Some thoughts on humiliation play in BDSM

One of my particular turnons is relatively uncommon (at least in my expererience), and that is humiliation play–D/s scenarios that involve some degree of eroticised shame or embarrassment or humiliation. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about that over the past week or so, and I think my approach to humiliation play, and the reasons it appeals to me, are unusual even for those people who like it.

The appeal of humiliation is very difficult to explain to people who don’t understand it. It seems to be one of those things that either you get it or you don’t, and if you don’t, it’s just degrading and objectifying and awful. Certainly I’ve known plenty of people who have a strong squick response to humiliation. Many of my partners have (and do) enjoy humiliation play, though, and I’ve been talking to people around me who have an attraction for humiliation play to try to get an idea about what makes it tick. (Why? Because I like understanding myself and those around me; I like understanding how people experience the world. The unexamined life is not worth living, as Snoop Dogg used to say.)

And in talking with my friends and partners about the appeal of humiliation play, I get the sense that the appeal for me is very different than the appeal for many other people.

For some people, humiliation and shame provoke a very visceral response; under the right circumstances and with the right people, there is an immediate sexual arousal attached to it. Shelly hypothesizes that it’s possible this is just good old-fashioned Pavlovian conditioning at work; we grow up in a society with a strong, almost Puritanical streak that teaches that sexuality is something shameful, and a lot of people go through periods of intense shame during puberty…especially if they grow up in repressive or sex-negative environments (Catholic schools, I’m looking at you here). It starts off with feelings of arousal and sexuality provoking reponses of shame and guilt, and those two emotional experiences become linked, so eventually feelings of shame become coupled with feelings of arousal.

This seems plausible to me, and does seem to match with the experiences of some of my past partners as well.

For other people, it seems to be the powerlessness and the sense of helplessness or objectification associated with many types of humiliation play that really do it. I can understand this; on some visceral, irrational level, which has nothing I can see to do with anything in my past or any of my experiences, powerlessness (and, conversely, control) crank my motor. It’s not associated with any kind of trauma while I was growing up; it has nothing to do with any past event, or with trying to work through problems in childhood; for whatever reason, a strong psychological control dynamic just gets me off. It’s a purely irrational thing that in some ways is like what I imagine having a foot fetish or a crossdressing fetish to be like; something that makes no sense to a person who doesn’t have it, something that has no logical reason; simply a quirk in the wiring or whatever that makes this particular stimulus really, really arousing.

I think there’s likely an element of this in people who like, for example, Daddy/daughter relationships, or who like resistance play or sexual objectification in any other form–just a good old-fashioned sexual fetish, not particularly associated with anything outside itself.

And I have talked to a few people for whom various types of BDSM, including humiliation play, is a direct response to some specific form of trauma. I’ve known people who explore BDSM as a way to get through or to gain power over some event or some part of their lives that was harmful or damaging–and I think thewre are both healthy and unhealthy ways that people do this. (There’s a term that’s used in the psychiatric community–I learned it in one of my cognitive psych classes back in the day, but don’t remember it now–for the act of processing damaging or traumatic experiences in ways that actually deepen and reinforce the trauma, with the belief that they are working through it when in fact they’re making it worse.) I think BDSM can be a positive and healthy way to explore, deal with, and ultimately regain control over some traumatic experience, though I also think that a person who’s not careful may in fact end up just hurting himself more.

But none of these things is really the reason I like humiliation play.

Now, there is an element of that irrational, almost fetishistic arousal for me, make no mistake. From either the giving or the receiving end, humiliation play really gets me off.

But that’s not why I do it. Humiliation play gets me off, but it isn’t a fetish; I can get off in many other ways, and humiliation play is emotionally risky, at least for me. If it were simply a matter of having an orgasm and being done with it, I don’t think I’d do it.

For me, the real appeal of humiliation play is as a vehicle for emotional intimacy.

When I am engaging in some kind of erotic scenario built around humiliation or shame, from either side but most especially from the receiving side, it exposes me emotionally to my partner in a way that nothing else I have experienced does. it strips away any emotional defense mechanisms I may have and lowers all of my emotional boundaries. The person you see when you see me i that context is me, undefended, completely exposed. As a tool for emotional intimacy, it can’t be beat; there’s no bullshit, no filtering any of my responses; what you see is what I am, completely unfiltered.

