The Punishment Paradox

In her weekly brunch, Bonnie has asked readers this week a question that I think most of us here on the PB have discussed at one time or another (and for some of us, numerous times) on the soc.sexuality.spanking newsgroup. Namely, if we spankos actually enjoy being spanked, can punishment spankings even work? I left a short comment on Bonnie's blog but the more I thought about it, the more I decided I wanted to write more, especially as it coincides with something I've been thinking about for a few months.

This particular question is an interesting one for me as my partner and I switch but I alone get punished for real life transgressions. It's not because he's perfect and I'm not. Far from it (though not too far…::smile::). We are both equally human and fallible. Indeed, we even have a lot of the same bad habits. We both procrastinate. We both markedly underestimate how long a task will take. We can both be slightly impulsive shoppers. We are both extremely competitive (though I'm not sure that's necessarily a fault…)

We also, of course, have our differences. I can be a bit of a neat freak (A.
teases me about being almost "Howard Hughes"-like in my hygiene), while he, though relatively tidy, is oblivious to small bits of dust and debris
here and there. I tend to need to control space, while A. is more
accommodating. I crave structure while A. is more about the general outline. I tend to worry about what other people will think and
attach my self worth to external forms of approval (grades, awards,
etc.), while A., though very polite, is more into his own thing. And I
absolutely can't stand being in trouble, while A. is able to shrug off
almost anything.

My experience with other spankos has been that those who share my distress about being in trouble or having disappointed someone, who crave structure, who attach their self-worth to external forms of approval, and who have a hard time letting go of their failures are generally the ones for whom punishment spanking is very effective (though note, as with all generalizations, there are always exceptions). People like my A. who may have momentary regret over failings and disappointments but brush them off pretty quickly, and who have a solid, innate sense of self worth that, though they may enjoy accolades, rarely changes one way or another, are those who have a difficult time ever divorcing sexual pleasure from a beating.

That's not to say I don't get sexual pleasure from a punishment. Indeed I would argue being punished is my primary form of sexuality. My core sexual fetish is not so much spanking but punishment. And I find punishment so hot that role play is not enough for me; I want the real thing. However, the context of the spanking — disappointment, failure, frustration — during a punishment overrides mentally whatever sexual pleasure my body may be showing. In fact, I'm generally unaware that I was even aroused during the ordeal until a half hour or so afterwards. And, of course, thinking about being punished — both of my past punishments as well as fantasized ones — is always hot. Though I also tend to think of past punishments with a great deal of warm, fuzzy, gawd-I-love-being-taken-care-of-by-such-a-loving-human-being sorts of feelings.

Cuddling after a punishment spanking is so much more intense. Comes with such a buzz. As if something transcendent is happening. A form of communion, if you will. I never get that from role playing, even though I love how much fun role playing is. And as horrible as punishment may be, there's something so special about it afterwards that I can't ever replicate it in any other way.  I can't fake a misdemeanor in order to get punished and get that buzz, though I do admit there have been times I've wanted attention so much I have subconsciously done something naughty (and that's happening less and less as I've become better at articulating my needs and wants). But it never works if I do it intentionally.

And that's the paradox of punishment. I only get the post-punishment buzz after having been punished for a real transgression. Yet the being in trouble and having transgressed is so awful, I avoid punishment like the plague, even though spanking and punishment are very arousing.

Perhaps there is something validating about punishment. Something that acknowledges the little girl in me who still lives with her primeval fears of being bad and abandoned. That acknowledges her internal distress with a palpable sign of disapproval that is, in turn, a powerful expression of affection and commitment. And by doing so, allows me to let go of my fears and distress, even if my lover let go of my faults a long time ago.

