BDSM Safeword Survey: what people said about safeword use.

BelasariusIn the safeword survey I recently completed I asked people to comment on their use of safewords with relationship and play partners. 532 people answered the question There were 118 comments.This article quotes all those additional comments, splitting them by whether they related to play or relationship partners and by gender and BDSM orientation.

This earlier article on the use of safewords with relationship partners add this, on the use of safewords with play partners, may be useful to read alongside this.

Use of safewords with relationship partners

59 people left additional comments on this question.

Women

Bottoms/submissives

Who:

“Always use a safeword”:

  • But have never had to use it.
  • I always have a safeword but do not often use my safeword, in fact, in 14 years, i have used it twice.
  • I always have a safeword there if needed, but rarely use it.
  • I have a safeword but have never used it
  • I have a safeword to use, I don’t necessarily invoke it
  • I have a safeword, but have never had to use it
  • i have one, only used it once in 5 years. It does not end the scene, just lets Sir know something is amiss.
  • We have a safe word but it has never been used.
  • We have agreed safewords, though they are rarely used
  • When it’s a principal partner, the safeword is just an unspoken thing once negotiated in first woo-ing stage. It might not get used for years, but if it ever was used, it would be  honoured.

(10 comments)

“mostly use a safeword:

  • Partner knows when to stop as knows my body very well
  • Sometimes if my partners prefers for ‘no’ to mean ‘no’ then I play that way instead.

(2 comments)

“Never use a safeword”:

  • He knows me well enough that we haven’t needed one
  • he knows me well, i gave it up on the day he collared me as my gift to him to show my utter trust in him
  • I am submissive so it’s not in my nature to safeword as I want to please; my master protects me
  • I dont use a safeword with my partner
  • i have a safeword i’m just stubborn
  • i have never had to use a safe word their use signify’s to me a lack of awareness between partners
  • I have never yet needed to use a safe word but I would if it came down to it.
  • I have one, but have never used it.
  • I would consider using one if it was important to a roleplay that I was able to ‘resist’
  • I’m not permitted one.
  • I’ve never needed to use a safeword.
  • not necessary, partner v responsible, can read me well and will stop before I need him to
  • when I was in a committed relationship the level of trust meant I didn’t need one

(12 comments)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”

  • Do you mean during play, or do I have one? I have a safeword, I just rarely <need to> use it
  • he knows me well enough for me not to need one    but it is still availiable should i want to use it
  • I don’t use a safeword with my principal play partner (hard to define whether this is a “relationship”
  • I have a safe word, I have never used it, nor do I expect to.
  • I have a safeword, but try not to use it.
  • I have one but have only used it once (when nipple clamp broke and embedded into me), don’t play with someon unless i know they can read me
  • I have one but have very rarely felt need to use it.
  • I use “no” and “stop” if safewords aren’t applicable
  • I usually default to the standard “red light” etc, but almost never need it.

(9 comments)

Switches

“Always use a safeword”:

(0 comments)

“mostly use a safeword:

  • I always HAVE a safeword but I have NEVER had to use it yet. Can’t select this from options

(1 comment)

“Never use a safeword”:

  • I don’t have one, but on the very rare occasion when something has been ‘wrong’ my partner has read my response and recognised the need to respond appropriately
  • we have a safeword but i have never had to use it

(2 comments)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”:

  • We have one established, but it’s never had a need to be used.

(1 comments)

Tops/dominants

“Always use a safeword”:

  • I require a sub to have a safeword but have never really had it invoked.
  • Our safeword is No, unless we discuss otherwise and use the traffic light system.

(2 comments)

“mostly use a safeword:

(0 comment)

“Never use a safeword”:

(0 comments)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”:

(0 comments)

Men

Bottoms/submissives

“Always use a safeword”:

  • Haven’t actually used it but it is always available

(1 comments)

“Mostly use a safeword:

  • the need for one rarely arrises, but agree one just in case

(1 comment)

“Never use a safeword”:

  • No partner

(1 comments)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”:

  • Not needed with established relationships

(1 comments)

Switches

“Always use a safeword”:

  • It’s there but I’ve never needed it. Please feel free to recode this if you feel that isn’t using a safeword.
  • When I say I always uss a safeword, I mean that my partner and I have a safeword agreed, and so it’s always there. Doesn’t mean we actually feel that we need one for every scene.

