In the first part we did a basic overview of why some subs/bottoms/littles want or need punishment, and basically what the point of it is. I think that covered the common things people tend to talk about. Probably nothing too earth-shattering in that, but we laid the groundwork to discuss some things that are a little deeper.
If you missed part one, you can find it here: Punishing a Submissive Part One: What’s the Point of Punishing an Adult Anyway? – Musings of a Chaotic Mind (kessilylewel.com)
If you need a quick recap, we mainly discussed the fact that punishment for a submissive isn’t to scare them into good behavior. They aren’t meant to dread some terribly painful spanking so much that they follow your rules to avoid it. That’s how many of us learned to see punishment growing up and for kids that can work. Make the threat bad enough and they won’t dare to act up. (Or more often they will be sneakier to hide it.)
That tends to fall apart with your consensual partner who is meant to trust and depend on you to help them get things done. They aren’t likely to come and say, “Hey I have a deadline, please help me meet it,” if they think you’re going to give them some awful trial to deal with if they can’t finish in time. They also have the option, in most relationships, to say no to any punishment they think is excessive.
Doms depend on the people they take care of to report to them honestly. After all the boss isn’t going to send a note home saying the sub was late on a project. The sub really needs to be encouraged to admit when they mess up and being scared of a heavy punishment won’t help with that. Sure, it will work sometimes for some submissives, but in general that’s not the goal.
Let’s stop thinking about the spanking, or the lines, or whatever you discipline your sub with as punishment and instead realize that disappointing the Dom is the punishment because for most of us that’s how it works. Knowing we have failed is hard enough, but knowing we’ve disappointed our Doms can be devastating.
We don’t fear punishment. We fear being told that we are a disappointment. And for a lot of us it goes deeper than that. Every time we let our Top down we start wondering why they waste their time. If we can’t be absolutely perfect, then eventually they’ll get tired of us failing and walk away.
We beat ourselves up for giving them more work to deal with. We get sad because once again they’ve had to punish us. Sometimes these feelings go so deep that we actually end up getting in more trouble because of it. We might start putting ourselves down. Or our moods might dip so low that we let a bunch of other things drop creating a terrible circle of failure and self-hate.
That is all terribly punishing. What we call punishment is really just the way our Tops help us get past mistakes so we can let go of regret. No one can punish me as hard as I can, trust on that. I will shred my self-esteem over relatively small blunders. I need to do penance so I can let it go and walk away from the cycle.
And that’s what a lot of people don’t get about punishment—it’s really not. It’s freedom from regret. It’s a way to escape the angst. For children punishment feels like a horrible negative thing to avoid at all costs, but subs aren’t children. Even Littles, with their strong childlike side, are still actually adults who can comprehend things at a deeper level.
And that’s the difference, because for a submissive/bottom it’s a much-needed relief from the emotions that bog us down.
The physical pain, or drudgery, or lesson—whatever it is that the Dom gives us is almost always going to be better than those negative emotions we hold onto. This is especially true for those who submit deeply.
Some Littles can break rules and feel nothing more than surface regret or worry about getting in trouble. Brats often deliberately get in trouble and can be quite sassy about it when being punished, because they know they are getting what they wanted. But even with them it’s a matter of which rules have been broke and how upset their Top is. Very few really want to be told they’ve disappointed someone.
This makes a big difference, and it effects a lot of things. That’s why I’ve said that sometimes being sympathetic and letting rules slide without punishment can be a mistake. The Dom looks at the situation with sympathy and understanding, forgives the rule breaking, and skips the punishment as a result. They feel like they’re being kind by doing this.
But that can have the opposite effect if the sub is one who holds onto these things, and can’t forgive themselves without punishment. Withholding the punishment that frees them just means they can’t move on. I’m not saying you don’t take circumstances into account, you definitely need to have empathy and understanding of the situation that caused the mistakes.
But you also need to read the sub and know if it’s going to do more harm than good. A good place to start is by assessing whether they feel guilty about what happened, and if so, is it something you can talk them through with logic? Because if there is guilt and it’s not addressed then it will eat them up.
You’re not doing anyone any favors by letting that happen and in that case, there needs to be some kind of punishment for their own good. Not to teach them a lesson, but to help them get over what happened. Should it be lighter because of ‘extenuating circumstances’?
Maybe. Maybe not. Communication can help you figure that out. Some of it depends on how big the rule was that they broke, but most of it depends on what the sub needs to stop feeling guilty.
So, remember the question we started with? (What is the point of punishing an adult?) We’ve come up with several good reasons why punishment can be an asset so far.
- It motivates the sub/bottom/little/etc to follow the rules.
- It’s a necessary part of the cycle that provides structure for the bottom. Without consequences rules just don’t tend to work.
- Some people just need punishment.
- It helps free people from guilt so they can forgive themselves for messing up and move on.
But there’s one last thing we should cover:
It provides equity and balance in the relationship so the sub AND the Dom can move past the issue.
It’s not always about the person on the bottom. Tops/Doms/Daddies you are there to take care of your person. It’s your job and a lot of the relationship focus ends up being on them as a result. That’s normal.