For that reason, I can’t do humiliation play with a casual partner, or with a person I’m not in an intimate, stable, long-term relationship with. I use it precisely because the emotional vulnerability creates a vehicle for intimacy; for me, it’s that, not the orgasm, that really matters. The fact that it gets me off is what makes me able to do it in the first place, because no doubt about it, that kind of vulnerability and emotional exposure is pretty scary shit–if it weren’t for the fact that I eroticise humiliation, I’d never have started down that path in the first place. But from the people I’ve known and spoken to, using humiliation play for the primary purpose of exploring emotional intimacy seems very unusual. It seems those people I’ve known who enjoy it have some other primary motivation–which might be something as simple as “it gets my rocks off”–and anything else it does is something of a side effect.

Thoughts? Opinions?

48 thoughts on “Some thoughts on humiliation play in BDSM

  1. I’m curious. Humiliation really isn’t my thing. Maybe because I have never associated shame with sexuality. But either way.

    Why do you feel that humiliation play is any more intimate than other types of play?

    I mean… emotional intimacy is about the biggest turn on there is for me, but I don’t think humiliation would be. Possibly I just don’t know what’s involved well enough… but I can’t make that work in my head. I suppose what I’m trying to ask is: in what way does humiliation add to the intimacy you already have? what would be missing for you if that element wasnt there?

    • Imagine trusting someone enough to play with feelings that you have a problem even admitting?

      One trick I used to do in college was walk up to a woman and begin to tell her what her sexual fantasies are. This astounded people and convinced more than a few people I was psychic. I’m not. You simply level a statement like have rape fantasies or gang bang fantasies (two of the most common sexual fantasies for women). By watching her reaction as I went on, I could gage what was exciting her and build on that. It’s simply a sex specific cold reading.

    • “Why do you feel that humiliation play is any more intimate than other types of play?
      I mean… emotional intimacy is about the biggest turn on there is for me, but I don’t think humiliation would be.”

      For me, humiliation is an incredible tool for emotional intimacy because during humiliation play, you (or at least, I) can’t be emotionally guarded. It’s not possible.

      Humiliation play s designed to evoke a certain emotional response–a response that is extremely powerful and presses right up against the boundaries of a person’s comfort. During this kind of emotional response, it’s impossible to be emotionally withdrawn or defended; what you get is the real person, completely unvarnished and exposed. I haven’t found any other kinds of play that can so thoroughly remove emotional defense mechanisms, which is precisely the secret to its effectiveness.

  2. I’m curious. Humiliation really isn’t my thing. Maybe because I have never associated shame with sexuality. But either way.

    Why do you feel that humiliation play is any more intimate than other types of play?

    I mean… emotional intimacy is about the biggest turn on there is for me, but I don’t think humiliation would be. Possibly I just don’t know what’s involved well enough… but I can’t make that work in my head. I suppose what I’m trying to ask is: in what way does humiliation add to the intimacy you already have? what would be missing for you if that element wasnt there?

  3. or to gain power over some event or some part of their lives that was harmful or damaging–and I think thewre are both healthy and unhealthy ways that people do this.

    I doubt that seriously damaged people can usually truly recognize the difference.

    • I suspect you’re right. I’ve known people who do explore BDM as a way to deal with past damage–but from the inside, it can be very, very difficult to tell wheter that’s constructive or destructive.

      A compassionate partner who has a good insight into human nature can help, of course, but generally speaking, I am somewhat skeptical about BDSM as a vehicle for fixing past hurts.

  4. or to gain power over some event or some part of their lives that was harmful or damaging–and I think thewre are both healthy and unhealthy ways that people do this.

    I doubt that seriously damaged people can usually truly recognize the difference.

  5. Humiliation *really* works for me on a couple levels, but basically it is as you said–an intimacy that can only be achieved in that specific way. Since I’m a sub, however, it’s a *humbling* intimacy. Being exposed and vulnerable in a humiliation scene is *far* more exposing than the simple physical state of nudity. I’d imagine that there’s a different qualifier for a dominant.

    It’s incredible when these scenes just spontaneously evolve–when my owner happens to see a vulnerability and runs with it. And at the same time, it’s also a very reassuring, safe feeling–to know that he can break me down so easily, but that he’s also going to tell me I’m a good girl and put me back together. And yes, I only enjoy this with a long-term, intimate partner. Not only would it be difficult for a more superficial, casual acquaintance to know me well enough to push the right buttons, but the trust and desire for increased intimacy just aren’t there.

    Public humiliation play is another matter. Deciding to give me to a friend of his who asks to use me is okay within the bounds we’ve agreed on. Airing some of my dirtier laundry, however, is off-limits in public settings. Not because I don’t trust that he’ll take care of me, but because I just don’t feel comfortable with other people knowing some of my more atypical vulnerabilities.