(2 comments)

“mostly use a safeword:

(0 comment)

“Never use a safeword”:

  • I always have a safeword I hate hearing it. I try to develop a very intimate connection and know rather than hear when things are getting too much for them.
  • I don’t have a partner
  • I have never needed to, as I have (apart from one exceptional case) been in a position where “no” or “stop” didn’t mean what they say.
  • n/a no in a relationship
  • Never get to safeword level
  • never play with the gf

(6 comments)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”:

  • I prefer to discuss things beforehand to reduce the need of a safeword.

(1 comment)

Tops Dominants

“Always use a safeword”:

  • ..But only one, which stops all play, possibly indefinitely.  I don’t use stop/go/traffic light safewords.
  • actually, she does
  • some partners dont

(3 comments)

“mostly use a safeword:

  • my current sub does not safeword though I give her the option

(1 comment)

“Never use a safeword”:

  • I have suggested it might be a good idea but all the subs I have played with disliked the idea

(1 comment)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”:

(0 comments)

Use of safewords with play partners

59 people left additional comments on this question.

Women

Bottoms/submissives

Who:

“Always use a safeword”:

  • but only play with my Sir.
  • I always have a safeword to.use doesn’t  mean I use it.
  • I have a safeword but rarely use it
  • I have a safeword to use, I don’t necessarily invoke it
  • I have never had to use it
  • I’m interpreting this q as: I always negotiate the possibility of a safeword with people I do BDSM play with, even though I’ve never yet felt the need to employ it.
  • If I did play outside of my principle relationship – safeowrd would be mandatory
  • Master puts me with others  and  safeword  is always in place

(8 comments)

“mostly use a safeword:

  • I have a safe word, I have rarely used it. I do not expect to have to use it.
  • I sometimes forget to use the safeword it the situation overwhelmes me to the point of tears.

(2 comments)

“Never use a safeword”:

  • Again, never needed to use one but would if necessary.
  • Being used by others is part of what he wants for me. He controls it.
  • don’t have play partners
  • I never ‘play’ I only have relationships.
  • I only play with my sir
  • I only play with my partner
  • My master always supervises things when he gets other people to play with me.
  • My master decides when to stop play
  • My master supervises any play I take part in
  • My partner decides when things stop
  • My partner supervises my use. He decides when things should stop
  • When I am required to play with others I trust my partner to ensure I am not harmed more than he wants.

(12 comments)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”:

  • Depends if I know them well enough not to use a safe word, most of my friends know me well enough to not need a safe word. I rarely play with others.
  • He is always there to supervise
  • I don’t use safewords because the people i play with i know very well and they know me, i trust them entirely.
  • I have given a safeword to a play partner but found it ineffective – he would never have used it.  I stopped play when I felt he was marking badly.
  • I only use a safe word when in a new relationship, but expect partners to know and respect my limits.
  • I safeworded once but from pleasure not pain
  • I use “no” and “stop” if safewords aren’t applicable
  • It’s very rare.
  • My partner decides whether I should use a safeword when being played with by someone he chooses
  • same question: I always HAVE a safeword, however, the one time we played with others I found it hard to use…and I should have

(10 comments)

Switches

“Always use a safeword”:

  • I have a safeword, but I’ve not yet needed to use it

(1 comment)

“mostly use a safeword:

  • Only use a safeword if I am bottom/submissive, don’t bother if I top/domme as I don’t do any extreme play as a top.
  • I always HAVE a safeword but I have NEVER had to use it yet. Can’t select this from options
  • When topping, I always insist my bottom has a safeword.  When bottoming, I always have one with new partners.  When I have an ongoing play dynamic with someone, I’m more relaxed about it as I know I keep the ability to communicate well

(3 comments)

“Never use a safeword”:

  • (0 comments)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”:

  • almost never
  • With my current play partner. I have done before and may again with (an)other(s)

(2 comments)

Tops/dominants

“Always use a safeword”:

  • I play that no doesn’t mean no. Instead, I employ the traffic light system – green ok, amber check in, red stop.

