I note with some amazement that apparently I have never written in this blog about my punishment policy. This policy is at the forefront of my mind lots and lots, so I’m genuinely surprised to notice that of all the posts I’ve written, that wasn’t one of them.
I guess it’s one of those things which seem so fundamentally basic to me that I never thought about specifying it before. I mean, I don’t write about my thoughts on toothbrushing either, cos everybody knows about that, right?
I had been supposing that like my thoughts on toothbrushing (kind of annoying but a good idea to do), my thoughts on punishment are probably shared by lots of other people. But recently in a chastity themed yahoo group, one member had been posting fictional fantasy accounts about punishments and presenting them as fact. And those accounts were so wildly and distantly removed from my personal experience of punishments that I thought, hey, maybe my approach to punishment is unusual after all.
I only noticed it wasn’t here when I wanted to provide the author of those accounts with a link to my description of my punishment policy. I couldn’t remember it, and had a browse around my blog looking for it, and only when I couldn’t find it did I realise that I hadn’t done one!
- whoops :p
It must be in one of the zillions of unfinished posts I’ve got laying about the place. So anyhow I thought I’d better get moving on that. For clarity, I’ll specify that this is nothing to do with play punishments for fun.
- Note Of Importantness: When I mention “punishment” and related terms in this post, I am solely referring to a BDSM relationship context in which adults consensually use real punishments between themselves as a disciplinary tool, for the purposes of penalising unconsensual transgressions and modifying future behaviour.
But first, a shortcut.
For those of you who don’t care why I do stuff and only want to know what I do, this is the long and short of it:
- I never punish
- I focus on reward-based training
- I resolve problems using focused negotiation
- that fits my needs very nicely, thank you. :)
For those of you who want to know why I have chosen and continue to choose that approach, read on. :)
I live my life and conduct my relationships based on certain presuppositions. I check them regularly because my choice to continue is based on them being true. If at any time they turn out to be false, then I will change what I’m doing until the circumstances support them being true.
These are some of my basic presupposed goodnesses.
Me Exerting Myself = Boo and Easy = Yay
I want the smallest possible investment of my time and effort to yield the bestest possible result. I have no interest in exerting myself to punish undesirable behaviour if the only outcome is more of the same undesirable behaviour. That just sucks. If I have to exert myself, I’d much rather get the result I want. I think that’s reasonable.
My Partners’ Raison D’Être = My Pleasure
My partners already have a strong desire and motivation to please me, and in my experience punishments can only decrease it. Since that desire can only work to benefit me, I have every interest in nurturing it like a tender carnivorous blossom, giving it loads of juicy flies to eat. (metaphorically speaking, of course)
My Displeasure = Their Displeasure
My partners feel unhappy if they contribute to my displeasure. Any failure to please me hurts them far more than any punishment. So if I wanted them to suffer unspeakable torment (which I don’t, for reasons I’ll get to in a sec), all I need to do is express my displeasure. That’s usually plenty to wilt them like a dehydrated fern. Any punishment after that would only be redundant.
Trust = Yummy Goodness
Trust is difficult to build and easy to damage. Establishing trust requires absolutely consistent reliability. I need to be able to trust my partners, and I need my partners to be able to trust me. Therefore I nurture and feed the rare and precious foliage of their trust by taking care that what I say and what I do always match, and I expect my partners to do the same for me.
So I operate under these presuppostions:
- I want the easiest possible route to my goals
- I encourage my partners’ desire and interest in pleasing me
- My displeasure wilts my partners like over-boiled cabbage leaves
- I must be as trustworthy as I expect my partners to be
Sometimes people get hung up on beating themselves to a pulp for stuff they only think they caused, and sometimes without even confirming the existence of a problem. You might recognise this with the “shoulda” mantra. Like, “I shoulda done this” or “I shun’ta done that”. When it occurs in the absence of a pre-existing problem, sometimes the self-flagellation itself is the only problem. In the context of my relationships, when my partners beat themselves up for stuff they didn’t do, my problem is that they miss opportunities to make stuff better even when they can.
Self-flagellating is a choice, and deciding to make stuff better is also a choice. From my perspective, my main interest is to make stuff better however it happened, and this goal is impeded by that pointless self-flagellation crap. This is a good example of how some choices can be unhelpful and a waste of time and energy.
