Punishment dynamics

Punishment dynamics (also known as domestic discipline) are one of those things that really seem to polarize the kink community. Either you insist on having a punishment dynamic in your relationship or you absolutely refuse to, there just don’t seem to be a lot of people in the middle.

To make sure we’re all on the same page, when I talk about a punishment dynamic or domestic discipline, I’m talking about the d & s in a d/s relationship agreeing that when the s does something wrong, the d has the authority to punish them in some manner. The punishment could be anything from corner time to writing lines to doing the task that wasn’t done properly over and over to physical punishment like caning, basically anything that the d & s type agree on. Funishment, on the other hand, is when people enjoy doing a little role play about what a bad boy you’ve been and how hard it’s going to be to make up for it. It’s a completely and utterly different thing and not at all what I’m talking about in this post.

In case it wasn’t clear already, not everyone has even the tiniest bit of interest in having a punishment dynamic! If people didn’t keep assuming I must be into that because it’s obviously the One True Way™ then I wouldn’t so irritated by the whole idea. If you like having domestic discipline in your relationship that’s totally cool, just look for someone else who also wants that and don’t hassle people who aren’t interested.

Personally I’m not interested in domestic discipline, but I can see how it can actually be a useful tool if you’re willing to use it. And just to get it out of the way, when I talk about domestic discipline of punishment dynamics, I’m talking about rational grown ups who talked the problem out first and made their apologies before they moved on to using punishment to help the s-type stop beating themselves up or to actively repair the d/s dynamic. I know the most common objection to punishment dynamics is “in my house we talk our problems out like grownups” but even I can admit they’re not mutually exclusive.

As a bit of an aside, my understanding of animal training is that punishment is not an effective way to modify behaviour. It doesn’t work on children either (not to mention that hitting a small defenseless person who literally depends on you for food and shelter is absolutely reprehensible). Yes, your partner isn’t a child or a puppy, but the point stands. If your partner is doing something you don’t like (other than continuing to beat themselves up about the original issue when you feel it’s resolved, which punishment actually can help with) and saying “honey, it makes me really unhappy when you _____” doesn’t fix it, punishment isn’t likely to help either. I know it’s tempting to look for a quick fix, but there just isn’t one.

So, the first thing thing punishment really can be good for is helping the s-type who messed up feel like they’ve “paid for their crime” and stop worrying about it. It’s not exactly unusual for people whose whole relationship style is based around pleasing their partner to take it really hard when they fail. What I’ve heard from s-types who do punishment is that getting a physical punishment after everything’s talked out helps them feel like they’re absolved now and can stop worrying about it. On the other hand, some s-types feel even worse if they’ve screwed up so badly they need to be punished, so approach the whole idea with caution (you know, like everything else we do).

Another thing punishment can do is actively repair the dynamic. For example, if one of your agreements is that your sub texts you when they’re going to be home late and they forget, that can feel like a rejection of your dominance and your whole dynamic. Performing a punishment like texting you status updates every time they do much of anything can help rebuild your confidence in their desire to obey you and reinforce your dynamic where it got torn.

Those are actually really useful things, so why am I so totally uninterested in punishment? Mostly because I can’t separate the idea of punishing someone from the idea of treating them like a child. I know it’s not the same thing, but I still have this visceral ‘ugh’ reaction to the idea of treating an adult like that.

Another issue is that running my own life is quite enough work, I don’t need to run anyone else’s. If you need someone to spank you if you don’t finish your chores, I’m just not the dom for you. I also have this association between people who are interested in punishment and people who are interested in super high maintenance rules and protocols, and I can in no way be bothered to enforce rules I don’t care about. If god forbid someone who did like rules was interested in me, he’d end up miserable and feeling ignored when I totally failed to work with his relationship style.

Maybe punishment is for you and maybe it’s not. Either way we’re cool as long as you don’t bug me about how I’m supposed to want to do something I just don’t care about.