(1 comment)

“mostly use a safeword:

  • I only play with those in a relationship

(1 comment)

“Never use a safeword”:

  • I know I’m not a nutter, so don’t feel the need.

(1 comment)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”:

(0 comments)

Men

Bottoms/submissives

“Always use a safeword”:

(0 comments)

“mostly use a safeword:

  • Usually Green, Amber, Red when playing in public with new friends.

(1 comment)

“Never use a safeword”:

  • Usually Green, Amber, Red when playing in public with new friends.

(1 comment)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”:

(0 comments)

Switches

“Always use a safeword”:

(0 comments)

“mostly use a safeword:

  • always a safe word with someone new

(1 comment)

“Never use a safeword”:

  • I have (apart from one exceptional case) been in a position where “no” or “stop” didn’t mean what they say.

(1 comments)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”:

  • Most of my “play” wth other people has been at Peer Rope events; that play doesn’t require a safeword as such.

(1 comment)

Tops Dominants

“Always use a safeword”:

  • A safeword is essential for clear FAST communication.
  • again, she does
  • I listen to their comments.

(3 comments)

“mostly use a safeword:

(0 comment)

“Never use a safeword”:

  • Dont play with others outside of my relationship
  • I only have one partner
  • no play partners outside principal relationship

(3 comments)

“I mostly DON’T use a safeword”:

  • have it dont need it
  • I’m the top!  I have not had a girl use a safeword during play, and only twice to terminate play forever – once before the first meet!

(2 comments)

Background

This is the third article about the safeword survey I recently conducted. More information about the terms and ideas I use in these surveys can be found here. Information about the demographics of this survey is here.

 

The Gender Gap

BelasariusIn my safe word survey I asked people about their attitudes to various things BDSM people like to do. This article isn’t about safe words, it’s about the different dynamics men, women, tops/dominants, switches and bottoms/submissives have. or, at least, it is about the results reported by the people who responded to the survey.

The first chart, “the gender gap“, shows broad differences in approach to BDSM by men and women. What I did was take the score for “essential to me” (see Background, below) and subtract from it the score for “I don’t do this”.

The 524 men and women who responded to this were, clearly, different. For example, women (surprisingly – at least to me) were much more likely to characterise sex as “essential” than were men.

The_Gender_GapMen are slightly more into the physical elements of BDSM (Pain, Bondage), whilst women revel in control, service and ritual to a far greater extent than men. In fact the men who responded actively dislike ritual – something a few women find essential to their dynamic.

Women had negative scores for both humiliation and exhibitionism – some men find humiliation essential.

I found it interesting that more men than women said they found fetish essential. I associate fetish with dressing up and thought that more a female thing. I may enquire more.

How orientations shape dynamics.

The next two charts are specific to gender and show differences in approach to BDSM according to whether the respondents were tops/dominants, switches or bottoms/submissives.

Component_Fem

It can be seen that, in many respects, males and females in the same orientation group have a similar outlook on BDSM. There are differences of course. Male tops/dominants have more interest in physical BDSM than do women – and female submissives and switches are much more interested in sex than dommes. Male tops/dominants are more interested in sex than their female  counterparts.

Component_Male

Control is interesting too: Switches of both sexes and male bottoms/submissives have a moderate interest in control, whilst For female bottoms/submissives, and tops/dominants of both genders it is the characteristic seen as most essential out of them all.

Background

In this case the charts are based on data from 524 people.

The question asked them to look at each of these things:

  • Pain
  • Bondage
  • Humiliation
  • Exhibitionism
  • Fetish
  • Sex
  • Ritual
  • Service
  • Control

And then asked them to rank each of these as follows:

  • Essential to me
  • Important to me
  • Neither important or unimportant
  • I dislike this
  • I don’t do this

To make the data in this article as stark as possible I only used the “Essential to me” and “I don’t do this” scores.

BDSM safeword survey – does age alter behaviour?

This article looks at how people who answered the safeword survey said they used safewords and whether this differed for older or younger respondents.

