On punishment

A reader question:

“In a recent thread on FetLife you mentioned that you use punishment as part of your dynamic, while both recognizing and agreeing with the reasons some do not.

How does punishment work in your relationships? Removal of privileges? Some kind of physical punishment? Something else entirely?”

I did mention that, yes. For the record, my comment is here (requires Fetlife login), and the pertinent paragraph was:

Those who don’t like punishment dynamics generally fall into three camps: The ‘Talk about it!’ camp, the ‘He’s not a child’ camp or the ‘It doesn’t work’ camp. I get a bit tired of explaining it, but suffice it to say that I agree with all of the people in those camps, and I STILL use punishments.

I do get irritated with some of the anti-punishment crowd who tend to assume that those who have a punishment dynamic are fundamentally stupid and are replacing communication with a spanking. It’s an ignorant assumption.

I have talked about my approach to punishment previously, but I think it bears going over again.

Punishment dynamics are controversial for a number of reasons, but it works for me.

When my submissive fucks up in some way, what happens is that it creates a little crack in the dynamic. Something has gone wrong. It might be a minor thing, or it might be something more significant.

For me, there are two parts to dealing with it:

1. Discussing what happened, why, and coming up with a strategy to ensure it doesn’t happen again
2. Reaffirming the dynamic, repairing the crack, reassuring each other that we are okay, getting us back on an even keel.

For those in a non-punishment dynamic, it is finished at the first.

For me and mine, the second is the realm of punishment.

Punishment is a concrete consequence of a transgression, it’s a penance, it’s closure, it’s reasserting the dynamic. All that.

As to what sort of punishments I use, well, I don’t use corporal punishment, I don’t use anything that gives him my energy and attention, and I don’t use anything that creates a bunch of work for me. Those sorts of things are not ‘punishment’ to me.

I mostly try to make the punishment something that is related to the transgression. If he forgot to take the garbage out, I might make him take the bin to the curb and back 20 times in a row. If he forgot to address me as I prefer, I might have him use my preferred method of address in every single sentence he says to me for a day. If I want him to reflect on something he did wrong, I might make him write about it.

And afterwards, when the punishment is done, and equilibrium is restored, we come together and regroup with incredible sweetness and petting. All going well, we feel *stronger* after it has been dealt with than we did before it happened.

And then it’s done, and we move on.


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  1. I don’t have much experience but from my own emotions and thoughts on the matter I do think punishment is important in the dynamic. I think how the punishment is done is just as important too.

    It is important because as you said it is a consequence, penance, and closure. Without the punishment then the crack is left open to widen itself. If he did something wrong and you let it go then he will beat himself up, he will know you let it go which breaks down the dynamic, and you will most likely not let it go because you did nothing about it.

    I do know from experience that when the Dominant lays down rules and they are broken and nothing is said at all about it then it leads to feelings of confusion, hurt, anger, etc. I was in that situation and was left wondering if she didn’t care about the dynamic or she just didn’t care about me. So yes, I think punishment is important when used correctly.


    1. “I do know from experience that when the Dominant lays down rules and they are broken and nothing is said at all about it then it leads to feelings of confusion, hurt, anger, etc.”

      For clarity, the idea that a dominant would just *ignore* a transgression is a different discussion again from one about punishment vs no punishment.

      People who don’t have a punishment dynamic usually deal with issues with step 1 (i.e. discuss it and sort it out).

      And I agree with you, saying nothing about a broken rule is essentially saying ‘I don’t care, do whatever you want’, and that’s a dynamic-killer.


  2. I think that the punishment dynamic is part of the larger concept of discipline, so when viewed as a tool to reinforce the dynamic and build the relationship, punishment is a integral part of it.

    1. I think it CAN be, but it’s not necessarily. Those who don’t use punishments will generally use discussion as part of discipline.

      Though now that I am thinking about it, I HAVE heard some people say ‘I don’t use punishment, but I use time outs or consequences or *some other thing that’s actually a punishment*‘!! Heh.


  3. I have to resort to my training in behavioral psychology here (sorry). Punishment is any sort of negative stimuli that results in an abatement of the target behavior. There are two equally important parts of this: 1) A negative stimulus of some sort is received; and 2) the problem behavior occurs less often as a result. With this understanding, a STERN LOOK can be punishing (mildly, I would think). So is a time out (which is classified as non-corporal punishment – thanks for identifying that correctly, it’s a pet peeve of mine). For that matter, simply TALKING can be punishment if it is seen as a negative stimulus (not pleasant) and it results in a reduction of poor behavior.

    EVERYONE uses punishment. Some people don’t identify it as such, but it is used. What most people want to mean when they say they don’t use punishment is that they don’t use PHYSICAL punishment. There are some valid reasons for this (I think you gave several), but there are some reasons that are purely hogwash (like the age of the person in question – the idea that only children are subjected to physical punishment is both cultural and a relatively recent development).

