There’s a lot of misunderstandings about punishment. Lots of people are confused about why we do it and what is the purpose of it is.
People who aren’t submissives often don’t understand why anyone would want to be punished or how it would even help. After all, we all tried so hard to avoid it as kids, right? Why on earth would anyone willingly ask to be punished, a general icky thing over all, most people would agree.
Sometimes they can be insulting about anyone who needs that kind of stability too. There is an implication that as an adult we should just be responsible for our own behavior without needing punishment. And if we need someone else to be responsible for us then we’re defective in some way and we’ve failed as adults. Which isn’t true.
Every person is different and needs different types of coping skills to get through life. Some people are very self-motivated and don’t need anyone telling them what to do. These kinds of people do really well in jobs where they aren’t supervised, or where they are the supervisor. They are great at policing themselves and the idea of needing someone else to be the boss of them is just horrifying.
But what works for them, doesn’t work for everyone. Other people need to have more structure in their life, and they aren’t necessarily good at putting it in place themselves. They know what they are supposed to do, but have trouble forcing themselves to do it without encouragement.
And of course, when someone is trying to encourage you, but they have no authority, accepting their help is pretty much on a when you feel like it basis. Which is why friends trying to motivate you doesn’t always help. Every government in the world will agree that with rules must come consequences or else the rules are just suggestions which can be ignored.
Plenty of people don’t need more than friends cheering them on and other people are just going to do what they want to do regardless of what they are being told anyway. They will quit a job before bowing to a pushy boss so asking for more supervision is out. But for the submissive mindset discipline and structure can go hand in hand. When they have these issues, they are lucky to have an easy(ish) way to resolve them.
Maybe they procrastinate too much. Maybe they avoid unpleasant things, even though they know they will regret it later. Or maybe they suffer from being overwhelmed by executive disfunction. They are ready and willing to work, but just can’t take the first steps without help.
Quick sidenote here: the latter is one of my biggest problems. I know what I have to do. I’m organized. I have lists. And at times I can be extremely type-A and self-motivated to the point of overwork. When I had a traditional job, it wasn’t unusual for me to put in 70-hour work weeks to get everything done.
But my focus is not steady and predictable because when I have a lot of things to do executive disfunction raises its head and starts messing with me. I get overwhelmed, panicky about everything that has to be finished. I then have trouble making choices on where to start. I spend so much time waffling over what to work on … that I end up not working on anything at all.
I used to think that meant I was lazy. Even some Doms I’ve had in the past would tell me I was because they looked at me sitting there worrying about not getting things done, but I’d be stuck and unable to push through. But the truth is, that isn’t laziness and it’s not a character flaw. It’s simply being swamped. When I start batting at ten different things while accomplishing nothing I need someone to step in and reorient me.
It doesn’t help that as a full-time author I don’t really have a boss to be responsible to anymore either. And I mostly set my own deadlines, but once they are set… they have to be met, which means I have limited time to space out and accomplish nothing. With my situation it would be a lot harder for me without someone pushing. I don’t do well without a Dom in my life because of that.
Doms can be a big help with settling a sub into their responsibilities, and even with helping to set goals and work plans, so you don’t get to that point of flailing uselessly. Plans will still fall through, but not as often because if you are accomplishing things at a slow and steady rate you don’t tend to hit the panic wall of so many projects needing to be finished now. And when you’re just sitting there zoned out, a sharp word and a push in a specific direction can make a big difference.
There are other issues that might lead submissives to look for punishment in their lives. They might have bad habits they can’t get rid of. They might just feel safer with someone else in charge and the punishment helps keep them in line. I’ve read articles and books that claim this is unhealthy. That if you look for punishment that means you are broken in some way.
I should note that those opinions are generally from an older mindset. As psychology’s opinion on D/s has changed and evolved, their opinion on people who look for punishment has too. Quite a lot of therapists who are up to date on the current research think that punishment is fine, providing you don’t become unhealthily dependent on someone else.
What most people don’t consider is that everyone has rules to follow and there are always consequences to breaking them whether you’re a sub or not. So why is it mature to have to go to court because you forgot a parking ticket, or get fired from your job because you didn’t get your work done… but choosing someone to punish you, so you don’t get to that point is somehow failing to be an adult?
Either way you have to deal with consequences. From my perspective getting a spanking (for instance) to encourage you not to procrastinate is a lot better than a fine or losing your job.
And let’s be honest, most people are ‘broken’ in some way. It’s hard to make it to adulthood without some trauma messing things up. But as far as coping mechanisms go … seeking punishment in a consensual D/s relationship is far from unhealthy, in my opinion. Especially when the sub knows it’s what they need and asks for it.