It does. There are large variations according to age and also dependant on whether the BDSM interaction is with a relationship partner or a play partner.

The survey, of course, isn’t representative of anything except the views of people who took part. It’s important to note that some of the age groups are quite small. There were only eight people aged 18-20 (all were women) and four over 70 (all men). The other groups ranged in size from 77 to 148 so are more likely to reflect a spread of opinion (496 of the 533 people in the sample answered the question).

safeword use by age

Only 18-20 year olds were more likely to use safewords with both relationship partners and with pay partners.

Over all the age groups, when it came to relationship partners, every group except the 18-20s said they were more likely not to use safewords (other than people of 70 or older where the decision was split 50-50).

When it comes to BDSM interactions with play partners, five of the seven age groups said they were more likely to use safe words than not. The two age-groups that said they were less likely to use safewords (21-29 and 30-39 year olds) only did so by a margin of two or three per cent.

Data for this article

The data for this article was compiled from that contained in the table below.

Thinking of BDSM interactions with your principal relationship partner(s) and safewords…
Which category below includes your age? I always use a safeword I mostly use a safeword I mostly DON’T use a safeword I never use a safeword Grand Total
Female 18-20 6 1 1 8
21-29 10 7 6 27 50
30-39 22 5 20 46 93
40-49 21 10 19 46 96
50-59 9 4 7 19 39
60-69 2 1 2 2 7
Female Total 70 28 54 141 293
Male 21-29 8 2 2 10 22
30-39 12 8 12 15 47
40-49 12 9 4 30 55
50-59 13 6 11 23 53
60-69 8 3 3 4 18
70 or older 1 1 1 1 4
Male Total 54 29 33 83 199
Grand Total 124 57 87 224 492
Thinking of BDSM interactions with play partners and safewords…
Which category below includes your age? I always use a safeword I mostly use a safeword I mostly DON’T use a safeword I never use a safeword Grand Total
Female 18-20 6 2 8
21-29 15 5 14 16 50
30-39 28 14 25 26 93
40-49 36 13 19 28 96
50-59 13 6 9 11 39
60-69 2 2 1 2 7
Female Total 100 40 70 83 293
Male 21-29 9 7 3 3 22
30-39 14 13 13 7 47
40-49 15 12 11 17 55
50-59 18 7 14 14 53
60-69 10 3 3 2 18
70 or older 2 1 1 4
Male Total 68 43 45 43 199
Grand Total 168 83 115 126 492

Background

This is the third article about the safeword survey I recently conducted. More information about the terms and ideas I use in these surveys can be found here. Information about the demographics of this survey is here.

This article can be compared with an earlier one, looking at how people use safewords with their principal relationship partners.

Related articles

BDSM Safeword Survey – who uses safewords with play partners

BelasariusThe safeword survey survey asked the question “Thinking of BDSM interactions with your play partner(s) and of safewords…” and then asked how likely the respondent was to use a safeword.

500 of the 533 people in the sample answered the question.

This article looks at the use of safewords with play partners and looks at the differences that characterised respondents to the survey, based on their BDSM orientation.

Switches use safewords more.

Safeword Survey play partners switch top dominant bottom submissive

I looked just at those people who always use safewords or never use safewords, crosstabbed with their BDSM orientation (Chart 4). Both switches and Tops/dominants said they were more likely to always use a safeword with play partners than to never use a safeword. By contrast, bottoms/submissives stated they were more likely to never use a safeword.

This contrasts with the way people use safewords with their principal relationship partners, where far fewer said they used safewords.

Safewords – and numbers of play partners

I asked respondents how many people they played with in a year. I thought it might be interesting to look at whether the number of play partners people said they had affected the way they used safewords.

Bottoms/submissives

bottom submissive play partner safeword use

Bottoms/submissives who said they only played with one person in the last 12 months are much more likely to never use a safeword than they are to use one all the time. But bottoms and submissives with low or moderate numbers of play parters (between two and five) said they are more likely to use a safeword all the time than not to use one at all.By contrast those who said played with larger numbers of people may be more devil-may-care and are much more likely to never use a safeword than always to use one.