He always has been better than I am at letting go of things. Not that I'm competitive or anything…

14 thoughts on “The Punishment Paradox

  1. Terri

    I really liked this post Natty! I have the same conundrum, I hate being punished when it’s happening… I don’t like disappointing him and ‘earning’ a punishment. But creates such a buzz in me as fantasies of punishment and I know that ‘half hour or so after buzz’ pretty well too.
    You hit the nail on the head for me when you mentioned it in conjunction with the inner little girl who’s afraid she’ll be so bad she’ll be abandoned. A spanking from the man I love cleans the slate for us and he’s still there and loving me afterwards. I’ve never been so bad he’s gone away, and he says he never will 🙂
    I ‘like’ spankings, I’m wired that way… but I hate punishment because it brings up alot of internal fears and insecurities for me 🙁

  2. elizabeth

    Hello Natty,
    I just wanted to thank you for your insights on punishment. I share many of your thoughts.
    Reading your post stirred up some emotions and questions.
    I very much agree that punishment is a validation. And, about the fact that I know when I’ve been punished, it is because my partner loves me enough to go through the process.
    I just wondered, if punishment ever goes wrong for you? Any number of things could cause this. Perhaps, you don’t think you deserve to be punished. Don’t quite see eye to eye. Or, perhaps your partner chooses to punish you in a manner that does not ‘work’ for you, and in the end there is no feeling of validation. Perhaps, there are even negative feelings or hurt ones.
    My relationship with my partner is solid. We’ve been together for years. But, he is constantly changing up our relationship and recently he has added a form of punishment (a tawse across my hands) that I am not only afriad of, but am very biased against. It has not happened to me yet, but I know it will. I trust my partner to know how to handle the situation. However, I do not trust myself and am terrified I will not only behave badly, but will lose all positives that come along with being punished. I have spoken with my partner about my concerns. For now, the threat of the tawse still looms large on my horizon.
    I’d appreciate any thoughts or insight you might have.

  3. Natty

    Terri — Thanks! Yes, I think for me punishment is a lot about connecting with my little girl self on a number of levels, including my fears. I’m glad this post resonated with you.
    Elizabeth — Yes, indeed there are times when punishment hasn’t worked for me or something has gone wrong. I’ve been writing an ongoing, irregular series here called “Kinks in my punishment kink” that are about issues that get in the way of my disciplinary relationship with my partner, or rather, get in the way of my healthy expression of my kink. There are only two posts so far — along with one that Iris wrote — but I know I plan to write at least two more. And I believe one of my very first posts here at the PB was about a punishment that ended up with hurt feelings (“A spring-like day that ended up with a spanking”).
    I also wrote a post awhile back about soap in the mouth punishments that is probably closer to your specific situation. The post itself was somewhat light-hearted, but to be honest, I did finally tell A. that I was about to safeword out of soaping because I genuinely hate it that much. He didn’t immediately say “okay, I’ll back off” but rather explained that he did it specifically because I disliked it so much he hoped it would work as a deterrent and wanted to keep it as a last resort punishment, which I would be okay with, so long as it was indeed an occasional thing. He hasn’t used that punishment since.
    It’s perfectly reasonable to say to a top what sorts of limits you have even with punishment, to negotiate what works for you and what just causes you unreasonable distress. I can imagine that perhaps the idea of a handstrapping really turns him on and he wants to try it out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean *you’re* ready to try it out.
    A lot of people really like the idea of not having any say in what punishment they receive, but it’s important for both of you to feel comfortable with what he might do to you — I mean, sure, spankings, handstrappings, etc. *hurt* and are uncomfortable physically — but if you’re genuinely afraid of something, it seems like a valid thing to me for you to say to your disciplinarian that you’re not ready to try out a particular implement or type of punishment, etc.
    Was that helpful at all?

