Technologies of Punishment: Mija’s Electronic Leash

igroundedTechnologies of Punishment –isn’t that a great title? I can’t claim any originality since it’s inspired by a CFP (that’s “Call For Papers” in the larger world) for a CUNY conference titled “The Poetics of Pain: Aesthetics, Ideology, and Representation” sent to my academic self. (I blogged this startle on el tercer ojo.) But it is an appropriate title. Given that we met via the wonders of usenet, technology, for better or worse, has been involved in Paul and my relationship, discipline and punishment included, since the beginning. Although some of the technology thankfully went away when our relationship went from long-distance to living-in-the-same-house, technology remains a significant part of both of our lives.

This is not going to be a discussion of how technology can assist those in long-distance relationships at “this thing we do.” While it doesn’t seem so long ago that most of my punishments were done via email or phone, really it’s been more than seven years since Paul moved here, give or take an interruption or two. I think that counts as several lifetimes in the word of technology. Because of that, this probably isn’t the right entry for anyone looking for long-distance discipline ideas. (Natty can probably give plenty of thoughts on that subject, but rumor has it she’s a bit busy at present.) That said, ever since I got a new MacBook compete with webcam, I check in terror to make sure the green camera light isn’t on every time Paul has me bent over my desk chair for a quick slippering to “focus” me on my work. This is crazy because I never actually use the webcam for anything so it’s never on. **

Even though phones, webcams and Skype aren’t part of discipline or punishment scenes and we’re not long-distance anymore, technology in various forms plays an important role in our relationship. A role, which for me, has lately made me feel watched over in ways that, frankly, push a lot of good and powerful buttons. What works, both in the senses of being effective and attractive, is feeling I’m being watched over and held to specific expectations. The idea is that I’m seen –inside and out– by someone who can’t be fooled and holds me to account. That’s both the fantasy and the ideal.

Not much to ask, is it?

Right.

It’s a huge amount to ask of anyone and a near impossible task, especially with regard to me specifically. Yet I have asked for it and Paul and I have tried various ways of fulfilling this need / desire. Repeatedly, over a period of years.

[Note: If you don’t think this would be a lot to ask, that’s because you’ve either never tried to keep track of another human being, even with their consent and cooperation (more on that later) or the ones you’ve kept track of have been a lot easier than me.]

This past summer (for my birthday), Paul gave me a fantastic present –an iPhone. Keeping in mind prior to getting this slick bar of technology my mobile was a pay-as-you-go Virgin throwaway, I’ve been utterly dazzled by it, so much so that for the first month I downloaded no apps as I studied quite hard to learn about its many features. One of the first things Paul showed me was how the phone worked with the account he’d set up for me with Apple’s MobileMe (evolution of Mac.com — which was a better name if you ask me) service. MobileMe auto syncs with the phone my calendar program, to do lists and a bunch of other things, but the most “gee wiz” bit it does is a trick called “Find My Phone” which basically locates the iPhone (within about 20 feet in the city) using Google maps. It can be programmed to set off an alarm and even lets you send a message to take over the phone display (and even wipe it if needed).

Paul’s thought was, given what a forgetful ditz I am, this would be useful to locate the phone when I inevitably misplace it and panic.*** It would also make it easier for a kind and honest person to get the phone back to me. But MobileMe could have other uses, as my mom was the first to point, out. It can function as an electronic leash (yes, my mother actually called it a leash). Using it, if he wants to, Paul can basically map my location all day long. I’m not sure whether he does or doesn’t actually use it very often (likely not). However, like the fact that he can punish me if he chooses, the fact he can check up on me like this is comforting and makes me feel watched over and looked after. There have been two occasions in our time together when I’ve lost track of time and arrived home to discover Paul was expecting me hours before and was quite worried about me (one of those times he actually met me on Wilshire — he was out searching for me as I wandered back from the gym at 11pm). That he can now locate me if he wishes and not be worried is great. I’m pleased too that he can even come and find me if he wants.

[Note 2: This entry isn’t meant to be an ad for Apple / iPhone or MobileMe, I’m sure there are other services, like Google, that do the same thing — this is just what I know. As the BBC says, other services are available. If you have experience with any of them, please please write about them in the comments.]

Another useful part of MobileMe is now my calendar and ToDo lists are on the web as well as being on my computer and the three constantly update each other. They can be modified from there too. This allows Paul to check and add to my “ToDos” or put items on the calendar. Another similar service (MyDiary) lets track my food and water intake on the phone and send Paul daily or weekly reports. He can also go online and check those entries. I know a lot of people would find this sort of survalience or even the possibility of it, oppressive or even creepy. I understand their feelings. But given that I’ve long experienced anxiety when I’m away from home and among strangers, so much so I’m sometimes trapped by it, knowing that Paul can — could be watching, even if he likely isn’t, makes me feel looked after and secure.

So yay for technology, right?

