Benign Masochism

The content below is from Episode 113 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • This week I recommend you watch We Own This City on HBO Max
    • If you liked HBO’s The Wire, then you will like this.
      • Many consider The Wire to be one of the best series ever made.
      • I watched the first season and can understand why. It is a slow show, but phenomenal writing.
    • Well “We Own This City” is made by the same people, in the same location (Baltimore), and has a very similar plot.
    • Like The Wire, “We Own This City” is based on real events. It follows the events of the most corrupt team in US Law Enforcement history, the Gun Trace Task Force.
    • Starring John Bernthal as one of the crooked cops who goes out to make arrests and illegal gun busts, but winds up treating each bust like his own personal visit to the bank to withdraw more money.
    • This show feels EXACTLY like The Wire.
    • John Bernthal was made to play the role of Wayne Jenkins. I think this 6 part mini-series is going to boost his career and I couldn’t be happier about that because he is a great actor.
    • Go check it out. Three episodes are out now at the time I write this so by the time you are hearing it the only episode you should have to wait a week for is the finale.


  • I was having trouble finding a topic I felt like exploring for this week’s episode, so I decided to just watch some of my favorite YouTube channels.
    • As I sat there watching The Hoof GP, a channel created and run by Graeme Parker, a full-time, professional cattle hoof trimmer, living and working in South West Scotland, I realized “this is rather odd isn’t it?”
      • I started to analyze my own behavior. I get satisfaction from watching this guy trim cow hooves and uncovering bloody hoof cavities. Why?
    • Why do I also get a sense of satisfaction from watching the YouTube channel Durham Hearing Specialist where a Brit named Connor extracts ear wax?
    • Let’s find out.
  • Aside from the YouTube channels I watch for this bizarre fascination, there is a hit TV show on TLC called Dr. Pimple Popper
    • It is hosted by the charming Dr. Sandra Lee. She is a dermatologist out in California. She got her start posting videos on YouTube to advertise her practice and it took off.
    • Her videos get 5 million views a day and have been watched almost 3 billion times on YouTube.
    • Dr. Lee’s content is bizarre right off the bat. Here is the gorgeous Asian woman with a whole lot of charisma and charm and she co-hosts her show with some of the most grotesque skin conditions you can imagine.
    • I found myself wondering why her show was so popular. It isn’t just the shock value. She is attractive and does a job that most would find gross. Yet if they tried to make a show where an Ambercrombie model goes around cleaning Portable Toilets in public parks it wouldn’t be nearly as popular.
      • On second thought, that probably wouldn’t be that bad of a show lol.
    • Yes, there is that shock value that hooks people in and also gets them to tell their family and friends about the weird and gross pimple-popping show on TV. But that just brings people in, what keeps them watching?
    • Like most things that keep people hooked, there is a well-timed reward system going on here… at least for some of us.
    • A board-certified dermatologist and psychiatrist Dr. Amy Wechsler says that some people get a rush from watching the show. They vicariously experience the pleasure of having these skin conditions healed.
    • IDK about anyone else, but popping my own pimples is satisfying. Makes me feel like I have fixed a problem. Dr. Wechsler says people get satisfaction from seeing something that doesn’t belong in the body come out. She also tries to draw a connection between pimple popper fans and people who like horror movies because the two have gross elements to them.
    • A Professor of Dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences named Dr. Adam Friedman points to the fact that gross sells.
    • Humans are curious creatures. We like to see things that are gross. The nastier the better, just as long as it isn’t ourselves that has the gross feature. If there is a distance between the viewer and the gross subject, it becomes a spectacle. Think of the unfortunately named “Freak Shows” with traveling circuses back in the day.
    • Other suggest that watching shows like Dr. Pimple Popper is a form of masochism.
      •  Masochism: the enjoyment of what appears to be painful or tiresome
        • Or – the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from one’s own pain or humiliation
  • A study that came out of West Chester University uses the term Benign Masochism
    • “Benign masochism,” a term coined by Paul Rozin, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, describes how humans enjoy negative sensations and emotions when they’re reassured that no harm will come to them. A “safe threat,” in other words.
    • Have you ever gone out to eat with a group of people and someone orders the hottest thing on the menu knowing full well they are going to suffer? That’s benign masochism.
    • From