But relationships are a two-way street, and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there is a very valid reason for the Top to dispense discipline. Sometimes you, as the person in charge, need to punish so that you can get over your upset or disappointment.
Obvious this shouldn’t be an anger thing. It shouldn’t be you lashing out because you’re furious. You should never punish anyone when you’re not entirely in control of your actions and I think that’s pretty standard for safety. If you are putting your hands on someone in anger, you are trailing the line and possibly slipping over into abusive territory.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to want to punish someone who has broken your rules. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I veer away from the idea that only the sub has power in a D/s relationship. If you are in a relationship, then you are partners and I feel partners should be equal.
A lot of times I think Doms and Tops are expected to accept things they shouldn’t have to. I’ve seen Doms bullied, and even abused by subs. It does happen and there is a subtle (sometimes not-so-subtle) pressure on the Dom to be the ‘mature’ one and simply stand there while it happens and act like it doesn’t bother them when people cross their boundaries. I don’t think that’s healthy.
Maybe it’s a carryover from unreasonable expectations put on men to control their emotions because I do see it much more often with the male Doms. And that would make sense, but I can’t say for certain, and I don’t want to get off track discussing that.
What I do know is that taking on the role of boss doesn’t mean you give up your right to have your own needs or feelings. A lot of the memes and such you see saying, “The sub is really the one in control!” or “If you don’t know where the real power is in a D/s relationship then you don’t understand kink!” are designed to reassure people outside of the scene that subs aren’t being abused and that they have full agency over what is happening to them.
Which is 100% true! But the memes give this reassurance at the expense of the Dom’s agency. When you constantly say ‘The sub is really the one with all the power.’ you put out a vibe that the Dom isn’t supposed to have any. Then new kinksters coming into the scene buy into it, including Tops who then feel like they don’t always have the right equal say in the real relationship issues.
And yes, I can understand why things are phrased that way. Shoving someone to their knees, calling them a worthless slut, and whipping them can definitely look like abuse if you don’t know that they consented to that and are enjoying it. But a relationship shouldn’t have all the power on one side, no matter what kind of relationship it is.
The sub has the power because they can always say no!
Well, sure, but … Doms are also allowed to say no. In fact, Doms are even allowed to safeword if they aren’t comfortable with something and we should normalize that. Granted the Top isn’t often in a physically helpless situation where they would need to say red for safety, but safewords aren’t just for physical safety. They can be about emotions or someone trying to impose a scene on you that you don’t like.
For instance, if a brat is heckling you, aggressively pushing you and you haven’t agreed to that you have the right to say red on that kind of play. In the modern kink world I’ve seen subs step over a Dom’s boundaries much more often than I’ve seen the reverse happen– mostly because when a Dom does it people say something.
So yes, as the person in charge you are absolutely allowed to feel that you need some sort of closure. You spent a lot of time trying to help your sub, coming up with important rules for them, and when they break those rules, you are going to have feelings about that. Maybe you can get past it with a strongly worded lecture, or maybe you are going to feel a need to turn them over your knee and spank their bratty ass until you feel better.
One of the important things about punishment is that it allows you to clear away the negative emotions over a mistake. It wipes away the guilt for the sub so they can move on, but it also can help the Top by giving them an outlet for their upset or irritation. One of the reasons I love Brat Tamer/brat relationships is because they are so blunt about it. The brat drives them crazy on purpose, and the Brat Tamer takes out all that frustration on their ass. It’s expected, and both are happy with the arrangement.
But in other D/s relationships you don’t always see that. You see a big focus on what punishment does for the sub and very little on what it does for the Dom. I’ve read through a dozen articles about punishment, and I think only one of them ever mentioned a benefit for the Top, which I think is a problem.
Punishment is primarily to help the sub, there’s no doubt about that. And a relationship shouldn’t incorporate it unless the submissive is okay with having it. But once you’ve built this partnership that includes discipline it’s perfectly fine for the Dom to need to dispense some justice for their own benefit as long as it falls within their agreed-on structure.
Maybe in this circumstance the sub isn’t feeling guilt and would be fine with skipping the punishment, but the Dom is upset and needs to work through that—with a paddle. When you’re in a relationship you need both people to be able to move forward from an upsetting situation, not just one.
And there you have it, plenty of reasons that punishing a submissive can make sense for both sides of the dynamic. Feel free to pass this on to the next person you see sneer over how punishing an adult can’t possibly help or be of any use.
There are some people who are never going to get either side. Not just in the vanilla world either, but also among other kinky people who don’t use punishment. They won’t understand why a sub wants it in their life, and they won’t understand why a Dom wants to have that level of responsibility over someone else.
That’s okay. You don’t need to convince them because this is your life not theirs. But if they are openminded and interested in learning then sharing posts like this might be helpful. Sometimes trying to explain these things to friends or family can be hard because of all the emotions involved on both sides, but sending them a carefully written article might reach them.
By the way, I’m always happy to hear when any of my posts have helped you explain things to people who didn’t understand. It makes my day so feel free to drop me a note if that happens.
I’ll wrap this up here. Remember stay safe, stay healthy, and stay home if you can!