Each day in September, I will be posting a question about submission, along with two responses- the first written five years ago and the second from today. I welcome all who wish to join in this exercise to post your own answers in the comments, adjusting the question if necessary to suit your own roles and sensibilities.
Is pain or humiliation (spankings for example) a part of your submission? What is your relationship to it? Do you embrace it as a part of your submission, tolerate it as necessary or have some other type of relationship with it?
I know this is something that I want, but I have no idea where this desire comes from. I can sort of understand the desire to be punished, but where the spanking part in particular comes from mystifies me. It is definitely central to my submission though.
I like to contrast the connotations of “humiliation” with “humility,” one seen as undesirable, the other as a virtue.
I had the privilege while in school to go through a beautiful initiation ritual that taught humility without being degrading. It was a powerful experience that I still reflect on. When helping run the same ritual in future years, I was impressed with all the behind-the-scenes communication that went on to ensure each segment was carefully adapted for the mood of the initiate so that they would be challenged but not pushed too far. It was their reaction, no so much or our plans, that determined how the ritual progressed and ensured that each initiate was brought to a level of humility from which they could grow.
The same concept is what makes the difference between punishment and brutality (mental and/or physical). A disciplinarian must know and respect their charge enough to alter the punishment based on the reaction and not simply continue on past limits because they are in a position of power. The process of breaking down barriers of ego is uncomfortable- and risky if it turns out the people involved cannot be trusted- but can enable incredible growth.
I am good with pain. Pain is something I know. It can be tolerated, embraced, ridden, ignored, enjoyed. I can court it, I can handle it, I can get on with it. This, however, has less to do with being submissive than with being clumsy.
For pain to be desirable, it needs to serve a purpose, and to be fit for that purpose. Different types of pain can calm and recenter me, chasten and punish me, or connect me more deeply with my partner – allowing me to demonstrate my trust and dedication. In these situations, the right flavour of pain can be worth well over a thousand words in changing my mindset and behaviour.
Humiliation is a trickier one. It is a word, a concept, that repels me. This is not something that I desire. . .and yet it has been, by some definitions, an integral part of many poignant scenes. Submission, by its nature, involves quieting one’s ego in in deference to the dominant. I’ve found that I do this readily, but when this is explicitly linked to a specific element I often struggle. I generally have no problem disrobing at public events, or even playing on stage. However, a few words indicating that these actions are intended to humiliate me sours the atmosphere.
Words are powerful to me. I warn new partners about reactions like the above, and that name-calling and the like will generally not end well. I take these words to heart, even when spoken from an assumed role for the purpose of a scene. Their impact lasts far beyond the aftercare.
This same effect makes scolding very effective, particularly when paired with pain. The marks may indicate that the lesson has been driven home, but the words last far longer than the bruising.
I suppose that, as with pain, it all comes down to intent. When the humiliation serves another purpose, rather than humiliation for its own end, I am more willing to accept it.