Pain demands to be felt

*Dorothy Orina*

Many believe that the pain at child birth would turn the steeliest man into a quivering, wobbling pile of jelly. In a quick comeback, some would say that it couldn’t be compared with a vicious hit on the cojones; some very rapturous argument, one you’d probably choose to “Aight, I’m out”, owing to the perpetual dynamic of it. Or the vulgarity of it. Or the non-factuality of it. A conglomerate of verbal barrages. There’s only so many paths it could take, and this happens to be one of them. A good one? You tell me…

In a familiar sitcom scene, a woman in labor shows Herculean strength while her “birth coach” husband faints dead away. And so we ask, are women built for pain? Is it like their shebang, their turf, a territory of their jurisdiction where “They can’t be beaten in their own hometown!”

There are ideas that are sacred to us – that is – the more deeply they tie us to our identity, the more strongly we will defend them against criticism. And people have turgid beliefs on gender and pain. Some believe that men have higher pain thresholds and tolerance levels than women because they believe that men are tougher generally. And some do believe that women have the upper hand, based on the reasoning that women have evolved to be able to cope with childbirth pain or that naturally occurring pain in their physiology has morphed them into easy pain bearing creatures.

Despite these entrenched stereotypes, there are several men who cope with pain better than other women and similarly several women who cope with pain far much better than other men. Pain is inherently subjective. It is dependent on sensitivity, attitude, past trauma, pain experience and other psychological factors. The limbic system of the brain, which is related to emotion, is typically active in response to physical pain for both genders. Since the brain sucks at distinguishing emotional pain from sensory pain, it becomes quite difficult to determine the absoluteness of the amount of that which is sensory and that which is influenced by psychological factors. The compounding problem may therefore be the complex nature of pain itself.

Pain excites the nerves and brains of both genders in ways that are more alike than different. At a biological level, the response is quite similar. The effect of the pain however and how much it hurts depends on a person’s personal view and perception of pain; their mood as well. Ever heard that pain is psychological? Some short stubby fingers pointing out that it’s all up there? That’s because it is, double entendre; both in the literal and figurative sense.

A similar reception could bring out varied responses.

A woman’s response to pain is affected by hormones, especially when a woman is in her menstrual cycle when the painful stimulus is introduced. Some women hence, tend to be more sensitive to pain either during pre-menstruation, ovulation or during their menses.

Sociocultural influences have a major part to play. Boys grow up typically learning that they are expected to be tough and not complain about pain, otherwise being termed ineffectual wimps. Girls on the other hand, grow up being allowed and encouraged to be sensitive and delicate.

That would explain why men are generally termed to be stronger and more pain tolerant, because psychological factors work to their favor. This similar reason makes some women have significantly higher pain thresholds taking up tasks and pain that would prove daunting to some men.  

To the incessant debate, is your curiosity pervasive enough to take a quid pro quo? An electrical simulation of the other gender’s most excruciating pain. Fun game to play, huh! Yet again, both pains seem to only be bearable colossally owing to the naturality and normality of it. The other way around proves to be maddeningly agonizing. Oh and pain can’t objectively be measured! Another debate to the trash…

Wait, we could say that men experience more pain than females. Reason being, female pain results into a new born baby whereas male pain potentially results to a decreased chance of having one.

“Aight, I’m out!”

Also written by Dorothy Orina, read:

  1. IAESTE, The Life Changing Experience.
  2. Little. Would you raise your kids feminists?
  3. Family over Career? Which should you put first?
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