    Does it get our rocks off? Sure. Is that the reason we do it? Only in public settings. The humiliation play we engage in in private is not a means to an orgasm–it’s about trust, vulnerability, intimacy and control. Sometimes it ends in sex, but as often as not it ends on the couch, under a blanket, cuddled up and reminding one another that we’re both exactly where we want to be.

  6. Humiliation *really* works for me on a couple levels, but basically it is as you said–an intimacy that can only be achieved in that specific way. Since I’m a sub, however, it’s a *humbling* intimacy. Being exposed and vulnerable in a humiliation scene is *far* more exposing than the simple physical state of nudity. I’d imagine that there’s a different qualifier for a dominant.

    It’s incredible when these scenes just spontaneously evolve–when my owner happens to see a vulnerability and runs with it. And at the same time, it’s also a very reassuring, safe feeling–to know that he can break me down so easily, but that he’s also going to tell me I’m a good girl and put me back together. And yes, I only enjoy this with a long-term, intimate partner. Not only would it be difficult for a more superficial, casual acquaintance to know me well enough to push the right buttons, but the trust and desire for increased intimacy just aren’t there.

    Public humiliation play is another matter. Deciding to give me to a friend of his who asks to use me is okay within the bounds we’ve agreed on. Airing some of my dirtier laundry, however, is off-limits in public settings. Not because I don’t trust that he’ll take care of me, but because I just don’t feel comfortable with other people knowing some of my more atypical vulnerabilities.

    Does it get our rocks off? Sure. Is that the reason we do it? Only in public settings. The humiliation play we engage in in private is not a means to an orgasm–it’s about trust, vulnerability, intimacy and control. Sometimes it ends in sex, but as often as not it ends on the couch, under a blanket, cuddled up and reminding one another that we’re both exactly where we want to be.

  7. I think my problem with humiliation play is that they way it is usually done continues the injury. Emotional transparency and ackowledgment of shame is a definately heathy thing, but the way most people get to that is my having someone repeat the initial trauma to one degree or another. They “act mean to you” and that is not conducive to emotional transparency.

    A dom woman telling a guy what a nasty little shit he is while he worships her feet.

    That just is such enablement bullshit. It’s diferrent if you move someone through an open presentation of their objects of shame, where they are present in the scene and explore that erotic shame at the pace they can control.

    Having a guy who’s got deep shame about his ass fuck them selves with a butt plug.

    • With the kind of things you’re talking about, I see a difference between activities which are humiliating and activities which are degrading.

      The two may seem similar, at least superficially, but they’re not quite the same. For example, I would say that you’re right about the dom woman telling a guy what a nasty little shit he is; that kind of activity, which seems to me calculated to tear down a persn’s self-image, seems categorically different from things which are embarrassing but not necessarily tied to belittlement or degredation. “Acting mean,” as you say, can and sometimes does only repeat (or promote) injury.

  8. I think my problem with humiliation play is that they way it is usually done continues the injury. Emotional transparency and ackowledgment of shame is a definately heathy thing, but the way most people get to that is my having someone repeat the initial trauma to one degree or another. They “act mean to you” and that is not conducive to emotional transparency.

    A dom woman telling a guy what a nasty little shit he is while he worships her feet.

    That just is such enablement bullshit. It’s diferrent if you move someone through an open presentation of their objects of shame, where they are present in the scene and explore that erotic shame at the pace they can control.

    Having a guy who’s got deep shame about his ass fuck them selves with a butt plug.

  9. Thoughts? Opinions?

    I think out of the reasons you listed, I enjoy humiliation play (either giving or receiving) for mixed reasons, maybe in this ratio:

    1)For some people, humiliation and shame provoke a very visceral response… feelings of shame become coupled with feelings of arousal. 40%

    2) the powerlessness and the sense of helplessness or objectification associated with many types of humiliation play that really do it.20%

    3) a direct response to some specific form of trauma.0%

    4) emotional intimacy… it strips away any emotional defense mechanisms I may have and lowers all of my emotional boundaries. The person you see when you see me i that context is me, undefended, completely exposed. 40%

    I’ve often said to my boyfriend that people who think only gentle sex with candlelight is “romantic” (like some people do on sextips) have kind of a one-dimensional idea of what a romantic, intimate, soul-melding sexual encoutner can be like. Times when I’ve been roughed up and verbally humiliated and yet have felt totally loved are some of the most emotionally powerful sexual memories I have.

