Q & A Punishment

What emotions do you feel during a punishment?

Wow, this is already hard, and it’s just the first question.  Emotions can be different in different situations and at different stages of the punishment, but almost always sadness, anxiety, sometimes fear or panic at a certain stage.  After being punished, a little while after I often feel peaceful, relaxed, relieved.

Does punishment work?

For what?  It kind of depends on the purpose one is assigning to a punishment.  For me, the purpose of punishment is to help me let go of my own rumination on mistakes I’ve made, and it helps me to feel confident in my place in my relationship, and it helps me to soothe my self-recriminations and paranoia when I’ve made a mistake in my relationship.

How is punishment different from playing?

Punishment is not… pleasant… for either of us.  I’d say that minor punishments don’t really bother Sir much.  Even moderate punishments aren’t too hard on him.  Very serious punishments are hard on him, whereas play is always enjoyable to him.  Punishment is either indifferent or negative from his perspective.  For me, play can be… difficult and challenging, but it’s… a preferred activity.  Punishment is not preferred.. although… I appreciate it’s place in my relationship, so I do choose it in the abstract, but in the moment, I’d really rather not do it at all.

Is punishment a turn on (physically or mentally)?

Physically, sometimes… briefly.  Mentally/emotionally, not in the moment, and only in an abstract way overall.  So, sometimes when I am going through the ritual of preparing for a punishment, my brain kind of shuts off.  It doesn’t really seem real at first, and sometimes my body can respond with arousal, but it’s a weird kind of disconnected arousal, like my body is confused about what’s going to happen and is trying to do the right thing, but it stays very local… as in… I might feel that sensation between my legs, but it doesn’t reach anywhere else in my body.  Normally, for me, being turned on is a much more engaged experience… multiple parts of my body and my mind and emotions are all involved.  The weird physical thing that can happen at the beginning is almost like… a disconnected artifact and it goes away fast.

Mentally/emotionally, sometimes after I’m punished I can feel more of an emotional or mental rush that could be similar to a sexual rush, and sometimes it can be physically arousing later… but mostly I am turned on (mentally) by the existence of having punishment, by… having this person in my life who does this for me, by feeling so connected to my dynamic and feeling so grateful and in awe of my relationship… that it’s almost being turned on.  And sometimes being sore the next day, if it wasn’t too terrible a crime I committed, can be arousing.  But sometimes it can go the opposite way and the soreness actually makes me sad about what I did for a day or two until it goes away… so… it’s unpredictable.

Do you ever wish you didn’t have a punishment dynamic in your relationship?

Umm… (looks sideways at Sir…)  Possibly in the middle of being paddled if someone gave me a vote, I’d vote it out right then and there.  But overall, I don’t think I ever wish I didn’t have this.  If I could change something, I think I’d change the cane… because of all the things, that scares the living shit out of me.  And it is only used when shit has gone horribly horribly sideways and Sir doesn’t trust himself to handle one of us, so we just get one stroke with the cane right then and there (then we take a break from each other until we’re all calm).  The cane is pretty thick and heavy and Sir uses it hard (it’s only one stroke, so he doesn’t hold back!).  It hasn’t been used in… over a year on either of us.  So it’s really rare.  But… I think the implement itself scares me horribly.  It is horribly painful and hurts for days.  And I think there is a very dark emotional component in that if Sir is choosing that I know I have… in my mind… broken our pact to the point that he can’t even trust his level of anger with me, and that… is… heartbreaking.

Is punishment shaming for you?

Not by anyone in my dynamic.  I think I feel shame about it that I perceive from outsiders to my relationship.  Partly because of the incredibly judgmental positions towards it by other people in the kink community, and partly because I don’t see any equivalents in society, so it bumps up against my ideas about my adulthood, my maturity, my personal responsibility.  And also, to some degree, it rubs against my ideas about gender equality and violence towards women.  And none of those conflicts are remotely based in reality.  I do not, in reality, feel that Sir treats me the way he does because of my gender.  I KNOW I don’t identify as submissive because of my gender.  I know that this is not domestic violence in any way.  But it’s hard when literally the ONLY models I have that remotely look like my relationship are violent and abusive.  It does bad things to your psyche.  Though it really helps me understand the idea of representation of minorities in media, and especially in positive roles.  I understand how damaging it is for Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent to see themselves in movies and TV shows represented only as terrorists.  I understand how damaging it is for people of Asian heritage to see Asian women only hyper-sexualized and Asian men as asexualized.  I understand how damaging it is that the media frames black people as thugs, thiefs, and hoodlums, and white people (engaged in the same activities) as individuals, heroes, or unable to help themselves due to illness.

My only mainstream representations of people like me are… sexual deviants (often serial killers or other criminals are portrayed as having a sexual kink, and anyone with a kink is portrayed as an outsider at best) or if it is not sexual, it is abuse.  That is deeply harmful to my identity and my own acceptance of who I am.

Why punishment?  Why not just discuss problems like adults?