Switches

Switch safeword use

 

Switches contrasted sharply with both bottoms/submissives and tops/dominants. Throughout the sample switch respondents stated they were more likely to always use a safeword than to never use a safeword. And, with a couple of exceptions, the more play partners a respondent had, the more likely this was to be what they said.

Tops/Dominants

Top and dominant use of safewords

Tops/dominants with a single plat partner said they were much more likely never to use a safeword than to always use one. But for every other no. of partners the reverse was true. Though the proportion always using a safeword was very much higher than the proportion that never use a safeword, for every number of partners other than one, the levels of safeword use reported were fairly level in comparison with switches – where it respondents reported that the more partners they had the more likely they were to use a safeword all the time.

Data for this article.

The table below shows the numbers of respondents from which the charts above were compiled. Some of the groups are very small.

Thinking of BDSM interactions with play partners and safewords…
No of play partners I always use a safeword I mostly DON’T use a safeword I mostly use a safeword I never use a safeword All
Bottom/Submissive 1 32 18 7 53 110
2 22 18 7 12 59
3 10 14 9 7 40
4 5 7 7 4 23
5 4 2 4 2 12
“5-10” 4 6 3 7 20
“10 or more” 2 2 3 5 12
Bottom/Submissive Total 79 67 40 90 276
Switch 1 12 6 4 4 26
2 5 3 2 4 14
3 6 4 4 1 15
4 3 1 2 6
5 5 2 1 8
“5-10” 6 2 8 1 17
“10 or more” 3 1 4
Switch Total 40 17 22 11 90
Top/Dominant 1 8 6 3 15 32
2 11 8 4 4 27
3 11 8 5 3 27
4 5 1 4 2 12
5 2 2 1 1 6
“5-10” 6 4 2 1 13
“10 or more” 8 6 3 17
Top/Dominant Total 51 35 22 26 134
Total 170 119 84 127 500

Background

This is the third article about the safeword survey I recently conducted. More information about the terms and ideas I use in these surveys can be found here. Information about the demographics of this survey is here.

This article can be compared with an earlier one, looking at how people use safewords with their principal relationship partners.

What do sadists really like (and submissives, and slaves, etc).

BelasariusBack in June 2012 I ran a survey on BDSM styles and relationships (or “BDSM – How Do You Like Yours”) which looked at some of the basic components of BDSM interactions.

This article looks at the question “How do various BDSM components fit into your life”. It shows, probably unsurprisingly, that respondents that characterised themselves as sadists/masochists (S/m)ranked things quite differently from dominants/submissives (D/s) and masters (mistresses)/slaves (M/s)

S/m people said pain was better than sex. For M/s respondents control, service and ritual came before a roll in the hay. D/s people put sex first, but only a tiny, tiny bit ahead of control.

More details are found in the charts below – where the top three interactions  for each group appear in darker colours and the bottom two in lighter shades.

Background

Respondents were asked to score each area 1- 5 in a range of responses that were:

  1. I don’t do this
  2. I dislike this
  3. This is neither important nor unimportant
  4. This is important to me
  5. This is essential to me

The ten areas of interaction were:

  • Pain
  • Bondage
  • Fetish dressing
  • Humiliation
  • Exhibitionism
  • Sex
  • Safewords
  • Service
  • Ritual
  • Control

429 people answered the question: 94 said they were sadists/masochists, 277 said they were dominants/submissives and 58 said they were masters/slaves. 31 people skipped the question.

Sadists & Masochists

S&M interactions

Those who responded saying they were sadists and masochists put pain  a long way ahead of everything else as the thing that was most important to them. Bondage just edged sex into third place. Control, in fourth, was fairly important too. Service and ritual came ninth and tenth.

Masters (mistresses) and slaves.

M & s interactions

Control is the biggest thing for respondents in this group, with service coming second and ritual and sex a short way behind, in joint third. The least important factors are fetish dressing and safewords, which trails a long way behind the other factors. Bondage was a little more important than pain to M/s people.

