Specific Narrative Kinks: Villains as constricts

What do I mean by this:

Usually, when I talk about negative power dynamics, there is a very consistent direction for the morality line. The principle is doing wrong in what they are doing to the constrict, and so the principles are the villains, while the constricts, generally, are the heroes. This is a dynamic that I like a lot and I get a lot out of. Sometimes, however, I like to reverse it. Sometimes, it is the heroes who are in power, and the villains who are the prisoners [1]. This kink is about that dynamic.

Categories:

The categories for this kink for me are generally about the attitude of the villain-constrict. At the moment, I can think of three in particular that I like.

  1. Guilt
    This is for the repentant villains. They’ve come to see the wrong of what they’ve done, and now condemn themselves for it. They likely think their new status as the constrict is correct and deserved. As such, this is basically the setup for my rather enormous kink for guilt.
  2. Irony
    These villains get the amused kind of enjoyment out of their power and out of using it, and that hasn’t changed now that they’re on the wrong end of a power dynamic. They’ll never show that their situation bothers them (if it even does). When they reference it (and they usually do, with words or gestures) it’s always with a smile, often accompanied by ironic complements to their captors. They are, however, also likely to be pragmatic, and avoid outright provoking  their more powerfully positioned captors. Since heroes are generally less interested than villains in torturing people for disrespect, they can thus create a situation where their attitude allows them to save face while they use their cooperation to advance their wellbeing. As such, they are excellent candidates for becoming boxed crook teammates for the heroes.
    Examples: Loki in SHIELD custody in Avengers has elements of this (however, since he knows/feels himself to actually be in a position of more power, he also just outright acts like a principle a lot. You can see the two sides in the beginnings of these clips versus the rest of them).

    Loki in parts of Thor: the Dark World also has elements.
    Neal Caffrey of White Collar (at least the first few episodes, which is what I watched) is an example with somewhat less villainousness.

  3. Self-Presence
    These villains are more interested in getting what they want than in having fun, and being on the wrong side of a power dynamic has in no way made them doubt their competence or success. It may be part of the plan, it may be an unplanned inconvenience that they’re sure will be dealt with shortly, but either way, they’re not going to be particularly concerned. They won’t pointlessly antagonize their captors because it’s just that – pointless. In fact, they’re unlikely to acknowledge their situation at all, and won’t act particularly differently from how they usually do when they’re not a prisoner.
    Examples: an excellent example of this is John Harrison of Star Trek: Into Darkness.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnZJjNjMg98

Actionable counterpart:

The guilt type was the dynamic in one of my best scenes ever, and it was awesome. The irony type would be incredibly fun to act, I think, but since I do want to be beaten up and such, I’d be much more interested in playing the same attitude but as a hero-constrict. Likewise for the self-presence type.

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[1] This could be seen as violating the “what the principal is doing is wrong” definition of negative dynamics. I still consider them in this category, because they’re still not positive and still specifically non-consentual. If the hero-principle is not seen as doing something wrong, it’s not because they’re acting with consent, but because their actions, in being toward a villain, are considered justified. Which can raise all sorts of interesting moral questions, but this is not the place for them.

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Guilt and Forgiveness

Guilt and forgiveness are two related words/concepts that are very powerful for me, both in a kink way (especially guilt, there), and in other ways. As such, I’ve spent some time thinking about what they mean to me.

Most fundamentally, guilt, to me is about separation and distance, and forgiveness is about bringing back and together again.

Beyond that, for me there are three kinds of guilt: fact-and-not-feeling guilt, from-inside guilt, and from-outside guilt. (They are not mutually exclusive, and more than one can be present in a situation at the same time).

Fact-and-not-feeling guilt is, as the name suggests, not about anyone’s emotions. It is about a situation where someone did something that they are now being considered guilty for. As such, they are seen as separated in this way from everyone else – they might be regarded differently, treated differently, etc. In some cases, there is then some condition that can be met for the person to be able to ‘return’/to be forgiven – maybe if they ‘pay for their crime’ with some punishment, or if they show themselves to be penitent, or if enough time passes. And in some cases this is a permanent condition – that person is considered separate for life, and even if some conditions are met, they can never fully ‘return’/be fully forgiven. As far as I can tell, Les Misérables, for instance, is about this kind of situation.