Yes and no. Because in the end it’s like everything else we’ve ever used, be they a physical “punishment book” or daily tasks chart or my old filofax. It only works if we both use them. That starts with me — I have to be the one filling out my calendar, keeping my food journal, checking ToDo lists and the like. While it’s true in theory that Paul could be the one to push on those issues too, in reality that would be too much. I’ve mentioned in in the past, but will repeat, This Thing We Do works when Paul’s giving helpful pushes, but his pulling me along never works.

The technology helps, but in the end the iPhone can only do so much. The rest is up to us. Mostly up to me —  which is the way it should be.

—-

**We’ve talked about using the cam and video chat so he can check up on me during the day. Thus far it hasn’t happened, but again, I find the idea quite attractive. Scary too.

*** For more evidence of said ditz-iness, see my twitter posts for last week and the chaos I brought into Paul and my life by leaving my purse (not my iPhone though) on the bus.  Fortunately fate looks after fools and children so the purse and its contents were given back to me safe and sound.

[A discussion of more playful spanking and kinky apps is here on my personal blog.]

14 thoughts on “Technologies of Punishment: Mija’s Electronic Leash

  1. dykegrrl

    Hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll be able to comment with details about the Android phone version of things. I know that Google apps (such as the mobile maps) has something like the locator.
    We’ve used technology for organization and communication, even though we’ve lived together for most of our relationship. There’s the Google calendar, and Remember The Milk (a great site: http://www.rememberthemilk.com it keeps track of multiple to do lists, and sends a variety of reminders). Earlier this year, we also set up a private blog to keep track of our rules/structure/etc. We’d had everything in a notebook, and it got hard to find the relevant pieces, because we’d keep moving things as we used them, etc. We still have the notebook, to keep track of things like lines, but the blog is where we have even more stuff.
    Then there are things like text messages. One of my rules is that I am supposed to eat three meals a day. Seems like it would be easy, but not so much for me. The problem was, W didn’t always check, and I’m not the kind of bottom who was willing to ‘fess up to a transgression that wasn’t noticed. So W finally made it a rule that I have to text her by a particular time to let her know what I’ve eaten, and again in the afternoon to check in about plans for dinner.
    We also started using the EZCP Spanking Generator, because I was getting really frustrated with W waffling and deliberating about what a punishment should be for a particular infraction. That turned out to be very useful, because it gave W the confidence to just say what a punishment would be, rather than asking me what she should do.
    It only works if we both use them.
    That part struck me, and has been one of the main reasons for the evolution of our various uses of technology. (Paper counts as technology too, now that I think of it.)
    I find that I am only as good about using the various technologies as W is about checking whether I’ve used them. In theory, if I were better at self-regulation, I wouldn’t need her to do that. Right. If I’m following all of my rules without needing W to check in on me, it doesn’t feel all that different from not having rules in the first place.
    So a lot of the time, in our relationship, the technology is there to make it easier for W to be in control. The ironic part is that I’m the more tech-savvy of the two of us, so I do all of the set-up on it. (And why there are harsh punishments on EZCP I will never fully understand. Oh, wait, yes I do.)

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  2. Nic

    Wow! I’m jealous of your iPhone. I woulda been jealous of it before this post, but now that I’ve read it, I’m even MORE jealous. I would love for my partner to be able to keep track of me like that, and what a great way to keep her updated throughout the day on stuff like my eating/drinking water habits (since I have rules regarding those as well).
    Thanks for sharing this. But, you know, when I read the title, for some reason I was convinced you’d gotten some kind of shock collar to keep you in line. lol, kinda glad it’s not that…

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  3. Mija

    I can’t wait to hear about the Android and your experiences with it. You’ll definitely have more Geek Grrl chic. And thanks for the link to Remember the Milk. I hadn’t seen that site / app. It looks really good — though it’s $25 if I want to use it with an iPhone app (eep!) so I restrained myself from delving much further.
    The whole “waffling” issue is one I’d like to think about a bit more. Paul is very self-critical about not being consistent enough — which doesn’t really bother me. But it is a (as Natty would say) kink in our punishment / discipline lives, that he seems to find it hard to pick up doing this any time he’s hasn’t enforced a particular rule or structure. I find it hard to understand his feelings, but try because it’s clearly heartfelt.
    Thanks too for the reminder that paper is a technology — and certainly the best and most robust for data storage to date. 🙂

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  4. Mija

    It is an amazing little bit of kit! You know, the MyNetDiary isn’t iPhone specific — it just has an iPhone app. You could use it throughout the day and she could keep track of your food and drink intake. There are also reports you can generate daily, weekly or monthly and send out. I think it costs something like $5 a month.
    We used to use FitDay for the same purpose. It’s free, but doesn’t have the phone app or report generator.
    Oh my on your thoughts about the title. I changed “collar” to “leash”. Does that help any?
    OFF TOPIC: can I just say that I’m enjoying being able to comment thread? How’s it working from a reader perspective?

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  5. Season

    This is my situation right now — long distance. Eventually we will be together in the same place permanently. For now it is a combination of visits and things we can do long distance. My guy is very creative! We use text, email, YIM, and phone calls. I don’t know what EZPC is though. Help?

