Cover Image: Hurts So Good

Hurts So Good

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I have never understood any ones desire to actually seek out pain. Boggles the mind. I always figured life throws enough pain our way without asking for more. But. of course, I know that's wrong. Eating hot peppers come to mind. Ballet and football, too.  The book was an interesting read with lots of insight I had never given thought to. I had imagined maybe inflicting pain on self to over ride existing pain would be plausible, I think. Still the extremes folks intentionally inflict on themselves still amazes me! Fascinating and engaging read.
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4 stars

Why do some people seek pain on purpose? This is the focus of this interesting book, not just on masochism in the sense of BDSM or kink (although that’s not excluded), but in the broadest sense: from athletes who push their bodies to the limit, to people who enjoy eating intensely spicy foods. Touching on sociology, neuroscience, history, & personal experience, the writer explores the complex subject of “feeling bad to feel better”.

[What I liked:]

•I really like the writer’s widening of the definition/perception of what masochism is: including traditional BDSM, but also marathon runners, ballet dancers, and boxers.

•The writing is good, with vivid descriptions & personal, contextualizing examples. It’s the opposite of a dry, academic writing style & was engaging.

•This book isn’t...exactly what I was expecting. I mean it was, but it was also more. This isn’t the dry, medical/psychology-based text I was anticipating. It covers those  neuroscience aspects as well as delving into socio-cultural issues & BDSM. In other words, I learned a lot and enjoyed the reading experience more than I thought I would.

•I haven’t read extensively on this topic so I can’t compare this book with similar ones, but it gave me the language to describe some ideas I haven’t been able to clearly express before. Which is a really nice feeling.
—I jumped to read this since pointe shoes were featured on the cover, & the blurb offered a scientific discussion of pain. I’ve been pondering, since the age of 15, why my favorite hobbies—ballet & quilting—involve pain, & if I actually enjoy some aspect of that pain, or if the blistered feet & pricked fingers are simply an unavoidable price to pay (a necessary evil) for engaging in activities I enjoy for other reasons.
—Well, since then I’ve read a lot about BDSM & endorphins, & I’m mostly sure now that I actually do like some forms of intentional/consensual pain, but I’m *definitely* sure it’s still complicated. And this book gave me new fodder to chew on, besides helping clarify some things.

•I appreciate that the writer establishes right away the difference between masochism & abuse: masochism is consensual pain, with the option of stopping at anytime; abuse is any non-consensual painful activity, and/or without the option of stopping. This is an essential distinction that many people are hazy on, so I think addressing it up front is important.

•I also appreciate that the writer touched on some very real complexities related to intentionally seeking pain, especially the discussion of how consensual pain can be unhealthy (such as in the case of self harm). Where is the line between safe & healthy experiences, & self harm/abuse? As someone who is recovering from similar self harm patterns as the writer, I found her ideas very meaningful & resonant.

•This has more to do with my personal history, but I really connected with the writer’s discussion of her experiences dancing ballet growing up: the weight struggles, the physical toll, & the pure love & sweetness of dancing. The all consuming-ness. I get it; that resonates with me.


[What I didn’t like as much:]

•Sometimes the text does get a bit repetitive. Not without meaningful variation necessarily, but some parts (like the introduction) could have been tightened, or possibly organized a bit more cohesively.

•To be clear, I do not personally object to any of the content in this book, but from the blurb I had no idea the book would include a scene of explicit sexual content (not discussing sex in a clinical, abstract context as I expected, but actual descriptions of the writer’s personal encounters). I think providing a clear indication of this content in the blurb for readers before they start the book is advisable. 

•A stylistic choice, & one I didn’t *not* enjoy, but this book has a casual & chatty tone that can be at odds with establishing credibility in an informational book. I mean the genre is listed as “science”, but the tone is very informal. However, there is a thorough bibliography included which has plenty of legit sources (like scientific journals), which helped balance that out in my opinion.

CW: descriptions of BDSM scening (it’s all safe, sane, & consensual), mature language, somewhat explicit descriptions of sexual situations (it’s not erotica though), detailed descriptions of pain being (consensually) inflicted & how it feels to the writer, mentions of self harm, mentions of eating disorders, graphic descriptions of body modification procedures 

[I received an ARC ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for the book!]
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A book about pain that wasn’t painful to read.  Actually this is one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long time.  Why are human being so drawn to things that hurt them?  I highly recommend this thoughtful non-fictional book.
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