Don’t be daft: obviously, the answer is pleasure.
Or is it, Agatha? you might be asking in that cute way you do when you’re trying to look clever but are really just being silly.
Well, yes, it is. Because pain is always painful. Guaranteed.
Now if you are currently clad in handcuffs with a ball gag in your mouth, you might be tempted to speak up to contradict me. You needn’t bother. I’m well aware of the whole “pain is pleasure” scene, as the young sadomasochists are calling it these days, though I remain skeptical. I mean, we all love a good whipping, sure, but those welts are going to sting like a bitch the second you lower yourself into a nice, hot bubble bath and then you’ll have wished you thought twice last night before introducing leather play into your bedroom shenanigans. Let’s face it — orgasms are a dime a dozen (if you’re a Gold Club member) but few things are more pleasing than a long, hot soak. Write that on a piece of paper and tape it to the door of your sex cupboard (or car dashboard, if you’re a member of the dogging community) to remind yourself for next time. In the long term, doing what you can to avoid pain usually pays off dividends.
However, pain does have a purpose and the next time you feel it, I recommend you stop to think about the lesson it is attempting to pass on. Pain is rarely subtle; it screams but doesn’t whisper.
For example, if your hand hurts because you’re hitting it with a hammer, you’re probably going to want to stop hitting your hand with a hammer. Pain’s messages are usually as straight forward as that.
If your ears are hurting, turn down your iPod or purchase higher quality headphones.
If your eyes are hurting, you probably need more sleep or to take breaks from looking at the computer.
If your nose is hurting, cut back on the cocaine.
I am not even a doctor and I know these things.
Emotional pain works similarly. If your heart is breaking, pain is trying to tell you that your taste in romantic partners is poor. If you suffer from a panic attack on the drive to work, you probably should quit your job. If you feel despondent, why not lift your spirits with some cocaine?
So while we can learn from pain (and learning should always bring joy), ultimately the evidence has shown that pleasure packs more punch in the pleasure department than its alternative. However, this is not say that pleasure doesn’t have the potential to bring harm. It does, because everything does. Are you really that naive? I’m sure you familiar with roses, yes? They’re beautiful, very pleasurable to both look at and smell. Yet if you eat two thousand tonnes of rose petals, you are going to get a very nasty tummy ache.
So I generally don’t recommend doing that.