That shows a depth of introspection that I find very healthy. Knowing you have a problem, or a flaw, and searching out a solution for it is adulting at its best. Other people may not understand, or they might think it’s weird, and that’s okay. You’re not trying to fix a problem they have, so they don’t need to approve of your solutions.
In that way I think subs who need structure are luckier than a regular non-kinky person in the same position. Subs have that outlet to ask for help when they need it. Plenty of adults procrastinate and fail to get things done yet aren’t submissive, so they have to deal with harsher life consequences.
Which would you prefer… 1000 lines and a spanking for not getting your taxes done in a timely manner, or thousands in fines from the IRS because you just kept pushing it off until you forgot completely?
I mean … seems like an obvious choice to me.
But how much does punishment really help? I mean how bad does it have to be to scare an adult into behaving right?
Well, it doesn’t actually work like that with submissives. I kind of roll my eyes when people sneer and make comments about how a punishment wouldn’t stop them from doing anything they wanted anyway.
Well, that’s true. You’re an adult and in general a punishment isn’t going to keep you from doing anything if you are determined to do it. And if that’s how you feel then having a Dom give you rules is probably not going to work for you anyway.
When you were punished as a child, the goal was to discourage you from making the same mistake a second time. Sometimes they even wanted to scare you away from something dangerous. As children our brains aren’t fully formed yet and it can be hard to get a warning across in a way that a child will take seriously. So instead, parents would make us fear the consequences so that disobeying wasn’t worth it.
I think we all know it didn’t always work, at least not for all kids. Many of us just learned to hide what we were doing, but the point was to keep us safe.
Punishment for an adult is a lot more complicated than that, and there are many factors that go into it. The most important thing to remember is that the sub or bottom has agreed to this. Unlike when we were kids, this is something we are actually signing up for. That puts a whole different spin on it because why would you agree or ask for this if you were going to just try to get around it.
When you punish an adult there are a lot of things going on, but unless your relationship is leaning towards unhealthy, you are not giving a punishment with the intent of scaring a sub away from a behavior. And you aren’t forcing rules and discipline on a sub who doesn’t want them. If your relationship is a healthy one, then this is something you’ve discussed, and both decided to do together.
By default, this means rules have a better chance of working since the sub already knows they need/want rules and why. Punishment is just the consequence of not following them and most subs don’t seek out punishment because it’s not usually fun or pleasant. They might like funishment, or the appearance of punishment while knowing it’s really just play, but that’s a different thing.
When you do have a submissive who drops important tasks, and you suspect it’s on purpose, most of the time it’s going to be because they have needs that aren’t being met and they are trying to get your attention. They aren’t necessarily seeking punishment, but just trying to broadcast to you that there’s a problem.
How you react to that situation is important, but we’ll come back to that in part two.
Now if you have a sub who drops things on purpose because they are seeking punishment that’s a whole other issue. In that case you’re going to want to look for punishments they don’t enjoy. If they are a masochist who gets turned on by pain even when it’s punishment then you might want to choose something else for punishment or modify the painful discipline so it is less enjoyable, otherwise you’re only encouraging them to keep breaking the rules.
Most subs won’t want to disappointment their Dom so they try hard to follow the rules even if they do want punishment, but there are a couple categories of subs/bottoms who actually enjoy the whole trouble/punishment cycle. Brats are in that category, for instance.
If punishment is a need for a sub you have to find a way to address that need, or they will self-sabotage to get it even if it makes their life harder in general. That’s not a cycle you want to encourage, so in that case I would recommend channeling the need for punishment to unimportant rules that they can break without hurting anything.
You can’t just expect them to not have a need, but you also don’t want them messing up on purpose to get it. Additionally you have subs that need the feeling of punishment but also hate to disobey so they end up stuck. They can’t get what they need and it builds up inside of them.
With both of these types giving them some harmless arbitrary rules to break that will earn them punishment will satisfy that. They don’t need to worry about being a disappointment when they are breaking rules they know are meant to be broken.
When it comes to the important rules don’t give them the kind of punishment they want for breaking them. Maybe assign hours of housework, essays, standing in the corner, etc. instead of a spanking which is probably what they hoped for. They will learn that spankings only come when they break minor rules eventually. Then they get the benefit of structure and discipline in their lives but still get the misbehavior and penance scenes they crave.
I’m going to wrap this up here since it’s gotten a bit long and next week we’ll pick up with part two:
Punishing a Submissive Part Two: Sometimes it’s Not About Teaching A Lesson
See you soon!