Justice vs. Deterrence

So I’m en route from Minnesota to California, currently in the great state of Utah.  Even though my mom and I are mostly occupied with talking to each other, listening to Harry Potter on tape, and seeing lots of beautiful scenery, I still have a bunch of time to think.  And I’ve been thinking.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about the difference between punishments that are the you-earned-this kind and punishments that are the you-are-NEVER-going-to-do-this-again kind. 

It seems to me that each serves a purpose, but the first sort is easier
to talk about and keep track of.  If I don’t do a certain thing that M
and I have agreed on, I get spanked because I didn’t follow through.
When the punishment is over, it’s over.  I might request it if I
feel guilty (eh, Angie?), but it’s for an agreed-upon incident that is more or less discrete.  And I can even rationalize it as part of an adult relationship, where I know my needs and my partner is meeting them.

The other kind is a bit trickier as far as I can tell.  These are the kind of spankings that are more serious than the transgressions merit, intended to discourage a repeat of the behavior.  They move into the realm of childish punishments, where someone else is taking responsibility for my behavior and its modification.  It’s not anything I’ve requested (probably) and is far more frequent in fantasies than realities.

OK, I realize my ramblings are a bit muddled.  Remember, they’ve been rattling around my head for the last four days and I haven’t talked them out until now.  So here’s an example: M really hates it when I stick my tongue out in a "Nyah, nyah" kind of way.  I’ve mostly stopped doing it because I know he dislikes it so much, but if I had continued, he could have dealt with it in either one of these ways.  He could have set a penalty for every time I stuck my tongue out: ten paddle swats or something like that.  Or he could have fried my butt really intensely the first time I did it, made me sore for a week and wish that I didn’t even *have* a tongue. 

Like many of my posts, this doesn’t really have a point.  I guess I’m wondering what you all think.  Do you have experience with both kinds?  Do they both work?  Am I’m making a false distinction? 

16 thoughts on “Justice vs. Deterrence

  1. Lenora

    I don’t see it as a real distinction, personally. All punishments should 1) convey the Dominant’s displeasure, and 2) discourage a repeat of the action or inaction that resulted in the punishment. If a “punishment” is “meeting your needs,” it’s by definition not a punishment. It’s something else — something perhaps necessary, but it’s not punishment.

  2. Angie

    Oh, I disagree completely with Lenora. Punishment is a need-meeter, for me. I *need* to be held accountable, *need* to be told that someone else is going to make hold me accountable for my not-so-good actions, and need to work through the guilt. And if it’s something that Dave just REALLY hates — like my latest lovely habit of hanging up on him when I’ve decided I don’t like how the conversation is going, I need to be punished for that — because I need something to help me deter that behavior before it destroys a relationship that I also need. (I’m a needy girl.)
    I have been punished for things that met some of the needs I listed above AND served as behavior deterrents — those two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

  3. Dyke Grrl

    I agree that just because something meets a need doesn’t mean that it’s not a punishment. In fact, I see it more as a distinction between punishment/discipline and abuse. If it does nothing to meet the needs of the person on the receiving end, then it’s getting closer to the line between things I’m okay with and abuse.
    I’m not sure how I feel about deterrence punishments. On the one hand, any actual (as opposed to fantasy) punishment works as a deterrent for me–if it works as a punishment, the goal on my part is to avoid them completely. But to get a punishment sufficient to completely modify my behavior after one go? I don’t think that’s possible in the context of my relationship. Or who knows, maybe it is. Certainly, I’ve been much better about communicating my needs since the whole writing lines incident–I do NOT want to have to write lines, ever again!!

  4. Tigger

    I agree with Angie and Dyke Grl… punishment can even be requested… some of my most effective have been at my request. That takes some of the pressure off hubby to be watching every moment or trying to interpret when I need a paddling. It also puts some of the active responsibility on me. Such as me bringing him a paddle or his belt when I need a spanking.
    Like tonight… I’m being punished at my request for not allowing him to spank me, among other things. It’s going to be severe otnight, because I need it to be. He is fully prepared to do it and, for my benefit, he is looking forward to it though he gets no pleasure from hurting me. The physical pain is a path to the emotional release for me, though, and very necessary…
    Sorry if I went off topic…

  5. Tigger

    I agree with Angie and Dyke Grl… punishment can even be requested… some of my most effective have been at my request. That takes some of the pressure off hubby to be watching every moment or trying to interpret when I need a paddling. It also puts some of the active responsibility on me. Such as me bringing him a paddle or his belt when I need a spanking.
    Like tonight… I’m being punished at my request for not allowing him to spank me, among other things. It’s going to be severe otnight, because I need it to be. He is fully prepared to do it and, for my benefit, he is looking forward to it though he gets no pleasure from hurting me. The physical pain is a path to the emotional release for me, though, and very necessary…
    Sorry if I went off topic…

  6. Megs

    From my perspective I agree with the majority here… but just to play devil’s advocate I think the difference in oppinion has to do with different types of relationships. Lenora said that both types of punishment should, “convey the Dominant’s displeasure,” which to me really suggests more of a D/s relationship than a DD relationship… no of course that the two are mutually exclusive.