  10. Thoughts? Opinions?

    I think out of the reasons you listed, I enjoy humiliation play (either giving or receiving) for mixed reasons, maybe in this ratio:

    1)For some people, humiliation and shame provoke a very visceral response… feelings of shame become coupled with feelings of arousal. 40%

    2) the powerlessness and the sense of helplessness or objectification associated with many types of humiliation play that really do it.20%

    3) a direct response to some specific form of trauma.0%

    4) emotional intimacy… it strips away any emotional defense mechanisms I may have and lowers all of my emotional boundaries. The person you see when you see me i that context is me, undefended, completely exposed. 40%

    I’ve often said to my boyfriend that people who think only gentle sex with candlelight is “romantic” (like some people do on sextips) have kind of a one-dimensional idea of what a romantic, intimate, soul-melding sexual encoutner can be like. Times when I’ve been roughed up and verbally humiliated and yet have felt totally loved are some of the most emotionally powerful sexual memories I have.

  11. Well, I can’t speak much to this (but will anyway, obviously!) since I’m one of those people who is just missing the humiliation gene. I’m also missing the kink gene, the porn gene, the sports gene, the game gene. All those leave me with no response other than ho hum. Oddly, I have waaay too many friends who are into all of those. No, I’m not a voyeur. They can tell me or not, either way, same diff. I don’t have a negative (or positive) association with it: whatever goes on in a person’s mind that works for them is, well, different strokes for different folks. Yes, even the stuff that borders on physical harm. If that’s your choice, I don’t really care why it does it for you, I’m not about to tell you to go get “cured” of that nasty habit and do it in a “healthier” way. Labels. Bah.

    THAT being said: two things. As a person who doesn’t need extreme measures, emotionally or physically, to feel more closely intimate with a partner, I have to kind of resent any innuendo that those of us who don’t are somehow more “one dimensional,” less inventive, less imaginative, less — yes, I’ll say it — evolved. That we’re somehow stuck in Good Housekeeping whitebread sex land because we just don’t “get it.” Maybe we don’t need it. I won’t label your kink if you won’t label my lack of it.

    Second thing: I’d hate for Snoop Dogg to get the credit for Socrates’ “unexamined life” statement. 🙂

    • I’m not sure you were referring to what I said in the comment above yours, but you did use the same phrase (“one dimensional”). I’ll just say this:

      I don’t think people who only *enjoy* so-called “vanilla” sex are one-dimensional, but I think they have a limited imagination if they can’t at least understand why others would think that rougher sex can be equally romantic and emotionally powerful.

      • Yes, your comment and others added to it. And here I totally agree agree with you about limited imagination. (Though I do think that when it comes to imagining anyone else’s experience, we’re all destined to be limited.) Absent societal taboos, upbringing, etc.: even if those weren’t a factor, I believe everyone starts out hardwired differently neurologically. No way could one “size” fit all. What’s painful to me may be just the start of interesting stimulation for someone else.

        (I’d believe this even if I didn’t have second-hand corroboration from the few friends I know who enjoy the more extreme forms of pain/pleasure stimulation. But admittedly, it helps to understand when people you know personally, and like, and don’t think of as “weird” can clue one in to other ways of being. It helps to stop the presumptions. Am I making sense? Hope so.)

        But I also think that when it comes to imagining what others experience, we’re all woefully limited.

    • “THAT being said: two things. As a person who doesn’t need extreme measures, emotionally or physically, to feel more closely intimate with a partner, I have to kind of resent any innuendo that those of us who don’t are somehow more “one dimensional,” less inventive, less imaginative, less — yes, I’ll say it — evolved.”

      Certainly, I did not intend to imply that I believe only humiliation play can bring “real” intimacy; that’s not the case at all. For me, humiliation play is a vehicle for intimacy because it leaves me, my partners, or both, completely undefended and emotionally vulnerable; however, I am not trying to suggest that there are not other forms of expression which are not equally valid vehicles for emotional intimacy, or that emotional intimacy relies on this particular kind of play.

      “Second thing: I’d hate for Snoop Dogg to get the credit for Socrates’ “unexamined life” statement. :-)”

      So far, You’re the only person who’s commented on that.

      I like saying things like that as a subtle way to sort of poke fun at what I see as many people’s myopic understanding of history; I’ve seen way too many people who assume that anything interesting must be contemporary, and that the past is always boring. (Sometimes I’ll flip that around on its head as a way of poking fun at people’s tendency to project the current state of things on the past; when the dreadful reality show “Survivor” first came out, one of my friends asked me what I thought of it, and I said “The untelivised life is not worth living, as Socrates used to say.”)

      What can I say? I’m kind of geeky.

      • Sorry, F, if it seemed as though I thought you were saying humiliation is the only way to intimacy. I know you know better, and I know you were speaking for yourself and yours.

