Using pain, Living with pain

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11 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents the early findings of research into the experiences of pain for those who live with chronic pain and engage in BDSM (bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism), explored using a critical crip approach rooted in crip theory and feminist disability studies. The research took the form of a series of interviews with eight disabled people living with chronic pain who experience pain in their BDSM practices, developing a narrative of experiences. The majority of those living with chronic pain, or who have diagnoses of chronic illnesses causing chronic pain, are women. Chronic pain is frequently assumed to be similar to acute pain; however, thinking through pain in terms of normativity and able-bodymindedness reveals the ableist structures that underpin normative attitudes towards pain and those who are in pain. Pain is understood as dehumanising—and thus the person living with chronic pain is understood as not human, abnormal, and disabled. The disabled body, the body in pain, is a horrifying object of abjection, and the non-disabled observer assumes that to be in pain is to suffer; therefore, living with chronic pain is understood as an ontological impossibility and must be stopped. BDSM is a series of practices forming a space in which the people living with chronic pain in this study are able to engage with their somatic experience in ways that do not expect normalcy, while being disabled and living with chronic pain gives them space to explore non-normative sexual practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-69
Number of pages16
JournalFeminist Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • pain
  • chronic pain
  • disability
  • crip theory
  • abjection


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