  4. elizabeth

    Hi Natty,
    Thanks very much for your reply to my query. I guess it is just good to know that accepting punishment, even for those of us who see its value in our lives, isn’t always an easy thing to do.
    Additionally, I agree that there are some parallels with your soap in the mouth punishment and the punishment I face with the tawse. My partner will use the tawse precisely for the reasons your partner stated that he’d use the soap. He’ll use it because I dislike even the idea of it, and because it is meant to be a deterrent.
    I’ve been reading on the board for the last few days and have asked my partner’s permission to respond here on occasion. That permission was granted. I should note though (I hope this space is alright to do so..) that our relationship is D/s based. I’m trying to use vocabulary and conventions that I see others using here. However, my relationship with my partner is one of Master and slave. I have no safeword. I have no limits.
    I mention these facts now as I think they might help explain some of my positions. For me, there is nothing romantic about punishment. I never confuse a punishment with a sexual task. I never confuse a spanking given for pain with a spanking given for pleasure. If my partner is punishing me, I know it, and I know to do my best to learn the lesson he is trying to teach me.
    As I’m writing this, it all sounds a little dry and almost emotionless. Nothing could be farther from the truth, which is why I posted in the first place.
    I am in a tough place. I wish I could barter my way out of this tawse thing. But, my partner has decided that I am going to experience this. It won’t be sexual, nor romantic for me. While I freely admit I am really struggling with this upcoming event, I also know for certain that my partner knows what is best for me; knows I can endure this. And, just like all the other punishments I’ve experienced at his hands, I know we’ll grow through this one, too.

  5. Lele

    Sometimes I wonder if you know me in real life. (Don’t worry, we’re on opposite coasts.) What I mean is, the 4th paragraph IS me. I can’t explain any more than that, except for one example that really sticks out in my mind. Last year, I got myself perilously close to an actual punishment spanking for having a crying/temper tantrum over getting a B+ in a class.
    Really glad you wrote this. Can’t wait to hear more from you.
    Take care,

  6. Natty

    Elizabeth –
    This space is totally alright. Actually, Bridget, who just joined us is in a D/s – Master/slave relationship (click on her name in the right sidebar to read a bit more) so your sort of relationship is totally okay here!
    It seems like the real key is whether you trust your partner, which it sounds like you do. I know sometimes I go through moments of struggling with my fears of a punishment and my trust of A. It can be really rough sometimes pushing myself through that fear, knowing that A. has never given me reason to be afraid. Sometimes the pushing is relatively easily. Sometimes I have to talk about it for awhile first.
    But you’re definitely not alone in struggling with punishment. I wish I could say it’s always super easy, but, like everything worthwhile, it takes work.
    Lele — ::giggle:: Ah, actually, if you were close by we could go out for coffee or something! Sounds like we get along swimmingly!

  7. janeyruth

    I agree with natty that “a lot of people really like the idea of not having any say in what punishment they receive.” And not having a say IS the punishment,yes?
    Beyond that, I suppose when pain overwhelms pleasure to the point that it isn’t fun anymore, THAT can be punishment, too. But I really don’t like thinking about that…

  8. elizabeth

    Agreed. It does take work. Fortunately, the journey gets better every day because of it.
    Thanks very much for the dialogue.

  9. Cass

    There are certain things that guarantee a punishment. A speeding ticket, for instance. Not many things. Last week I was so frustrated, in emotional turmoil and struggling with things I needed an outlet. I told him I probably needed to be punished (did get pulled over twice in one night). He asked me if that’s what I really wanted many times. He asked me just prior and I nodded even though I was scared. I know he likes to play, for us to have a sensual angle to spankings, so it was asking him to do something he’d rather not. He followed through. I got a hard hand spanking, the light paddle, then the real paddle. And it hurt. So I drove home. I have a sense of calm, a sense of security and of being cared for. Would I ask for that again? yes and no. It was a real punishment. I can count on him to do it again should the need arise. So I feel badly about him having to punish me, but I wouldn’t hesitate to tell him if I need one again. I don’t grasp what this means. At least he does.

