What happens if your submissive disobeys?

I was going to write a post pontificating about this, as I tend to do, and then I thought I’d ask you all instead of blathering on about it from my own point of view.

For both submissives and dominants:

In your relationship, what happens when the submissive disobeys?

For the purposes of this question, I am using the word ‘disobey’ to mean ‘to refuse or fail to follow an order or rule.’ Not an accident, not a mistake, no unavoidable circumstances. Plain old disobedience.

If you haven’t got any experience to draw on because you are new, that’s fine, just talk about what your expectations are.

I’m particularly interested in hearing from submissives on this.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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  1. Hi, I’m a sub, new (if 41 can be called new) and single. For me by far large one of the most effective punishments aside from physical is coffee deprivation. I’ve considered putting it on my hard limits list. I can have up to 7 coffees a day, take that away & I’m a mess. Lesson learned very quickly.

  2. It’s a bit difficult, because there would still have to be *some* reason for the disobedience (“I didn’t feel like it” is a reason). I think what is most important to figure out the ‘why.’ Why did they act or fail to act in accordance to the relationship’s rules? This basic bit of communication is necessary and if unable to yield results, I’d suspect the relationship is doomed to fail (This is hardly a D/s-only thing either, IMO).

    Once the ‘why’ is sorted, what comes next? Some may say punishment, some not. I’m still up in the air about it. Certainly psychology tells us positive reinforcement is better than negative but there is also something to be said for the power of penance. I think I’m of the mind that punishment for a mistake or accident is actually more appropriate than for willful disobedience – steps can be taken to avoid accidents and mistakes and I think an appropriate punishment can help reinforce that or help the submissive to remember how/when/why to do or not do whatever it is.

    Punishment is not going to solve or help with willful disobedience, however. In these cases there is some other core issue that needs to be addressed. It’s almost akin to cheating – willfully crossing relationship boundaries they agreed not to. Removing tele privileges isn’t going to fix or change that.

    1. We follow JT’s approach. If I disobey (which is rare) that means there’s something wrong — most often a spike in anxiety or depression. We talk about it, try to figure out the origin, if it is concrete, and how to correct it (or help remedy it if correction isn’t relevant).

      There may or may not be following consequences, but they’re considered, relevant, and proportionate. There’s not been an occasion where Jalan saw fit to actually punish me.

      And, also as JT says, punishment generally doesn’t work. In a learning-theory perspective, all it does is teach the offender to not confess or get caught.

  3. Interesting question. If I am understanding what you are asking, I think you may have already spoken about this in the past:


    But maybe I am not quite understanding the question? At any rate, for me, you captured the way I think it should work very well in that previous post. And it is in line with what JT
    Revner said above.

    To me, willful disobedience means that something needs to be addressed in the relationship. What is going on that makes someone who seemed to want this dynamic not want it?


    1. “If I am understanding what you are asking, I think you may have already spoken about this in the past”

      *smile* Yes, but shhhh… I want to hear from different people how it works for them, to hear a bit of variety.


  4. When I disobey, either there is a misunderstanding or something is significantly wrong. In the context of D/s, I don’t do what I’m told because I want to do that specific thing; I do what I’m told because I like doing what I’m told and making my partner happy and proud. The last time I bottomed, things went pretty badly and we called it off pretty quickly. It wasn’t something that I recognized going into play, but I was upset and hurt by unrelated things in my life, and I just wasn’t in the right emotional state to be playing. We took plenty of time to talk through it and settle things down, and we tried to find ways to prevent anything like that from happening again.

  5. Hi Ferns:

    I rarely disobey Her Majesty if she issues a direct command. To do this would incur her displeasure which is something I reaaaaaaallllly don’t like doing!!! She does not whip me for disobedience because that would be like rewarding bad behavior. I really hate making her angry though. Her wrath is invariably punishment enough. I am wired to please her so when she is displeased with me I am not happy.

    There are times when we have to step “out of character” and discuss things though; especially when they relate to non D/s issues affecting our vanilla lives. Not everything works well when put through a D/s filter. At those times we are just an ordinary married couple doing our best to make it through the obstacle course of life…

  6. I had to ask myself: “Under what circumstances would I just disobey?” and I’d have to concur with JT that if it came down to blatant disobedience, the relationship is in deep trouble.

    I could imagine a scenario in which I thought that my Domme no longer cared one way or the other and if the established rules were no longer important to her, I could see losing interest in them as well. Another case would be if there was sudden a rule change, or a new one introduced that we hadn’t previously agreed on and I felt it to be particularly egregious.

    In either case, the actual reason for such blatant disregard for the rules would have been due to communication and, or trust having broken down completely and at that point, it would probably be time to reevaluate the relationship.

  7. “In your relationship, what happens when the submissive disobeys?”

    Okay, I started not to comment since I have no experience. However, I am going to speak of how I feel anyway.