Dominants and submissives

D&S interactions

Dominants and submissives were the only group who put sex at the top of their list. And then, it is only a teensy way in front of control, with bondage a little way behind. Pain comes fourth. The two areas that least interest the D/s people who took part are humiliation and, last of all, exhibitionism.

 

BDSM Safe word Survey – who uses them with their principal partners

standing stoneThis is the first article about the safeword survey I recently conducted. More information about the terms and ideas I use in these surveys can be found here. Information about the demographics of this survey is here.

The survey asked the question “Thinking of BDSM interactions with your principal relationship partner(s) and of safewords…” and then asked how likely the respondent was to use a safeword. 500 of the 533 people in the sample answered the question.

Chart 1 - who uses safewords with their partners (by gender)

Chart one (above ) shows the responses to the question and Table one (below) shows the same data as percentages.

Table 1 Thinking of BDSM interactions with your principal relationship partner(s) and safewords…
Any other preference Female Male Grand Total
I always use a safeword 38% 24% 27% 25%
I mostly DON’T use a safeword 25% 18% 17% 18%
I mostly use a safeword 13% 10% 15% 12%
I never use a safeword 25% 48% 42% 45%
Grand Total 100% 100% 100% 100%

So, across the entire sample, all respondents were far more likely NOT to use safewords with their principal partners than to use safewords (the responses on play partners are quite different, as we shall see in forthcoming blogs). sixty-three percent either never use a safeword with their partner (45%) or “mostly DON’t use a safeword” (18%). Only one in four (25%) always used a safeword. This reflects the results of the survey I did here in August 2012, where 61% of the 309 people who took part said they mostly don’t use safewords.

Gender

Women appear slightly less likely to use a safeword than men. 66% of women either did not use a safeword at all or mostly did not. 59% of men answered in these ways.

BDSM Orientation

Things are different when you analyse the sample by orientation (Sadist?masochist – S/m, Dominant/submissive – D/s, and Master/slave – M/s).

Chart 2 - Who uses safewords by BDSM component

Chart 2 (above) and table 2 (below) show the raw numbers and percentages of each group that answered this question in each way.

Table 2 Thinking of BDSM interactions with your principal relationship partner(s) and safewords…
Dominant/ Submissive Master/Slave Sadist/ Masochist All
I always use a safeword 27% 6% 38% 25%
I mostly DON’T use a safeword 18% 8% 27% 18%
I mostly use a safeword 14% 2% 13% 12%
I never use a safeword 41% 84% 22% 45%
Grand Total 100% 100% 100% 100%

S/m respondents were far more likely to use a safeword (38% always did – well ahead of the sample as a whole – 25%). M/s people said they were least likely to use a safeword: Only 6% said they used one all the time and 84% said they never used them. Only 22% of S/m people said they never used a safeword.

D/s respondents (who are most of the participants) lay between these extremes and close to the averages for the sample as a whole.

BDSM Orientation

There always seems to be a bias in these surveys towards submissives, especially females. Perhaps they are just more into surveys!

Chart 3 - who uses safewords - by orientation

Chart Three (above) shows how tops/bottoms and switches use safewords and table 3 (below) gives the same data in percentages. Again, it’s clear that, across all respondents, most either don’t use a safeword at all – or not the majority of the time.

42% of Tops/dominants use safewords all or some of the time compared with 30% of bottoms/submissives. This contrasts with switches where a majority (52%) mostly use safewords.

Switches were also the group most likely to use safewords with their partners all the time – 38% said they did (20% for bottoms and 29% for tops).

Table 3 Who uses safewords by BDSM orientation
Bottom/ Submissive Switch Top/Dominant All
I always use a safeword 20% 38% 29% 25%
I mostly DON’T use a safeword 18% 26% 12% 18%
I mostly use a safeword 10% 13% 13% 12%
I never use a safeword 52% 23% 46% 45%
Grand Total 100% 100% 100% 100%

BDSM Punishment; BDSM Play – and Play Punishment

standing stoneThere are times when I give the girl a good whacking for my entertainment and she takes satisfaction in that: We call that play. Wikipedia defines it thus:

Play is a term employed in psychology and ethology to describe a range of voluntaryintrinsically motivated activities normally associated with recreational pleasure and enjoyment. Play is most commonly associated with children and their juvenile-level activities, but play can also be a useful adult activity, and occurs among other higher-functioning animals as well.