  7. Iris

    What great responses to the question! My perspective is similar to those who think that a punishment can meet my needs AND be unpleasant with no desire for me to repeat it. In fact, though M has turned into a frighteningly good disciplinarian, the only reason we have discipline in our relationship at all is because I asked for it. 🙂 Which I realize sounds like an oxymoron–but there you have it. I *am* interested in your point, though, Lenora. I think Megs was probably on the right path when she pointed out the potential distinction between our points. Do you define your relationship as D/s? Or DD? Or something else? I’m endlessly fascinated by how people identify in our world, so any explanation would be welcome.
    And Dyke Grrl, I think you hit on it (*wince* sorry about the pun) when you talked about writing lines. In my muddled little weak definition, that would be a deterrence punishment. What do you think about that? 🙂
    Oh, and Tigger’s post made me think of another question. (Wow, I’m perky this morning!) Tigger (and others), does it change things for you when you ask for it? I always thought it would diminish the pleasure, but I’ve found just the opposite. I get a deep pleasure from asking for what I want and receiving exactly what I need. Plus, it removes the stress of the guessing game.

  8. Lenora

    I make the error in discussions like these of not prefacing comments like the one I made here by saying that My views are solely from a D/s perspective — I forget that so many are involved in more DD-type relationships, and that the way certain things are viewed can be quite different, depending upon what orientation one’s coming from.
    For Me, actual punishment is a rare, serious thing. It’s used only if 1) I am 100% sure that I haven’t been unclear about what the “rule” in question was that was apparently broken, and 2) that there are no reasonable mitigating circumstances. It is used solely to express My displasure — its rarity and the emotional severity of it makes it an excellent deterrent, far above the physical unpleasantness. So you can see how, for Me . . . the distinction drawn doesn’t really resonate.
    And I can see how, in a DD relationship, that “punihsment” can have multiple shadings and flavors.

  9. Iris

    Lenora, thank you so much for clarifying. I do see how different our contexts are, and I appreciate being able to have the conversation. So for you, then, a punishment has a much more restricted definition? For me, a punishment means anything stronger than what I would choose for fun, in connection with something I’ve actually done wrong. And by “wrong,” I mean something that M and I have agreed on.
    This is fantastic! I’ve never even considered having to define what a punishment is–thank you for getting me to think through it and find a definition. (Yes, I’m one of those dorky people who likes to figure things out about myself. Sorry.) 🙂

  10. Mary

    This was a fabulous discussion. It really made me think. I get puniishment spankings by Iris’ definition all the time. I am now wondering if I get thme at all by Lenora’s definition. Perhaps I have had a couple on the line between the two. There are rules for my own good that very often I had input in determining and creating. For those I get the Iris defined punishments. Mostly I just really love my man and I don’t think I do things that would clearly make him displeased enough to desire to spank me to express his displeasure. However the ones on the line were the occational episodes where my behavior with regard to the rules started deteriorating rapidly and I have relly gotten it – so much so I was detered and back on track in no time. On those occations I think some of the severity was deserved, yet some was his way of showing me that he was tired of my nonsense and expected me to get it straightened out and NOW! Sorry for the ramble. What do you think?

  11. Mary Jo

    This is a fascinating discussion, although it was the title “Justice vs Deterrance” that spoke to me more than the distinction between punishment and something else. Deterrance is my being-spanked motive. And once I’d get into trouble and a spanking loomed, I’d have sworn to God and all the saints that just the fear and dread of the imminent spanking would be every bit as effective a deterrent; the spanking itself would be unnecessary. Overkill, really. I’d be certain that the sick dread alone would work all by itself. Only, that’s where the “justice” thing comes in.
    I’d *swear* in all passionate sincerity that I didn’t need a spanking — that I’d never, ever do it again. But for him, that isn’t the issue. I *was* going to get spanked because I’d *already* done it. Whether or not I’d ever do it again didn’t affect the preordained outcome. To me that seems unfair and unhopeful and unmerciful, and also as if he wasn’t trusting my word that I wouldn’t do it again, that the goal of the spanking was already met without all the pain and embarrassment and tears and begging and snivelling.
    “Justice” in the sense of the absolute, utter inevitability of action = consequence (spanking or some other fearsome punishment) actually turns out for me to be the most powerful deterrent of all.
    Mary Jo