        As for history, well, as George W often says ;-> Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  12. Well, I can’t speak much to this (but will anyway, obviously!) since I’m one of those people who is just missing the humiliation gene. I’m also missing the kink gene, the porn gene, the sports gene, the game gene. All those leave me with no response other than ho hum. Oddly, I have waaay too many friends who are into all of those. No, I’m not a voyeur. They can tell me or not, either way, same diff. I don’t have a negative (or positive) association with it: whatever goes on in a person’s mind that works for them is, well, different strokes for different folks. Yes, even the stuff that borders on physical harm. If that’s your choice, I don’t really care why it does it for you, I’m not about to tell you to go get “cured” of that nasty habit and do it in a “healthier” way. Labels. Bah.

    THAT being said: two things. As a person who doesn’t need extreme measures, emotionally or physically, to feel more closely intimate with a partner, I have to kind of resent any innuendo that those of us who don’t are somehow more “one dimensional,” less inventive, less imaginative, less — yes, I’ll say it — evolved. That we’re somehow stuck in Good Housekeeping whitebread sex land because we just don’t “get it.” Maybe we don’t need it. I won’t label your kink if you won’t label my lack of it.

    Second thing: I’d hate for Snoop Dogg to get the credit for Socrates’ “unexamined life” statement. 🙂

  13. It seems those people I’ve known who enjoy it have some other primary motivation–which might be something as simple as “it gets my rocks off”

    Here’s something to consider; you tend to be more introspective and self-aware than most folks. You look at the mechanisms at work behind your attitudes and behaviors and then articulate them in a clear and insightful manner. Most people don’t.

    As you’ve said before, “fuzzy language leads to fuzzy thought,” and I think you’re absolutely correct. I’m not particularly into humiliation play, but it seems to me that it’s entirely possibly that a lot of people have the same motivation that you do, but simply aren’t aware of it. It’s easy to see and recognize “this gets me off” and leave it at that, but to recognize it as a vehicle for greater emotional intimacy is more subtle and esoteric.

    On the other hand, I would caution you against assuming that the mechanisms and lines of reasoning that make so much sense to you and so clearly explain your own internal processes bear any similarity whatsoever to what’s happening in anyone else’s head.

    • ,i>”I’m not particularly into humiliation play, but it seems to me that it’s entirely possibly that a lot of people have the same motivation that you do, but simply aren’t aware of it. It’s easy to see and recognize “this gets me off” and leave it at that, but to recognize it as a vehicle for greater emotional intimacy is more subtle and esoteric.”

      That’s true, and it’s a very good point.

      In fact, I’d say most people do the things they do for a lot of different reasons, some of which may be connected in subtle ways. Certainly I don’t think these are the only reasons people might be into humiliation, nor do I think that it must be one and not the others. And people likely DO do things for reasons they can’t necessarily articulate.

      “On the other hand, I would caution you against assuming that the mechanisms and lines of reasoning that make so much sense to you and so clearly explain your own internal processes bear any similarity whatsoever to what’s happening in anyone else’s head.”

      Brother, I know that’s true. I don’t assume for even half a second that other people are like me. 🙂

  14. It seems those people I’ve known who enjoy it have some other primary motivation–which might be something as simple as “it gets my rocks off”

    Here’s something to consider; you tend to be more introspective and self-aware than most folks. You look at the mechanisms at work behind your attitudes and behaviors and then articulate them in a clear and insightful manner. Most people don’t.

    As you’ve said before, “fuzzy language leads to fuzzy thought,” and I think you’re absolutely correct. I’m not particularly into humiliation play, but it seems to me that it’s entirely possibly that a lot of people have the same motivation that you do, but simply aren’t aware of it. It’s easy to see and recognize “this gets me off” and leave it at that, but to recognize it as a vehicle for greater emotional intimacy is more subtle and esoteric.

    On the other hand, I would caution you against assuming that the mechanisms and lines of reasoning that make so much sense to you and so clearly explain your own internal processes bear any similarity whatsoever to what’s happening in anyone else’s head.

  15. I probably have a few more things than this to say, but for now:

    You definitely do it for a different reason than I do, but, really, not. I have no problem with a casual and even non-consensual humiliation interaction. I do it to my cab drivers all the time. (: You did mention vulnerability and control, though, and that’s the reason I dig it, I think. If someone’s embarrassed, I have control. It’s a vulnerable spot to be in. And it’s just hot as fuck to me. However, when I do it with my cab drivers, it is all in good fun. (: And they know that about me, and, when the day’s over, their pockets are fuller. That doesn’t really flip my switch. (okay, it does with one PARTICULAR driver (: ).

