I find it amusing when people are surprised to learn of my sadistic side. I get it; my moniker is The Sentimental Dom, I run a nonprofit with love in the name, and I teach compassion and empathy to anyone who will listen. How in the hell can all of that coexist with a sadist? Truth be told, it meshes better than one might expect.

Much like labels, perceived limitations annoy the shit out of me. That’s why the stereotype of sadomasochism has always left me with more questions than answers – and I’m not talking about what the general public imagines. I’m speaking here about what we as kinky people have come to accept as gospel without question.

Is CBT sadomasochistic? Of course; It involves inflicting and receiving intentional pain. Flooding someone’s body and brain with intense joy is also sadistic. It is a demonstration of control in which we temporarily overload that person’s ability to comfortably process the sensations presented to them. The same part of the brain that governs our response to pain also regulates how we experience pleasure.

I can dance my scene partner(s) along the edge of the blade that separates pain and pleasure and dip them on either side of the divide. When pain and pleasure become indistinguishable, they lose themselves to the moment with the full understanding that I will not let them fall.

And that, dear readers, is what redefines sadism for me.