      • “The theory focuses on the negative physical experiences of these actions like your tongue burning from the spice of a red chili or stomach dropping in the loop of a rollercoaster. Interestingly the research found women were more likely to enjoy the depressing effects of a sad film while men more likely to seek out the sharp alcoholic burn from whisky.”
    • I find that difference in how genders enjoy benign masochism to be reassuring to thoughts I’ve had before.
      • I like whisky, thrills, pimple popping, and spicy foods.
      • My fiance Shannon hates rollercoasters and loves a good sad song.
        • But those are personal experiences. They don’t necessarily translate to the population as a whole.
    • So benign masochism can apply to anything from popping pimples or riding rollercoasters to watching Ole Yellar.
      • If you don’t get the Ole Yellar reference then I truly am getting old.
  • These kinds of spectacular events that give people benign masochism, they sell themselves. Think about it: you are gathered around the water cooler at work, the couch at home, or even the firepit with your buddies… everyone wants to tell the most shocking story and disgusting ones works just fine.
    • An evolutionary psychologist from the University of Oxford, Robin Dunbar, suggests there could be a direct link between the pimple popping fascination in humans to the grooming behavior of our Primate ancestors. Monkeys groom each other constantly as an evolutionary advantage of staying free from parasites. Perhaps that is linked to this dermatological spectacle.
  • I might even be one of those people that takes it a step farther in Dr. Dunbar’s point… I don’t just like to watch Dr. Pimple Popper and similar videos on YouTube… yes, I’m a bit embarrassed to say I enjoy popping not just my own pimples, but the pimples of loved ones as well.
    • When I was in High school I played sports and my teammates and I sweated fiercely.
      • I distinctly remember coming into the locker room one morning during Football Hell week and seeing pools of sweat had gathered at the bottom of our lockers… so nasty.
    • I remember one time I saw a bunch of giant zits on my really good friend Mike. Without assessing the social repercussions, I got up and started popping them. It was weird, it was gross, and I immediately felt embarrassed… but Mike was actually cool with it. He couldn’t reach them himself and didn’t want them on his back any longer.
      • That’s one of those memories my mind circles back to when I think of how cringey I can be.
    • And now, once in a blue moon, my fiance Shannon has to swat away my hand when I go for a pimple on her somewhere. It is an impulse I can’t seem to control sometimes… and I know it’s gross LOL.
  • While looking into this week’s topic I found that the doctor recommended treatment for pimples, the official instructions are to see your doctor…
    • I find that a bit ridiculous, going to see your doctor for a pimple, but that’s what at least some docs say. You shouldn’t pop them yourself because it usually causes skin damage, infections, and scarring. They think a doctor needs to remove your pimple with sterile equipment…
      • Nah… just come on down to the Who’d a Thunk It? headquarters and I’ll take care of them for ya!
      • Just Kidding of course. DO NOT come to me to remove your pimples… unless you wanna pay me for it lol
  • I found this inquiry into what makes popping pimples and other benign masochistic acts enjoyable to be beneficial.
    • “Why do people enjoy these certain things?” can be a productive question to answer.
    • Before this podcast, had you ever asked yourself why rollercoasters were fun?
  • As for the channels I mentioned earlier: The Hoof GP and Durham Hearing Specialists, give them a looksy.
    • I think both of these shows spark the same kind of satisfaction I get while watching Dr. Pimple Popper.
The Hoof GP
  • The Hoof GP’s host Graeme Parker helps cattle farms in Scotland by fixing cow’s hooves.
    • He and his team show up and check each cow from the farms by putting them individually into their custom towed stock machine. Once the cow is secured, Graeme hoists their hooves one at a time to get a good look at them. Most cows have hooves that are fine, but his videos show the cows who have cavities in their hooves. It is fascinating to watch, and the cows live better lives afterward.
Durham Hearing Specialists
  • Durham Hearing Specialists is hosted by Connor Boland, a charming English Audiologist who helps people get the blockage out of their ears.
    • Since he goes by Mr. Connor Boland I assume he doesn’t have a doctoral degree. That… and he also says in his videos that some cases require a doctor to take a look at things.
    • He uses equipment that goes inside the ear with a tiny little camera. The videos show tiny little spoon-like instruments and suction instruments getting earwax, puss, dirt, and all sorts of things out of patients’ ears.


Graeme Parker (the Hoof GP) chronicles his life working on farms where he lives, showcasing how to treat and deal with cows who have problems with their feet. The guy makes like $1 Million a year.
Conor is pretty cool. His one historical reference in an episode is what gave me the idea to do my episode on the Pykrete AirCraft Carrier. Check out their website:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s