    What really, bottomline flips my switch is when my crass, offensive, etc asshole self comes out and puts you down, because I feel comfortable enough with you to know that you won’t ditch me for it, and, what a BONUS I get if you get OFF on it. (: That’s where I’m comin from.

    And, yeah, that’s intimacy, big time. I have to trust him enough to be able to be myself in that way with him. He has to trust that, though I very well am likely to MEAN what I’m saying (that he’s a stupid fuck, worthless in bed, etc), it doesn’t mean I’m gonna get rid of him. On the contrary, it means I’m likely to keep him cuz his tiny cock DOES stand at attention when I say what I very well mean. And I get to laugh a lot. (:

    Sigh. Life’s good. And I just uncollared the bastard, too. (NOT released)

    I’ll probably come back and post to this again soon. I’m doing a demo/class/workshop this summer: Humiliating Punishment. I plan to write it all up and just put it on the web somewhere. I know that’s not commonly done, but I’ll post it to our common-denominator maillist when I do it. (:
    Thanks!

  16. I probably have a few more things than this to say, but for now:

    You definitely do it for a different reason than I do, but, really, not. I have no problem with a casual and even non-consensual humiliation interaction. I do it to my cab drivers all the time. (: You did mention vulnerability and control, though, and that’s the reason I dig it, I think. If someone’s embarrassed, I have control. It’s a vulnerable spot to be in. And it’s just hot as fuck to me. However, when I do it with my cab drivers, it is all in good fun. (: And they know that about me, and, when the day’s over, their pockets are fuller. That doesn’t really flip my switch. (okay, it does with one PARTICULAR driver (: ).

    What really, bottomline flips my switch is when my crass, offensive, etc asshole self comes out and puts you down, because I feel comfortable enough with you to know that you won’t ditch me for it, and, what a BONUS I get if you get OFF on it. (: That’s where I’m comin from.

    And, yeah, that’s intimacy, big time. I have to trust him enough to be able to be myself in that way with him. He has to trust that, though I very well am likely to MEAN what I’m saying (that he’s a stupid fuck, worthless in bed, etc), it doesn’t mean I’m gonna get rid of him. On the contrary, it means I’m likely to keep him cuz his tiny cock DOES stand at attention when I say what I very well mean. And I get to laugh a lot. (:

    Sigh. Life’s good. And I just uncollared the bastard, too. (NOT released)

    I’ll probably come back and post to this again soon. I’m doing a demo/class/workshop this summer: Humiliating Punishment. I plan to write it all up and just put it on the web somewhere. I know that’s not commonly done, but I’ll post it to our common-denominator maillist when I do it. (:
    Thanks!

  17. Of course I read this first on a froup we share…but I’ll say this: I can’t know how I’d feel about humilation play as real humiliation has been coupled with sexual and other emotional and physical abuse way too often in my life for it ever to be a kink for me, but your analysis sounds correct for some to me.

    For myself, I’ve decided I won’t go there again, not even when playing a nice little service subbie.

  18. Of course I read this first on a froup we share…but I’ll say this: I can’t know how I’d feel about humilation play as real humiliation has been coupled with sexual and other emotional and physical abuse way too often in my life for it ever to be a kink for me, but your analysis sounds correct for some to me.

    For myself, I’ve decided I won’t go there again, not even when playing a nice little service subbie.

  19. I have somewhat in common with you, ; I have a HUGE emotional-intimacy kink, not a fetish but very important to me. Humiliation/embarassment/provoked vulnerability is (are? (one (some?) path(s) to that feeling (plurality depending on how you compartmentalize them mentally).

    There are not many people with whom, or situations in which, I feel circumstances are safe for me to indulge in most of my submissive behaviors, but the urge remains… though in the case of humiliation/embarassment, my personal preference is for interactions which, for want of a better way to put it , firsk “take me down” and then “build me back up”. I did once consent to kinky play on the slippery edge of my threshold for embarassment (semi-public place, possibility of interruption by acquaintances who had no clue what was going on::shiver::), with someone whose sanity, skill, and good intentions I trusted, but with whom high level of emotional intimacy was not available. I found the experience painfully dissatisfying and I am a lot more cautious in experimenting with that kind of play now. I don’t want it to be something either/any of those involved can just walk away from unmoved, patting self on the back for a productive couple hours work. We should learn something from it, about ourselves and/or our relationship, something about risk and trust and shame and compassion.

    Hmm, I think that’s pretty incoherent, better stop there.

  20. I have somewhat in common with you, ; I have a HUGE emotional-intimacy kink, not a fetish but very important to me. Humiliation/embarassment/provoked vulnerability is (are? (one (some?) path(s) to that feeling (plurality depending on how you compartmentalize them mentally).