    In the D/s relationship that I seek as the submissive I willingly give myself to her authority. I agreed to obey her rules which we both have already talked about.
    Thus, for me to disobey by refusing to follow through with my end of the agreement it means that I am knowingly breaking the dynamic. Something extremely serious has to be wrong for me to break the very dynamic for which I devote myself.

    When, and if, we can work it out, then I not only would expect, but hope for some type of punishment. Not because I like to be punished, but because if not I will just continue to punish myself and I won’t be able to move past it knowing how much I hurt and disappointed her and hurt our dynamic.

    Then after the punishment was over with I would work to regain our dynamic and regain her trust. For me to disobey my Dominant partner is very hurtful and disrespectful to her. I would have to work on regaining that her respect for me and my commitment to serving her. I would do this by showing her every day how much I am devoted to obeying her authority.

    I know I am new but this is what I feel in my heart.


  8. I’m going to answer this differently from both perspectives, if that’s all right.

    I used to send a man letters with instructions, and because of his busy schedule and the variable reliability of the post office, rarely attached a time limit to them. There were times it got excessive, I’d poke with “you know I can’t *make* you, but you’re showing me this isn’t a priority.” We’d talk about it–early on he was afraid to seem too keen or fawning. I didn’t want to enact punishment per se; I associate punishment with anger and vengeance and that just wasn’t how I felt. So I just said he’d get no new letters (or any D/s type interaction) during the time he was putting off the last one: essentially “I’m not interested in dominating unless you’re actively demonstrating a will to submit.” That worked for a while. At the end he got lax again. That time, the dynamic wasn’t working given distance and his other obligations, so we ended it. Shame.

    From the submissive end, it’s happened once, and it was an indicator of Serious Relationship Issues. My dom was evading a conversation I felt we needed to have. I wanted the relationship and dynamic to continue, but not enough to ignore my own needs. When repeatedly saying this didn’t have an effect, I started saying “no” to everything. “Give me a wake-up call at eight.” “No, not until you commit to a conversation.” It was a last-ditch “do not take my submission for granted, show me you actually care” and, predictably, it did not work. So we ended it. Shame.

    So let’s file this under “Nic is terrible at relationships,” along with the other 84,000 indicators of the same, yeah?

  9. As has been said… I don’t *just* disobey. The only time I really do… and by disobey, I mean get mouthy, unruly, disrespectful in tone or in words, stiff, shut down… is when something is wrong with me or when I feel like I’m not getting enough attention (work, etc gets in the way. We don’t live together). It’s very hard for me to verbalize these things and is an ongoing struggle that I am working to overcome with my D-type. Not for him, but for me, with his help. I am also misbehaving when I speak badly about myself, as I am, from time to time, wont to do.

    My punishment for these things is a discussion, encouragement, and usually a cathartic spanking. We enjoy spanking for arousal… but when I’ve been corrected over these… emotional outbursts or lapses in respect, the spanking is definitely cathartic with tears and lots of cuddle and reassurance time afterward.

    I don’t not follow rules… I don’t act out like that. All my rules are reasonable and discussed before hand. It’s more of an attitude adjustment that I need from time to time.


  10. I think this might be my first comment on your blog, if it is, I’m not lurking anymore, arrrgh. *hides from the light*

    I’m a bit of a bondage junkie – ok, I lie, a massively addicted to bondage junkie, so usually my punishments involve generally either a flogging or spanking, followed up by a lack of being put in bondage.

    It’s a carrot and stick approach for me really. I behave because I want to be put in stupidly restrictive things. Yet somehow if I behave I still get the stick anyway, it’s just a gentler stick, lol.

  11. I did not take “plain old disobedience” to mean willful disobedience. I agree that willful disobedience would definitely be cause for a conversation. One that might start with did they disobey on purpose to earn a punishment because they desire that punishment or are there, as talked about above, more underlying reasons?

    I thought the about the question more in the realm of the “to refuse or fail to follow an order or rule” scenario. For example I am given certain tasks to perform for the day and am told no TV before they are done. Ahh.. but there’s a ballgame on, and I’m now home alone so why can’t I perform my tasks while catching the game as well but get caught.

    No TV at all for a specific time frame might be an obvious punishment, but isn’t that somewhat in place already? How about I’m taken to a store and forced to buy a very expensive jersey of my arch rival’s team. Then she makes me spend the entire day out in public. Shopping, a walk in the park, dinner out together, all things I normally look forward to doing with her, but now there’s that added angst. The pleasure of her company mixed with a constant reminder of my failings. Oh yes and a bit of humiliation thrown in as well, as if any comments or compliments are thrown my way about my attire I must profess my devotion to the team(and convincingly).