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  6. dykegrrl

    EZCP is a punishment generator. Basically, it decides what a punishment should be, based on parameters you’ve plugged in. I don’t know how much it would help in a long-distance relationship, but it’s free, so it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.

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  7. dykegrrl

    I ♥ the comment threading. 🙂
    @Nic: Depending on your cell phone service provider, there can also be a “chaperone” kind of thing, where one person can get alerts when a phone leaves a particular area. But that iPhone app that determines where it is to within 20 feet sounds like a great thing to have. It’s nearly at the level of the micro-GPS I’ve been saying we need on W’s phone (she loses it in the house, and it would be nice to be able to track it to within 2 feet).
    And also, Nic, knowing you, you’re also a little disappointed that Mija isn’t going to be reporting back about a shock collar. Just sayin’.

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  8. Mija

    And the link for the download for EZCP is: http://www.sunlimited.tk/home/index.php?ind=downloads&op=entry_view&iden=1 I’ve never used it though.
    As to long distance ideas, back in the day I did a lot of line writing and was “grounded” often, as well as doing phone spanking (something Natty has described quite well on her blog). Mostly the biggest discipline was me having to be home at a certain time, every night, because that was when our daily phone call was. There were some great things about being long distance, but I’m glad it’s over. Anything that makes you feel closer to each other is a great thing.
    I wish you and yours the very best in your journey.

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  9. sparkle

    I have to say, I think the more options there are for Chris to see who I’m talking to about what, the more he chases me down and (playfully) spanks me for ‘brattiness’. FaceBook, Fetlife, twitter, text messages, chatrooms, the blog… everywhere I look, suddenly we’re friended and following and I can’t say a think except “I have the bestest husband in the whole world” without his eyebrows arching.
    All right. That was the lighthearted response. 🙂
    In truth, I am glad that it’s so easy for him to see what I’m doing and what I’m saying. Even if I don’t FitDay and iGPS. Although I do think there are times he’d like to see where I am on a map!
    sparkle / Serenity

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  10. Season

    Thank you Mija and dykegrrl. Mija – you mentioned that you felt there were some great things about being long distance. What are some examples? For me, as an introvert (but not shy), I do need a certain amount of time alone, so that is the one thing I can appreciate about long distance. What is the biggest difference that happened when you went from visits to being together permanently? Anything that surprised you? I know what it is like to be together for a few weeks at a time (marvelous!) but will it still be like that when he moves here?

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  11. PaulAtNorthGare

    Forgive me butting in here.
    I’m not sure if there’s anything much that’s ‘great’ about long-distance, but since that’s how we started, it’s connected in my mind with lots that was new and exciting. There can be a weird thrill in figuring out the sorts of expedients necessary to work around the physical gap.
    Some of the things that are necessary in any balanced kink relationship are, I think, in some ways easier long-distance. Having to plan when you’re going to see someone means that you by necessity focus on planning kink activities, and keeping those separate from the complexities of ‘real’ life. And travelling to spend time with someone has the advantage that you can leave behind the day to day stuff, like bills, work, etc. – much as you do during any vacation. It means that the time together can be focused on fun stuff, and not need so much work to keep everything else separate.
    If you’re anything like as introverted as me, it would be good to make setting aside alone time a priority, and not to assume that it’ll just happen. It would be a mistake to assume that the intensity of even a few weeks of time together, while long-distance, can be sustained when two lives are physically and emotionally and logistically combined. The ideal, of course, is for those lives to be perfectly synchronised in terms of needs and desires, and for real-life to allow just the right amount of time and space and togetherness, without you needing to work at it, but that’s not going to happen. In my experience, kink desire is one of the first things to go when I’m missing solitary time, so it’s a really important thing to protect.

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  12. Season

    Thanks for “butting” in, Paul. I appreciate your perspective. 🙂 I like what you said about protecting solitary time. Luckily my honey needs his time alone, too, so we understand that about each other. But as you said, so far on visits we have just wanted to be together the whole time, and that won’t be the case once we’re together permanently.

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  13. Mija

    I’m not saying that there was anything so great about living apart that I’d like to go back to it. But being apart required a lot of daily ritual — making sure we had specific time to talk every day. And we did *talk* about everything.
    I commented once that we got to know each other inside out. I’m not sure that would have happened in person.
    That said, long distance does suck a lot of the time.

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  14. Angie

    Andrew and I were apart in our whole relationship. I mean, we had several long weekends throughout that two year period where we were “in person” – but mostly it was a daily phone conversation, wonderful emails, etc. I *completely* understand the whole “we got to know each other inside out” comment. He knew me better than – well, than maybe anyone ever has. And I understood things about him that I doubt I would’ve been able to learn if we hadn’t had that distance. He knew from my *voice* if I’d taken my anti-depressant that day. (And boy did it SUCK for me if I hadn’t! LOL) I remember saying once, “This will end, and I’ll get hurt, but right now it’s the most significant relationship I’ve ever had and it’s changed me.” That was very true – prophetic as hell, LOL – and very true. 🙂

    Reply

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