Pondering punishment

I prefer to dole out rewards than to exact punishments. I wrote, almost eight years ago, “I’m happy to tell you what to do, to boss you around, to direct our sex, to reward you for your compliance. But as I wrote here, I’m far less interested in handling your non-compliance.”

Some of my rewards might even look like punishments – orgasms withheld; spanks delivered. But the truth is, in the context of my sexuality – and the sexuality of those with whom I engage sexually – these forms of “punishment” feel very similar to rewards.

How, then, do I punish Marina. Marina, who desperately is in need of punishment. Not “sexy” punishment. But punishment. For bad behavior. She needs to suffer. And, given the particular nature of her bad behavior, I need to feel better after her punishment.

The truth is, I need to punish Marina not, truly, for bad behavior, but rather, for exercising an ancient strategy of self-defense that is maladaptive for her – and cruel to me – in the current moment.

I find the question vexing. Not least because I find it challenging to imagine a punishment of her that doesn’t also punish me. Or, that if it doesn’t punish me, doesn’t deliver me any benefit (beyond the punishment). And delivering me benefit is important.

I suppose a good punishment has some combination of three characteristics: first, it has to be unpleasant for the person being punished. Second, it has to confine that unpleasantness, that discomfort, to the person being punished. And finally, if it’s truly an effective punishment, it will, in addition to causing suffering/discomfort, will also deter whatever bad behavior gave rise to the punishment in the future.

Two contrary conditions typically give rise to unpleasantness or discomfort: first, the presence of a condition that produces discomfort or displeasure; or second, the absence of a condition that produces comfort, or pleasure.

So as I ponder punishments, I find myself making lists: what is it that gives you pleasure, makes you feel comfortable, makes you feel safe? What is it that undermines your pleasure, that makes you feel uncomfortable, that makes you feel unsafe? [And a note: even if your offense against me deprived me of a feeling of safety, I aspire to punishments that may well be deeply uncomfortable, but that will not threaten your fundamental sense of safety. Which, through it all, I value.]

Finally, a note: as you know, as I’ve written above, and told you, I believe the behavior giving rise to the need for punishment serves a vitally important function for you. You won’t give it up easily. You won’t, most likely, give it up without either removing the need for the function it serves, or replacing it with some alternative behavior that serves a similar function. We won’t overcome this challenge until we understand that.

What gives you pleasure, then?

  • Interactions with friends
  • Interactions with current and prospective sexual partners
  • Athletic activity
  • Food and drink
  • Serving me
  • Orgasms
  • Edging (for me)

And what deprives you of pleasure (other than the opposites of the above)?

  • Physical discomfort (heat, cold, physical position)
  • Psychic discomfort (?) – such as sharing information about communications with other sex partners
  • Sexual discomfort (?) – living on edge? coming too much?

I’m finding that particular brainstorming, for the most part, unhelpful. Here are a few other thoughts about possible punishments. I welcome thoughts from you – and from others:

  • Increased requirement you wear your large collar (in your room; out of your room)
  • Increased requirement you wear your small collar (out of your room)
  • Requirement you engage with tasks from me you’ve avoided – clear out both your alternate e-mail account AND your Keep list (perhaps coupled with some other punishment/s until done)
  • Increased requirement you disclose information about communication with others (I don’t like this; it feels invasive – even as I would appreciate it)
  • Some use of cold or heat to inflict suffering for you, and pleasure, for me
  • Something/s else – I’m wide open to your, and to readers’, suggestions

And I have a couple of ideas that aren’t “punishments” per se, but rather, are potential requests/demands that interact with the function the bad behavior serves:

  • Think, hard, long, on the question of what function(s) your bad behavior might serve for you – both as it relates to you (communicating what message? protecting you from what? punishing me for what?) and as it relates to me (what feelings might you imagine you’re causing in me? and look to the form your apologies take for clues, here, would be my suggestion)
  • Propose concrete, objective, discrete strategies to provide support to you – not in avoiding the behavior (though I’d be open to those at some later point, I would think), but in avoiding / medicating / understanding / processing / tolerating the feelings giving rise to the behavior*


* As I’ve told you, while I believe change is possible, I don’t believe the path to change lies through willpower, self-denigration, or strategy. Rather, I believe it lies through self-knowledge and emotional growth. I believe your “bad behavior” is a response to a (mis-)perceived threat. You are responding as you learned to do a long time ago to a threat of which your relationship with me reminds you. It’s not that I’m threatening, or that our relationship is; it’s that our relationship is reminding you of the danger of certain feelings. In long-ago situations. And you’re deploying the defensive tactics you evolved in those situations against me.

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