    There are not many people with whom, or situations in which, I feel circumstances are safe for me to indulge in most of my submissive behaviors, but the urge remains… though in the case of humiliation/embarassment, my personal preference is for interactions which, for want of a better way to put it , firsk “take me down” and then “build me back up”. I did once consent to kinky play on the slippery edge of my threshold for embarassment (semi-public place, possibility of interruption by acquaintances who had no clue what was going on::shiver::), with someone whose sanity, skill, and good intentions I trusted, but with whom high level of emotional intimacy was not available. I found the experience painfully dissatisfying and I am a lot more cautious in experimenting with that kind of play now. I don’t want it to be something either/any of those involved can just walk away from unmoved, patting self on the back for a productive couple hours work. We should learn something from it, about ourselves and/or our relationship, something about risk and trust and shame and compassion.

    Hmm, I think that’s pretty incoherent, better stop there.

  21. Humiliation, when you get down to it, might be a more universal turn on that BDSM.

    In effect, you are “forcing” a sexual identity on them. Many people spend an great deal of their energy avoiding these identities. This energy translates into raw emotional power that can be tapped. For me, humiliation is deliberately focusing on and accentuallizing sexual aspects of the person. Thus humiliation is always sexual in nature (whore, slut, cock-sucker, you love doing that, don’t you?). Another aspect of humiliation is actual a function of public exposure of these same characteristics for others to see. To increase humiliation, add more people. While she might love sucking cock, doing it in front of a room full of other people has a much stronger emotional charge.

    Some people confuse humiliation with degradation (stupid, ugly, worthless). While there are some bottom who enjoy this sort of play, they are strongly in the minority. My inability to differentiate between humiliation and degradation kept me from using it for many years. A shame that, humiliation is an extremely powerful erotic tool.

    “Slut” is a magic word and when used appropriately can give a woman free rein on her sexuality. After all, the worst has already happened, she got labeled a slut. Might as well enjoy it from here.

    Naturally, such things require careful negotiation and trust. I get pre-approval on any phrase before I use it in the dungeon. It’s a big deal when a woman trusts you enough to admit she likes being called a “cocksucking whore” during sex.

  22. Humiliation, when you get down to it, might be a more universal turn on that BDSM.

    In effect, you are “forcing” a sexual identity on them. Many people spend an great deal of their energy avoiding these identities. This energy translates into raw emotional power that can be tapped. For me, humiliation is deliberately focusing on and accentuallizing sexual aspects of the person. Thus humiliation is always sexual in nature (whore, slut, cock-sucker, you love doing that, don’t you?). Another aspect of humiliation is actual a function of public exposure of these same characteristics for others to see. To increase humiliation, add more people. While she might love sucking cock, doing it in front of a room full of other people has a much stronger emotional charge.

    Some people confuse humiliation with degradation (stupid, ugly, worthless). While there are some bottom who enjoy this sort of play, they are strongly in the minority. My inability to differentiate between humiliation and degradation kept me from using it for many years. A shame that, humiliation is an extremely powerful erotic tool.

    “Slut” is a magic word and when used appropriately can give a woman free rein on her sexuality. After all, the worst has already happened, she got labeled a slut. Might as well enjoy it from here.

    Naturally, such things require careful negotiation and trust. I get pre-approval on any phrase before I use it in the dungeon. It’s a big deal when a woman trusts you enough to admit she likes being called a “cocksucking whore” during sex.

  23. Imagine trusting someone enough to play with feelings that you have a problem even admitting?

    One trick I used to do in college was walk up to a woman and begin to tell her what her sexual fantasies are. This astounded people and convinced more than a few people I was psychic. I’m not. You simply level a statement like have rape fantasies or gang bang fantasies (two of the most common sexual fantasies for women). By watching her reaction as I went on, I could gage what was exciting her and build on that. It’s simply a sex specific cold reading.

  24. I would have to advise you that you never know on that one till you try. I was astounded at who responds well to humiliation (strong, well educated, powerful women). I would have never guessed this.

  25. I’m not sure you were referring to what I said in the comment above yours, but you did use the same phrase (“one dimensional”). I’ll just say this:

    I don’t think people who only *enjoy* so-called “vanilla” sex are one-dimensional, but I think they have a limited imagination if they can’t at least understand why others would think that rougher sex can be equally romantic and emotionally powerful.