On the other hand, I’ve had a huge pile of sticky soggy badness from many people who cause a lot of shit themselves and then choose to blame other people for it. This sucks not only because they’re distracting away from improving stuff by focusing on blame, but also because they made the stuff worse in the first place and then failed to make it better.
- Abdicating responsibility is also incredibly unattractive and repellent to me but that’s a separate issue.
The way I see it, no matter what anybody else says or does, no matter whether they blame themselves or somebody else, and no matter how much anybody wants to pretend it isn’t so, the thing about being a responsible adult is that in general adults are solely and entirely responsible for their own choices and how they act on those choices.
In my world,
- although the available choices may be limited, uncomfortable, undesirable, or just plain suck, there are always choices.
- there is no such thing as “I had no choice” or “they made me do it”.
- no matter who or what you blame or credit for what you do or don’t do, people only ever do what they choose to do.
For me, it really is that simple.
I am much more interested in how a fuckup actually happened than in whose fault it is. I understand that fuckups can happen unintentionally or by accident. Regardless of how a fuckup happened in the first place, my main interest is to change the fuckup result to a yummier one. I think that’s only fair.
As I understand it, a person can be responsible for a fuckup without necessarily being at fault. As I understand it, the term “blame” contains a nuance of fault which is absent in the term “responsibility”.
So in general I avoid the word “blame“, and favour the word “responsibility“.
As part of working out how a fuckup happened, I first prefer to establish certain limits. The limits I want to establish are about a person’s
- contribution to the fuckup
- acquisition of knowledge of and about the fuckup
- responsibility for the fuckup
- control of the causes of the fuckup
Establishing those limits before attributing responsibility is very important to me, and I refer to those limits as the sphere of responsibility.
In my world, I can realistically expect myself and others to be responsible only for those fuckups which are within our sphere of responsibility, and for anything else no blame or responsibility can be attached. I think that’s fair.
So that’s my thing about “blame“ vs “responsibility“, and sphere of responsibility.
If I told my partner to do something outside their sphere of responsibility (such as organising receipt of the $21.8 million from that nice prince in Nigeria who emailed me), then holding them responsible for failing would be silly, and punishing them for it still wouldn’t get me my $21.8 million.
If I told my partner to do something (like picking up my boots from the repair place), and withheld important information which I knew but they didn’t (like for instance, that I left no boots at the repair place), then my partner has no way of completing that task, and punishing them for that failure still wouldn’t get me any boots which I didn’t leave anyhow.
Deliberately withholding relevant information in that way to ensure my partner’s failure is what I call setting them up to fail. I also call it manipulative and sabotaging.
- I’m just going to assume we all agree that holding a person responsible for stuff outside their control is totally pointless, ok?
Since I find that the more my partners trust me, the more they let me boss the shit out of them (and you know how hard I kink on the bossing-about thingy), I therefore have no reason to cut their trust into tiny bits and stomp all over it, and every reason to tenderly water, feed, and give big juicy treats to their trust.
So in my world, I must first establish who actually caused which fuckup before I take any action, and any action I take must be limited to fuckups which my partner and I both agree are within their sphere of fuckupability.
What I’ve been leading up to is that everybody’s sphere of responsibility remains the same no matter how much the idea of my control over them turns anybody into a quivering bowl of jelly hornballness.
And even if pretending could make the sphere of responsibility different, in any case I decline to consent to participate in the fantasy of the top “forcing” the bottom to do this or “making” the bottom do that. I might temporarily play at it for really limited periods of time, but I live my life entirely differently.
A lot of people have tried to sell me a lot of misleading crap about this over the years, and this has only ever fucked me up. In my experience, acting on inaccurate conclusions about responsibility can lead to really super duper giant-sized fuckups. So for me, getting this right is really worth investing a good splodgey dollop of effort.
Since I decline to pretend that I’m responsible for my partners’ behaviour, instead I use my partners’ pleasure as the proverbial stomach through which I establish my ownership of them. The more consistently and reliably I care for and enrich their pleasure, the more they trust me to nurture their pleasure. They then reinforce and reward that approach by devoting themselves more and more to me and my pleasure, which is ultimately what I want.