9 thoughts on “Punishment dynamics

  1. Agreed–it’s good to know whether you and a prospective partner are into it or not so as to avoid disappointment!

    I, too, have a massive DNW for serious punishment dynamics (while being allll for the funishment variety). I think in my case it’s because I’m a switch and immediately go to imagining how it would feel on the s side, and just…NO. Way too close to triggers I have around authority non-consensually imposed, used to destroy self-esteem. And also that “treated like a child” thing, which is not my kink from either side of the slash. (And as a D, exactly what you said about being responsible for whipping the s’s life into shape.)

    Which leaves me feeling like a bad s-type sometimes, and confused at others–so, it’s nice to hear from others who aren’t into it! Though obviously more power to those who are, when playing with those who are.

    • Whereas I hate the idea of funishment, because it could threaten my trust in her. Not at a conscious level–I know what funishment is–but I feel it could endanger the absolute, visceral trust I have.

      I’m a rules-perv and willful disobedience is extremely rare for me, but on a few occasions, including at least one when I was within the letter of the rule, I’ve asked for punishment for the expiation function Stabbity describes.

      • It is fascinating how different people are! Because I totally do not get that at all, and you don’t get anything out of the way I do it. Really interesting, the variety among kinksters. 🙂

        (I actually do not understand what you mean, that playing at “Ooh, naughty naughty, you totally deserve a sexy spanking!” could make you feel less trusting of your dom. I’m not quite making the connection. Feel free to explain a bit more, if you want to. Is it because it would seem like you were just “playing” at her having power, rather than it really being true (which feels more secure) or something along those lines? I might be way off base.)

        • Fair questions :). It’s more subtle than that.

          One of the things that has built trust (bear in mind that I have an anxiety disorder) is that there is nearly always a correspondence between action and reaction, including proportionality. When there isn’t, we talk about it and figure out where the mismatch happened. If she were to punish me for “trumped-up” reasons, that sense of consistentcy what would be threatened.

          Does that make more sense?

          • That’s really interesting. I personally don’t get much out of funishment because I don’t like feeling like I need to make up an excuse to have a scene, but I can see how someone who tended toward anxiety would have a really hard time with ‘sometimes this behaviour is no big deal, sometimes we’re going to drop everything for a ‘you’ve been a bad boy, go to my room’ scene.’

          • ‘sometimes this behaviour is no big deal, sometimes we’re going to drop everything for a ‘you’ve been a bad boy, go to my room’ scene.’

            Exactly! Predictability is key. I like surprises in play, especially sensory deprivation play, but can’t easily handle them in the relationship.

          • This does make lots of sense, thank you!

            Whereas for me–I also have anxiety issues, but they manifest more in a way that expecting punishment would give me a sense of dread, no matter how consistently it was applied. I wouldn’t feel secure, I’d feel resentful. I absolutely DO think that inconsistency would be worse, though–I hate it when it comes from, say, supervisors at work where one of them says A and the other says B and then you get in trouble no matter what you do. ARGH! Would not be fun in a romantic relationship either!

            When I think of funishment I guess it’s more of a roleplay all the way through–like, it’s completely clear that you’re not actually in trouble at all, it’s just that playing naughty schoolgirl/boy, insubordinate midshipman, whatever, is fun. So the infraction is as much made up as anything else. But that might not work for other people, either.

  2. I just found this post. If you are a top that likes to do scenes, then I agree there is no reason in the world to get into punishment role play. However, if you are in a lifestyle D/S relationship (I’m in a enforced chastity / FLM), then punishment can be a functional part. My wife has never been a fan of discipline. For some reason I feel that it should be part of our lifestyle. We have compromised around this by having punishment days (two per week). If I break a rule; we don’t have many, then I must remind her on the next punishment day. She generally spanks me. This isn’t funishment at all. I don’t like them a bit. They work. I am much more mindful of what I should do. This discipline is something I want to avoid. We have rewards too; usually a bonus orgasm.

    My past history has been mostly as a lifestyle dominant. I had a 24/7 slave for a decade and prior to that was a top. I understand your feelings about adding another person’s behavior to your already-busy life. I always felt the same way. My new role is a challenge for me. It is rewarding too. I need to feel the control and discipline is an excellent way to let me know who is boss. Just as importantly, it reminds my wife of her role as well. Discipline is not just for the bottom. It provides a power charge for the top as well; at least it can.

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