  26. Yes, your comment and others added to it. And here I totally agree agree with you about limited imagination. (Though I do think that when it comes to imagining anyone else’s experience, we’re all destined to be limited.) Absent societal taboos, upbringing, etc.: even if those weren’t a factor, I believe everyone starts out hardwired differently neurologically. No way could one “size” fit all. What’s painful to me may be just the start of interesting stimulation for someone else.

    (I’d believe this even if I didn’t have second-hand corroboration from the few friends I know who enjoy the more extreme forms of pain/pleasure stimulation. But admittedly, it helps to understand when people you know personally, and like, and don’t think of as “weird” can clue one in to other ways of being. It helps to stop the presumptions. Am I making sense? Hope so.)

    But I also think that when it comes to imagining what others experience, we’re all woefully limited.

  27. “Why do you feel that humiliation play is any more intimate than other types of play?
    I mean… emotional intimacy is about the biggest turn on there is for me, but I don’t think humiliation would be.”

    For me, humiliation is an incredible tool for emotional intimacy because during humiliation play, you (or at least, I) can’t be emotionally guarded. It’s not possible.

    Humiliation play s designed to evoke a certain emotional response–a response that is extremely powerful and presses right up against the boundaries of a person’s comfort. During this kind of emotional response, it’s impossible to be emotionally withdrawn or defended; what you get is the real person, completely unvarnished and exposed. I haven’t found any other kinds of play that can so thoroughly remove emotional defense mechanisms, which is precisely the secret to its effectiveness.

  28. I suspect you’re right. I’ve known people who do explore BDM as a way to deal with past damage–but from the inside, it can be very, very difficult to tell wheter that’s constructive or destructive.

    A compassionate partner who has a good insight into human nature can help, of course, but generally speaking, I am somewhat skeptical about BDSM as a vehicle for fixing past hurts.

  29. With the kind of things you’re talking about, I see a difference between activities which are humiliating and activities which are degrading.

    The two may seem similar, at least superficially, but they’re not quite the same. For example, I would say that you’re right about the dom woman telling a guy what a nasty little shit he is; that kind of activity, which seems to me calculated to tear down a persn’s self-image, seems categorically different from things which are embarrassing but not necessarily tied to belittlement or degredation. “Acting mean,” as you say, can and sometimes does only repeat (or promote) injury.

  30. “THAT being said: two things. As a person who doesn’t need extreme measures, emotionally or physically, to feel more closely intimate with a partner, I have to kind of resent any innuendo that those of us who don’t are somehow more “one dimensional,” less inventive, less imaginative, less — yes, I’ll say it — evolved.”

    Certainly, I did not intend to imply that I believe only humiliation play can bring “real” intimacy; that’s not the case at all. For me, humiliation play is a vehicle for intimacy because it leaves me, my partners, or both, completely undefended and emotionally vulnerable; however, I am not trying to suggest that there are not other forms of expression which are not equally valid vehicles for emotional intimacy, or that emotional intimacy relies on this particular kind of play.

    “Second thing: I’d hate for Snoop Dogg to get the credit for Socrates’ “unexamined life” statement. :-)”

    So far, You’re the only person who’s commented on that.

    I like saying things like that as a subtle way to sort of poke fun at what I see as many people’s myopic understanding of history; I’ve seen way too many people who assume that anything interesting must be contemporary, and that the past is always boring. (Sometimes I’ll flip that around on its head as a way of poking fun at people’s tendency to project the current state of things on the past; when the dreadful reality show “Survivor” first came out, one of my friends asked me what I thought of it, and I said “The untelivised life is not worth living, as Socrates used to say.”)

    What can I say? I’m kind of geeky.

  31. ,i>”I’m not particularly into humiliation play, but it seems to me that it’s entirely possibly that a lot of people have the same motivation that you do, but simply aren’t aware of it. It’s easy to see and recognize “this gets me off” and leave it at that, but to recognize it as a vehicle for greater emotional intimacy is more subtle and esoteric.”

    That’s true, and it’s a very good point.

    In fact, I’d say most people do the things they do for a lot of different reasons, some of which may be connected in subtle ways. Certainly I don’t think these are the only reasons people might be into humiliation, nor do I think that it must be one and not the others. And people likely DO do things for reasons they can’t necessarily articulate.

    “On the other hand, I would caution you against assuming that the mechanisms and lines of reasoning that make so much sense to you and so clearly explain your own internal processes bear any similarity whatsoever to what’s happening in anyone else’s head.”

    Brother, I know that’s true. I don’t assume for even half a second that other people are like me. 🙂

  32. Sorry, F, if it seemed as though I thought you were saying humiliation is the only way to intimacy. I know you know better, and I know you were speaking for yourself and yours.

    As for history, well, as George W often says ;-> Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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