Um, we do?  This question didn’t actually come from anyone, I pulled it from the stupidity that always comes up in the kink community around this topic.  I have heard SO MANY kinky people give this line when the question of punishment dynamics comes up.  It is ironic in a community that preaches “Your kink is not my kink, but it’s okay.”  People who pride themselves on being accepting of all types of kinks will knee-jerk to this response when the question becomes about punishment.  And I think it’s for the same reason that I was discussing above… because we have no models of this type of relationship outside of sexual…  So if there is a non-sexual activity it can’t be part of the “it’s okay” umbrella, it must be abusive, or infatalizing, or co-dependent…

Well, we discuss things all the time.  We are adults, and we discuss things in a calm and rational manner.  I won’t say “like adults” because half the adults I know are irrational, knee-jerk, judgmental assholes, and I wouldn’t want to identify my way of discussing my relationship with their belittling, dysfunctional narratives.

Sir and Sub Brother and I have an incredibly open and constant dialogue.  Sometimes I want to NOT talk about things so much, but I do it because I know it’s important, especially at the level of complication the three of us choose to live our relationship at.  This is not an easy relationship option.  And even a straight up, vanilla, meeting all societal expectations relationship is damned complicated and challenging.  Living in a relationship that has no societal models, that breaks tons of social rules, that we have to live in private with very few people to discuss it with or ask for advice or go to for help… requires a LOT of work and dialogue and constant fine-tuning or sometimes major shifting.  And even then we don’t always hit the mark.  We live in a black diamond level of relationship, and that’s just a lot of work.  And we do that work.

Punishment is not a way for us to shift that work or the responsibility for doing it.  Punishment doesn’t “solve” relationship issues, and it isn’t expected to.  If we have a relationship issue, we talk about it.  And in other relationships, things I get punished for, they discuss.  Great.  Discussing the things I get punished for would make me miserable.  I would eat myself alive with guilt and feel like a failure at life and my relationship.  It would be stupid.  Plus, there’s not a lot of point to discussing them, I already know I messed up.  I already know Sir didn’t like what I did.  Getting my ass beaten is actually a lot less painful than living in my own head knowing that I didn’t meet my and Sir’s expectations for myself.  Sitting down and having Sir TELL me how I disappointed him and how he expects better would send me into wrist cutting levels of distress.

That isn’t helpful.  That doesn’t make us better as a couple or a threesome.  That just makes this more tangled and more complicated.  Punishment, for my brain, is simple, straightforward, and DEtangles instead of entangles my thought processes.

So, yeah, problems that we need to dialogue about, we do.  Problems that don’t need dialogue, which would only be made much worse and more significant than they really are by talking about them are handled with punishment.  If I’m ever confused (which I don’t think has ever happened) about why something I did wasn’t the expected thing, Sir would certainly talk to me about it.  I usually feel I deserve punishment FAR more often than Sir decides I deserve it, so… me feeling it is unwarranted, or not understanding it isn’t a problem.

Is the threat of punishment a deterrent?

Yes and no. This is one of those times when the lexicon is less than perfect at depicting the concept. I call it “punishment” because that is the closest fit, but by certain very strict definitions, it isn’t completely accurate.  Punishment, in behavioral psychology, is something which results in a reduction and extinguishing of a behavior.  So, if we were living in a Skinner box, you’d expect that effective punishment would result in it no longer being necessary as the undesirable behaviors would slowly extinguish over time and result in no further need for punishment.

Well, we don’t live in a Skinner’s box, and when I use the term “punishment” I’m taking license to depart from the behaviorist definition.  Words that might also fit would be “retribution,” “justice,” “reckoning,” though they all have connotations that would be slightly problematic in fitting what we do, as well.

What we do, what I call “punishment” because it feels like the best fit in my own head, isn’t necessarily primarily intended to extinguish a behavior… it’s intended to set an imbalance back in balance.  It’s intended to mortar the walls of our relationship.  It’s intended to resolve emotional and psychological complications effectively.  It’s intended to reinforce our chosen roles in our dynamic.  Deterrent isn’t often the primary purpose of punishment in our relationship.

That’s not to say, however, that it doesn’t rank anywhere in our priorities.  Sometimes it moves to the top of the list, other times it doesn’t make it on the page.  If a punishment is addressing a behavior like… taking medication regularly… then yeah, the deterrent (to skip medication) is pretty high ranking, the goal of this punishment is to motivate appropriate behavior.  And… it works… some.  For me, if I’m struggling to do something like take my pills, and I start slipping into some bad routines, I might be punished pretty harshly and/or punished more than once.  Sometimes we’ll have a period of regular spankings every night for a number of nights to help me to reset my priorities.  And yeah, those times, the spanking or other punishment (it isn’t always a spanking) does remain in my mind and when I have that little moment of shoulder angels and devils, it’s a lot easier to pick the angel’s side because repeating that punishment isn’t something I want to do at that moment.