There are times when she is a bit naughty. I spank her. That is punishment of a sort. Wikipedia says this of punishment:

Punishment is the authoritative imposition of something negative or unpleasant on a person, animal, organization or entity in response tobehavior deemed unacceptable by an individual, group or other entity

Punishment Chair
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are rarer times when something hurtful has passed between us and something that hurts helps mend things. That is punishment too. Rather more intense, serious and upsetting to both.

For us, play is joyful: punishment is anything but.

All this is consensual, she lets me do this to her. But that doesn’t make it something she volunteers for. Our dynamic, and the limit it is controlled by, means she has given informed consent to me playing with her, within our limits, when I want and punishing her, within our limits, when i find it necessary. Both things feel real to us and, I believe, to many others, whether they are in long-term relationships or not.

BDSM Punishment

I find it very difficult to think of anything as punishment if it leaves the punished person with a sense of joyful satisfaction. That’s play – and there is nothing wrong with that. But punishment’s satisfaction is in forgiveness and atonement, and not in the physical or mental stimulation of the thing for its own sake.

When I spank her for something trivial it’s quite often quite gleeful for me. Not for her though (and this is the weird-but-important-to-us bit): She reacts quite differently to spankings of similar intensity depending whether it is punishment or play. The head space is different: she is genuinely remorseful and requires comforting, in the case of a punishment. She is quite smiley and proud of taking what I dish out if I whack her just because I want to.

English: The old stocks at Chapeltown.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, you run the risk of inadvertently making her smile by imposing a penalty she rather likes. But, you can usually find something they won’t love (or that they love to hate) and use that when punishment must be given. YKIOK (Your kink is okay), but my kink, if it is one, would be to make sure that, if real punishment is required (something rare – I’ve not done it this year, I don’t think), that it was something that provided no comfort or satisfaction other than that experienced in atonement and forgiveness.

I think you can draw the distinction between BDSM play and BDSM punishment in pretty much every BDSM transaction from a long-term loving D/s or M/s relationship to a one-off interaction at a club (and everything in between): If it’s enjoyable to both parties, it’s play. If it’s being done to in response to something the Dom regards as wrong and it’s unpleasant to the submissive and, maybe, to the others involved, then it’s punishment, whatever it is.

The Dom’s dilemma

For us, punishment is sometimes part of a process of reconciliation and it does feel uncomfortable,

Punishment
(Photo credit: Toban Black)

sometimes hateful, to me. What if I’m being genuinely unjust? I’ll hurt our relationship, maybe long-term. What if part of the fault was mine (it usually takes two to tango), then it only seems right if the punishment becomes, genuinely, something we both feel bad about. For me to enjoy it in those circumstances could be construed as me pleasing myself, and not as me taking responsibility for our relationship.

So, Play, no matter how severe, is still lovely and light and enjoyable by all. Punishment, no matter how light is something severe and serious which causes unhappiness for the dominant (and maybe his/her partner) because it is necessary, and for the submissive (or maybe both partners) in its infliction.

Making a clear distinction between the two makes it easier to explain both terms and the satisfaction experienced by BDSM people in both. My experience has been, from time to time, that trying to explain the concept of punishment as it works in my relationship ( and in others) has been undermined by the impression some have that BDSM play is the same as BDSM punishment ( as I’ve said above, we do both) and that punishment is always “just a bit of fun”.

This has led to people expressing the view to me that D/s relationships are trivial, unreal fantasies.

This is upsetting: Whilst I feel I am unlikely ever  to live my BDSM D/s  life discreetly but openly, I’d like that to be true for people sometime in the future.

I think it would be useful if BDSM punishment is seen as distinct from BDSM play, Almost everyone in BDSM plays. Some punish or are punished. Being aware that there is a difference gives depth to people’s views of BDSM relationships. I think that’s a good thing.

You can read the definition of BDSM punishment I’ve developed, with the help of of others, and vote and comment on it here.