  12. Bessie Granger

    Mary Jo,
    I’ve told my own Dominant that I don’t need the punishment to change my behavior, and it’s true. Interestingly I never used to draw a *huge* distinction between the two either because typically I feel so guilty for whatever I’ve done that while I may not require punishment to change my behavior, I view it (and so does he) as a reinforcement of the fact that he did not like the beahvior.
    More recently there have been a few incidents where my Top and I were not in agreement about whether or not I was deserving of a punishment. At those times it has literally come down to, “I did not like the behavior and I have the authority to punish you for that.” It can be very very difficult when you are not in agreement, but I think being clear ahead of time about how far authority extends helps. Also, if you can grab onto the punishment and say, “This is going to help me make meaningful changes” it can be easier to accept than if you simply feel that it is being imposed on you arbitrarily.

  13. Mary Jo

    It would be lovely to be able to tell myself something bracing at the moment of facing a punishment. I really admire you for being able to!
    When thinking about it ahead of time, I can fully acknowledge what a good thing punishment is for me and how well it works to enable me to do the things I want to do and avoid the things I don’t want to do.
    When faced with the reality of it, though, I’m not thinking, just feeling, and on that level I’m full of excuses for myself (I’m a really good person, so what if I have these little problem areas?). And I’m also *completely* convinced at that moment that I’ve really, truly learned my lesson just from the intense fear and dread and shame of facing the immediate punishment.
    At that moment, I can’t imagine ever having the *smallest* desire to do whatever my crime was ever again. At that moment, someone could give me $500 and magically whisk me to Nordstrom’s shoe department, and I wouldn’t be tempted even by the sexiest red heels with open toes — instead, I’d put that money right into an IRA (not that the Nordstroms to which I’d been magically transported would have an IRA department, but you get what I mean).
    So, when the moment of truth arises, I just can’t believe that the equation “action = inevitable consequence (a spanking)” is fair. But even at other times, it isn’t a mindset I can get inside. It is too alien to me.
    I first posted here awhile back after reading a heartwrenching post from Mija about a humiliating, truly awful punishment she’d received from Pablo (something I’d also experienced and feared and hated the most and found the most humiliating). My heart went out to her for what she endured, and it made me feel that Pablo was mean and relentless and intimidating.
    I *felt* that way about it, even though in my head, I *knew* that Mija had asked him to be with her the way that he was (not the particulars of that punishment, but to be her partner in that way). I knew that she needed and wanted punishment and thrived with it. I knew that Pablo was a feminist and entirely supportive of her, and I knew many other wonderful things about him that were apparent from what they both wrote. But, when I read about that punishment and how awful it was for her, what I knew in my head and what I felt in my heart were entirely separate things.
    I can imagine doing a lot of things, but administering physical punishment is not one of them. I’d be a total failure — even knowing what my partner needed from me. At the first sign of remorse (let alone the first tear) in my to-be-punished-one, my instincts would be to reassure and comfort, as in “You poor sweetheart, don’t feel so bad. I know you didn’t mean to do it, and now that we’ve had this talk and you’ve had a little scare, let’s put this behind us and concentrate on the future.” When it comes to discipline, I would be no use to Mija, were I her husband, and no use to a person like myself either. So, I am grateful for that other mindset, even if I cannot understand it other than intellectually.
    Mary Jo

  14. Dyke Grrl

    I can’t speak for W 100%, but I think that, prior to discovering how much I need structure and discipline (of which spankings are a part), she would have said something like what Mary Jo said. But I’ve seen her grow into an ability to deliver quite a punishment. For me, part of the punishment is knowing perfectly well that it’s something she really doesn’t like to do, and feeling badly not only about what I’ve done, but also about how I’ve made her have to go through with the punishment. And it probably helps W a great deal that I don’t try to bargain, and that I’m unlikely to be crying before the punishment begins.
    That said, once W gets into the right mindset, the punishment is certainly enough of a disincentive all by itself. And it’s an ongoing puzzle to me, how mindset seems to be more powerful than the actual, physical act. I’ve gotten much harder, much longer spankings that weren’t punishments, and enjoyed every minute; punishment spankings tend to be much shorter, and far more intense.
    And W’s been spanking me more often, because she’s seen how much it helps me to stay on an even keel, and to maintain the composure I need to have so much of the time.

  15. Mary Jo

    I’m sure it must be a big help for your partner. Dyke Girl, that you don’t try to bargain and are unlikely to be crying before the punishment begins. That’s very brave of you. I don’t know that I ever tried to “bargain.” Nothing so dignified and controlled. More like begging and pleading in a really childish (and always futile) way that I cringed to recall later — a lot of “pleases” and “I’ll be good, I promise”s.
    Given that I need that kind of structure and consequences, I’d much rather have approached the whole thing in a noble, brave, and dignified way, calmly accepting everything — sort of like Joan of Arc.


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