From-inside guilt is when a person considers themselves to have done something wrong. They feel guilt for this, and they feel like this makes them separated – they regard themselves differently, and may or may not feel that others should regard and/or treat them differently as well. There are then three subsequent options. Some feel that the separation can only be breached from the other side, by those on the other side deciding to forgive. This is then framed in terms of the grace/mercy of those others. Some feel that they need to span the separation through their own efforts. This is then framed as atonement – they want to contribute something, for instance effort or suffering, and it is through this that they can ‘return’. Therefore, the wider they see the separation as being, the more atonement they are likely to feel is needed. And some feel that they ought to stay separate, that there is no way to go back. For instance, a character of mine believes that after her execution she will end up in her faith’s version of Hell, and also believes that this is exactly the correct outcome.

From-outside guilt is when one person, usually the authority, creates a negative feeling of separation in another person. This usually happens between people who have some sort of bond, and the separation here is between the person being told they’re guilty, and the person doing the telling. It involves distance-feeling created by the first side – “you did this and it was wrong, I am disappointed”, and the second party very strongly feeling this distance as painful and wanting to bridge it. Here again there are three options, this time for the first party. They can grant their forgiveness (either explicitly or implicitly), therefore connecting back. There can be variety in time and intensity here – from something like waiting a moment, saying ‘I’m glad to see you’ll be taking this more seriously from now on’ and allowing the interaction to continue normally to remaining distant as the guilty part begs and cries and apologizes repeatedly before finally saying ‘very well, you’re forgiven’. Alternatively, they could impose some sort of punishment first. This one is common in corporal punishment stories, usually manifesting in a ‘lecture (seperation) – punishment – comfort and forgiveness’ sequence. Punishment in this scenario usually involves the party being punished thinking about how they’ve disappointed  the first party, as opposed to simply about what they did. Finally, they could completely refuse to forgive, and let the separation and its feeling remain.

Nonconsensual Consent

There is a very particular set of dynamics that is among my favorites. It’s an entirely negative-dynamic set, and it is defined by three main things. First, the constrict is suffering. Second, the principal is being horrible and what they’re doing is absolutely wrong. Third, there is a context in which the constrict’s answer to the question ‘is this what you want?’ is ‘yes’, because they are gaining a benefit from the situation that, for them, is enough for this.

This set can be subdivided into three categories, each of which has its own defining factors:

1) The principal creates the choice

The set up for this is a situation in which the constrict has a choice between alternatives, and they pick an alternative that involves their suffering because the other alternatives are, to them, worse. (So, the benefit of their suffering is, ‘these other things do not happen’). It has two necessary parts. First, the principal has to know about this situation, and to either have set it up, or to be perpetuating it on purpose. Second, as defined by the overall dynamic-set, on the contrict’s side, “the other alternative is worse” is not enough. It has to be “I want this.”

Maybe the constrict is the captain of a ship that has encountered the principal’s more powerful ship, and the principal demands that the captain surrender themselves, or else they’ll open fire. Maybe the constrict is the principal’s ‘favorite prisoner’, and as long as the principal has them, they leave everyone else alone. And to the constrict it is “yes, if it preserves everyone else’s lives, I want to go to them”, “yes, if it means they’re not hurting anyone else, I want them to hurt me”.

2) The situation creates the choice

In this, the constrict also has a choice, and they also choose something that means they suffer. However, the situation was not caused or set up by the principal.

Maybe the constrict is a government agent posing as a slave to find out vital information about what the principal is doing. Maybe the constrict has a loyalty bond to the principal, so giving the principal what they want is their greatest desire, even if what the principal wants is their suffering. Maybe the constrict loves the principal in a way that makes any interaction with them better than no interaction at all.

The situation gives the constrict something they want – information to help bring down the principal, the principal’s happiness, the principal’s attention – and to the constrict, the suffering they endure for this is worth it.