Now, that’s not to say that it lasts forever.  When I’m feeling comfortable again, the power of that deterrent gets weaker and after a few weeks or a few months, it might have to be repeated.  But, it’s also important to note that I’m not a child and I’m not an unwilling participant in punishment or in the activities Sir wants me doing.  I know perfectly well that I need to take my medication.  I would do it regularly if I had better self-regulation skills because ultimately, I’m not a teenager rebelling just for the sake of rebellion.  I’m an active participant in making my life and my relationship run smoothly.  So, sometimes I might slide into a place that isn’t so positive for me, and I know that… and punishment helps give me that nudge back into the right track that I’m not always able to give myself.  So a punishment might serve to break my momentum in the moment, and get me back on track, which I can then maintain on my own because, fundamentally, I want to be doing good, not bad.

Do you have particular implements/positions/attitudes that differentiate play from punishment?

Not really.  Some people with punishment dynamics do that, they have a specific implement that is only used for punishment and always punishment involves that implement, or a specific ritual/position/etc.  We don’t have that.

Punishment can be spur of the moment, Sir might grab my arm and swat my butt or the backs of my legs a few times right on the spot, or might take my phone out of my hands and put it in his pocket.  If it’s a more serious punishment, it might still be spur of the moment, he might grab Sub Brother and literally put him into a corner of the room, then spank him…  Or tell me to “get upstairs” or “get the paddle” on the spot.

Other times he might say, “We’ll handle this tonight,” or “We’ll discuss this later,” or something like that and I know we’ll be getting ready for bed early and I’ll be punished before bed.  Other times he might say, “Enough.  You’re on dishes all week.  Keep arguing, I’ll add the [wooden] spoon”  (Which is HORRIBLE!  I HATE dishes!)

I wouldn’t even say that the intensity defines a punishment spanking vs. a play spanking.  I can receive very intense and long play spankings, and I can get a punishment spanking that is only a few swats.  Sir might spank harder and start harder with punishment than he does with play, but… mostly… I don’t know that there’s a huge consistent difference.  So I’d say it’s mostly the emotional component.

If you enjoy play spanking, how can spanking be a punishment?

I don’t know.  It’s a good question and people ask it all the time.  I’d say, first, I don’t know if I can use the word “enjoy” to describe play, but… definitely it’s a preferred activity while punishment is not.  I think that the emotional component of a punishment changes the entire tone of it on both our parts (mine and Sir’s).

Sir can be intense and serious during certain types of play, or he can often be… wickedly enjoying himself… but when I’m punished he’s different.  He’s either annoyed/angry, or he’s just very cool and businesslike about it.  Both of those hurt me.  He’s kind and warm afterwards and he comforts me and makes sure I know we’re okay, but before and during, that aspect isn’t there, and I feel it in my gut and my chest… I know that I’ve messed up.  I know that he’s not happy with me.  And probably that, more than anything, knowing I have displeased him, is incredibly punishing and can bring me close to tears even before the punishment starts.

Sir doesn’t usually talk during a punishment.  Sometimes he’ll talk before and tell me what I did and why it was wrong or how he is feeling, if he’s disappointed or angry with me.  Those are horrible.  When he tells me and I have to look at his face and know I caused that, I almost always cry.  And I’ve always been that way.  I think that the relationship and pleasing the other person is so… core to me.  Often to an unhealthy degree, which, ironically, is something that punishment helps with.

I remember the first time my partner, S spanked me.  It was YEARS ago, but I still remember it clearly.  I hadn’t been eaten properly and was doing a pretty bad job taking care of myself, so she was spanking me.  It was the first time she’d punished me, and I wanted to please her, so I was trying to look recalcitrant (and I was, I felt bad that I’d failed to meet expectations), but the spanking wasn’t too terrible.  She was using her hand, and I think she didn’t know yet exactly where my limits lay so she was being a little cautious, so I had my head down and I was just taking it and knowing that I had messed up, but not struggling with the pain much.  Then she paused and she started to lecture me about how important I was to her and how she expected me to take care of myself and that I deserved better treatment than that.  And as I was listening to her say these things, real tears suddenly came to my eyes, and as she started spanking me again (not much more intensely than before), it suddenly hurt more and I was having a harder time with the pain.

I think, for me, the emotional content of a situation can literally affect how I physically perceive it, and definitely my emotional space.  I have a very hard time crying during a spanking, for some reason, but emotional content like that first spanking with S, or if Sir lectures me before or during a spanking, can make it so much more painful, physically, not just emotionally, and I will much more often break down and cry after it is over both, I think, because of the physical pain and the emotional pain.

During play, the pain might be intense, I might even be anxious or nervous, or mildly frightened at times, but without that emotional hurt component, it just all feels very different.

Are all punishments spankings?

Nope.  Spankings are probably the most common, and I include all forms of corporal punishment under the “spanking” umbrella, so that includes spanking, belting, caning, hand spanking, etc.  But punishment can be chores, it can be standing in the corner (I HATE THAT!), it can be losing privileges (my phone has been taken away more than a few times), it can be writing an essay, it can be exercise, it can be… a lot of things.

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