    Thanks for the insight into Your views. I enjoyed it.

    1. You can resort to whatever you like! *smile*

      If you include ‘disappointment’ and ‘stern looks’ and ‘unpleasant discussions’ in the definition, then sure everyone uses punishment.

      But that’s not what most people mean by it.

      And while I agree that many people jump to physical punishment FIRST, those discussions *always* expand beyond that into non-physical, and there is STILL always a very clear punishment/no punishment split.

      I think most BDSMers extend it to ‘any consequence that they enact specifically with the intent to punish’ versus actions that may be negative, but are more about natural reaction (anger, hurt, disappointment) and dealing with the problem (horrible discussions).

      So when I talk about punishment, I’m talking about the former.

      “Thanks for the insight into Your views. I enjoyed it.”

      You’re most welcome.


  4. The one relationship I’ve had that included D/s tended to tread lightly on those aspects. We never had “rules,” and she seldom ordered me to do anything. I wanted to please her, so she only had to ask me for something.

    Along with that, there was only one instance when she punished me. I hadn’t stuck with a week’s meal plan that I had told her about. The punishment *was* corporal: hand spanking, concluding with having to count out 10 swats from a wooden spoon. It definitely was punishment, rather than play “funishment.” The difference was that I knew it was because of something I’d done wrong, as well as the fact that she was silent throughout, aside from telling me to count the 10 strokes with the spoon. When we played, she would talk a lot, telling me she liked how my skin turned red, how I squirmed, and the sounds I made. Not that time, and I felt miserable knowing I’d disappointed her. I was on the verge of tears by the end.

    Afterward, she told me she wasn’t angry at me, and she cuddled and comforted me. Like you said above, that helped reconnect.

    1. *nod* Anyone in a relationship will fuck up at some stage. No matter how ‘good’ they want to be or intend to be. That’s life.

      I think how it’s handled can strengthen or weaken the relationship. And I think you really HAVE to be on the same page about it.

      A punishment dynamic for a submissive who feels battered and hurt by it simply won’t work.

      I think the ‘reconnecting’ part is key.


  5. I usually use the “death look” as the first stage of punishment/warning then depending on my mood/transgression I’ll either like Ferns set some mundane thankless chore that relates to the offence or they’ll be on ignore either literally facing the corner or isolation, or if it’s really bad I’ve found an hour or so kneeling on Lego etc sharpens the concentration and remorse no end. There may or may not also be discussion of it depending on what it was. Naturally being a Domme I don’t make mistakes so it doesn’t apply to me <..>


    1. “I usually use the “death look” as the first stage of punishment/warning”

      *laugh* I have one of those also. It comes in multiple intensities…

      “Naturally being a Domme I don’t make mistakes so it doesn’t apply to me <..>“

      Pffftt… of course not!!


  6. The conceptual framework you lay out really resonates with me. Not so much because punishment is included, but because of the way you are using it to restore and reaffirm that the D/s dynamic is back in place.

    Everyone makes mistakes (well maybe not Dommes, grin), and so there will always be a need to sort out how to get back on track. And that is what discussions are about. That is true of vanilla and D/s relationships. And it can be all that is needed, even in a D/s dynamic.

    But taking it that extra step and including punishment, especially if it is thoughtful and reinforces the behavior you wanted, can raise it to the next level for me as a sub. It clearly and unequivocally places me, as a sub, back into the place I want to be, but did not stay in for whatever reason. So it helps me get back to the mind set that I want, and that allows me to submit more easily, particularly in that situation in the future.

    And for me, a key part of this is that you are tailoring the punishment to reinforce the behavior you want in some way. That makes it clear to me that you are trying to fix an aspect of our D/s relationship that was not working so well. that tells me that you care deeply about that dynamic and you are working to improve it, ie help me get better at being your submissive. That brings me closer to you in a powerful way.


  7. I really love this approach. It’s firm but loving and ultimately sweet.

    Ferns I think you might just be the Best Domme Ever* !

    * I’m putting a trademark on that!

  8. I have to ask this though.

    What if the domme, e.g. you Ferns, is the one to make a mistake, to do something that violates the trust or agreement in the relationship.

    Is there anything comparable the sub can do in that case, in order to get the relationship back on an even keel?

    1. Dominants do and will make mistakes. That’s a given.

      Can the sub do something to get back to an even keel? I don’t think so, not in the same way.

      The main difference is that the dynamic isn’t predicated on this part of the agreement (that is, the dominant didn’t agree to do what the submissive told them to, so ‘mistakes’ are of a different nature).

      A dominant can absolutely fail to live up to their end of the agreement in various ways, and for me, the consequence and solution depends on what the issues is. But it pretty much entails all the talking and sorting it out and apologising and fixing the issue and coming up with solutions to ensure it doesn’t happen again and making amends in ways that work for both parties. Just not ‘punishment’ of the kind I talk about here.

      Is it comparable? Absolutely in intent, if not in action.


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