3) The constrict creates the choice

In this, the benefit that the constrict is getting out of the situation is their suffering itself.

Maybe they feel very guilty about something, and feel that suffering is what they deserve or the only way they can atone. Maybe they’re suffering as a martyr for a cause, faith, or movement, and believe that the more martyrs suffer, the more honor/glory/blessing there is in it.

So, their own suffering is exactly what they want.

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A note about the title: When I sat down to write this post, I realized it needed a title, and that that title needed to be/would be the name for the dynamic. So I brainstormed names, and this is the one I came up with. In this way, I’m identifying it as a kind of inverse of consensual nonconsent. In consensual nonconsent, there is a surface ‘no’, but what is happening is actually consentual. Here there is a surface ‘yes’, but what is happening is actually absolutely nonconsensual.

I’d thought about the nonconsent while I was still brainstorming this post, and realized that was also an important defining factor. For case #1, it’s a straightforward one – case #1 is about threats, and coercion is not consent.

For the others, it can be a bit more complicated. The defining factor there is that the principal either doesn’t care about the constrict’s consent, or doesn’t want it. If the principal in the love example in case #2 enjoyed hurting people, but would never do it to someone unwilling, and the constrict who loved them said “I love you like this, so I am willing”, that would be different. If the principal in case #3 arranged everything with the suffering-desiring constrict, or had the magic power to detect people who wanted to suffer and then hurt only those people, that would be different. But those would be different dynamics, and that is not what’s happening in the dynamics of this set. Here, the principal doesn’t care, their desire is just the suffering, and that they happened to get a victim who is in some way willing doesn’t mitigate their actions at all.

Some More Thoughts On Punishment

I have a punishment kink. I figured this out in an articulated manner not so long ago – from things in scening, and from things like reading scene ideas and my reaction changing from ‘hmm’ to ‘ooh!’ at bits about ‘and if they don’t do this, they get punished’ – but I’ve clearly had it for much longer.

I recently read a really interesting essay on a distinction in discipline (here). Basically it’s about guilt versus shame, which could also be termed as internal versus external – the distinction between the constrict feeling that they’ve done something wrong and wanting to be punished for it, and the principal feeling that the constrict has done something wrong and imposing the punishment.

This made me think of several things.

First, I come down very strongly on the guilt side. I really like guilt – when the author of the essay talks about “reluctant tops, and begging not to stop” there’s a part of my mind going ‘YES, please!’, and I giddily devoured the guilt-discipline stories linked in the essay.

In fact, I come down so strongly on the guilt side that I have a tendency not to notice the other side at all. To me, when the principal says things like ‘think about what you’ve done’, that’s not about them, that’s about the constrict’s guilt. And I completely didn’t think about this other side when writing my ‘Reasons for Punishment‘ post, and left it out. (I’ve now edited the post to add it).

Second, I think there are also punishment dynamics that involve neither of the things in the essay. One of them I’m also going to add to the ‘Reasons for Punishment’ post (I think in the essay the author grouped this one with shame, but I think it’s actually pretty different, though overlap is possible). Another two are the ones that are interesting to me.

As noted, I knew as soon as I saw this articulation in the essay that guilt-punishments are very much a thing for me. However, they are not my only thing. I also have a thing for punishment dynamics that are not about feelings at all.

First, there is administrative punishment, militaries, prisons. This is when the punishment is an official, formal thing to enforce the rules and the structure. There’s no trust that was violated for the principal to be upset about, and no one cares about how the constrict feels, as long as they get the message.

I very much enjoy this kind of dynamic. I like the formality and officialness of it. I like how it can be a standing threat. It can also actually be coupled with guilt – I have a story series that, I now come to think of, is based around exactly such a combination – but very often it isn’t. And I like that too.

Second, there is punishment used as torture. This is when the principal makes a ‘rule’ knowing the constrict won’t be able to keep it, so that when they hurt them more for breaking it, they get the bonus of pointing out the failure, of the constrict’s dread and doomed struggle and feelings of weakness and self-blame. And I like that too.