Punishment In BDSM

Author: Raven Shadowborne © Oct. 15, 1999

This is one topic in BDSM that seems to be the hardest one for newbies to grasp. It is often mistaken for discipline, but the two are indeed different. To put it simply, punishment is the consequences given to a submissive when the submissive breaks a rule, displeases the dominant, or in other ways does something wrong.

Many people balk at the idea of punishment. It can be very difficult to accept as part of the relationship. I think the problem comes in when it is viewed as punishing an adult. As well, those involved in a BDSM relationship because of love, have a difficult time fathoming punishing the person they love so much. The easiest way, and readily understandable way, of explaining the role of punishment in BDSM is to liken it to the role of punishment in a parent child relationship.

Now, I am NOT saying that submissives are children. What I am saying is that a parent's role is to teach the child right from wrong and at times punishment must be utilized to meet this end. The parent does this because they love their child and want them to grow up "right". In a BDSM relationship the dominant is in the role of teaching the submissive to please them in the right ways. Sometimes, punishment becomes necessary when the submissive breaks a rule or such. The dominant does it, not to belittle the submissive, but because he/she cares about the submissive and wants him/her to be the best they can be. In this way, punishment is a responsibility of the dominant.

Knowing when to use punishment and when not to, is important. Over use of punishment can negatively affect the submissive and the relationship. Over use of punishment often results in the opposite reaction than the one which was desired from the submissive. Under use of punishment can result in a lack of respect for the dominant's rules and feelings of insecurity in the submissive. Such reactions, can cause the submissive to blatantly disobey the dominant in an attempt to force his/her hand.

Punishment can serve many unintentional purposes. Each person has different reasons for preferring to include punishment as part of their relationship. For some people, punishment is a way to remind the submissive of his/her place by causing the submissive to directly feel the dominant's control over them. It can also provide an emotional release, not just for the submissive, but for the dominant as well. For some submissives, punishment is a cleansing, allowing them to forgive themselves for the mistake they made. If punishment is consistent, it can be a deterrent for unacceptable behavior. It can allow closure to the incident for both parties, allowing them to move on rather than dwell on the error and beat themselves up over it. It can increase the sense of security in the submissive by showing him/her that the dominant is willing to take the time to teach them, rather than just release them. For many it imparts a feeling of love and caring.

Many people think punishment can only by physical. Spanking, caning, or other forms of corporal punishment. This is just NOT true. Often, non-physical punishments are the most effective. The point behind punishment is to teach the submissive a lesson and foster growth in them. Any punishment should fit the crime. If punishment is too severe, the result could be fear or resentment of the dominant. If it's too soft, it can create indifference to the dominant's rules. Punishment should not damage the submissive's self esteem, nor cause lasting injury. A submissive should always know what he/she is being punished for and any punishment should include a discussion of what was done, why it was wrong and how to avoid it in the future. In this way, the opportunity to learn from the experience is not lost. 

To some people, inflicting pain for punishment is considered the "easy" way out. I think that the kind of punishment used depends on the people involved and what would work best for that particular mistake. One option is to have the submissive write about the error, why it was wrong, what possibly caused it and what they can do to avoid repeating it. Another is the removal of privileges, such as ordering that the submissive can not masturbate without permission., removing computer time, or similar things. In some situations and for many submissives, just knowing that they have displeased the dominant is punishment enough. Many submissives are mentally harder on themselves when they have erred than the dominant ever could be. This can be utilized as a very effective way of constantly reminding the submissive to never repeat such a mistake. By denying closure, one leaves the guilt as a reminder. Some people use withdrawal as a way to punish. This one is tricky because it can spark emotional problems of abandonment in the submissive. This should be discussed before hand as a possibility before being used. For some people, if the infraction was severe enough, they might remove the submissive's collar until such time as the submissive earns it back. As you can see, the ways to punish vary greatly and with a bit of forethought a very effective means of non physical punishment can be thought of. 

When it comes to punishment, a misconception is that a submissive will purposely misbehave in order to be punished. For those who are truly submissive, this just is not true. Most submissives will not go out of their way to seek punishment because the mental and emotional toll a punishment takes is too high. It is alot easier to ask for a scene, than to earn a punishment. Most submissives fear or dread punishment, which is how it should be. They don't fear the dominant, just the punishment.

You must find what works best for you and your relationship. What works for one relationship, may not be correct for yours. Like so many other things in BDSM there is no ONE way of doing this. It is a good idea to discuss punishments and your preferences of them during the negotiation phase of the relationship. Doing such can uncover any potential problems, and lets the submissive know what is expected of them and the consequences of misbehavior.



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