Specific Narrative Kinks: Transgressing an official morality for a person-based one

What do I mean by this:

An official morality in this sense is a morality about order. It’s about things like obeying one’s commanding officer or other authority, doing things according to some set of rules, etc. A person-based morality is a morality about human life and wellbeing – saving and helping people. preventing death, etc. So the situation here is that there was some kind of conflict where acting according to one morality meant violating the other, and the person who had this choice chose to violate the official morality in favor of following the person-based morality. (The most common version of this I’ve seen is where the person’s commanding authority, usually due to incompetence of some sort, tells them to follow a course of action that would get people killed, the person realizes this, and chooses to disobey instead). The person is then punished for their transgression of the official morality.

Variations:

The way this works out can vary pretty widely (including between being a positive and negative dynamic) depending on how the transgressor and whoever they’re accountable to feel about this kind of situation. Basically, each of them can either feel (1) that person-based morality is supreme and therefore if there’s a conflict, official morality is just not important, or (2) that official morality is still important and transgressing it deserves punishment, even though following the person-based morality was correct. Finally, the punisher could feel that (3) official morality is more important, and person-based morality is not a good enough reason to violate it.

I- If the punisher feels (3), while the transgressor feels (1), this turns into an altruism-based negative dynamic. The transgressor feels that they absolutely did the right thing. That they then have to suffer for it is an injustice, but it’s an injustice they’re willing to endure for the sake of what they did.

II- If the punisher feels (3) while the transgressor feels (2), this turns into another form of non-consentual consent. The punisher is still seen in a negative light, but the transgressor also feels that  they ought to be punished for what they did, even though it was the right thing.

III- If both of them feel (2), this can be a positive dynamic with a lot of respect in it. Both of them agree that the transgressor did the right thing, both of them agree that punishment is needed. The punisher has a lot of respect for the transgressor’s strength in making the right decision and then facing the consequences. The transgressor respects the punisher for their proper leadership despite its weight.

IV- Finally, if the transgressor feels (2) while the punisher feels (1), the transgressor then carries both weights from III – not only of making a right decision they will suffer for, but also of being the driving will behind their punishment being carried out, of insisting that even though the punisher would actually have let them off, this cannot be allowed to happen, and the punishment needs to be carried out. (There’s an amazing story with such a dynamic here, which is in fact what inspired me to write this post).

(In the interest of thoroughness, to mention the other two combinations: If both of them feel (1), then there isn’t going to be any punishment or conflict, so that wouldn’t hit this kink for me. If the transgressor feels (1) while the authority feels (2), this also wouldn’t hit this kink for me, and is also a kind of interpersonal conflict that I don’t really enjoy at all).

Fantasy and reality:

I wanted to note here that even though III and IV both work out as positive dynamics, I think that having these kinds of situations in real life is a very bad idea. In real life, prioritizing person-based over official morality is both a very important thing, and something that all too often and too easily doesn’t happen. Putting any kind of penalty on it, adding any kind of deterrent to it, is therefore something that should be avoided as much as at all possible.

However, in fantasy, where I get to play with characters who absolutely will do the right thing and won’t be deterred from it, and therefore I get to watch all the feelings and power twists that these situations create, I like them quite a lot. And since this is fantasy, and no one is actually going to get hurt, this is perfectly OK.

Actionable counterpart:

Both I and II would totally be situations I’d be interested in doing roleplays of. They have a lot of very great material, but are similar enough to roleplay settings I’ve already done that I feel a lot of comfort with the idea. III and IV are more complicated. As I’ve mentioned before, the last (and only) time I tried doing a CP scene with a positive power dynamic setup, it didn’t go well, specifically feelings-wise, so I have some wariness about trying it again. Also, I think these situations, especially IV, might not work very well for whoever was on the other side of the roleplay with me. I think if I knew someone who was interested, I’d be interested in trying it with them, seeing if we can find ways to make it work. Otherwise, I think my feelings say this isn’t something I would be likely to pursue, at least with the feelings I have right now.

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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.

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.

The Various Motivations Behind Punishment

Note: ‘transgressing’ here means doing something that is considered bad or wrong. ‘Punishment’ means something negative that is purposely done to a person who has transgressed.

The motivations can and often do come in groups rather than alone.

  1. Helping the transgressor, version 1-atonement: “You understand that you did something wrong, and feel guilty about it. You need/want a way to deal with this and put it behind you. This will be that way.”
  2. Helping the transgressor, version 2-repentence: “The way you are currently thinking/feeling about your actions is not correct. It is important that you think/feel correctly, and we hope this punishment will lead to that.”
  3. Helping the transgressor, version 3-security: “You need/want to feel secure in the fact that I will be there to enforce the boundaries when you cross them. I am reminding you that yes, I am there.” (Note: in stories, this very often comes up when the constrict purposely does something boundary-testing in order to get this reassurance). [added with edit as noted in this post]
  4. Helping the transgressor, version 4-external self control: “You want to not act like this, but you have trouble doing this on your own. This punishment will help you [remember to] act correctly. [edit 2/13/16, rereading for a different reason and realized I didn’t have this]
  5. Helping the transgressor, version 5-care: “It makes you feel cared for that I care enough about what you’re doing to punish you.” [edit 2/13/16, after a conversation with a friend (not sure how I hadn’t thought of this earlier, since I’d run into it, but apparently that happened)]
  6. The principal’s emotions: “You doing this emotionally affected me. In order to restore things/forgive you/etc, I need to punish you.” [added with edit as noted in this post]
  7. A deterrent for the transgressor: “You won’t transgress again, because you’ll remember this punishment and won’t want to be subjected to it again.”
  8. A deterrent for others: “When people see what we do to people who transgress like this, they won’t do it, because they won’t want to be subjected to this punishment.”
  9. A physically effective deterrent for the transgressor: “We want to make sure you don’t do any more such things, and if you are locked up/unable to use parts of your body/dead/etc, you won’t be able to.”
  10. Compensation: “Your actions had a bad effect on person X/society/etc, so you have to do something that is positive for them in recompense.”
  11. Justice: “It isn’t fair if people who have transgressed and people who haven’t are treated the same. Therefore, people who have transgressed should be treated worse, by being subjected to this punishment.”
  12. Vengeance/Retribution: “Your transgression makes us want to hurt you/see you hurt, so we will.”
  13. An excuse: “We want to hurt you/see you hurt in general, and your transgression will be our pretext.”