- I give a big fat juicy yay to getting what I want. :)
Furthermore, punishment in the form of unpleasant stimuli is in my experience a whole lot less effective, more work for me, and more unpleasant for both of us than using rewards to encourage desirable and beneficial behavioural changes.
In short, I’ve found that for my purposes, pleasure as a training device is
- much easier to use
- yields more yummier results more speedily
- much more effective than aversive reinforcement training
So instead of using punishment to focus on the behaviours I want to avoid, I use reward reinforcement to focus on the behaviours I want to achieve.
So how does all this relate to my ethics on punishments within my partnerships? Hang on a sec, I’m getting to that. :)
So far I’ve covered my presuppositions and approaches to
- my easiest route to yumminess
- my partners’ interest in my pleasure
- the care and feeding of trust
- lots of responsibility stuff
- the yumminess of reward reinforcement
Before I get to my punishment policy, I’ve got one more thing to cover to round all this stuff up.
As I see it, the punishment package thingy comprises the following elements:
- The existence of a fuckup
- Person(s) knowingly being responsible for the fuckup
- A mutual desire for change to prevent the fuckup from recurring
- No fuckup means there’s nothing to punish
- Unknowing responsibility for the fuckup means it was an accident and punishing will change nothing
- No desire to change a fuckup means a punishment has no purpose
For me, the whole punishment package rests entirely on the sphere of responsibility, and that’s why I spent so much time on how I work that shit out.
Now you know my outlook, my approach, and my rationale behind my thinking, and now it’s time for the big banana.
- *drumroll please …*
Welcome to the section on my punishment policy! :)
I never punish. It’s that simple.
Given that I’ve encountered a whole lot of unpleasant side effects from punishing, I circumvent the lot of them by simply removing the whole punishment thing from my relationships altogether. I therefore reject punishments in favour of reward training as a method to achieve my desired yumminess.
- So no matter how much my partner wants me to punish them, I will always decline.
So what do I do instead? Ok, I was just getting to that. :)
My personal method for resolving fuckups without punishment comprises these steps in the following order:
- explicitly, specifically, respectfully negotiating gripes and outcomes
- temporarily disengaging from them if necessary (only as a last resort)
- resuming the negotiationfest as soon as possible
- repeating the cycle of 1-3 in that order until the conflict is resolved
With some people (i.e. the ones who like to pass the buck) I find that the disengaging step only drags out and buries the conflict (til it inevitably re-explodes later) by giving them an excuse to wimp out of the discussion entirely. So with them I just keep slugging away at step 1. for however long it takes until everybody feels good about it.
Although navigating emotive negotiation through the obstacles of personal arguments can be tricky, the procedure itself is simple, and for me it prevents re-explosions of the resolved conflicts every single time.
The really tricky bit is identifying the actual root of the issue of which the symptoms highlighted the conflict. But that’s a whole other topic.
- I appreciate that focused specific negotiation is unlikely to feature in anybody’s horniest fantasies. Oh well. Unfortunately, reality carries on regardless of your libido, and unfortunately your libido (as mighty as I’m sure it is) has no control over me. This solution works for me, and my partners have a choice of carrying on without me or getting with the programme.
You can either choose to pay a fantasy-gratification service to indulge you, or you can participate in a relationship. It’s your choice.
Yes, that was a mini-rant. Can you tell I’ve had unpleasant experiences with this?
Unlike punishments, this method has always worked well for me by getting me what I want for the least amount of effort, and I have every reason to expect it to continue to work well for me in future.
So my experience continues to support my conclusion that
- actual punishments = boo
- appropriate acknowledgment and attribution of responsibility = yay
- focused negotiation = yay
- yummy outcomes = yay
And my long and short of it is
- I never punish
- I focus on reward-based training
- I resolve problems using focused negotiation
- that fits my needs very nicely, thank you.
- That’s it. Thank you very much for reading. :)
ps: I had a shitload of rants which you’ll be glad to hear I edited out in the interests of manageable readability. I may or may not make them into a separate post. Just so you know, this was a hugely rantworthy topic in which I restrained myself quite admirably, I think. So I’m awarding myself a gold star for rant refrainment. :)