  10. Natty

    JaneyRuth —
    “And not having a say IS the punishment,yes?”
    Hmm…that’s an interesting question. I suppose in many respects that’s what it boils down to — removing spanking/punishment from the realm of play and placing it in the realm of the non-consensual. I think that’s what makes it so unpalatable both for the one doing the punishing and for the one being punished.
    Elizabeth – You’re most welcome, and thank you also for the dialogue. It’s always nice to have new people commenting! I think the journey does get better most of the time, with slight dips here and there.
    Cass — Thanks for sharing about your experience. I think your point about punishment being an outlet is a good one. And I think you describe exactly what that feels like — “a sense of calm, a sense of security, and of being cared for.” Punishment does that for me better than play or “just because” spankings ever can. It’s a really powerful feeling. But the punishment itself is unpleasant. Despite the calmness and feeling of being cared for that it provides, I still avoid it because it is so unpleasant. I guess it’s more like, if I have to go through something so awful, it’s nice to know there’s at least the fringe benefit of feeling so calm and cared for afterwards.

  11. Rich

    To your question, “Can punishment spankings even work?” I’d say Yes. If the sub does something he/she shouldn’t, a punishment is something that tends to make it less likely that they will repeat that behavior and a reward is something that makes it more likely they will repeat. A spanking can be either, even for someone who loves to get spanked. For one thing, even spankophiles have their limits and inflicting more pain than what they want will tend to suppress the behavior.
    But the more important reason is emotional. A D/s relationship is different from a top/bottom relationship exactly because of the submission. Submission means doing what the dominant wants.
    How does a submissive know that they are submitting, not just doing what they themselves want? One of the key ways is through punishment. If they are given something the dominant wants from them but which they don’t want to do, then they might muster their resolve to do it. But is that true submission? In the end, if they wanted to do what they were asked then it might not be.
    However, when you give the dominant the right to punish you, then it’s clear that you are truly submitting. I think this is a big part of the turn on for submissives. The first time submissive girls realizes that I can and will punish them they usually get very wet. Punishment is the symbol of real submission.
    Of course, if you do something intentionally to get punished, then you are not getting your punishment because it is what the dominant wants. In fact, to the degree that you are manipulating them, you are doing the opposite of obeying, causing them to do what you want.
    Why is being under the control of another such a turn on? I can’t say, really. To me, it appears to be either an inherited trait or the result of a more-or-less random association. I suspect there could be some evolutionary benefit to getting turned on by submission, in that for many years slavery and serfdom were the lot of the majority. Those turned on by submission would have had a survival advantage over those who fought it. Also, the nerves in the buttocks also serve the genitals, so a spanking is always a sexual stimulant to some degree. (I think that’s an adequate reason not to spank children, BTW.)
    So, I would expect that getting punished for a real transgression would be an exquisite turn on for someone who gets turned on by obedience. The pain of an actual punishment can suppress the turn on during the punishment itself. At that moment you aren’t thinking about obedience so much as you’re thinking about your butt. It’s only later, when your mind isn’t overwhelmed with the pain, that you start thinking about the implications and you can react to that with feelings of pleasure.

  12. Natty

    Sorry to be so long in replying to your post. I’m afraid I had to take a week off from being online due to health reasons and am in the process of catching up on comments and emails.
    “Punishment is the symbol of real submission. Of course, if you do something intentionally to get punished, then you are not getting your punishment because it is what the dominant wants. In fact, to the degree that you are manipulating them, you are doing the opposite of obeying, causing them to do what you want.”
    I thought this was a very interesting point and another key aspect to the complicated topic of punishment and spanking. While submission for some women and men is about cocks and cunts, submission for me is about childhood. However I think punishment is what binds our various forms of submission together and really is what is at the heart of any submission-based kink.
    Thanks for contributing to our discussion!

  13. Kitten

    Hi! Just started reading this blog and something in a previous post of yours caught my eye…you mentioned the MAX…and I’m wondering if its the PDX MAX line youre talking about. I just moved here and yeah…would be nice to find a fellow kinkster nearby.

  14. Natty

    Heya Kitten — sorry to be so long in getting back to you! Yep, I’m in Portland alright. I’m fairly housebound and not able to get out to meeting much. But perhaps as we chat online (my Yahoo ID is nattyspanked) we can work something out. Also note there are a couple of Oregon and Portland spanking groups on Yahoo you might want to check out.


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