As a writer that explores the mixing of pleasure and pain, I’m fascinated by the mechanisms in the body that dictate what will turn us on or motivate us to the extremes. My husband and I just recently caught a show on PBS called Pleasure and Pain that I highly recommend if you are intrigued by such things.
During the course of the show, they interviewed many people and asked what gives them the most pleasure in life? There were a wide variety of answers and sex, of course, got a lot of votes but not the most.
Neurochemicals in our brain determine whether or not we find pleasure in an activity. When it comes to food, according to the show, many of us eat past the point of pleasure, overriding the signals to stop. I know I am guilty of this, especially when it comes to chocolate and dessert. Pleasure is transient and can turn into pain if overindulged.
The desire for sex is biologically strong because as a species, we must reproduce. Dopamine, the chemical of desire, causes the heart to beat faster and the sensation of touch to heighten. On the ride up to the peak we are flooded with endorphins that send us over the edge to explosion. As we float back down to earth on a cocktail of serotonin and prolactin, our dopamine levels fall leaving us relaxed and sleepy. My favorite high is definitely the aftermath of orgasm.
So as I watched the show, I wondered what in life gives me the most pleasure and I even asked my husband. He said, “Sex of course.” My response, “If we’re talking about peak experiences that are short lived, then yes, I would definitely have to say sex but if we are sharing about a more sustained feeling of happiness, I have to say love, being in love, loving you.” Good love adds so much pleasure to life, even during the moments when you aren’t together. Nothing beats that for me and he agrees.
Why do we sometimes find pleasure in pain? It’s easy to focus on the sex aspects given that I have explored BDSM within the My Body Trilogy. However, just the other day, I asked my husband why he thinks I put myself into situations that scare me (Live interview, book signings, etc.) but do them anyway. He said he thought for me it was akin to riding a huge scary rollercoaster, which I love, and that I get pleasure from living on the edge.
One of the main reasons people can find pleasure in pain has to do with the release of endorphins that flood the system, the very same ones that I mentioned that rush us over the edge to orgasm. I can only assume that people’s tolerance for pain must correlate with the timing of the biochemical release and maybe even the intensity of the flooding of the brain.
I know for Jane, in the My Body Trilogy, the excitement that comes with the pushing of her boundaries and her pain tolerance, heightens the intensity of her orgasms. I believe it works that way for some people in real life.
So have you guessed what might be the most common answer on the pleasure questionnaire? The third most common answer … food and drink, second answer … drum roll please … SEX (not surprising I should think) and finally, the number one answer and clear winner – family and loved ones.
The order didn’t surprise me much as it fell in line with my personal pleasures. What is your greatest pleasure and is it something that you can easily experience or obtain?
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