There 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 voluntary, intrinsically 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
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.
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.
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,
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.
- Consensual Slavery. (belasarius.com)
- Definition – “Dynamic” in BDSM (belasarius.com)
- Dominance in a BDSM relationship (belasarius.com)
- Definitions – so what is a BDSM Slave? (belasarius.com)
- Definitions in general and submission in BDSM in particular (belasarius.com)
- Continuing in the D/s Lifestyle – is D/s and BDSM the Same? (cassandredayne.wordpress.com)