Alluring Or Annoying?
Freshman Carolyn Vaimoso sat in a movie theater with some friends and her then-boyfriend back in high school. Halfway through the film, things got hot and heavy with her beau. When the lights came up and the group walked out into the lobby, one of her friends made the point to loudly identify the glaring hickey on her neck.
“I felt so embarrassed,” Vaimoso, a communication studies major, says. “Obviously, it’s kind of rude to be making out when you’re with your friends and have evidence of it later.”
Since that day, she’s been conflicted about how she feels about visible marks from sexual activity––hickeys, bite marks, scratch marks, bruises, and more from the endless plethora of painful possibilities.
Lots of people covet melding pain with pleasure by imprinting marks in this way. In fact, the close connection between pain and pleasure bases itself in science.
Following our brain’s command, endorphins flood our bodies when we feel pain. While doing their work to block this sensation, these hormones induce the gratifying feeling of euphoria. A BBC article titled, “Why Pain Feels Good” said the “post-pain rush [is] similar to the high of morphine or heroin.”
However, outside of a few select situations, painful sensations rarely make us feel good. Paul Rozin, a psychology professor at Stanford University, attributed the concept of “benign masochism” to the feeling of painful sensations being enjoyable. It simply means humans seek out pain in situations like sex that they know won’t cause serious damage. The fun is in the mild thrill.
But the jury is still out on whether the potential gratification from giving and receiving sexual momentos forgives the hassle and embarrassment afterward.
Temporarily stamping someone’s body with scratches and bruises can make people feel powerful and in control of their relationship and partner.
“I like planting [a hickey] on a guy’s neck or leaving marks on his back,” Vaimoso says. “It’s kind of like a warning symbol if he’s hooking up with another girl...like ‘Oh, he’s doing stuff already.’”
Xea Myers, a freshman business of creative enterprises major, doesn’t enjoy lingering physical reminders from sexual experiences as much. She prefers the softer side of pleasure.
“I’m a wimp, so everything actually hurts me,” Myers says. “I understand aspects of it. I just don’t understand the whole Fifty Shades of Grey, let’s hang someone against a wall mentality.”
But overall, the reality is most people will experiment with sexual marks in their lifetime. Yet everyone continues to condemn each other for the public exposure of these stamps. We resort to clothing that will cover these reminders and quick online remedies to make them go away.
Vaimoso questions this constant judgement around these marks.
“It’s kind of hypocritical because everyone does it, everyone participates in sexual intercourse. It’s a societal norm that you have to be this picture-perfect person when walking around. And I think it’s time to break that stigma,” Vaimoso says.