    Did I willingly disobey? Kind of sort of? Was there underlying issues? No, not really, I just thought I’d get away with watching the game and doing my chores. Would a TV ban have worked? Been there done that. I’d have gotten through. Corporal punishment? Hmmm… kind of like that ~smiles. Do I ever want to wear that jersey again, let alone out in public? No never ever and I will do what ever it takes to make sure I don’t!

  12. My sub and I were just talking about this yesterday. He occasionally has this theory that because he’s a man, he’s supposed to be independent and self-sufficient and a lone wolf and unencumbered by weakness!!11!! which, well, we are working on dealing with. We decided that infractions (disobedience that isn’t malicious or signifying of relationship issues, that is) would be addressed with essays. If he does something because he lets his pride get in the way, and he thinks he can handle it a better way than mine, and he breaks one of the protocols, he has to write me an essay about why he was supposed to do things my way.

    If it’s disobedience where it was just forgetfulness (example: supposed to be working on an essay? buuuut people are wrong on the internet and now instead he’s working on an essay on the evils of economic misinformation and oppression, or you know, fl) he gets hit with a rubberband.

  13. As you know, I’m just a wide-eyed newbie so my first reaction to your question was: *gasp* “Refuse or fail to follow an order?! The horror!”

    I can’t think of a context where a rule or order would be intentionally refused provided that it was safe, sane, so forth. I’d like to think that we sign up for the obedience as part of the D/s dynamic. I mean isn’t that the fun part? (um…I mean one of the fun parts)

    My assumption is that this type of issue isn’t that different than any other type of relationship hurdle, right? One or both parties need to hit the pause button so they can talk it through. Granted, I would also assume that the dominant would be the one to hold the sub accountable for the disobedient act but even if not, it would seem like there’s a communication gap to address.

    I went to a class several months ago where D/s couples were talking about how they address communication gaps or misunderstandings or *gasp* arguments, and there were some great suggestions for ways that subs can call attention to a need or issue without being all un-sublike.

    I wouldn’t suppose to know how to address the whole consequences/punishment, etc of the act but I really enjoyed reading the input from the previous commenters.

  14. If he breaks the agreements of our relationship intentionally, I will have a discussion with him about why he did it and how we can prevent it in the future. However,it will erode my trust in his submission a little. If it happens again, we’re going to have another conversation. But the trust that he will submit will be damaged again. And I will start backing off. I won’t try to force him. I won’t demand his submission. (Because I really can’t make another adult do *anything* he doesn’t want to do)I’m not going to “take control.” That isn’t my style at all. I want him to give the authority to me that we agree on then continue to choose to give me that authority every day.

    Eventually, if he were to continue to stop holding up his end of the bargain… submitting, then I’m not interested in my end either… and my domination efforts will go elsewhere.

  15. You may not be aware of this, but I am a huge brat. When I disobey, it’s normally because that’s a part of the dynamic;

    Top: Do the thing.
    Me: Nuh uh.
    Top: *makes me do the thing*

    I enjoy being punished, in that I like that my actions have consequences, but I don’t actually enjoy the punishment, if that makes sense. Most of what I do is play rather than any kind of intense D/s, but punishments in the past have involved cornertime, pain (I hate pain), and writing lines.

  16. Thanks everyone.

    I’m wanting to talk about this more, but am avoiding commenting so as not to influence people’s thoughts. I really appreciate your input so far.


    1. I think your comment shut everyone else down, Ferns… that or there are only a handful of people who can bring themselves to push the “Post Comment” button? Is there data on number of unique ip hits vs number of comments? Could you graph it? :O

  17. 9 times out of 10, if my submissive disobeys, it’s usually due to work stress and/or sheer exhaustion. We’ve worked out over the course of the last few months that negative reinforcement does a lot more harm than good. We end up talking about what’s going on in his life and how to best alleviate whatever issues are going on. This happens instead of whatever scene or play that had been planned (even if we both want to go ahead with it; denial is the most effective deterrent.)

  18. As many others here said, outright disobedience is rarely, if ever, part of a well-functioning D/s relationship, not the sort that isn’t an accident or without a good reason. My only experience with this was in my first D/s relationship, 25 years ago, when I balked at an instruction and wasn’t allowed to voice my problem with it. I was sent away to sit and consider my disobedience. I remember it as unfair, extremely stressful, and avoidable. I had given my consent for most types of play between the two of us, but I had some limits, or at least concerns, about play involving people who had not agreed to join us. In that case, I was supposed to approach random people at a party. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to do, but my discomfort was a larger issue than the lack of detailed instructions and we should have discussed it.

  19. I love these replies, thank you so much.

    I’ve been wanting to gather them up into a separate post, but haven’t gotten around to it yet, so please don’t think your thoughts have gone into the void!

    I’m slow but dogged *smile*


  20. When the consequence affect third parties, especially children.
    Wife may tell me “do A for the children after you get home.”
    If I think doing B would be better, I’d disregard her instruction. At the time of my decision, I figure if I have good reasons, she’d understand later.

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