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.