I received a question the other day from a reader in a budding D/s relationship. He is the Dominant half, and, paraphrasing, he asked me this: “Do I really have to discipline my wife? It seems like I’d be hurting her, and I don’t want to be an abuser. Can’t we just enjoy the kinky sex and leave the discipline thing behind?”
The simple answer, of course, is “Yes, you can do whatever you want as long as it works for you and your wife.” However, I am never content to stop at the simple answer–I always have to go deeper. And when looking deeper, the answer changes…it becomes something more like, “Maybe, as long as you and your wife are content to pretend.”
Several years ago I wrote a series of posts about the levels of BDSM relationships. I’ve been back and re-written those posts several times, and I’m still not necessarily really happy with them. Even so, though, I remain convinced that the concept of different levels of the Dominance and submission aspect of BDSM relationships remains valid, and one of the differentiators between levels, I believe, is enforcement of obedience through discipline.
The first level, the level where most people first become involved with BDSM, is that of the “Pretenders”. It is this level at which the Dominant husband who posed the question above currently resides. He and his wife play at BDSM and D/s–it is a game of pretend to them, in which they enjoy acting out their roles during an adventure, but any Dominance and submission ends once the scene is over, and even during the scene, the submissive submits only to activities that she desires anyway. That’s not a bad thing, by the way–I’ve received some feedback that some people don’t like the word “pretend” in this context, but I don’t mean it to be demeaning or to put down the practices in which this level engages. Any new BSDM relationship generally begins with “pretending”. It’s only through practice, familiarity and most especially trust that a greater depth can be acheived. Many people, I think, are content to stop at “pretending”, and that’s okay. However, there is a downside to doing so.
You see, eventually it becomes obvious that “pretending” is exactly what you are doing. When that happens, that power behind BDSM fades. It becomes just another toy–something that was once shiny, new and exciting, but which has now become familiar and even (dare I say it?) dull. It doesn’t mean that breaking out the cuffs and playing bondage games can’t still be fun once in awhile, but the thrill…the heart-pounding, breathtaking, chest heaving excitement that it once provided…is gone.
So if this is okay by you, and it’s as far as you want to go, that’s fine, and I wish you well. However, if you’re not content with the scenario I describe, then I believe you must embrace two concepts. The first, which I have written about numerous times, is taking your submissive partner just beyond their comfort zone. This allows your activities together to be new and fresh. The second, which is my topic for today, is discipline.
Discipline is important because it makes the submission real. To see what I mean, let’s consider a hypothetical situation involving a hypothetical couple, Louis (the Dom) and his wife, Laurie (the sub), in which no discipline is enforced. For the purposes of this example, let’s suppose that Louis sets a requirement for Laurie before they go out for dinner one night–perhaps wearing a pretty pair of lavender thong panties under her skirt. However, on this particular night, Laurie is feeling a little self-conscious and doesn’t want to wear thong panties. She refuses. In this scenario, what happens?
Well, for one thing, the thong panties do not get worn. For another, Louis is disappointed. And while Laurie, on the surface, is probably pleased that she avoided having to do something she didn’t want to do, beneath the surface, she, too, is disappointed. Isn’t the Dom supposed to Dominate? Louis didn’t do his job! And the thing is, Laurie will remember this. She will internalize the lesson that if she doesn’t want to, she can just say “No.” And so the next time she doesn’t feel like doing something Louis requires, she says “No” again. And from there, every rebellion gets a little easier, and eventually…well, there’s no longer any semblance of submission going on, is there?
Discipline counters this deterioration of the D/s dynamic because it provides consequences. If, in the scenario above, Louis enforces his requirement that Laurie wear her pretty thong panties by turning her over his knee when she refuses and paddling her bottom until it turns a lovely shade of pink, and then perhaps upping his requirement so that she must wear her thong panties and her black, anal plug under her skirt, a curious thing happens. For one, the original requirement is now met, and Louis is content. However…and here’s the curious part…Laurie, who now must comply with the requirement, is content as well. In fact, she is more content that she would have been if she’d been allowed to rebel. This is because the respective D/s roles of both Louis and Laurie have been reinforced, and Laurie is more firmly than ever convinced that her partner can and will, in fact, Dominate her.
Just as the refusal described earlier will be remembered, so, too, will the discipline and successful Domination. The effects will be lasting and positive for the D/s relationship. Not only will Laurie have added motivation to comply with Louis’s requirements, but both of them will feel more secure and confident in their roles. And best of all, Laurie will gain the feeling that she, by definition, is seeking…that she is not in control, but is instead controlled, that she may not be willful, but instead must be obedient, that she does not own herself, but is, instead, owned. This feeling unlocks the added excitement that Louis and Laurie seek from their relationship by feeding power to the D/s engine that underlies it.
Note that I advocate only consensual BDSM and consensual D/s! That means that the submissive must agree that the Dominant has the right to discipline them when they do not meet the Dom’s requirements! And yes, safewords still apply! Note, however, that the idea of a safeword can become a bit sticky in a disciplinary situation, for it is possible for the submissive to utilize their safeword to avoid the discipline they are about to receive. In the example described above, Laurie could stop her disciplinary spanking and gain her original goal of rebelling against Louis’s requirement by employing her safeword, and once again, the couple has started down the path of rebellion and the deterioration of their D/s dynamic.
This is a well-known issue, and many D/s practicioners take the stance that the safeword must remain intact, no matter what. This was originally my stance as well, but after much experience and much thought, Joy and I have modified our use of the safeword during discipline (and note that Joy, who knows herself well and recognizes that she has a temper, has agreed to this modification). For us, during a disciplinary episode, if Joy uses her safeword, I immediately cease what I am doing and check to see if she is injured or in danger. If she is, then obviously we stop. If, however, I can ascertain that she is neither hurt nor in danger, then I will continue the discipline. Clearly this requires great trust on Joy’s part that I will not abuse this privilege. However, this appears to be what works best for us.
So, to return to the original question, I would say that if you wish to have a true Dominant/submissive relationship in which the submission is real and lasting, some form of disciplinary privileges must be given to (and accepted by) the Dom.