another lube), or you can actually get gels from a pharmacist that are meant for oral use. Use them sparingly on the sphincter itself – don’t just push the gel inside. I find that starting this way makes a big difference to how long a bottom can play for. Do not just add these as “ingredients” in your lube – they’re much more effective when used locally, and it’s basically a waste of money to just pour them down your hole as they have very little effect internally!

I admit that, since I don’t bottom, my view on this subject is limited and perhaps not as credible as a bottom or versatile fister’s. If you practice fisting long enough, I am sure you will eventually form your own opinion, based on your experience. There are many different types of bottoms out there, and some of them are masochists. However, sadists do not make good fisting tops. Unlike many SM activities, fisting is not about pain, not even about pleasure through pain.

I am sure there are other opinions out there, and I would love to hear them. What is your experience? Do you accept that some pain is inevitable? Do you think it is part of the fun? I would love to hear what you think, either in comments below or privately.