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.

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Specific Narrative Kinks: The constrict being afraid of the principal

What do I mean by this:

I think this one’s pretty self explanatory.

How does it manifest:

There are a lot of ways. If it’s a story from the constrict’s point of view, this can be explicitly stated in various ways. The principal can observe it, whether in their own thoughts or outloud. Tone of voice and body language can do a lot – the constrict’s voice can shake, or they can be shuddering, or answering questions so quickly they stumble over the words, or nodding very quickly and making hurried assurances, or hesitating perceptibly before doing or saying something the principal might find upsetting. There can be the idea that the constrict is trying very hard to obey the principle exactly and being very careful not to anger them.

Divergent subcategories:

To me, this kink divides into two very distinct types: ‘the constrict is afraid of the principal’, and ‘the constrict is afraid of the principle, but __’.

The latter involves things like ‘the constrict is afraid of the principle, but still defiant’, ‘the constrict is afraid of the principal, but trying their best to control it’, ‘the constrict is afraid of the principal, but still won’t give them the information they’re after/compromise their morals/etc’.

The former is just about fear, period. It’s more likely to include more of the tone and body language manifestations described above. The latter is much more about the constrict feeling fear because the principal is scary, but not letting it control them.

To me, this is a very significant division. The two feel different to me, and I like them in very different ways. In one rather major distinction, the ‘fear, period’ dynamic is not one in which I like focus on the principal actually physically hurting the constrict. It’s more about scenarios like giving orders, walking down a hallway while everyone cowers, etc. If the principal does hurt the constrict, then it should be for some outside reason like being so angry they hit the first person they see, or doing it for the benefit of some other party.

Also, I very often enjoy this dynamic ‘in the background’ of a scenario – perhaps the principal is showing a newly-captured constrict around their domain, and meanwhile we see that all the servants are terrified of them.

Meanwhile, the ‘afraid, but __’ dynamic is one that appears in some form in most of the negative power dynamic scenarios I enjoy, I definitely do like it when it involves the principal hurting the constrict, and it’s much more likely to apply to the ‘main’ constrict in a scenario.

Actionable counterpart:

I’ve roleplayed a mildly ‘afraid, but __’ dynamic, and enjoyed it. Roleplaying a more severe version appeals to me.

I’ve also roleplayed a ‘fear, period’ dynamic, but in a format where my character was the main constrict, and was being physically hurt. I enjoyed this too. This might be an example of what I talked about in “a distinction in kinks”  wherein I’m more flexible about physical elements being combined with various dynamics in scene than I am in story.

A distinction in kinks

The kinks I have can be sorted into two major categories. There’s narrative kinks, which are things I enjoy in story, and actionable kinks, which are things I enjoy in real scenes involving me.

Some things fall into both categories. Some things fall into both categories, but somewhat differently. Some things are narrative kinks but not actionable ones (since some of my tastes in stories are rather extreme, there are a lot of these). Some things are actionable kinks but not narrative ones (most prominently, I like the spanking kind of corporal punishment in every dynamic I’ve tried so far in scene, but only in a few dynamics in story).

Mostly on here I’ve been talking about my narrative kinks, occasionally with notes about how they apply or don’t apply to my actionable ones. Being interested in figuring out my actionable kinks as well as my narrative ones, I’m going to be trying to do more of these notes. As such, stay tuned for new sections in the narrative kinks series entries.

A Thought on Thinking about My Kinks

Not so long ago, I went to a community event where I met a very interesting person who is also a sex educator. Conversations with her, attending a class she led, and reading her website a bit after I got home reminded me yet again of something I’ve wanted for a while: I want to figure out my kink in an organized fashion. What exactly do I like and in what way, what are the common patterns and trends and connections. This almost immediately led to another reminder: that is something I have a lot of trouble doing.

Now, as I think is pretty well demonstrated by this blog, I’m a person who likes to have things organized. Having an organized conceptualization of ideas is what allows me to understand them, to think about them best, and, of course, to explain them to others. I also like to self examine, and I also like to think about kink. So this, exactly at the intersection of three of my favorite things, seems like an absolutely perfect thing for me to be doing. And yet, I can’t seem to make it work. Which of course leads directly to the question of ‘why?’.

The first analogy I came up with was that it’s as though someone asked me what foods I liked, and I said “well, apples, and rice pilaf, and oatmeal with honey, and fried ice-cream, and raw carrots, and pomegranates, and grilled chicken sandwiches, and crepes…” All of which is absolutely true, but neither organized, nor helpful for figuring out overarching patterns.

Alright, I thought then, If I were giving somebody that kind of list of foods I liked, what would be the way to put it in order? And the answer to that was pretty simple – bringing up categories, and asking more specific questions. “What kinds of vegetables do you like?” “What do you eat for breakfast?” “What is special occasion food for you?”

And this led me straight to the root of the thinking-about-kink issue – when it comes to my kink, I know neither the categories, nor the questions.

Categories and questions are usually community matters. I know what a vegetable is because I learned this, not because I came up with it myself. Someone can ask me what I eat for breakfast because we both know what breakfast is, and share the conceptualization of dining that includes this meaning.

And the problem is that when it comes to my kink, I don’t have this kind of community. Instead, it’s like I’ve spent my whole life in a variety of buffets, most of which did not label their dishes, and none of which coordinated any labels they did use (chicken with cashew nuts is very similar to chicken with mixed vegetables, but the categories ‘vegetables’ and ‘cashew nuts’ are not actually parallel). I know I’ve eaten foods I liked, and foods I didn’t like, and foods I was mostly neutral towards, and foods I was allergic too, and foods where upon trying them I wanted to eat nothing but that for the next week. But trying to figure out a structure to view it all in – I don’t even know where to start.

I’m not exactly sure what this conclusion leaves me with.

I know I want to find other people with kinks similar to mine (very often it’s the differences along with the commonalities that that demonstrate the categories, and it’s very rarely possible to make a graph with just one point).

I know I want to read or listen to more people talking about their kinks, and how they conceptualize them, also (Spiral, for instance, has a very interesting writing here, which also relates to my point about communities and thought organization).

I know I want to discuss my kinks with people who enjoy that kind of thing (often, an outside mind can come up with questions and connections that I never would have).

I know I’m going to keep trying, keep seeing if there are links and categories I can come up with, any patterns that I can see.

And I know that regardless of how close I can get to the destination, I do thoroughly enjoy the journey.

And this thought on thinking has been a step on that journey, and that is also good.