I write about bodies and feelings. Author of "Hurts So Good: The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose" [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Hurts So Good: The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose
An exploration of why people all over the world love to engage in pain on purpose–from dominatrices, religious ascetics, and ultramarathoners to ballerinas, icy ocean bathers, and sideshow performers
Masochism is sexy, human, reviled, worshipped, and can be delightfully bizarre. Deliberate and consensual pain has been with us for millennia, encompassing everyone from Black Plague flagellants to ballerinas dancing on broken bones to competitive eaters choking down hot peppers while they cry. M...
Why Skincare That Burns Is So Satisfying
A couple times a month, I reach for a face mask that causes me pain—and makes me feel better. The science of masochism helps explain why.
Can we ever hug again?
Humans need touch, and with the twin arrivals of springtime and COVID-19 vaccines, skin hunger borne from a year of social distancing and sequestration is becoming harder to bear. As more and more people become vaccinated and feelings of hope begin to unfurl as surely as a crocus peeping through the mud, I want to know what everyone wants to know: When can we hug people without worrying about coronavirus transmission?
“That’s the million dollar question,” says Beth Thielen, a physician-scient...
Stress can literally kill you. Here’s how.
This story originally appeared in the Calm issue of Popular Science. Current subscribers can access the whole digital edition here, or click here to subscribe.
In the face of grueling stress, it’s easy to romanticize the body’s commitment to balance. A dark and lovely liver serenely regulates its life-sustaining chores like some kind of untrammeled deity. Nearby, plump kidneys churn out requests for water and salt—twin cherubs of the torso. Even Claude Bernard, the 19th-century French p...
What would possess someone to eat a Carolina Reaper pepper? This writer tried to find out.
Leigh Cowart explores the gruesome ways people find pleasure in pain in 'Hurts So Good.'
From Hurts So Good: The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose by Leigh Cowart, copyright © 2021. Reprinted by permission of PublicAffairs, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Parked in the dusty lot of the county fairgrounds in Auburn, California, I’m in the driver’s seat of a rental car, hands imperceptibly trembling. There’s a cold bottle of water sweating in the cup holder, a one-use relic o...
How to count insects from space
The biodiversity of bugs serves as a planetary early warning system. But tracking their numbers takes big thinking.
It’s dark. Vegetal decay hangs thick in the air, trapped beneath the rotting innards of a felled beech tree. You wedge the hard shell of your exoskeleton through softening pulp, legs clicking in rhythm with each other. Chemosensors on your antennae and mouthparts ping with a steady stream of information, and you toodle your little coleopteran body around to eat bits of dead tree...
Hurts So Good: The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose
An exploration of why people all over the world love to engage in pain on purpose--from dominatrices, religious ascetics, and ultramarathoners to ballerinas, icy ocean bathers, and sideshow performers
Masochism is sexy, human, reviled, worshipped, and can be delightfully bizarre. Deliberate and consensual pain has been with us for millennia, encompassing everyone from Black Plague flagellants to ballerinas dancing on broken bones to competitive eaters choking down hot peppers whil...
Centuries Before Fifty Shades, A Runaway Hit About Kinky Sex
In 2009, an aspiring writer posted a novel’s worth of steamy, Twilight-based drama to FanFiction.net, under the nom de plume Snowqueens Icedragon. For those of you not familiar, fan fiction (or fanfic) is a massive field of online literature where fans contribute to their favorite fictional universes with all manner of writing, much of it dripping with sexual content not available in the originals.
Snowqueens Icedragon’s work was an explicit retelling of Stephanie Meyer’s teenage vampire smas...
Masochism is All Around Us | Leigh Cowart | Author of HURTS SO GOOD
Leigh Cowart, author of HURTS SO GOOD, tells us why people all over the world love to engage in pain on purpose–from dominatrices, religious ascetics, and ultramarathoners to ballerinas, icy ocean bathers, and sideshow performers Video production, all image remixes, collages, and motion-design animation by ReelSmart Productions (https://reelsmart.co) Video Credits: - Author Footage, Courtesy, Leigh Cowart Image Credit: Bed of Nails Performer, Underworld's 18th Annual Gothic Beauty Pageant; Co...
From Chili-Eating Contests To Ultramarathons, Why Do We Seek Pain For Pleasure?
If you’ve ever burnt your hand on a stove and someone told you it’s “all in your head,” they’re technically not wrong. Our sensory receptors communicate with the brain to create the sensation of pain.
But if pain is… painful, why do some of us seek it out?
To find out, journalist Leigh Cowart interviewed ultramarathoners, spice aficionados, lovers (practitioners) of BDSM, and other pain-seekers about why they do what they do.
“At its core, masochism is about choosing pain on purpose, for a re...
New Research Is Taking Women’s Sexual Pleasure Seriously
Despite its presence in about half the population, the anatomical wonder that is the clitoris has had a rough go of it in the hallowed halls of academia. From Freud’s pet theory that clitoral orgasms are infantile and indicative of a failure to mature properly, to its unceremonious deletion from the 1948 edition of Gray’s Anatomy, the only organ known to exist solely for pleasure has been quietly and systematically denied its due. Even after we had split the atom and enjoyed 20 years of penic...
Why Running Sometimes Makes You Shit Blood
Welcome to Meat Sack, a guide to sports-related body horror. Today’s column is about bloody shits.
What do you picture when you think of a runner? Shirtless white men, trotting down the exhaust-choked sidewalks of busy streets, looking like jaunty, tan crepes? Or maybe you see a virtuous sort, full of the kind of piety that only chia pudding and daily meditation and predawn runs can bestow? I used to think of my grandpa, an early adopter of the new jogging trend in the 1960s. He was covered b...
How To Fuck In The Woods, And Other Survival Tips
Welcome to Meat Sack, a guide to sports-related body horror. Today’s column is about enjoying the great outdoors.
How To Fuck In Nature Without Getting A Weird Rash
There are people who will tell you that the best way to have sex in the woods is to do it in a tent, but those people are lying to you. Life is too short not to get mother nature all in your mouth when you’re face-down/ass-up in bear country. As an inveterate mountain-dweller, I have enjoyed all manner of outdoorsy fucks, be it on...
Welcome To Meat Sack, A Guide To Sports-Related Body Horror
The ecosystem of the human body does not want for complexity, nor do the myriad of idiot things we inflict upon it. This is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the world of sports, where athletes willingly submit their bodies, like monks to their vows, in pursuit of Larry having a nice, drunken night because a bunch of super-fit young ‘uns in matching outfits did the correct thing with the ball more often than the other boys.
Of course, when you push the ol’ haunted meat toilet that is your...
Burn Me Like a Forest Fire
I wonder if the trees are screaming. I wonder where the birds go. I wonder how anything could ever escape the inferno and rebuild. I think about my marriage